Discipleship Roundtable, August 5

I love discipleship. I love church. I love leaders. I love Jesus. And I love to talk. ;-) So, I am setting aside a day when I am stateside for a roundtable gathering to facilitate some sharing and conversation around...

"Becoming a disciple-making leader and a leading a disciple-making church." 

I am inviting any Pastors, leaders, elders, ministry leaders, small group leaders, missions-hearted people....anyone that loves discipleship and church and Jesus!!! You are welcome.

Come!  Join me. Let's talk. I will be happy to share what we are learning, what we are trying, where we are winning and where we are failing.

When? Tuesday, August 5 from 9am until 3pm. (Lunch is provided.)

Where? Capital Christian Fellowship. 10411 Greenbelt Road, Lanham, Maryland.

Come and bring a few leaders with you. I would love to spend the day with you.

Please RSVP if you plan to attend by emailing me at noah dot ccf at gmail dot com.  Please let me know before August 1.

A Checklist for Teaching

Much of what I do is geared toward training and teaching leaders. And I am on a steep learning curve working to learn how to effectively train and teach in a way that actually sticks and transforms. Do you teach or train others? Perhaps you too can benefit from this. It refers to church, but can be applied broadly.

A checklist to evaluate how you train workers: 1. Is it obedience oriented, and does it have accountability? 2. Does it give responsibility to those being trained? 3. Does it lead to multiplication? 4. Is it simple? Have you asked, What can we leave out? Or do you ask, What can we squeeze in? 5. Is it actually reproducing disciples? Or just theoretically “reproducible”? 6. Is it based on self-discovery? Or does the trainer just dump content? 7. Does everything lead to forming churches?

(I actually cannot recall where I got this, but I like it and have found it helpful.)

7 Counterintuitive Keys to Leadership

Keys to LeadershipI was teaching in rural Kenya on a tea plantation late last year when a network leader asked me..."Can you please help our leaders see the need for humility in church planting and that it is not all about them feeling important?" Sure, I thought. This is lesson I have been learning the hard way for the last 4-5 years! I would be happy to. So, I grabbed my notebook and jotted down 7 quick thoughts. Here they are....expanded a bit. 1. You are not the big deal. Jesus is. It is so easy for a leader to begin to think more highly of themselves than he/she ought to. Our task is to make much of Jesus! He loves to use us, but he does not love to share His glory. He is the main event. The chief end. (Colossians 1:17)

2. Come as a child and you'll be a father/mother. In the Kingdom of God things are always standing on their “cultural head". The greatest is the least. The least is the greatest. In leadership, you will gain more authority coming as a child, than in strength as an adult. Childlike faith leads to fatherly authority when it’s lived out in weakness that trusts fully in Jesus. His strength becomes perfect in us and we end up being spiritual parents without having tried by lording it over.

3. Get weak. Not strong. Same deal here. We traditionally think that leadership = strength. And by the world’s standards it does. But as godly leaders, we, like Paul, say that …. His strength is perfect in our weakness. (I Cor. 12:9)

4. It's about who you're following not who you're leading. I used to read every Maxwell book I could find. I used to believe the famous motto: You are only a leader if people are following you. Maybe. Maybe not. I am learning that the true sign of leadership is how much of yourself you can give away to others so they can GO farther and do more than you. So, what actually ends up happening is that you wind up following them. Not them following you. If we are “Apostolic Senders” - we will not be left with a bunch of people behind us. At least, it will not be the sign of success. Actually, it may be just the opposite.

5. Exercise power under people, not power over. True power, strength and impact in leadership comes when I kneel before you and wash your feet (Matt 20:28). It is about the power I have below you in service, not the power I have above you in influence or control. This is Kingdom leadership. There is certainly power. Watch how Jesus led. He changed the world with this type of leadership. Why have we ever abandoned it?

6. It’s about who you send, not who you collect. Bigger is not better in the “great commission business”! Further and deeper and broader is. The mark of a godly leader is found in how many people he has poured himself into and sent out for the purposes of the mission of God. Certainly NOT in how many he or she can gather at once to follow them or listen to them.

