Learning About Leadership, Part 1

I’m writing a series on leadership, not because I consider myself such an amazing leader, but rather, because right now, I’m having some issues with followership.  Big issues.

What do I do when a Christian leader is not accurate?  unkind? hurtful? not listening?

The human response is to fight — however, our response must always be to seek  God’s word.  Here are my notes as I seek answers to the questions that keep me awake at night concerning this matter.

So, we start with what Jesus says in Matthew 23:

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you…”

Remember that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were responsible not only for leading God’s people astray but for the death of Jesus Christ himself.  (Although God allowed this.)  And yet, Jesus did not say people should ignore these men who had created SO MANY laws that the people couldn’t survive.  He said that you MUST obey them and do everything they tell you.  (Of course, again, later, he focuses on the spirit and intent of the law as being supreme to the law itself.)

This is consistent with Hebrews 13:17

17Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

I’ve seen Hebrews 13:17 “lorded” over the church before.  Yes, it is clear that we are to OBEY those God has put in charge.  Just remember that Matthew 23:23-24 says:

23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

We are not to ignore the spirit of the law when we follow “the law.”  God’s intent ALWAYS overshadows manmade rules. We saw this when Jesus healed the woman who was bent over on a Sabbath and when David at the showbread on the altar.

I’ll never forget my Dad telling me a story about how the deacons had decided that they would all be on time to a meeting.  The very next meeting, a man was very late and was called into account by the others and he quietly accepted it.

Later, the other deacons found out that a church member had been widowed that very evening and the deacon was late because he had been with the widow at that time!  The deacons were humiliated for they had put the rule of man above the spirit of the law. They begged his forgiveness.

God wants us to show love first and be His hands and feet and in this case, when priorities conflict, God’s calling must be above ALL ELSE! Period!

Now, let’s look at more of Matthew 23: 1-4:

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

What are heavy loads?
Well, it is easy to say that heavy loads are not from Christ, for he says in Matthew 11:29

 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I would be wary to be the man who puts rules upon the shoulders of God’s people that God Himself does not place there.

In the New Testament, there were men so convinced that to go to heaven that one had to be circumcised that they went peeking around in the men’s privy to catch a man who wasn’t “pure” in this matter.  In fact, the Jerusalem council tackled this very issue. (Acts 15:1)

What did Peter say to this?

8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:8-10)

The Rules of Man
I have a letter on my desk today something giving me more than 10 “rules” that I should follow to be an effective person in a leadership position I have at church.

Most are pretty superficial, but, OK, so I’m supposed to obey.  Now, what do I do?

From the study so far, I believe it is safe to say:

  1. I am to obey to the best of my ability.
  2. My leader will be held in account by God Almighty Himself.  My appeal is to God.
  3. When all of these things make me weary and burdened, I have complete refuge in Jesus Christ.  Ultimately I am responsible to Him.
  4. I will give this person the respect due his position, however, my salvation is not upon the approval of a man, but the blood of Jesus Christ.  Doing all of these things surely is good, however, the measure of my life is obedience to Jesus Christ and his calling to me.  
  5. When the superficial laws of man conflict with the intent of the law as laid out by God, I am totally responsible to follow God’s direction, despite the disapproval of others.
  6. I am to forgive this person a thousand times over, and in fact, right now, I wake up every morning and pray for God to help me forgive this person.  This leader is a huge struggle for me, but if I do not forgive, I shall not be forgiven!

There are many more things to share here, but this is what I’ve learned for now.  This is an ongoing struggle in several areas of my life and perhaps others are struggling in this way.

As we look ahead at King David, even when Saul was completely wrong and had the hand of God removed from him, David said, “Far be it from me that I would place a hand upon God’s anointed.”

Be very wary of actively trying to harm any man of God.  Yes, a man can be completely wrong, however, to approach any thing of this matter without a lot of prayer and caution is to bring harm upon yourself, I believe the Scripture will show that.

Showing 2 comments
  • Cathy
    Reply

    SUCH a hard thing to do.. Thank you for honestly expressing your struggle. It’s also especially difficult when the same Christian leaders who are asking you to submit, lord it over you a bit.

    As you mention, I do believe that ultimately, the issue is a heart of submission to God – either by submitting to leaders, or, in some cases, expressing concern lovingly and peacefully. (Matt. 18:14-16).

    I once talked with a friend about the gift of discernment. It can be really frustrating to see what others do not! However, what we DO with that discernment can lead to powerful and redemptive change. If we see something, we can pray. We can lovingly communicate truth. We can reason for the sake of heaven.

    Hang in there and be loving and wise. Praying for you.

  • Vicki A. Davis
    Reply

    Thank you, Cathy. This has been a struggle for quite some time and is so frustrating and disheartening. I cannot express the depths of struggle over this one.

    The ONLY way is to line up our actions w/ God’s word, otherwise we’re just like everyone else.

    But the human side in me says, “But you should DOOOOOOOOOO something.”

    You know what God is Doing something but I cannot see – for now I must trust in Him to handle it, though it is hard.

    Thank you so much for kindly commenting!

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