Dr. Stephen Crosby

B. Childress
Aug 12 2012

Obedience: God’s Gift

One of the ancient heresies the early church fathers dealt with was Greek dualism.  Oversimplified, dualism is a
worldview that believes the universe operates under simple spiritual polarities, or dualities: good/evil, light/darkness,
right/wrong, etc. A great deal of theological debate exists over how much of this kind of thought influenced the New
Testament writers and how much it still influences us today.  It is beyond the scope of this work to delve into the matter
in detail, but it affects the discussion of authority, submission, and church government.

Unfortunately for our natural mind, God’s kingdom cannot be shrink-wrapped and packaged like so much sandwich
meat.  It does not operate on simple dualities.  One of the major changes from the Old to the New Covenant is the shift
away from quid pro quo (Latin: “this for that”) simple dualities.  The Old Covenant is characterized by: do this (behave)
and live (receive life as a result); fail to behave (obey) properly and you shall die (be punished, but cut off from life).  If
you do well, you will be blessed and if not you will be cursed.  The blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 are a
classic example of the Old Covenant order of things.

Television preachers and evangelists are steeped in this utterly legal and Old Covenant mind set.  They have to be.  
Their entire system of support depends on it.  Their thinking and teaching follows Deuteronomic equations like these:

    God’s Word + your obedience = “blessing” (usually interpreted as health, wealth, and ease)

    God’s Word + your disobedience = “cursing” (failure to receive the above)

Why is this message so phenomenally popular?  Because the promise of reward for spiritual effort draws the spiritually
still-born and blind like maggots to a corpse.  It is the age-old appeal to the carnal, fallen, Adamic nature to reward itself
for spiritual energy expended and spiritual pursuits attained.  The obedience and reward message that saturates the
airwaves effectively keeps the “seed-offerings” and “first-fruits offerings” flowing into headquarters by using God’s own
Word to shamelessly appeal to the believer’s self-interest and keep the organization’s coffers full.  The New Covenant
messages of forgoing our right to our own lives, His death and resurrection in us, serving Another’s purposes and plan
with no regard for self-interest, will empty the TV studio or the “victory living conference” faster than yelling fire in a

The New Covenant reverses the Old Covenant order.  It is live (receive life/blessing) and do this (behave/obey).  The
New Covenant equations read like this:

    Receive His blessing (life) + yield to His death and resurrection = obedient fruit

    You are blessed + experience His living Word = walking in obedience

We obey because obedience is consistent with our new nature, because it is right, and because the new creation is
inherently empowered from within to do so.  Our obedience is not conditioned on the prospect of “reward.”  If it were so,
what happens to our obedience when “blessing and reward “is slow incoming or does not arrive at all?  
The World is
full of obedient believers who do not experience health, wealth, and ease.  Our obedience could cost us our life,
family, finances, and reputation: hardly the “guaranteed prosperity” promised on TV.

If the Old Covenant is still in effect and the television evangelists are correct, what hope do you and I have of any
goodness from God when our obedience is in short supply at any moment?  (For myself, a frequent state of affairs!)  
How much obedience do we have to muster to qualify for the blessing?  Is 80% obedience enough?  Is 95% obedience
enough?  I have actually heard it said that to access the “promises in His Word,” only immediate, complete, 100%
obedience satisfies God.  Allegedly, partial or late obedience is disobedience and therefore does not qualify to receive
His blessing.  Since only the Son of God is perfect in His obedience, the inherently blasphemous and idolatrous thinking
behind this teaching is self-evident: we become as God, and reward ourselves for it at the same time!

Thank God, that the blessing of abundant grace in the New Covenant is not dependent on my obedience to His
principles, but rather my faith in Him, in me, and His death and resurrection power in me.  The needed blessing of the
moment is always accessible through Calvary faith, not my behavioral perfections.

In the New Covenant, God is not dependent on humanity living correctly to receive His life and blessing.  He secures His
own interests in humanity by putting His Spirit in us as a free gift of His sovereign and unmerited goodwill.  The
indwelling Spirit is both the life gift and power source.  Out of the life given, behavior flows.  Therefore, in the New
Covenant our obedience is not our gift to God, which merits His blessing.  Our obedience is His gift to us, the fruit of the
life we have freely received manifested in our actions.

