Leading by refusing to lead…


In this blog I want to look at leadership and ways we exercise it, to either build unity, or to break down unity. Today leadership plays a huge part in what is called the church. In many ways the “church” even proclaims a Leadership Gospel (the picture above could have been the cover for my discipleship/leadership process I used to put people through), let me outline the process quickly:

  1. get saved
  2. learn the basics of Christianity
  3. submit to the vision of the senior pastor
  4. God has a plan for you life and it involves leadership in some capacity
  5. become an apprentice leader in a small group
  6. lead a small group
  7. multiply your small group as you help the senior pastor achieve his vision and grow the infrastructure
  8. this will mean you get elevated to greater levels of leadership, but you’ll never be senior pastor (due to his investment in the structure he isn’t going anywhere. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but when last did you see a senior pastor give his successful church away to someone he raised up from within the congregation that wasn’t his son?)
  9. Sometimes genuine but sometimes because of a glass ceiling, people feel called to “plant” out from their current congregation
  10. Repeat

My only problem with that structure/system is that it isn’t the Gospel (the story of how Jesus became King) and it actually breeds disunity. One of the passages that is often used for leadership structures is Ephesians 4:1-16. It has become very popular as people aspire to be Apostles, Prophets, Pastor/Teachers and Evangelists. However is this passage actually giving us a structure or is the focus on unity?

Almost every time I have heard this passage talked about it focuses the gifts, but we miss something so very vital. This passage starts with the Head of the Body, Jesus and ends with him as the Head. Paul calls himself a prisoner of the Lord, which speaks more of the extend of his submission to Jesus, than how Jesus treats him. Then we see Jesus calling us, but not to leadership but to being humble, patient, gentle, bearing with one another in love, maintaining unity through practising peace towards each other. The focus then returns to the oneness we have in Jesus who is the head of this community.

Only then do we get these equipping gifts, which is what they are. Equipping the community of believers, not to build a big congregation/movement, but rather so that they can do the ministry. People want to be lead, and people want to have someone to blame if it goes wrong, or for their own problems. I think what Paul is saying here is that it is the leaders job not to lead but equip regular people to care for each other, mature as they take responsibility for themselves and to nuture these people into living by the life of Christ, so that they will treat each other with humility, gentleness, patience and love. This is the way that leads to peace and unity.

Here are the problems as I see them. This can’t be called servant leadership, but just servanthood. There won’t be some clearly define infrastructure to make a leader famous, or boost book sales, there may be very little recognition at all. Also Jesus will have to be the leader, the Senior Pastor, we can’t just pay his leadership lip service, we either believe he can practically lead his body through the Holy Spirit or we don’t. However the plus side is that these leaders, under Jesus, will see people maturing, growing up into Jesus, being set free and being part of a community that is marked by unity and deep, satisfying relationships. I find that prospect very attractive

I am not bashing leadership, I do think we have over-emphasised leadership. Notice the word wasn’t used once in this passage. Also I see this “leading by refusing to lead” almost to be the same way that grandparents interact with their grandchildren. They are far more gentle than than parents, being a source of wisdom to the child instead of just barking orders. Parents often take too much responsibility for the child, or at least until the child starts to become more responsible. Grandparents however never take responsibility, except maybe for the kids safety, often my kids run wild and grannies house, and yet they are learning to be responsible there.

Anyway those are some thoughts, would love to hear yours…



4 thoughts on “Leading by refusing to lead…

    1. I think that it because we have used it to exercise “his” authority over each other instead if exercising his love for people


  1. Yes it is pretty amusing where “proof-texting” with regard to any subject can take you. I have read people making a case for man’s leadership from that passage(I forget where it is, a Psalm I believe) that describes it “like the oil flowing down onto Aaron’s beard.” I much prefered Nee’s take on that, that Aaron was a type of Christ, whom Paul clearly states is our head and, specifically, the Head of every man.

    The few meetings I ever hosted(I hate to use the word lead and whenever I tried to lead it was a disaster!), I tried hard to get out of the way of whatever God was doing in and through people, and let people be free to respond, hopefully to His Spirit, as they determined for themselves.

    I find your grandparent analogy interesting, especially as I am one now. I certainly do not get worked up over things as I did with my own children. The trick is to tactfully step in on behalf of the grandchild without stepping on my child!

    Keep enjoying your posts bro! Pray you and your family is well in His love and grace.


    1. Glad you enjoy them Chris. Yeah the illustration of grandparents is definitely not perfect, but I know for myself that when I mentor people it was very co-dependant, in fact as I have studied discipleship systems in 3 continents I have found these systems to encourage co-dependance and I felt grandparent illustration spoke mostly to that aspect. Thanks for your comments. We can learn so much from each other


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