7. Pastoring is not the goal. Fathering a movement is. I know many frustrated pastors. And almost every time it is for the same reason. They are not called to be a Pastor/Shepherd. They are called to be an apostle. Or an evangelist. Or a Prophet. But most often, leaders that are dissatisfied are feeling such because there is more that the Lord has made them for. Perhaps they are called to “Father a movement”, not “Pastor a church”! There is a massive difference.

Thirties :: Demotion to Formation

I am in my early 30s, contrary to what many people guess. And the truth is that it feels like I have learned more in the last 4 years than in the preceding 30 combined...though I know it isn't true. Another reality is that I interact with, relate to and disciple a number of leaders in their 20's and 30's. Over the last few years, I have developed a suspicion that has now turned into a solidifying philosophy. Disclaimer: I think that what I share here applies most specifically to leaders, particularly those called into Christian ministry/leadership (or at least that is the crowd I am addressing here). Though the ideas may apply more broadly too. 

Here is how I think things typically go...

In our 20s...early promotion:

  • We are pretty immature on the inside but we now look mature on the outside. We are in charge of our lives fully now without the wisdom and experience to manage it very well.
  • We make many financial and relational mistakes and function out of our own strength...and we have plenty of it at this point.
  • We are energetic, optimistic and able to tackle anything. And we are all about outward results! We want to prove a lot of things to a lot of people in a short amount of time....but mainly we want to try to prove some things to ourselves in a quest to establish our identity. Little do we realize at this point, that identity is built on the inside, not from the outside. 
  • We experience what Author, Bobby Clinton calls "early promotion." We are placed into roles or positions bigger than we are and we see some results and growth. Things look good. And we think it has a LOT more to do with us than it actually does. God allows this for very specific reasons; mainly 1) to taste the destiny of our future and 2) to pass time and keep us out of too much trouble until we are ready for what God wants to do with you on the inside.
  • For most leaders, they are not self-aware enough or mature enough yet for God to put His finger on character issues and formation concerns. They would not listen or respond very well. So He waits.

Then something happens. Pain. Loss. Fall. Transition. Something. Something that gets our attention and gets us ready for the next season. We just get unsettled, unhappy, an unwilling to keep going on with the same ole thing. You are getting ready on the inside now. You are starting to see that if anything lasting is going to be built, you're going to have to slow down and look in.

In our 30s...demotion to formation:

  • We become more ready for the deep stuff. The Lord begins to put his finger on our sin issues, broken places, and heart diseases. We are ready to start facing stuff. Perhaps slow at first, but something feels different on the inside. 
  • We begin to see what we have done over the last 10 years and realize how much we knew then and how little we know now (insert sarcasm here). This also means that our attention starts to shift from everything wrong about everyone else, and onto ourselves. It's humility time. 
  • Now is the time that we start to focus more on who we are becoming on the inside and less on what we are doing on the outside.  
  • Foundations can only NOW start to be laid for the house that the Lord wants to build through the 40s and 50s and beyond.
  • It is in our 30s that we start to learn the urgency of intimacy and the requirement of dependency...usually when we start to actually realize that we cannot do it on our own anymore. Unless the Lord builds the house, those that labor, do so in vain.
  • Depending on maturity, a wise 30s leader will know that they are in a season of submission and formation and as such, it will not pass fast. They settle down, sit back, hand the reigns over to Jesus and let him drive.

In full disclosure, this has been my journey! But the crazy thing is that I have seen it be the journey of a host of other leaders and friends that I have walked with over the last several years. I know that it won't apply to everyone, and perhaps the ages of your journey have been a bit different, but I bet the principles are/were the same.

Thoughts? What has your experience been?

Don't Follow Me

During my first 10 years of ministry, I read more books on leadership than any other topic. I loved to learn about the life and influence of leaders and hoped to grow in my own effectiveness. Over the last several years, many of my views of leadership have drastically changed. Much of what I would have agreed with and believed in my first decade of ministry is now almost embarrassing. Here are a few examples of some things I see differently: I once thought that leadership requires a position from which to influence. Not true. Leadership positions are meaningless without natural and spiritual authority.  I wrote more about this HERE.