Now, I do not want to turn this into a theology session on the New Covenant (though God knows the church needs it),
but see if this series of simple statements helps:

  • Is it possible for anything from the fallen Adamic nature to satisfy God?  No!

  • Therefore, there is nothing in us, in our natural state, that desires or is able to please God.  Unregenerate
    humanity does not love nor seek after God.  Yes

  • Therefore, in order to satisfy Himself in humanity, He must take initiation.  Yes

  • To secure His own interests, He puts His Spirit in us at conversion.  Yes

  • The new nature is now the source of our obedience to God.  Where we were once unable, we are now able, due
    to His gift and power.  Yes

  • Therefore, since the new nature is a gift and the source of my obedience, my obedience is not my gift to God; it is
    God’s gift to me.  Yes!

  • Therefore, I am not rewarded for my obedience because I did nothing to merit reward.  It is a gift.  Obedience is
    the fruit of love.  Yes

  • Therefore, my obedience is the fruit and overflow of a life given to me, not something meritorious of blessing.  It is
    the fruit of being blessed.  Yes

  • Therefore, in the New Covenant, I do not try to obey God and earn blessing for good behavior but live out of His
    life in me, which is, as Christ’s own life in me, an obedient life.  Yes

Folks, in a few sentences this is the essence of the New Covenant, and it is rarely understood.

The New Testament quid pro quo, if there is one, is based on life and fruit, not a businesslike transaction of “behavior
and reward.”  A good planting, in good soil produces good fruit – it cannot help it.  A tree is not “rewarded” for yielding
to the life that produces from within.  It produces fruit because it is in its nature to do so.  In the Old Covenant (and in TV
preaching) human obedience was/is the condition to receive blessing.  In the New Covenant obedience is the fruit of
being blessed.  In the Old Covenant obedience was the root of anticipated hope.  In the New Covenant, it is the fruit of
realized hope.  In the New Covenant, God rewards the faith filled seeker – someone who maintains relationship to
Himself (in strength and weakness, success and failure), not the person who most perfectly obeys His principles.

Enough Already!   

The advice Job’s friends gave him typifies quid pro quo thinking: if you do well, you prosper; if you do evil, you suffer.  If
you are faithful to God and follow His precepts, only blessing follows; if you don’t follow His precepts, you are cursed –
bad things happen to you.  It is important to note that God
rebuked Job’s counselors for thinking that way.  We need to
remember context
.  Who was speaking to whom and in what context?

I once heard a TV preacher use a quotation from the book of Job to “prove” his extremely improper prosperity teaching
along the line of: “If you live an obedient lifestyle (implying “seed offerings”), you can live in pleasure – any pleasure you
want.”  Indeed, the verse is in the Scripture.  But the point the prosperity teacher failed to mention was that the source
of the quote was one of Job’s comforters who were all out to lunch spiritually!  God rebuked Job’s friends for thinking the
way they did!  It is almost as if after thirty chapters or so of simplistic and incorrect dualistic thinking God couldn’t take it
anymore and personally appears in the whirlwind to
shut them up!  Just because you can find a verse in the Bible to
support your view does not necessarily mean your view is correct!  Jesus in resurrection and life in the Spirit are a third
alternative beyond either
quid or quo!  I call it third-dimension living.  Let me explain.

Third-Dimension Living

Let’s assume you are facing a decision.  One option is choice A.  That is the first dimension.  The other option, perhaps
the exact opposite, is option B.  Typically, they are presented in an either/or fashion: this is right or wrong, good or bad.  
A simple diagram would look like this:

            Choice/Option (A)                                        Choice/Option (B)
    +______________________________  OR____________________________+

                                           First Dimension                                             Second Dimension             

The two decisions appear mutually exclusive.  This is the realm most Christians live in – struggling with issues of right or
wrong behaviors.  Right and wrong issues do not characterize the Spirit-led life.  Death and resurrection life does.  The
realm of the Spirit, or the kingdom, is a third alternative, a third dimension, like this:

 Choice/Option (C)
                                                                         THE KINGDOM  
                                                                          Third Dimension
                                                                          Neither and both

 Choice/Option (A)                                            Choice/Option (B)
    +______________________________  OR____________________________+

                                             First Dimension                                             Second Dimension

The Scriptures are full of third-dimension kingdom responses.  Here are just a few examples.

