Saturday, 28 February 2015

Wanted: Good Leadership

World War Two was over, the Korean War was over, and America was still fighting in Vietnam. There were new movements among the youth, who saw their parents way of life as a failure. Some saw Jesus as a revolutionary, bringing His message of peace and love - the opposite of what could be seen in the world.

The Charismatic Movement started and grew. Young people, unschooled in the ways of the established church, were a challenge. The churches wanted to capture this enthusiasm, but educate the new attendees in church teaching and behaviour.

One of the responses to this was the Discipleship, or Shepherding Movement. It promised an organised way for new converts to come into a structure of accountability and authority. Every person would be responsible to a Shepherd, who would teach and guide them. The Shepherd, himself, would be responsible to their own Shepherd, and so this formed a pyramid with the founders at the top.

Sheep would have to refer every decision - employment, finance, relationships - to their Shepherd for approval. Some Shepherds took advantage of their power, and many lives were ruined. I recommend Steven Lambert's book, Charismatic Captivation, for more information.

Although the Shepherding Movement as it was is largely discredited (one founder, Bob Mumford, publicly repented of his part in the movement), it still casts its shadow over the church today in the form of damaged Sheep and leaders who use non-Christian forms of manipulation and control over those they are responsible for.

So, what should we look for in a Christian leader? How do we tell the good from the bad?

The New Testament is not short of examples and instructions on who should be made leaders, and how those leaders should behave.

First of all, a Christian leader must be a servant as Jesus was. He should prove this in how he serves his wife and family. He should be prepared to do whatever it takes, whatever needs to be sacrificed, for the sake of those that look to him for leadership. The response of these people will be obedience, because they know beyond doubt that their leader will always be there for them when they need him. If a person cannot do this, they should never be considered for leadership.

The reverse of this is also true. Jesus made it clear that a Christian leader is not to be like a worldly leader. A person who insists on being treated with deference and respect, who maintains authority by bullying, threats and manipulation, who engages in gossip, false accusations, condemnation and name calling, has no place in church leadership. A person who "tries to toughen" people by abusing them should never be given a position of authority in the church.

Secondly, the role of Pastor is clear. Pastor simply means Shepherd, but the picture of a shepherd in the Bible is completely different to that depicted in the Shepherding Movement. In the Middle East, the shepherd led his sheep. They followed because they trusted him.  They trusted in his love and protection. Whenever a sheep got into trouble, the shepherd went to find and rescue it. He would get the sheep free from thorns, ravines, swamps and wild beasts, even to the cost of his own life. If a man does not show this kind of love to the people he is responsible for, he should not be called a Pastor.

A Pastor (Shepherd) does not leave his flock to resolve their own problems. He is active in making sure they have all they need, providing whatever help he can. He will contact or visit those that have not been around. He will go to them if they are in hospital or in prison. He will never desert them. Never leave them to fend for themselves. Always be there when they need him. Just like the shepherd is for his flock.

A Christian teacher must be on the path of Christlikeness and holiness. If he cannot show these qualities in his life, how can he teach them to others?

The same goes for the Fruit of the Spirit. These are evidence of an ongoing relationship with God. If a person does not have this, if their lives do not show love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, patience, humility and self-control, then they do not have this relationship with God. If this is the case, they cannot be a Christian leader.

As leaders, make sure you are serving those you are responsible for in the way Christ and His Apostles taught, not in a worldly or fleshly way. Have the humility to measure yourself against scripture, and have the integrity to resign your position if scripture disqualifies you.

To all people, make sure your leader is taking you in the right direction. He must show you Christ, not fleshliness or worldliness. When you agree to be led by someone, give that person your trust, obedience, loyalty, and support. What they are doing is hard. Help them however you can.

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