But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25 – 28
I was involved in a situation with a friend this week in which I have once again witnessed first hand the abuse that comes from Church leadership with a lordship attitude. There is this idea in many fundamental, independent and pentecostal so-called “Bible Teaching” churches that because leadership carries the anointing and authority of God they are on a higher plane than the congregation and have “Authority” over them.
This type of toxic leadership style has led to a tremendous amount of abuse in the church. We have to look no further than to the Mark Driscoll fiasco that is taking place in Seattle for a perfect example. Many of these abusive charismatic leaders have come and gone over the years and thankfully most of them self destruct but not until they do a huge amount of damage to the people they are supposed to be serving.
Jesus clearly tells his disciples that leaders in the kingdom are not to lord it over one another but are to serve each other. Jesus so beautifully showed us the example of this not only in his death but also in his life. At the last passover dinner he ate with his disciples, when the time came in the ceremony for the leader of the dinner to symbolically wash his own hands Jesus washed the disciples feet.
Peter explained that leaders are to lead by example not by lording it over the people
“The elders who are among you I exhort… Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion… nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:1-3
The entire idea of some kind of “Spiritual Authority” is a totally carnal idea which is bred of arrogance, greed and conceit. Any church leader who thinks that he/she is better than, more spiritual or has more “authority” than the regular folks in the congregation is a truly deluded individual. These type of leaders will go to any end to satisfy their own desire for power and as we have seen repeatedly justify their own sins.
The leader I met with this week was so steeped in his own pride and deceit that when he made reference to church finances, he referred to them as “MY money” He refused to acknowledge that my friend had the right to have a representative with him at the meeting. He belittled, maligned, and bullied my friend in an attempt to get him to take responsibility for a situation that was not his responsibility. He attempted to lay the blame for his own actions on my friend. When caught in blatant lies he became extremely angry and reacted and spoke in an arrogant manner even threatening criminal or civil legal proceedings against my friend. This is not the way Jesus expects church leaders to conduct themselves.
These authoritarian leader types take their supposed authority so far as to believe they can act as the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people. They think the Lord covers their mistakes and gives them insight into the hearts of the people. They believe that it is their responsibility to convict the congregation of sin. Their favorite sin to preach against is usually criticism of their leadership “Touch not mine anointed and do my prophet no harm.” They also love to preach about the sins of not paying your tithe or not attending church, not being involved and committed.
Behind each of these leaders is a string of fallen elders, deacons and other church leaders and members who have recognized the fallacy of their methods and have criticized them. Whenever anyone questions their authority it’s not enough to part ways the offender has to be discredited and destroyed in the eyes of the other people. Lies are told by the leader to malign and discredit the offender and of course the congregation believes the leader because the leader can cry and act so broken over the fall of the offender.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” British historian Lord Acton
These leaders are very charismatic they can preach wonderful sermons and sway people into believing that they are truly anointed ministers of the gospel. But they leave hurt and destruction in their wake. There’s not much we can do about these kinds of leaders because they of course do not recognize themselves for what they are. They will argue till the cows come home that they are called of God and only doing what He has called them to do. And after all if there isn’t some authority in the church it would just be” free for all.” Its the same carnal thinking that leads politicians to believe that we are not smart enough as individuals to make right choices for ourselves.
We have to guard against being deceived by this type of leadership, our walk with the Lord is personal and we each need to take responsibility for our own spirituality. Don’t let anyone malign you or act like they are better suited to make your decisions for you than you are yourself. Study the scriptures for yourselves and take responsibility for what you believe and how you allow yourself to be led. We are called to serve not be served.
Grace and Peace