In the Book of Joshua, the angel of the Lord appears, and Joshua poses a two-dimensional question:  “Are you for us or
against us?”  The answer is “Neither, but I am come as the captain of the hosts of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14), a third-
dimension response.  In John 9:2, Jesus is questioned in regard to the condition of a blind man: “Who sinned, this man
or his parents?”  Neither.  Jesus provides a third-dimension response.  In John 8, the religious leaders try to capture
Jesus in a two-dimensional dilemma: If He condemns the woman caught in adultery, He has no compassion; if He
releases her in mercy, He is not faithful to the Law of Moses.  Jesus responds with a third-dimension kingdom reality,
ignoring the polarities.  In the synoptic Gospels, the Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar: an
either/or, two-dimensional polarity.  Jesus responds, as always, from the heavenlies, from the Spirit, with a third-
dimensional answer.  One of the telltale signs of a religious spirit is forced two-dimensional polarities and an inability to
touch the realm of the Spirit.

Why does third-dimensional reality relate to the matter of authority and submission and church government?  Because
of the tendency to define the subject and limit discussion to inadequate either/or polarities.

Those from a strong “episcopal” (ruling by the bishops/elders, etc.) governmental background will say, “Are you telling
me that you don’t believe in leadership and that the people should govern?”  God forbid, that is the cursed rule of the
Nicolaitans – the rule of the laity.  God’s kingdom is not a democracy.  God has given the set man the vision of the
house!  Anything with two heads is a monster!  You can only have one executive head!  “Crosby, you are espousing
error!  (or at least naiveté)”

Those from a strong congregational, egalitarian background will say, “Do you mean to tell me that we do not have a
voice?  That is a formula for control and abuse of authority.  Cults operate that way.  We are in the New Covenant now;
we are all equal.  Crosby, you are espousing the dreaded rule of the Nicolaitans – the ruling over the laity.  You are
espousing error!”

As humorous as it may be, I have friends who quote the Nicolaitan verse from Revelation, each using it to condemn the
other’s form of government as illegitimate!  The answer is neither and both.
 God’s governmental order is a third-
dimension spiritual reality
.  The matter cannot be reduced down to simple systemic dualities such as “are we or are
we not congregationally led?”

If we do not touch the Lord in third-dimensional realities, it doesn’t matter a lick what form of government we practice.  
We are outside the realm of life and are therefore perpetrators of spiritual death, regardless of how convinced we are of
the scriptural correctness our governmental order may be.

Governmental Specialists

In the Old Covenant dispensation, God’s government rested on individuals specially chosen and separated for the
task.  The Levites were a special class.  The priests were a special class.  Moses, Samuel, and others were individuals
separated with a unique prophetic call not available to the nation of Israel as a whole.  However, Moses’ dream (God’s
dream) was that all of God’s people would be prophets (Numbers 11:29).  God’s Spirit in-filling of humanity on the Day
of Pentecost realized this dream for Moses and God for the first time, in fulfillment of the Joel 2 prophecy.  The New
Covenant/Spirit age is characterized by all people, including all socially, spiritually, and culturally disenfranchised
classes  (women, slaves, Gentiles) being immersed in the prophetic spirit of the future age.  The New Covenant era is
one of universality.  God’s order no longer depends on a special class of anointed ministers and rulers but of a nation
of king-priests.  What was external and unique in the Old Covenant is internal and universal in the New.  This is a
profound difference and distinction, and the distinction
must be maintained when applying Old Covenant principles of
authority and government in the New Covenant era.

A few specially chosen and qualified “ministers” and a lesser group of “others” do not characterize the New Covenant.  
Rather, the anointed individual of the Old Covenant becomes the anointed body of the New.  What was on individuals in
the Old Covenant (Moses, Samuel) in partiality and externality, was upon Jesus individually in fullness and indwelling,
and since Pentecost, has been transferred to the body corporately in fullness and indwelling.  No single believer
possesses what Christ had in fullness.  However, Christ was the fullness of God in bodily form, and the believing church
collectively in the fullness of Christ.  The anointing of Christ rests on His body in a distributive sense.

Unfortunately, the King James Version inconsistently translates the Greek word
diákonos as minister and sometimes
servant.  Because the King James Version translators were in an autocratic, hierarchal, class-conscious, monarchial
society, their prejudices influenced their renderings.  In addition, King James VI personally pressured the translators to
do the translation according to “acceptable meanings.”  This is code-speak for: ‘Translate it the way I want it or you end
up  in the Tower with your head in your hands!”  Biblically, there is no distinction between ministers and servants.  It is
universal servanthood – period.  Just as there is universal servanthood in the New Covenant, there is universal
priesthood.  This is fairly well established, thanks in part to five-hundred years of Reformation teaching on the subject –
for better or worse!  I believe this universality has implications on our systems and orders of government.

