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LEADERSHIP (8) – Objectives

LeadershipWhy should anyone aspire to leadership?

James 3:1 warns, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” There is responsibility inherent within leadership, the responsibility of stricter accountability. Those who stand before others as guides will be held to a higher standard. Why then would anyone want to be a Christian leader?

This question would have more impact if leadership were optional. But, as we have observed earlier, every Christian is a leader of someone.

Every disciple of Jesus is a Christian leader. This is true because Jesus lives in his disciples. When others see Jesus in you they are encouraged to follow him. This is in keeping with Paul’s plea, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Not everyone is in the public eye, but everyone is in someone’s eye – and there he is a leader.

Elders lead the church, teachers lead their classes, parents lead their children, and everyone leads by example. Yet, the question is still valid. Why should any aspire to greater levels of leadership?


The Love of Position.

Some just love to be first in anything. To them, life is a competition and being “out front” is a reward for “winning” over others. This seems to have been the case with Diotrephes, “who loves to be first” (3 John 9). This was also the position of the Pharisees of whom Jesus spoke:

Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ – Matthew 23:5-7

To them, leadership was a position of respect. Good leaders will be respected, but that is not the reason good men want to be leaders. The Pharisees lusted for the high regard that others gave them. They wanted others to look up to them and to remark on how wonderful they were. They wanted others to envy them (as they envied other leaders greater than themselves?). This recognition was given visibly and verbally. They loved the high seats and the market greetings. When others recognized them with titles of respect and honor, they were getting what they wanted.

Jesus had other ideas for his disciples, however.

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. – Matthew 28:8-12

The deference given through the use of special titles and formulae of reverence is not part of the Lord’s plan for his people. That is the way of men, not of God. Jesus is not interested in our position and dignity as leaders as much as he is in our performance and deeds.

Leadership is not a goal within itself. There is a work inherent with being a Christian leader. “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1). The emphasis is not on “being an overseer” but on “a noble task,” not on the position of overseer but on the labor of the noble task. This noble task is a work with a mission, a purpose, an objective – a goal.

We are familiar with politicians whose mission in office seems to be to stay in office. Whatever noble purpose may have motivated them at one time appears to be lost in the lust for power. They use their energy maintaining their position and privilege. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders have the same virus.

The Exercise of Power.

Some people simply like to exercise control over others. They like to hold the strings and see others dance. They want to be able to yell, “Frog!” and have others jump – and ask, “How high?” on the way up! They love to play the game of “Mother, May I?” – only they always want to be “IT” and have everyone ask their permission at every step.

Some parents love to exercise power over their children. This is one source of child abuse – and is also the reason many children are insecure, overly timid, or rebellious. Some husbands are more concerned with authority over their wives than with meeting the needs of their wives. This leads to conflict, abuse and failure in the home.

Some preachers enjoy browbeating their audiences – which results in frustration, negativism or smugness in the pew. Some elders like to “lord it over” the church, arbitrarily making all decisions and holding all the reins of power in the church. This leads to immature, complacent Christians who lack spiritual discretion and inner discipline.

This lust for power and control is not healthy. It is not good for the one in leadership, or for the one who is in his power. This concept of leadership will almost inevitably lead to power struggles in the home, the community, or the church. In the community of men, this is the normal state of things; in the family and in the body of Christ, it is catastrophic.

Sadly, many who hold this view of leadership have such good intentions. They mean well. It’s just that they cannot conceive of someone else being able to get along in anything without their own guidance. They are really trying to help keep their children on the straight and narrow! They really do want to see the church do what is right! Only, they cannot believe that these things can be done without their own wise counsel and advice. In one way, this is the height of contempt for the other person – to believe that he is not capable of functioning without your help. This is also leadership from the height of ignorance – both of the other person’s ability and of the stifling influence you are having over him.

Paul had a different attitude. He wrote the Romans, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14). He encouraged independence and expected maturity from those he sought to influence. As a result, he has gone down in history as one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time.