I once thought that the leader needs to be the one who knows the most about the topic at hand. I now know that a good leader is one who simply knows and admits what he does not know and allows others to arise and shape things.

Finally, and most drastic is this: for years and years, I have heard leadership authors teach that "you are only leading if you have people following you." And for years I thought that the goal of a leader is followers....people that look to them, trust them and follow them. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with that. But it is a terribly incomplete understanding of leadership...

I actually don't have followers as a goal anymore. Instead, I think the greatest calling of a leader is to equip, encourage and empower others to lead! Inspire and motivate leaders to flourish and run! They go. They lead. They soar. They don't follow. I would rather follow them, not have them follow me.

I just think leadership is WAY more about sending and launching others who can go send and launch others than it is gaining followers. If we are to reproduce and give away our gifts, than leaders need to make leaders, not followers.

Yes, I know that the Apostle Paul says "Follow me as I follow Christ" -- and that should be true of all of us. But a brief glance at Paul's life and you can see what he meant...and it was certainly not that everyone would be led by him. He released leaders all over the place!

So, this is what I devote a lot of my time to these days. Making leaders, not gaining followers.

JDx coming to Kenya and Ethiopia!

I am thrilled to announce that I will be heading back to East Africa again in just a few short weeks with two partners in crime here at All Nations. Thomas Reber (Switzerland) and Archie Van Der Byl (South Africa) and I will be in Kenya and Ethiopia leading Jesus Discipleship Experience (JDx) training programs for disciple making leaders. We are excited about what the Lord is preparing.

Are you passionate about faithful, Jesus-centered Disciple Making?  JDx unpacks seven counterintuitive values of disciple-making.

Do you or someone you know live near Nairobi or Addis Ababa?

Can you help us get the word out?

  • Nairobi, Kenya: September 6-9
  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: September 13-16

Want more information? Email me at noah dot ccf at gmail dot com.

Change the Question

Here's another post inspired by my day with David Watson last week... For far too long, far too many of us have exported our ways of doing church and acted like it works. It doesn't. My way of doing church only reaches the people in my church. We CANNOT and WILL NOT see movements to Jesus by just recreating and shipping out our brand of church. It hasn't happened and it's not going to happen. As long as you want to recreate your church instead of making disciples for Jesus, we will remain as effective as we have been. And denominational loyalty is one of the biggest barriers to this issue.

Watson said this "A true Apostle cannot have loyalty to a single church or denomination."  He went on to make a brilliant point. He said, We have to change the driving question we are asking. Instead of asking "What can we do to reach our city?", we must ask "What is it going to take to disciple this city? And will it take to disciple this nation? Every nation?"

When we ask these type of questions, we quickly realize that we simply come to the table with a part of the meal, not the whole thing. Then, we submit in humility and join in Kingdom collaboration to reach our city with the rest of the Body of Christ.

We will not disciple nations alone.

And we need to change the question.

"Switch" by Chip & Dan Heath

In the last few days, I read this book called "Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath.  It's about change. It was great! Really liked it (though it is a secular book- whatever that means).  I highly recommend it for those influencing a change effort of any kind.  However, below, I will give you some of the main/best blurbs from the book. This pretty well covers it:

