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The Dangerous Myth of Christian Leadership

6. None of the many words used for “office” in the Greek language are ever employed to describe a function or role in the church.

New Testament scholar Robert Banks makes an indisputable case for this in his seminal book, Paul’s Idea of Community.

7. The doctrine of “covering” was invented in the post-apostolic period, and it has no biblical merit.

See Reimagining Church, Chapters 11-13 (entitled “Who is Your Covering?”) for details.

8. The modern obsession over leadership isn’t helpful.

If Christians spent their time focusing on following Jesus Christ and sharing whatever He has given them with others (= functioning as a member of the body), as opposed to obsessing over how to be a “leader,” the Kingdom of God would be better off. So it seems to me anyway. (My friend Len Sweet has written a book emphasizing followership over leadership. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard good things about it.)

9. Hebrews 13:17 confirms the idea that leadership is linked to persuasion.

In that text, some translations have, “Obey them that are over you.” The Greek word for “obey” in this passage is not hupakuo, the garden-variety word for obedience used elsewhere in Scripture. It’s peitho (middle-passive form), which means to yield to persuasion. The author of Hebrews was simply saying, “Allow yourselves to be persuaded by those who are more mature in Christ than you are.” The word “over” and “rule” in some translations is a horrible reflection of the Greek. And according to Peter and Luke, elders/overseers aren’t over the flock; they are among it (1 Pet. 5:1 NIV; Acts 20:28 NASB). See Reimagining Church, the lengthy Appendix for details.

10. Throughout the New Testament, only Jesus Christ is said to be the “head” of the church, which implies both source and rule.

All leadership flows from His headship organically when a member of His body reveals His mind and will in a given situation. Christ has the power of speech, and He speaks through His body (this is the argument of 1 Corinthians 12:1ff.). And we all share the mind of Christ. His mind is not the exclusive property of a few.

Point: you don’t have to be an author, a pastor, or an elder of a local church to be a leader. In fact, some of the greatest Christian leaders I’ve known were neither.

Focus on following Jesus and you will be leading others naturally by your example, let alone by the things you say.

No doubt, someone reading this post may object to some of these points. And that’s fine. None of us can claim perfect insight. However, I address every objection to them I’ve heard (and more) in detail in Reimagining Church, which is a 320-page book. This is merely a preface to the subject.

For whatever it’s worth…

Is it possible that much of Christianity today is focused on being a leader when it should rather be focused on how to follow an indwelling Christ?  

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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.