Governmental authority is simply the right to empower and the right to limit.  God’s government equips and releases
within the boundaries of divine calling and grace endowment – empowering where
charis (giftedness) exists and limiting
where it does not.  All would agree that Christ is the Executive Head of the universe and the Head of the body.  As
believers, we submit to His headship.  The question is “
Where is Christ?  How is His government yielded to in a practical

Because of inadequate understanding of the realities of the New Covenant, the Christ event, and the Spirit’s indwelling,
the typical response to that question is: “Christ is in heaven.”  If that is our perspective, the issue of authority becomes
subjective and a semi-mystical submission to a remote invisible God.  New Covenant reality is that Christ is no longer
just in heaven but also in the believer.  The temple of God is with/in humanity!   Christ is in you!  Christ is in me, the
hope of glory!  This being indisputable, what is the implication on matters of church order and church government?

It is imperative to recognize the unique deposit of Christ in each of us!  Because, wherever Christ manifests, I must
submit, regardless of my office, position, gender, or status in the church.  I may be a water-walking apostle, but when
Christ is manifest in another believer, I must submit to the incarnate Head.  My position or function in the body never
absolves me from submitting to Christ manifest.  Being an apostle or prophet does not mean the eternal submission of
others to me because of my alleged office.  The governmental order of God’s kingdom is defined by mutuality: “submit
ye one to another in the fear of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21).  Christ administers His government by
agape (love) and
releases it through
charisma (giftedness).  His kingdom rule is expressed through an individual’s gift and
calling, not positions of title and authority

How does this work practically in a local church?  Some may think my premise is hopefully naïve; that it is impossible to
run a local church without a single executive head.  That is likely true – within the confines of American cultural value
systems of what a church is: an organization to be managed by visionary leadership that is supposed to grow to
phenomenal levels of financial and numeric success.  The strong tendency in the emergent apostolic movement to
define being “apostolic” by numeric size and financial success is heartbreaking.  Size and money – now there are two
kingdom qualities for you.  The notion that size and finance are evidence of God’s approving sanction is as numbingly
blind as it is spiritually offensive.  It is an abominable stench.  The Scripture calls it mammon.  It is more than the love of
money.  It has to do with methods and value systems.  It is a spirit.

Mammon (riches) reflects the power to beautify according to the world’s standards.  This is not to imply that the proper
use of such things [
money, material, technology] is wrong.  However, attractiveness in the sight of God has got nothing
to do with them.

There is nothing inherently evil with size or success unless it is used qualitatively to define size and success!  By that
standard, neither Jesus nor any of the first-century apostles would be included because they had neither.  Perhaps if
we substituted “community of faith” for “local church” and asked the same questions, the proposition might not sound so
naïve.  It does not take much executive authority to oversee: “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”  

Suppose I am a pastor and my Christ endowment lies in encouragement, care, compassion, and counseling.  The
sphere of my authority, the expression of Christ, should be in areas appropriate to my endowment.  Simply because I
am pastor does not give me divine mandate to micromanage, dictate, and control the music department, for example.  I
am not gifted to do it.  My leadership role as equipper is to train, activate, and release others in the realm of their
particularly in areas where I, the pastor, am not endowed, even if those areas are doctrine, preaching, teaching,
correction, and administration.

The ungodly, unbiblical, and impossible cultural expectations put on a pastor to be and do everything are elements of
the Universal Church’s dysfunction.  Just because we want to run the church like a New England Yankee businessman,
does not mean God is obliged to bless our ethos.  He won’t, He doesn’t, and this is why the church is broken.  One’s
role as pastor is not to sit as executive and chief visionary but chief servant and equipper!  Equipping others
is the
vision.  There is no other.  The role of the Ephesian 4 minister is as equipper and releaser of others into their visions,
not getting his/her own vision and making others submit to it.