  • What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity.
  • Some is not a number. Soon is not a time. Here's the number:___. Here's the time:___. These must be specific in change efforts.
  • All of us can remember a time when a friend was laboring over what was wrong in their relationship. How many of us can recall a time when one of our friends spent the same amount time trying to analyze why things were working so well?
  • Bright spots matter. Find out what's working and do more of it. A major reason for change is when we locate bright spots and zero in on them. Instead we often find bright spots and choose not to trust them and become skeptical.
  • Major finding: big problems usually require small solutions sometimes over weeks and sometimes over decades. When many of us analyze problems we look for a solution that matches the scale of the problem. This is unwise. It is a wrong mental model. We see a 24 inch hole and look for 24 inch peg. Instead we must say what is working right now and how can we do more of it? Start there. This is solution focused change. We must stop asking what is broken and how do we fix it and start looking at what is working and do more of it.
  • Naturally most of us think choice is a good thing. But sometimes choice stops liberating and starts debilitating.
  • Any successful change requires translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. In short to make a switch you need to script the critical moves. You cannot script every move but it is extremely important that we script the critical moves that we want to see happen in the tough moments of change.
  • When you want someone to behave in a new way explain the new way clearly. Do not assume the new moves are obvious. Until you can ladder your way down from a change idea to a specific behavior, you are not ready to lead a switch. To create movement you've got to be specific and concrete.
  • When you're at the beginning, don't obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and envision a strong ending and get moving.
  • Simply raising the bar is the wrong approach if you want to motivate a reluctant elephant. You need to lower the bar. If you want a reluctant elephant to get moving you need to shrink the change. Need to encourage what progress is already been made and make the change that you are presenting look doable.
  • Sometimes people don't need milestones, they need inch pebbles. We must shrink the change so people feel big relative to the challenge. Yes, we shrink the change. But then, we must grow the people. Particularly in identity surrounding the potential task or change. Small steps toward them joining the change--foot in the door-- is needed.
  • Every one of us either has a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. The first will not see much change. The second will. Simple as that. Which are you?
  • In leading any switch or change the challenge is to keep the elephant moving forward. Whereas the rider needs direction, the elephant needs motivation. Motivation comes from a feeling, knowledge isn't enough to motivate change. But motivation also comes from confidence. The elephant has to believe that it's capable of conquering the change. And there are two ways to build people's confidence so that they feel *big* relative to their challenge. You can shrink the change or you can grow your people -- or preferably...both.
  • Behavior is contagious! It doesn't matter if you are a teenager with piercings or mature adult that's been in an industry for many years. Behavior is contagious on a social, personal and business level.
  • This is major: we do not need to create new believers so much as we need to unleash the believers we already have. We must tell influencers that support our change that it's safe to get vocal now. Unleash them!
  • There are reformers and there are resistors. Both are functioning out of a certain identity. As odd as it sounds, for major change to happen, the reform minded people must come together and form what is known as an oppositional identity. They need space and language to form their new identity. We must get the reformers together. We call that free space. They need to coordinate outside the gaze of the resisters!
  • Counterintuitively, you've got to let your organization have an identity conflicts. For a time, at least, you've got to permit an us versus them struggle to take place. Of course this violates our kumbaya & unity instincts and the feeling that we all must be on the same page all the time. It's l How on earth can 100 people all be in agreement on the same thing regarding change in difficult moments? It just isn't possible. So we must turn to the reformers get them together in a safe place and let them talk. Then we will get clarity and momentum toward our switch.
  • Change is not an event, it is a process. And if we want to keep that process moving, we must find the bright spots and encourage people every little step of the way. Just like training a monkey to ride a skateboard or dolphin to jump through hoop, we take it a little at a time with lots of rewards along the way.
  • When change works, it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. In other words, when change works, it's because the rider, the elephant, and the path are all aligned in support of the switch!!

5 Gifts...which one are you?


I have been reflecting on Ephesians 4 lately. In verses 11-13 we see Paul explain that GOD gives out gifts to people for the building up of the body of Christ.  I love this passage. There are whole books written on it.  I blogged about it HERE. Let me tell you what I am seeing in it now.  Something simple. 


I think we all have one of these gifts.  In fact, I tend to think that most of us have a primary operating gift and a secondary or supporting one. (And Apostles tend to know how turn any one of them on in spurts, but are excellent at none.)


