“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” —Jesus (Matthew 20:25-28)
The American church has been overtaken by “best practices” of the business world, and what Scripture refers to as “fleshly” leadership is now recognized as “spiritual” leadership. It’s hard to even finish one chapter of a contemporary book on the church today without references on how to “grow big,” “cast vision,” “lead from the top” and “develop your brand.”
A couple things I’d like to say about this, for now, to pastors and leaders. First, there is an insidious subtlety that happens whereby it may appear you’re leading “spiritually,” and you’re receiving kudos, pats on the back, etc., for pushing the mission forward, driving hard, motivating people to serve and give, “advancing” the cause of your church, all while the shift has taken place to leading out of the flesh. Paul said, “You foolish Galatians, you began this life of faith in the Spirit, and now you’re trying to finish it in the flesh (Gal 3:3).” What began as an honest desire to serve, to point people to the grace of Jesus, subtly became about you and your name. I can say this because this has happened to me in my ministry life. I’ve had to confess, repent and ask Jesus to forgive me for making things about me, by wanting to make it “successful” and being driven by numbers. The problem is that in our current context in churches of the CEO pastor, this drive, advancement and push is valued and honored.
The church is not a business. Sure, there are things churches can glean about efficiency, stewardship, etc., but when it comes to pastoral leadership, or should I say, servantship, Jesus and the scriptures give us our profile of a leader/pastor. This leads to another point.
Pastors are there to serve the people. It’s not the other way around. Too often, we witness a mindset and ethos where the people of a community are there to serve the pastor. With the CEO mindset bleeding into the church, this leads to pastors ruling out of domination, fear, power and control. The very opposite of what our calling is. We are called to serve, be gentle, compassionate, to bring truth and tears. Jesus talks about serving 40 times more than he ever talks about leading. As a pastor, it is about serving, and leadership is a byproduct of that. Not the other way around.
All of this frees us up from having to be “the man” (or woman) and put on our tough-guy (gal), “be the leader” face because we’re tied to the ultimate servant-leader in Jesus. He says my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. We’re tied to the big ox!