At the onset let me say this is not being levelled at any individual or individuals I or you may know, but a presentation of my thoughts.
There are many types of church leader with influencing factors such as calling, experience, training, character, ability to listen etc. However I believe there are in the main two fundamental types of leader that operate in the church today, and we need to be aware of the influence we allow ourselves to come under which is vital for our own and our families growth in God.
The purpose of my article is not a rant, or a criticism as sadly we all make mistakes because of influences, but as a sign post to enable us to look how we are allowing our lives to be led and influenced. If we consider we are being controlled or wrongly influenced we need to be asking God where we should be and not afraid to make change. Change could be that we need to change our attitude to our existing leadership and view the situation correctly, or even move on elsewhere not as a knee jerk reaction but after prayerfully taking it to God and leaving in a right spirit.
Whilst God will hold leadership accountable it is not right for us to sit back and say its not my problem leadership will tell me what to do, as God will also hold us accountable for our own lives and destiny. We have a responsibility before God in what we do, what we say, how we react etc, and there is a Godly balance for leadership in how they direct and lead His people.
We will take a look at some of the characteristics of an abusive and a Godly leader.
1. Worship - Constitute excessive, and on occasions blind, adoration and devotion to a leader or group, and their beliefs.
2. Unwritten rules and codes for behaviour. Inferring God will approve of the members who follow the leader and are loyal to him. Failure to do so has adverse consequences on the individuals standing and permitted involvement in the life of the church. Leadership is not acting out of grace or mercy. The leadership restrict and control information tightly.
4. Engendering total dependence on a leader, its leaders, and the group setting, whilst not directly stating but encouraging cutting off most of the outside world; especially close friends and relatives who are not part of your grouping.
5. Subtly teaching that the group has the answers; therefore any other grouping is second rate.
6. Instilling a feeling of fear in leaving and the consequences of such action having seen the ramification and experiences of those daring to traverse that route. Those that do so are shunned, and vilified. This creates a profoundly deep subconscious fear in the existing members to never leave, so this won’t happen to them. Manipulation of how you should respond and react in situations, creating a fear of consequences. Anything outside of the group is inferior and destined for failure should you dare to leave.
When a leader has insecurities coupled with deep welling pride, then often an abusive and divisive leader can emerge.
Jesus warned his disciples right after the mother of James and John asked for a place of honour for her sons in the Kingdom.Â Jesus said Mark 10:42-44 (NIV) You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
Godly leaders need to lead by example, serving others. Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit and wrote: 1 Peter 5:3 (NIV) 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
John strongly rebuked Diotrephes for his wicked words and lengthy malicious speech and for casting others out of the church for unbiblical reasons. 3 John 1: 9 (NIV) .but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
The Bible warns against Satan disguising himself as an angel of light, and his servants as ministers of righteousness. An abusive control can be linked with manipulation and is deceptive.
What makes a Godly Leader? How do you recognise a Godly leader? Is it someone ordained by a recognised denomination? Is it someone with a title, with great speaking ability or vast biblical education? Is it someone operating in spiritual gifts or with a large following? Does the Bible list any of these as qualities of a Godly leader? No, the Bible makes clear that a Godly leader follows where God leads Deuteronomy 31:3 (NIV) 3 The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.
Jesus tells us the Godly leader serves others and takes the lowest seat at a meal. A leader doesn’t seek status or fulfillment of his own desires. He doesn’t seek recognition for his acts but lets the acts speak for themselves and tries instead to love, honour and serve God. He seeks to love others as much as he loves himself. He doesn’t insist on having authority over others or the group or work in which he participates. He knows that all authority has been given to Jesus and that the leader has authority only to the extent he lives in Jesus.
A Godly leader accepts weaker members of the body and helps them along the way. In fact, Godly leaders are not perfect people either. They, too, fall short of the glory of God and what he wants, but that doesn’t stop them from forging ahead in response to his call. When a group climbs a mountain, they will rope themselves together. They move at the speed of the slowest person, dictating that the stronger help the weaker. They encourage them to gain confidence and as a consequence their progress matures. Godly leaders don’t reject dysfunctional members of Jesus body. They try to help those people become healthy, mature, functional members. Members who unselfishly love others, involve themselves in the work of the kingdom themselves. I believe this is a principle not just for leaders but those being led should also adhere to.
Godly leaders further distinguish themselves by sharing the role with others in the body as the others become able. Some lead in the areas of their natural abilities received from God, some by demonstrating behaviours that please God, some by imparting wisdom and knowledge from God, some by exercising gifts of the Holy Spirit, some by encouraging others in that exercise. The list goes on, each leading in a different way. All are unique, according to Gods will, and all provide models for those who follow Jesus.
All born-again Christians are ordained as ministries of Jesus Christ, called to serve him wherever they find themselves. We are all to share the burdens of leadership, which means that everyone who enters the body of Jesus Christ has a duty to mature spiritually. We can help that process by recognising the Godly leaders among us, heeding their word and following their example, and by encouraging each other toward such leadership.
What qualities of Godly leadership do you see among those around you in the body of Jesus Christ right now? What do they do or say that leads or encourages you in your life as a Christian? Encourage them and help build their confidence as Godly leaders by telling them what you see and that you are grateful for their example.