My description/understanding of each:

  • Apostle: Visionary leader. Pioneer willing to move ahead and take risks. Often the first one to speak up and the first one to stand up.  They are usually the radical type. They will be the first one into the island and the first one out. They are kinda like the engine---or the front bumper of the car. May get themsleves in trouble easier than others. Many Apostles are Pioneers.  Some run over top of people.  But they inspire us!  They call us ahead.  They see the mountain and are ready to take it on! Usually very engaging and captures the attention of the room he/she is in. 
  • Prophet: Sees God. Hears God. Speaks up for God. Tuned in to the spirit more than most of us. Sensitive to God's voice.  And then shares what they sense.  Often see pictures, visions, and dreams.  Maybe these folk are a tad like the instrument panel in the car and tell you what's up, what's ahead--often stuff you did not see at all. May scare people at times by being too whack. But they carry a deep spirituality that we all love and are inspired by.
  • Evangelist: Madly in love with Jesus, won't stay quiet about it and must tell everyone they can.  Carries heavy burden for lost people. Mouthpeice.  Like the horn of the car, perhaps. Tend to get carried away too quick and leave with too much undone. Need to care about discipling too, though they forget it sometimes. Fired up for Jesus. Usually have a story to tell about how much they love the Lord. Stand out and speak up. Usually emotionally charged--and it's good--it's refreshing!
  • Teacher: Love to correctly talk.  They want to share, but it needs to be accurate stuff. They are not a fan of some of the other loud mouth gifts that have no idea what they are saying.  These poeple love when they can help people "get it"!  They long for truth and want to share it.  They can tend to be cautious and thinkers. Maybe like the GPS in your car. Play a guiding role. Offer a voice of wisdom that is deeply needed.  Keep other gifts out of trouble if the other gifts will listen.
  • Pastor: Lover of people.  Oozing compassion.  Tuned into YOU and the details of your life. Good memory. Deep lover.  Shepherd.  Can care too much and become entangled. They are really into the relationships being formed inside the car. Side note: Most of the Pastors you have met are not Pastors according to this definition. My heart breaks for them as they are forced to be someone they are not for a paycheck. 

We need all of these gifts in the church.  For some crazy reason, we do not encourage these ministries to be actively and evenly carried out in the church. Please reread the last sentence. I know what I am...I think.  Who are you?  Do you see yourself here?  What do you think of this stuff?  Teach me something.  Comment or email me. Interested in what you know. 

Is Pastoral Resignation the New Fad?


I tweeted this earlier today: "So many Pastors are resigning! I have lots of feelings about this. In a tweet, I think the reason is the office, not the church. Blog later."  Now, allow me to share my thoughts. 


(These are not my comprehensive thoughts on this topic.  I have way more to say, especially from my personal experience, but that still needs time.)


I am starting to wonder if Pastoral resignations are becoming the new fad? When I resigned to follow God in a new direction, I knew of NO other Pastor by name that was leaving for the same reason. Then came Francis Chan.  Man, did I feel validated.  Even though I made my move before him. ;-) Then came a few others. Then Rob Bell a few weeks ago.  Yesterday, I read about Shaun King.  Each of us having stepped out of the Pastorate to pursue something more biblical, natural, discipling, smaller, whatever, whatever.


Meanwhile, many rebels exist! Maybe some of the guys I mentioned, maybe not.  But they are out there.  The traditional church hating, organized church opposing, book and blog writing, vocal opposers of church as it's done in most of the west. In my opionion, many of them are rebellious, hurt and acting immaturely, but they also have a deep and storng heart for Chirst and his Mission.


That said, I think that in light of the increasing Pastoral resignations, people will begin to think that these guys (myself included) are mad at the church building or the people in it.  But I do not believe this is totally the case.


Though they may not have the mind to name it or the courage to admit it, I believe that the pain and frutration is not with the function of the church as much as the brokennes of the office.  The role of the Pastor (as most of us in western organized church approach it) can be:

