Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Flash Image Rotator Module by Joomlashack.
this man JESUS
Missional Leadership Apprenticeship
MetroSoul Media
Events & Gatherings

home arrow stories, articles, insights arrow the bride (church & ecclesiology) arrow Neither Oligarchy nor Democracy nor Anarchy
Neither Oligarchy nor Democracy nor Anarchy
Written by soulster   
Monday, 10 September 2007

Pope Loe XBy now you might be sick of the word "service". It's used an awful lot in Christian circles. Sorry, but it's a very important word. It can also be a very dangerous word depending on how it is meant. For example, those in power may speak of service and mean the subjection of other people to their will. They preach service as godly participation in their programming, but ignore the ungodly exploitation and neglect required to realize their ambitions. On the other hand, people on the bottom of the power pyramid may use the term to mean what they think they are entitled to receive from the people in power. They angrily demand their "rights" and sulk as the powerful continue to deny them "basic services."

God's vision of leadership and government is the only context where word "service" can mean the right thing. There is real danger that we will hear "service" then apply it wrongly because of our human views of "leadership". We may see the glaring laziness or neglect of others and feel like we need to push them into service. Or we might want to get rid of all leadership as if throwing off all bonds and boundaries would lead us to love each other like Hippies and the world would be alright. Both of these have been tried with little success because the ideas of service and leadership in both were not God's views.

Humanity has three dominant views of how leadership and service work together. In an oligarchy the many serve the few who usually view themselves as chosen by God to lead. This is often the leadership model in religious groups where leaders pronounce a strong vision for the entire group and corner dissenters, telling them "God wants you to get with the agenda." While this might be refreshing to those looking for a guarantee of something happen important happening, the quickly find little room for variance, individuality, or flexibility.

A democracy seeks to choose a few to serve the many or the majority. These groups hire or elect representatives to accomplish the vision of the group and to serve its interests. Those who don't go along with the majority are told "get with our agenda" or "be a team player." These are religious groups where the mission and identity of the group are constant defined by the majority. At first they seem welcoming to all with their doctrine that every vote matters. On the other hand, when conviction places someone against the ruling group, they are often quickly marginalized or shamed into compliance.

Finally, an anarchy tries to free everyone from the service of anyone else. Effectively this reduces to "I'll serve myself." Each individual has their own vision and serve their own interests telling any interferers or wannabe leaders, "leave me and my agenda alone." These groups usually experience frustrating levels of chaos and, though total freedom is preached as an opportunity to freely love, the result is more often few people receiving care, unless it satisfies someone's personal agenda.

These solutions are not new to humanity. In the Old Testament, God's people often employed anarchy and democracy with disastrous effects. Take for example the book of Judges when "Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes" [Judges 17:6; 21:25 NLT]. When this was applied as anarchy, individuals committed idolatry that spread injustice and depravity from person to person and from group to group like a contagious decease of "might makes right" [see Judges 17:1-18:31]. Brutality and violence reigned instead of freedom. Likewise, when democracy was used, people were pressured to accept injustice quietly as powerful groups agreed to plot against the less assertive for supposedly righteous causes [see Judges 21:1-25]. In the end, Israel was weakened and divided from the rule of the people.

Things got so bad, the people devised a plan to fix the situation. They came to the prophet Samuel to ask for an oligarchy. They had witnessed how the nations around them where more unified and stronger in battle because they did not suffer from the same political and social chaos. Samuel passed on a warning from God:

"This is how a king will treat you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons into his army and make them run before his chariots. Some will be commanders of his troops, while others will be slave laborers. Some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, while others will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own servants. He will take a tenth of your harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will want your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but the LORD will not help you.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will govern us and lead us into battle.” [1 Samuel 8:11-20 NLT]

God gave the people what they asked for and Samuel's warning proved true. Israel had pathetically few good kings and a relatively short time of peace and prosperity. All this is because they missed God's idea of leadership and government. Samuel knew this, and it bothered him so much he came to God for advise. God said:

Do as they say, for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually forsaken me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about how a king will treat them. [1 Samuel 8:7-9 NLT]

God's solution to leadership has always been divine monarchy. That's what the Kingdom of God means: God rules. Service and leadership only mean the right thing when God is in his rightful place. There is only one King: the One [1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 1:5]. Jesus was quite clear on the seriousness of this when he told the crowds and his followers:

Don’t ever let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Master,’ for there is only one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. [Matthew 23:8-12 NLT]

Our culture at large might take a look at this quote and then at Christian leadership and ask, "then what happened to the church?" Christendom abounds with Doctors, Professors, and Teachers (all forms of "teacher"), there are Fathers and Popes who care for the faithful (the later comes from "father"), and many grand titles like Reverend, Bishop, Vicar, Prophet and even Pastor that people use to mean something like Master. I think the response would attempt to explain Jesus statements in terms of excesses and practicality: "Jesus is only saying not to get caught up in your title." "Well, somebody has to lead. What would happen if we suddenly removed those leadership roles? I hate to think about it…"

But these explanations miss what Jesus is saying. A human teacher is not good enough. We shouldn't settle for less than Jesus as our Teacher. And earthy fathers should not be enough for God's people either. They can only be properly nurtured by their Heavenly Father. Likewise, no human Master can lead where Christ can. Therefore anyone who attempts to lead in another direction is simply getting in the way.