Much of the visionary language used in leadership schools draws upon American cultural models, the lure of success,
and Old Covenant theologies, rather than New Covenant revelation.  Being the “visionary” sounds good, seems
legitimate, but in practical application, always ends up abusing and hurting people because it is not based in God, His
Word, or His Spirit in accuracy (see chapter 7).  God’s government rests within the sphere of grace endowment and no
further.  It is not positionally defined; it is functionally limited.

A Little Leaven

Leaven in Scripture represents both positive and negative spiritual qualities.  Positively, leaven represents kingdom
influence; negatively, sin.  I have often wondered why for a Semitic mind leaven would be used metaphorically for these
qualities.  A little cultural background is helpful.

A Semite’s worldview of commerce, the universe, and resources was finite.  The concept of wealth generation through
capital investment as increasing total available resources simply was not in their worldview.  To them, the world was
finite.  If you get a bigger piece of the pie, it means someone else gets a smaller part, and the cosmic balance is upset.  
Therefore, knowing one’s “place” in the greater scheme of things, and staying there, was very important.

Boundaries of all sorts – social, spiritual, cultural – were very important.  Gender, class, and religious boundaries
characterized not only Old Covenant theology and practice but deeply influenced the Semitic mind.  For example, if you
were the son of a fisherman, it was your God-ordained destiny to be one also.  It was your boundary, your limitation.  
Attempting to improve your lot, to move up the ladder from fisherman to architect (self-initiative that we in the West
would greatly admire), would not have been admired but rather considered “uppity” and inappropriate because it is an
attempt to exceed divinely-ordained boundaries.

What has this got to do with leaven?  Leaven is a substance, which, by its nature refused to stay contained.  It always
exceeds its boundaries.  This is why it came to be viewed metaphorically for sin.  For a Semite, it was sinful to go
beyond one’s boundaries.  On the positive side, the irrepressible expansion of the kingdom of God is likened to leaven
because it is in its nature to expand.  It can not be stopped.

Now, we do not import first-century culture into our era, but we can make an application.

Tragedy in the church results when believers and leaders fail to recognize and attempt to operate outside the limitations
of their Christ endowment.  Exercising executive leadership authority outside of one’s Christ endowment, from a
“position or office” rather than function and endowment, invariably results in disorder, relational disintegration, and
personal pain on both sides of the pulpit rather than the hoped-for order that releases blessing.  The Holy Spirit is
obliged to anoint only that which He endows.  He is not obliged to anoint our Western, organizational, success-and-
growth-oriented methodologies that are so easily energized by the Adamic nature as a counterfeit church.

The Myth of the Servant Leader

If ink were water, commentary on the servant leader would fill the Sea of Galilee.  It is the near-universal standard
ascribed to the ideal church leader.  It is one of the church’s biggest myths.  The ancient Greek and Roman gods of
mythology were not deities, as we understand the term.  They were magnified humans: comprehensible in similarity to
reality but enlarged into fantasy.  The servant leader is the Sasquatch of the kingdom: folks claim to have seen one, but
a confirmed capture is elusive.  In my personal local church experience, I know a lot of people who think themselves
servant leaders and who
talk about servant-leading, but I have never seen one – including myself.  Believing in Peter
Pan is relatively harmless.  Believing I can fly, and acting out of my belief, will yield a high-speed appointment with the
pavement.  So it is with the archetype servant leader.  It is legitimate in theory but fantasy in implementation.  Building
life around a fantasy does not produce God’s desired result.  It produces pain.

The words,
servant and leader, are so loaded with cultural preconceptions, it is nearly impossible to extract a scriptural
definition of either.  Technically, it is not a biblical expression.  Rather, it is a linguistic vise allowing us to rationally hold
and process two antinomic qualities in Christ.  We culturally define these words in terms of role, function, and character
qualities: a servant is subservient, a leader assertive.  A slave (
doulos) serves; a ruler rules.  How obviously self-
evident!  Not necessarily.

Some ministers emphasize the leader side of this antinomy: I am the leader, I get the vision, I get the direction, I get the
call, I get the dream, you all fall into line, you must submit, don’t dare get out of governmental alignment (code word for:
I control everything, but I am really serving you).

Some churches and saints emphasize the servant element of the antinomy: “Pastor, we don’t care about your vision.  
We want you to care for us.  You are supposed to lay down your life for us, putting our needs before your own.  Your
calling is to be the chief servant.  You need to back off all this “leadership talk” and take a towel and wipe our feet.  My
sick aunt needs you to visit her now, and you need to be at my cousin’s birthday party this weekend, and the church
sidewalk needs to be shoveled, and since you are drawing a salary we think you need to do this before Thursday,
because, after all, your call is as the servant of all.”