  • Unfair to the poor guy or gal in charge of everything.  What a weight to carry! It can be so exhausting!! Trust me. Unless attendance and offering are high, then all is well that week. 
  • Unfair to the rest of the people in the church who have their Bilical status unintentionally downgraded by a system many years old.  Ministry that was supposed to be ours becomes his and theirs.
  • Unfair to Jesus.  He wanted to lead.  He wanted to have main stage.  He wanted to be the man!  So much for that idea. 
  • Unbiblical. Other than Ephesians 4, find me one place in the Bible you find the word Pastor. And I do NOT believe that what we are doing is what Ephesians 4 meant. 
  • Expensive!  Expensive for the church. Yet, if it is threatened or changed, the Pastor now has to freak out at the thought of losing his job! Let me leave it there for now.  
  • Confusing.  After what we see and read in the New Testament about preisthood of all believers, the zillion one-anothers and the mutual edification and sharing, it leaves people confused..."am I supposed to do all this stuff in the Bible or let Pastor handle it?" (after all, it's why we pay him)
  • Out of style! It may have worked in Christendom, but I am telling you now that this model/office is not gonna sustain like it has in this post-Christendom era!
  • Counter-Kingdom. The church must always be opposite and distinct from the systems of this world.  If businesses have CEOs and Governements have Preidents, the church must find the opposite essence of the Kingdom from which to function.  It must not look like anything else we see around us.  
  • And then, you have chuches like our home church who we love deeply.  Becuase of the nature of the office, and the extreme importance placed on it, an entire commuity of faith gets tossed and turned several times in a row because 1 or 2 or 3 Pastors (people) leave the equation.  Becaue they were "Pastors" it carries big pain and big implication.  Are you telling me that this is what God has in mind for His church....that they should be so centered around one man that the whole thing goes whacko when he leaves? And are you telling me that a community of believers cannot discern together and experience Christ together without "the man" in the house?  Really?  


Final thought: What I am trying to say is that I think that more blame is placed on the church than it deserves.  I think that the OFFICE of PASTOR as we hold it is the far more broken piece of the equation. And I am not saying any of this is the Pastor's fault!  Or the church's fault! Fault belongs years and years back...if anywehere. 


Final claims:

1. I know this post is going to ruffle some feathers. Send me your thoughts in the spirit of respectful dialogue and let's learn from each other. 

2. I am not saying I am totally right here or even that I am set in this thinking.  I disagree with myself about somthing every day.

3. I have been out of the Pastorate for almost a year and in that time have attempted to be very respectful of the office and sensitive to the people we lead. But it is time for me to open my heart and journey up more.

4. I do believe strongly in leadership!  I am one.  I also believe that the church needs the role of Pastor (maybe I will blog later about what I think a Pastor ACTUALLY is), Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher and Apostle...all functioning and all edifiying the body!  It is a beautiful design.  Just wished we lived into it.  God had a great idea!

Leadership; Persuasive or Hierarchical?

A friend recently shared this post with me about how leadership compares to parenting...particularly the differences between parenting small children and adult children.  The more I have reflected on it, the more I like it.  So, I wanted to share it with you here.  This is an excerpt from the blog of Jamal Jivanjee.  Credit is his!  Read this. I think you will be challenged. 


Parenting Young Children Was Easier For Me Because It Was A Picture Of The Law When I think back to the days when my daughter was a little child, parenting was much simpler and more defined. The relationship between my daughter and my wife & I back then was certainly more hierarchical to say the least. We told her when to eat, how much she had to eat before leaving the table, when to take a nap, when to go to bed, how to respond to people, and how she should respond to us as parents. There was no persuasion involved in her obeying the commands we gave her. We said it, she had to do it. If she did not obey what we told her to do, there were consequences. She learned quickly that we were in control, not her. The relationship was most definitely hierarchical.


I could never understand parents of little children who felt like they had to negotiate simple commands with their children. Children don’t have the capacity to think in complex ways and therefore need their parents to set boundaries for them and make decisions for them. When our daughter was little, we literally were in charge of most aspects of her young life. It seemed simple and easy. As our daughter grew older, we knew that would entail more freedom. That was never easy as mistakes, (both on her end as a young person and on our end as parents), were made with this new freedom. Freedom brought more choices and more potential for mistakes. Every time these things occurred, I longed for the simpler days of the past when my daughter was younger and there was simply less choices and more rules.


The older she becomes, the less that hierarchy is a part of our relationship. As my daughter approaches adult life, she is making more and more decisions on her own. A few years from now, the dynamic will change even further, especially if she gets married. As a result of this, I have realized that the way I lead my daughter must and should radically change from the way that I led her when she was a child. If the way I led her at 5, 15, and 25 stayed the same, that would be just plain weird.