Most of the time, people take leadership roles because they see a need, and this is a good thing. But that in itself will not mean it will be good leadership. Jesus told his followers that the rulers of the Gentiles called themselves "benefactors" even though they lorded their authority over the people [Luke 22:25]. A benefactor is someone who gives something to support someone else, in many cases large donations of money. In most cases, such a "generous gift" justifies the "lording" when it eventually happens. Even though leaders like this might try to do good for the people, Jesus said:

But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. [Luke 22:26-30]

Jesus is telling us that leadership and service in the Kingdom are one in the same thing. Because God is King and makes us all heirs of the Kingdom, we should be like the Heir and serve each other in their connection to the King.

The person who takes responsibility for the education of others must serve them by bringing them directly to the Teacher. It is more important that this leader gives them ways to learn directly from Jesus than it is for him to teach them anything on his own. It is more important to encourage people to encounter Jesus in the Bible and to give them the tools for this than it is to attempt to encounter Jesus for them and tell them what he is like. Rather than trying to relate his own experiences of Jesus so others will imitate him, he should help others experience Jesus so they will imitate him. Rather then going on mission himself and relating those principles to others away from mission, he should take others on mission with Jesus and let them learn directly by getting their hands dirty.

Jesus did not educate his followers alone. Rather, his teaching was simply an extension of God's education work. Because God was choosing his students, Jesus told the crowds, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me" [John 6:44-45 NIV]. Because Jesus' information and methodology came directly from the Father, he told the people, "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me" [John 8:28 NIV]. Because the God was the origin of his teaching, he said, "If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" [John 7:17 NIV]. So the Father was present as the Teacher of the disciples as they listened to every word Jesus said and participated in his ministry [John 14:10].

The person who takes responsibility for the nurture of others must touch them with the hands of the Father and connect them to his direct provision. If he attempts to provide for all their needs for healing and growth, they will learn to be dependent on him. On the other hand, if he shows them how to go directly to their Father for sustenance and healing, they will form a stronger bond with God. Showing someone how to pray, give and receive grace, forgive and be forgiven, heal and receive healing and eat the food of doing God's is true service because it gives them what is essential for their life in Christ and service of others. Otherwise, we will set ourselves up as a spiritual, emotional, and social hospitals processing an endless stream of clients in one-sided relationships only for them to return at the next emergency.

Jesus was careful to connect people to the presence of God in his nurture. Whenever he healed someone, he would tell them to give glory to their Father. He would often disappear to avoid people making a wrong attachment to him as if he was just some great healer. In his view, the very fact he could nurture with real power was a testimony to the fact that the Father had sent him and was present in his work [John 5:17, 36; 14:10].

The person who takes responsibility for pointing the way ahead must serve by following not his own path, but the footsteps of the Master. He must show all those who follow how to recognize the footsteps of Jesus so they might be where he is working. It is far more important that he helps them seek diligently the vision of Jesus rather than sell them a vision of his own. Serving people includes helping them gain vision, but the Kingdom requires that it is the vision of the King. In his amazing generosity, he gives us the role of fleshing out and coloring and contextualizing that vision, but never usurping or replacing it.

As Jesus completed God's Mission on earth, he did not have vision apart from the Father. Very early in his ministry his miracles were attracting huge crowds of people. Jesus escaped the crushing din of all the needy voices one night so he could talk to his Father until early morning. When the disciples found him, they were frantic. The crowds were asking for their healer in panicked desperation, and no one knew where he had gone. The disciples urged him to come back to meet this pressing need. Jesus responded, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” [Mark 1:38 NIV].

It would be very difficult for a leader to walk away from those crowds, so full of need. Imagine if you could heal the hurting masses and they came to you by the hundreds or the thousands and clogged the street in front of your house along with TV reporters and many curious bystanders eager for some sign of the presence of God. What a perfect opportunity to launch a ministry with some real impact! Could anyone dream of a more ideal situation in which to share God's love with so many people. But Jesus listened to God and maintained the King's vision, so he lead the disciples on to accomplish something even more essential for God's unfolding reality.

This doesn't mean that we will not teach, nurture and lead. Far from it. In order to be faithful to the call, we will do a lot of all these things. But the methods we use to do these things and the results will be determined by our view of what it means to lead and serve. If we are disciplined enough to maintain the humility that recognizes that the people of God live in a divine monarchy, we will always serve and lead in a way the participates with God and connects people to God to his glory and not our own.

Original at:
Last Updated ( Thursday, 13 September 2007 )
< Prev   Next >

Give Thru PayPal

Search USA for Group

Zip code:
Powered by
Copyright © 2007 MetroSoul. All rights reserved. Syndicated content retains the rights of the original publisher. Direct site problems to the webmaster.