The corrupt distortion of the servant expectation makes the pastor little more than an errand boy sent by God to meet
the needs of the flock.  Once, in a meeting with pastors in a community where I lived, I heard a pastor from a
fundamental evangelical church say that he was exhausted, overworked, and abused.  However, he also said this was
fine because that is what the servant of all is supposed to experience; like lambs led to the slaughter, we are not to lift
our voice.  The pastor thought he was modeling the servant leader.  He was, of course, doing nothing of the sort.  This
pastor’s paradigm of ministry was not biblical servanthood.  It was abuse masquerading in a religious spirit.

Mix the idyllic servant-leader myth with unsanctified character traits or personality quirks and deficiencies and either
extreme – strong set-man leadership or high-shepherd’s touch servanthood – becomes abusive: authoritarianism on
the one hand and enablement and code-dependency on the other.

These terms must be stripped of first-century cultural biases and protected from twenty-first century cultural incursions.  
The Christ Event forever elevated these terms to a kingdom dimension.  For the believer, the outpoured and indwelling
Spirit makes both terms
equalizing qualities of empowerment, not limiting roles or functions. In the kingdom servants
lead and leaders serve
.  Slaves rule and rulers labor.  

From a biblical perspective, the phrase, “servant leader,” is a meaningless tautology.

The Christian community expects the ideal Christian leader to model both qualities to the fullest degree possible, thus
reflecting the image of Christ (as all
good Christians should, especially those called to lead).  I doubt if any scholar,
teacher, or practical minister seriously thinks any one individual embodies the fullness of Christ’s gifts or character
qualities.  Why is it then assumed that the fullness of the idyllic servant leader should manifest in every leader?  Could
partiality or lack in either element be acceptable or even divine purpose?

Garcon, Service Please!

I have yet to meet a church leader who, when asked, didn’t think him or herself a decent servant leader, at least trying
to emulate Christ in ministry.  Frank self-assessment is undoubtedly a healthy practice.  Submission to superiors is
commendable.  These alone, however, are insufficient.  It is like a surgeon whose patients all die.  A pat on the back
from the boss for an artful suture on a dead patient does not testify well to a surgeon’s skill.  An incompetent waiter
does not get to tell the customer the tip amount.  
The recipient of the service determines its value.  Those served, not
server, evaluate the quality of servant-leading!

For many years, I worked in metallurgical and process engineering for Corning, Inc. in Corning, NY.  Two of the most
progressive features of Corning’s human-relations policies were:

  1. Subordinates participated in the interview process of potential candidates for jobs superior to their own.
  2. Subordinates participated in the performance review process of their own boss or superior.

In terms of candor and minimized office politics, it was the most enjoyable work atmosphere I have experienced.  The
climate was one of mutuality: critique and evaluation went upstream, not just downstream.

Mutuality is a quality sorely lacking in many authority and submission structures in the church.  Too often honor and
deference flow upstream toward position, title, and giftedness rather than to the least comely member.  The children of
this age are wiser than the children of light.

Among independent and nondenominational churches with an episcopal form of government, few leaders are open to
objective, third-party assessment of skill and ability.  Some are accountable in matters of doctrine and morals to peers
or superiors (behavioral accountability).  However, in my personal sphere of influence I know of only a handful open to
systematic and regular skill evaluation and development – from anyone – peer or otherwise.  Insecurity in ministers
knows no bounds.

The notion of submitting to the opinions of subordinates is
viscerally repugnant to the set-man style of leadership:
“What?  Ask the people what they think?  Let them measure us?  Why, the next thing you know we will be laity-led (you
guessed it), the curse of the Nicolaitans!  Congregationalism!  Democracy!  Man’s system in the church!  The rule of the
people!  We go to the mountain.  We are the Moses’ of the New Covenant.  We get God’s word, vision, and direction
and present it to the people to follow.  We have the call to lead!  The people need to covenantally trust us and submit.  
Shepherds lead, sheep follow!  That’s God’s order!  Don’t come out from under God’s covering!  God uses the sheep
metaphor for a reason.  Sheep are stupid!  They will over graze if left to themselves.  God calls you sheep; therefore,
you need to submit and follow us.”

