Servant Leaders

Since beginning my new life as a Christian in 1972, much of my fellowship has been in the context of house churches. As Christians have sought a deeper reality in their spiritual lives, more and more folk have left traditional expressions of church life in order to find a deeper relationship with Christ and His body. The majority of these people who have become known as "doners", now find their fellowship in small, relational communities or house churches.
Some of these alternative churches have become long-term homes for God's people. However, a few have not lasted to become mature churches. The principal reason for the failure of some of these new expressions of church are differences of opinion over leadership and authority structures.
Many believe that each church needs a pastor, and others have an extreme "anti-" one man leadership position. So few look to the Bible and the person of Jesus, preferring rather to follow tradition and their own ideas to guide their views on the nature of leadership.
Jesus’ view on leadership can best be seen in a story related in, Matthew 20:24 to 28, Mark 10:41 to 45 and Luke 22:41 to 45. Here, Jesus, in order to settle a dispute about who would receive position in the Kingdom of God, said,

"you know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles, lord it over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many."

This has led to the concept of servant leadership, although, in reality, church leaders have often become little dictators, being the lone source of authority in their churches. Unbelievably, even some house churches have moved to a "one man leadership" model.
The Bible says over and again, that our Lord is to be God alone. Only He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Anyone who would seek to take His place is a usurper. Yet time and again, people want to deny their personal responsibility before the Lord, and would rather pay others to take responsibility for their spiritual lives, even if that means becoming subject to the "Lordship" of others. They are seemingly unaware that when they come before God's judgement throne, the Lord will expect them to take personal responsibility for all of their actions, and especially the nature of their relationship with Him.
The Lord has always sought a personal relationship with each one of us. The idea of a personal relationship with the Lord is not just a New Testament concept, but is firmly embedded in the Old Testament. Many churches today are led by "pastors" which has nothing to do with the gift of a pastor mentioned along with others in Ephesians 4:11. When the Psalmist David sought a spiritual guide he said, "the Lord is my Shepherd (pastor)." (Psalm 23:1).
Perhaps it is better if we read, the Lord's own words about when people seek another leader rather than the Lord himself.
In 1 Samuel 8: 7 to 18, we read,

" And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The Lord, quite rightly identifies the real issue. Not that the people wanted a king or leader, but that they had rejected the Lord as their king (verse 7).
Speaking in his prophetic role, Samuel identifies the true nature of sinful men who seek to be leaders. (Verse 11 a) They will reign like kings, and claim their rights. So many church leaders today claim their rights to our obedience, obedience due only to Christ alone. (Verse 11 b) shows how leaders prey on our young people, working them, and manipulating them for their own purposes. So many movements in the church today seek to use and manipulate the zeal of young people.
(Verse 12), they seek to build their own hierarchies, organisations to cement their own seats of power. They use their ability to place people in their organisations to manipulate them.
(Verse 15) shows how leaders demand tithes and offerings to fulfil their own plans. Even though offerings in the New Testament were on a "free will" basis. Nowadays "pastors" may calls upon our resources for all sorts of buildings, staff and projects that expand their influence and authority.
In recent years many have cried out to be delivered from dead tradition and the "kingship" of pastors, and have found that the Lord will not work inside their man-made structures. So their only hope was to find a new relationship with the Lord as their king, outside of manmade structures.
So, is the Lord your Shepherd? Does the King of Kings rule in your life? Or have men butted into your relationship? They may claim to be God's representatives, but why speak to other servants when the master wants a personal relationship with you directly?
Many Blessings,
© 2017 Prof. Keith W. Smith Reprint by written permission only