Home Pastors Articles for Pastors The Dangerous Myth of Christian Leadership

The Dangerous Myth of Christian Leadership

In the secular/spiritual dichotomy, faith, prayer, and ministry are deemed the exclusive properties of an inner, sacrosanct world. A world that is detached from the whole fabric of life. But this disjunction is completely foreign to the New Testament ethos where all things are to bring glory to God—even the stuff of everyday life (1 Cor. 10:31).

I’m not alone in taking this view.

The term ‘laity’ is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from the Christian conversation.

~ Karl Barth

The clergy-laity tradition has done more to undermine New Testament authority than most heresies.

~ James D.G. Dunn

The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament, there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity.

~ Howard Snyder

So what is the myth of Christian leadership?

The myth is that some are leaders and others aren’t…that some are part of the “clergy” class and others are part of the poor, miserable “laity.”

Now if all Christians are leaders, as I’m suggesting, then what is leadership? That’s an important question.

For years, I’ve held that leadership contains four elements:

• Persuasion. I recently discovered that Stanley Hauerwas defines leadership this way also.

• Influence. I recently learned that John Maxwell, the leadership guru, said, “Leadership is really nothing more than influence.” I’ve never read a book by Maxwell, but I stumbled across this quote last year on Twitter and found it interesting.

• Giving direction – leadership is showing others “the next step,” which goes along with persuasion and influence.

• Leadership “leads” or “points” to something/someone – for the Christian, it always points to Christ. Either in faith or action. As believers, we lead/point/guide/direct people (both Christian and non-Christian) to the ultimate Leader, Jesus.

All four aspects of leadership are accomplished by precept and/or example.

For instance…

If you have a Facebook page and you recommend a book to someone, and only one person is persuaded or influenced to buy that book, then you just led them by your FB update.

If you decide to leave Facebook, stating your reasons why, and one person is persuaded by what you wrote to also leave Facebook, then you just led them by your example.

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frankviola@churchleaders.com'
FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog, Beyond Evangelical, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.