If we look in the Old Testament, we can see the same thing. God’s people literally had to be told what to do in almost every aspect of life through the Law. This was to show them the character and nature of God’s holiness, and it was also meant to protect them as well. When my daughter was young, she needed a lot of external guidance to help her make the right choices. Now that she is older, she must rely on an internal guidance to guide her decision making process. Does my adult daughter still need leadership in her life? Absolutely. I still believe that I need to have a leadership role in her adult life, but this role will be more as a persuasive leader than a hierarchical one.


This brings me to my second point: Parenting Adults Is Harder For The Same Reason That Church Leadership Is Non-Hierarchical


Most parents with adult children that I have talked to have found out (the easy way or the hard way) that it takes more than an appeal to hierarchy to lead them. Don’t believe me? Try telling your 25 year old son or daughter that he or she cannot get up from the dinner table until they eat all of their lima beans. If they try to defy your command, tell them you are their parent, and the Bible says children are supposed to obey their parents. (That is an appeal to hierarchy) Let me know how that works out for you.


Obviously, that is a ridiculous example, but you get the point. At this point in their lives, you want them to be governed by something internal. This is a picture of life in the kingdom. Before Pentecost, the people of God were not grafted into His Son. They had to be governed by an external law. After God’s people were grafted into the Son at Pentecost, they were now governed by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. According to Galatians 5:18, those who operate by this indwelling Spirit cannot operate under the law. When we are governed by the Spirit of Christ and of life, we no longer need to be governed by the law of sin and death.


As I mentioned, this greatly affects leadership in the kingdom of God. We can see this radical shift from Law based leadership to kingdom based leadership in Jesus’ own statement about kingdom leadership: But do not be called Rabbi; for one is your teacher, and you are all brothers…Do not be called leaders, for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (Matthew 23:8, 10)


This was a profoundly radical teaching on leadership in Jesus’ day, and it is still radical. This goes against the world’s system of leadership, and that includes the world’s religious system of leadership as well. Notice the reason behind the new understanding of leadership. It is because ‘ALL’ are brothers, and there is only one leader who stands as head over them. That is Christ. This removes the possibility of human hierarchy. (I told you it was a radical teaching by Jesus)


Although Jesus’ teaching about kingdom leadership should be the grid and filter through which we understand all the other passages in the New Testament regarding church leadership, this has unfortunately not been the case. I speak from experience as a Bible college graduate and as a former institutional Pastor. What I was taught completely ignored & contradicted the heart and spirit behind Jesus’ teaching on kingdom leadership in Matthew 23:8-12. Instead, I was taught to emphasize passages of scripture that seemed to suggest hierarchical church leadership in the absence of the framework that Jesus laid down in Matthew 23:8-12.


While I could give you numerous examples of this, for the sake of brevity, let me just focus on one verse that is regularly taken out of context in order to promote a false view of hierarchical church leadership. As an institutional Pastor, I regularly used this verse incorrectly to appeal back to hierarchy. The verse is Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.


When taken as a stand alone verse, this verse does seem to imply a hierarchical form of church leadership. If we keep in mind what Jesus taught in Matthew 23, however, there has to be another explanation. If we’ll look at this passage from Hebrews closer, we’ll see that this verse is not hierarchical at all. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite! Let me explain.


There are a couple of Greek words that can be translated as ‘obey’ in the New Testament. The most common Greek word for ‘obey’ is the word (‘Hupakouo’) and signifies a hierarchical and authoritative understanding of obedience. That, however, is NOT the Greek word that is used in Hebrews 13:17 for ‘obey’! Are you surprised? The Greek word that is used for ‘obey’ is actually the word (‘Peitho’) which literally means ‘to persuade’ or ‘to win over’. The Greek word for ‘submit’ is the word (‘Hupeiko) which means to ‘yield’. Greek scholar W.E. Vine says this about Hebrews 13:17: The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.


That changes things a bit doesn’t it? Can you imagine a military commander trying to ‘persuade’ the troops under his command? Can you imagine a parent trying to ‘persuade’ their child not to run out into heavy traffic? It wouldn’t work very well.