Talk about overdoing a metaphor!  I wish I were joking.  I wish I were making up every one of the preceding clauses.  
Unfortunately, I have heard every one of these, their variants and more, preached with dogmatic fervor during my
experience across a broad spectrum of Christianity.

God forbid that we, as leaders, should actually consider the feelings of those we are leading!  The strong set-man style
of leadership, energized by Old Covenant leadership theology, is inherently not conducive to evaluation, especially from
subordinates.  Insecurities and personality issues just exacerbate the problem.  I am not saying that evaluation from the
congregation is necessarily determinative on any matter, it is
contributive:  valued, sought after, honored, highly
weighted, given serious consideration.  Remember, in the New Covenant, every believer has the Spirit of God, not just
Moses and a few specially anointed individuals as in the Old Covenant.  Most set-men type leaders don’t even believe
in contribution from the rank and file.  They are locked in an Old Covenant leadership model that elevates them as
“constitutionally different” than those they lead.  They would deny it in doctrine, but it is a reality in practice.  Peers,
elders, and friends allegedly hold them accountable.  This accountability is only legitimate if the peers, elders, and
friends have the right to tell the set man no; they must have the authority to deny him and fire him.  If that dynamic is not
present, it is just a common dress monarchy without scepter robe and crown.

I do not deny the need for the more disciplinary or “strong” elements of leadership from time to time.  Nor am I endorsing
taking the eternal pulse of people in order to make leadership decisions.  A general may have authority over his troops
by reason of experience and rank.  However, if he does not have the heart of his troops, he will lead an army of one –
himself.  One day, in the heat of battle, he just might find a bullet in the back of the head.  If a set man’s vocabulary is
predominantly saturated with the language of honor, government, authority, and submission rather than love, care, and
service, there may be a laser scope pointed in his direction.  A wise leader will make sure the troops are with him, not
just his adjutant staff!

Biblical Idealism

It might be argued that realization of the ideal servant leader is possible with God: what is impossible with man is
possible with God.  If we just did things right enough, we would be in God’s order, the Holy Spirit accomplishing what we
cannot if we would just carefully align with the precepts in God’s Word.  I would respond that we are the church on earth,
not in paradise.  While we hold to, and progress toward, an ideal, we live in reality.  Sticking our heads in the sand of
biblical idealism while ignoring natural dynamics of interpersonal human relationships is a curse in the church.  At times
we cannot see past idyllic Biblicism to the level of everyday human interactions.  Throw in reactionary fundamentalist
tendencies against anything remotely psychological as “humanism from the devil,” and it is a wonder the church
functions at
all.  Well, it often doesn’t.

The instant two human beings are in the same room trying to get along, there will be some manifestation of leader and
follower.  If not, they will either separate or kill each other!  It is a function of human dynamics, not church meeting
structure and form.  Those wounded from authority figures often retreat into reactionary meeting structures attempting
to avoid leadership abuse: all are supposedly equal, no one possessing directive authority.

There is a legitimate place for the authoritative teaching of the Word.  Without it, we will be left with egalitarian
subjectivism, and the church will become a mere focus group of shared opinions.  This is a real danger in the
nontraditional house churches that are emerging across the world.  The response to abusive leadership is not “non-
leadership.”  It is recovery of a New Covenant, Calvary platform of leadership free of legalism, Old Covenant theology
and methods, and self-serving personal agenda.

We can dispense with name, position, and title, but the human dynamic will remain.
 Someone – by gift mix, age,
temperament, skill, experience, resources, or personality –
will emerge as the de facto leader.  Retreat into a form of
spiritual egalitarianism or recovering some allegedly divinely proscribed meeting structure from the book of Act does not
negate the reality.  The matter is divinely programmed into humanity.  We can run from it, suppress it, bury it, chain it,
deny it, rail against it, curse it, judge it, dodge it; someone will lead, somehow, some way.  The issue for the believer is
keeping leadership on a New Covenant footing: death and resurrection, Spirit indwelling, charismatic endowment and

Nobody’s Got it All

Some leaders are very good executives in a Western, hierarchal, administrative, corporate sort of way.  Others excel in
service in a Western, managerial, busyness, efficient, vocational, “ministerial” sort of way.  There are often
temperament, calling, and gift mixes with elements of both.  However, a kingdom, death/resurrection-based, Christ-form
of biblical leadership embodied in a single individual is as rare as ham salad at a bar mitzvah.  I am not sure it is
legitimate to expect otherwise.

