About Jesus Steve Sweetman
My Journey Through The Ecclesiastical Maze
Leadership provides the
atmosphere for those being led. If
you’re an employer, the way you conduct your personal and corporate
business will directly affect your employees productivity.
It’s therefore leadership’s responsibility to provide a
healthy atmosphere for those they lead.
Christian leadership is no exception to this.
The book of Malachi shows
how upset God was with the Jewish leaders in that era.
He was so upset that He said He’d rub the faces of the priests
in “animal manure”. (Malachi
2:3) That doesn’t sound
very pleasant. From the days
of Malachi, a span of four hundred years had elapsed before God spoke to
In many respects
Christian leadership over the years has looked very similar to both the
Jewish leaders of old and business leaders in today’s corporate world.
This can be seen in the many and various attempts over the
centuries to maintain this elite status of leadership.
I grew up in a denomination where pastors were transferred every
three to five years so the congregation would not get too familiar with
them. Once familiarity sets
in the people begin to lose respect for the pastor, or so we were told.
Your pastor could not be your friend. That
sounds more clinical than relational to me.
Christian leaders are to
be servant leaders. (Luke 22:25) That
means they live and work alongside others in the Body of Christ, no
matter how lowly those parts are.
That includes armpits like me.
Leaders aren’t meant to be
set apart as a special elite, and the work they do is no more
important than the work done by those who are being led.
As I see it, the ecclesiastical structures of today tempts people
with pride and a sense of specialness.
My wife and I found
ourselves in a hotel elevator with a world famous Charismatic Bible
teacher and his friend in 1985 while attending a weekend conference in
Christians were relatively simple in their approach to faith, to church,
and to leadership. Some
liberal theologians would view those Christians as being a part of a
“personality cult”. Giving
oneself to Jesus who had lofty claims with little consideration to
anything or anyone else shows signs of weakness and instability. I’d
love for us to return to such simplicity, but the evolutionary spirit has
overtaken us long ago. It’s
killed this simplicity and has choked the life out of the Body of
Christ. I’m told we live
in a much different world now and things just aren’t that simple any
more. Well, maybe I’m just
showing my age in this respect.
I know this is debatable
by many Bible teachers but I believe there’s evidence the New
Testament’s model for leadership is “plurality
of leaders”. This means
that leadership consists of a body of caring men, not just one man.
You can read my explanation at http://stevesweetman.com/articles/plural.htm
Plurality is based on
trusting relationships between leaders who work together for the common
good of the Body of Christ. Decisions
aren’t made unilaterally based on one man’s whims and wishes.
Beyond these leaders was a group called “deacons” who helped
these leaders care for God’s people.
That’s about it.
There was a definite
departure from this model that began at the end of the first century.
Plurality of leaders gave way to one leader who led this group of
leaders. This one man
evolved into being God’s spokesman to the people.
After this became the norm, this one man became the means for
people to approach God, something Jesus was meant to be.
At this point the “priesthood of the believer” was lost.
Leadership separated God from His people, and people from their
God, something that Pentecost had once ended.
The church had returned to the Old Testament model of leaders.
Then came Constantine and his buddies in the fourth century.
They cemented this thinking into the very fabric of church life,
and even though the Reformation brought some theological changes, it
made little change in
Whether you know it or
not, church today, including our leadership style, looks more like
The New Testament sets
forth certain qualities for a Christian leader that are not evolutionary
in nature. Paul, in 1
Timothy 3 lists some of these qualities that must be inherent within a
leader. These qualities are
formed deep within by the Holy Spirit.
If you look at the list, these qualities are fairly relational in
nature. For example, a
leader needs to be a caring husband of one wife.
Leadership is all about “who you are”, not just about what
you bring to the job by way of education and job experience.
Now that I’ve mentioned
the word “job”, leading God’s people is not a job. It’s
not an office one holds either as the King
James Bible suggests in 1 Timothy 3:1 when it uses the word “office”
in reference to elders. The
word “office” is not found or implied in the Greek text.
Leaders lead, and the word “leading” is an action word. The
New Testament speaks more about doing the work of leading than being
called a leader. If a leader
fails to lead in Biblical terms, he should not be leading.
Sometimes I think there
are more real leaders in an average congregation than there are in
official leadership capacity in our churches today.
Some of these official leaders should be in the congregation,
while some in the congregation should be leaders, but that’s the way
it is in the ecclesiastical maze.