Persuasive leadership, however, is exactly the kind of leadership that is suitable for my adult daughter now, and is the kind of leadership that only works within the church. I would like to say that just because we are governed by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, this does not mean that we do not need to receive leadership. For example, my adult daughter still needs leadership in her life. It simply means that this leadership is persuasive in nature, and ultimately she is in control of her choices. I cannot mandate her obedience based on hierarchy anymore. Trust me, that would be much simpler, but ultimately this would not be good for her. This is also true in church life as well.


We are commanded to be a people that allows our leaders to persuade us, and as leaders, we would do well to appeal to persuasion rather than hierarchy. If you study the cults, they usually have leaders that demand obedience based on position or rank, certainly not persuasion. Honestly, this sounds a lot like how the world’s religious system operates as well.


As a dad, In some ways, I am finding it harder to parent my daughter now that she is older. There are things I desperately want to show her, and ways that I want to direct her that have to do with her well being. She has to desire that guidance, however. It cannot be forced. I have found that it is only when people recognize that they have issues, that they begin to look for help with those issues.


It is only when people, or church communities, are willing to recognize that they have issues and need help with those issues that they are willing to be persuaded by leadership. Until then, it can be a painful waiting game. Sometimes people and groups become more open to being persuaded by leadership when they get desperate. Many times it is hardship, failure, and brokenness that eventually lead to desperation and openness to being led. As a parent, or as one who loves the church, that can be painful to watch.


There are many more passages in the New Testament (like Hebrews 13:17) that need to be re-examined from outside of an institutional hierarchical filter. A great resource that throughly examines biblical passages about church leadership, as well as many other related issues, is a book called ‘Reimagining Church’ by Frank Viola. I highly recommend it. If you’d like to look into these things a bit further, please purchase a copy of that book. Click here to purchase a copy of this book online. This bring me to my third and final point:


Most ‘Institutional’ Church Leadership Is Designed To Control The Masses, But True Biblical Leadership Is Designed To Persuade The Few ‘More is better’ in the world’s way of looking at things.


If you look at the way Jesus did things, however, the opposite seems to be true. As soon as Jesus obtained a large following, He seemed to say or do something that drove the masses away. For example, when someone came to Him telling Him they would follow Him anywhere, He seemed to not make it easy by telling them that He was homeless. Jesus was always weeding out people.


Jesus did not lead the masses, and the masses were fickle. They turned on Him pretty quickly. Jesus seemed to focus on the hungry few however. He shepherded those in the community that served and followed Him. Jesus was the ultimate shepherd (pastor). Do you know what the basis of this pastor / sheep relationship was? It was an intimate knowing of one another. In John 10:14, Jesus says: I Am the good shepherd, and I know My own, and My own know Me This is beautiful. This was not just a theoretical quote by Jesus. He really did know the sheep He was shepherding. The ‘knowing’ of one another is key. Shepherding is a component of the life of Christ that is demonstrated in the body of Christ, and it will come about because of a relational knowledge of one another.


I am always amazed when I talk to people at large Mega Church institutions that refer to the man who preaches to them behind the pulpit weekly as their ‘Pastor’. Sometimes I ask them if they know the person personally. Nine times out of ten, the answer is “No, not really”. Most institutional ‘Pastors’ are busy people. Most have never shared a meal with their ‘Pastor’. Most have not spent a significant amount of time with them. There is simply no personal relationship there. It is all formal. When I ask them: “On what basis is that guy who stands behind the pulpit week in and week out your pastor?” I usually get a response that goes back to title, not relationship like Jesus demonstrated and taught in John 10:14.


I could say much more about all of that, but you get the point. If you want to control a large group of people, you simply teach people to submit to titles, offices, and positions. This is what governments do, this is what employers do, and this is what the institutional church system does as well. In the kingdom, however, it is much different.


Jesus appeals to His relational knowledge of us, and us of Him. In the church that Jesus envisioned, and in the case of my soon to be 18 year old daughter, true leadership will have to depend on something much more profound than title or hierarchy, however. Just some food for thought.