What are valid purposes of Christian leadership? A number of Scriptures give explicit purposes for leadership. When leaders have to confront false brethren, the objective is “love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” When parents train their children in the “nurture . . .of the Lord,” the intent is the child’s grown and maturity. When Christian teachers expound the word that they themselves received, it is so reliable men “will also be qualified to teach others.” Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not the aim, though. Rather we are to stress the great truths of the gospel “so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good” (Titus 3:8; see also 1 Timothy 1:3-5; Ephesians 6:4 – Compare Deuteronomy 6:1-3ff – and 2 Timothy 2:2).

You may sum up the objective of Christian leadership at all levels as the maturity of those who follow. Christian leaders want followers who become leaders in paths of righteousness as they follow Jesus.

Paul states this beautifully to the Ephesian church. He mentions various areas of leadership that he says are all gifts of God. Then he says that the purpose of these gifts is:

… to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-13

These objectives are practical. They prepare God’s people for service by giving them the skills needed for service and the desire to be servants. These objectives are ecumenical, for the whole body of Christ is in view. These are intellectual objectives, for mature knowledge is required if you would love God with your whole mind. The objectives are Christ-centered for he is the measure of our maturity.

When the church meets these objectives the result is stability and growth in faithfulness and love.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him, who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:14-16

Christian leaders want followers who outgrow the instability of infancy and become mature, “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). They want followers to grow beyond the simplicity and gullibility of those who can be manipulated by any deceitful schemer who comes along. They even want them to outgrow their need for human leaders as they learn to draw their strength and sustenance from Jesus himself! This is the true meaning of Paul’s plea, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:58).


How can we meet these goals? First, the leader must keep them in view. When leaders quit seeking the maturity of their followers, they abdicate Christian leadership for something else.

Second, the leader must show an example of growing maturity. The Christian leader himself continues to draw nearer to Christ Otherwise he cannot lead others to follow the Master.

Third, the leader must trust the follower enough to yield increasing levels of responsibility and opportunity for independent service. Otherwise, the follower will always be dependent on the leader.

This is important at all levels of leadership. How would Jesus have been able to return to heaven and leave his apostles to carry on his work if he were not able to trust them with independent service? How would Paul have done the work he did as a missionary if he had not been able to rely on Timothy, Titus and others? How can a good leader today do what he really needs to do if he cannot trust others to do what he has trained them to do?

This is also true in the home. A friend of mine, Bill Thomas, maintains that by the time a child is twelve years old, the child, not the parent, makes most decisions of consequence. He believes good parents recognize this and teach principles to guide good decisions very early in life. Then they will sit back and let the child decide. Yes, they should still give counsel and remind the child of the principles, but Bill says parents need to realize they cannot make their children’s decisions for them.

We never reach a point where we have no need for help and encouragement from others. But, we should mature so that help and encouragement are reciprocally given. This is what a mature church is. It “grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.”

What is true of the church is true of the family. In fact, leadership in the church is modeled after family leadership. Church leaders demonstrate their leadership ability by leading in the family first of all. So then, family leadership is to have the same “style” as church leadership and vice versa. Hence most of what is said about how leaders in the church are to function has application to the family as well.


  1. Why must leaders have a clear view of their ultimate objectives?
  2. What objectives for leadership are presented in the following passages?
    • 1 Timothy 1:3-5
    • 2 Timothy 2:2
    • Titus 3:8
    • Ephesians 6:4
    • Ephesians 5:25-30
  3. How would you summarize the objectives of leadership: In the church? In the home? What different, conflicting objectives are sometimes pursued? How does Jesus characterize these different objectives (see Mark 10:42-45)?
  4. How do some leaders exhibit the belief that the position of leadership is its own objective?
  5. In the church described in Ephesians 4:11-16, how do the leaders function?
  6. Is it right to say, as is alleged in the final paragraph above, that the style of leadership in the home and church are to be similar? How does this affect the way we exercise leadership at home? In the church?

– (9) Church Leadership: Elders

– (7) I Have Made You A Watchman


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