Visionary leaders are said to serve the body with their “visionariness.”  (See chapter 7 for a biblical definition of what it
actually means to be a visionary leader, for now, I will let it stand as it is normally understood.)  While perhaps
technically true at a ministerial level, it is not true at a practical and interpersonal level.  The candid reality is most
visionary leaders are not good practical servants and often weak at an interpersonal level.  It is grossly unfair to project
a high-servant quotient upon a visionary leader – believing he or she is deficient because of a perceived lack of
servanthood or “a warm personal touch.”  Unrealistic expectations fuel relational breakdown.  Visionary leaders may
experience psychological, relational, and religious pressure to be more servant-like, neutralizing their visionary grace.

On the flip side, projecting visionary expectations on a practical, high-touch, highly empathic, caretaking,
shepherd/leader is likewise unfair.  Because of the high touch leader’s lack of visionary thrust (and often accompanying
poor administrative and formal communication skills), subordinates often assume directive initiatives, inappropriately
crossing lines of charismatic boundary endowment.  Illegitimate expectations upon a high-servant quotient leader
produce an abiding sense of failure, comparison, discouragement, lack of acceptance, and restless striving likewise
neutralizing his or her grace.  This all results from the mythology of the idyllic servant leader.  Consider the statistics
Beyond all Limits by Bill Bright and James Davies:

  • Each month fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their

  • Ninety percent said the ministry was completely different than they thought it would be when they entered ministry.

  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role
    in ministry.

  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave it within the first five years.

  • Ninety percent of pastors said their seminary or Bible school training did only a fair to poor job of preparing them
    for ministry.

  • Fifty percent are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a

  • Seventy percent of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

  • Eighty percent of pastors surveyed spend less than fifteen minutes in a day in prayer.  Ninety-five percent do not
    regularly pray with their spouse.

  • Seventy percent of pastors said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing sermons.

  • Eighty percent of pastor’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.

  • Almost forty percent polled said they had an extramarital affair since beginning their ministry.

  • Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.

  • Eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.

There is no shortage of pain on both sides of the pew.  What will it take for us to admit that our concepts, methods, and
philosophies of church government and ministry are broken and need to be reconfigured from top to bottom?  Why is it
so common in the church that dysfunctionality is clung to so strongly in the name of defending truth?

Make Sure the Shoe Fits

Perpetuating the archetype servant-leader myth in the church causes untold sorrow in the lives of ministers and
congregations.  A congregation’s (traditional, house church, cell) expectations in their leadership must match that leader’
s grace.  If a congregation expects a dominant visionary leader but receives a servant, or if it expects a dominant
servant ministry and gets a visionary one, it will experience confusion, hurt, and relational disintegration that may never
be recoverable.  Ministers, unwanted and unloved, feel stuck in a hellish assignment.  Congregations, misunderstood
and hurt, change pastors like a pair of socks.

The servant-leader siren song destroys good people on the rocks of psychological projections and religious
expectations.  Like someone caught in a dead-end alley and about to be mugged, frantic survival instincts kick in over
reason and mutual understanding.


If there is any lesson to be had from the New Covenant, particularly the book of Acts and the Epistles regarding patterns
and order, it is that in the post-Pentecost Spirit age
there is no pattern!  Christ in resurrection is the Pattern!  Our
pattern is a person not a plan. There is no pattern method of healing.  There is no pattern method of ministry.  There is
no pattern method of church form.  There is no pattern of government and authority structures.

The New Testament pattern is to see the Man on the throne in resurrection, through the revelation of His Word by the
Spirit, and do what He says!  The Word is broad enough to encompass diversity and flexibility.  It has been divinely left
vague on these matters of government because the Holy Spirit knows man’s propensity to codify everything into
systems of order.  If God is calling you to build a mega church, build it!  Full steam ahead, captain!  May your seas be
calm and your sails full!  If He is calling you to operate a home church, do it!  Just don’t worship at the shrine of the non-
leader who leads!  The era we live in is characterized by death, resurrection, love, service, and liberty; not government,
order, authority, and structure.

    “We are not called to find the right pattern and then implement it.  We must respond to him who is the head of the Church and
    submit to his initiatives as He implements his will among us.”


Pleasant Word (WINEPRESS Publishing).