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What Kind of Leadership?

• Greg Boyd

Leaders are crucial to what God is doing to spread his Kingdom. While there are many good church leaders who serve from healthy perspectives, there are far too many who have caused pain by abusing those in their communities. Jesus boldly challenged such religious leaders in his time, and what he said gives us a biblical understanding of leadership and how it should operate in the church.

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There were few things that got Jesus upset like the religious rulers of his day. He saw through their religious exterior and saw the abusive nature of their leadership. In this passage Jesus identified six attributes of abusive leaders.

Seeing how such leadership can actually hinder our ability to fully participate in Kingdom life, can open doors to freedom and the ability to follow and support those who lead from a healthy perspective. Let’s look at the six signs of abusive leaders:

1. Abusive leaders tend to have an external focus and major in minors.

2. Abusive leaders tend to place inordinate stress on their position and authority while demanding respect.

3. Abusive leaders tend to wound people and make them sicker.

4. Abusive leaders tend to focus on how things look and seek to control people’s behavior all the while making people feel exhausted.

5. Abusive leaders pay homage to the truth, but their heart is actually hostile to it.

6. Abusive leaders tend to obscure truth.

While abusive leadership is a common experience in modern church life, this does not deter from the importance of leadership from God’s perspective. The Scriptures make it clear that God has called some to lead as a part of the church. This means that there are leaders in the church and there are to be followers in the church. All are to be followers, even the leaders, but fewer are to lead. For some, this basic principle is hard to swallow. Our culture has schooled us in the art of autonomous independence. We interpret strength and maturity as the

ability to stand alone against the wind, not needing help, not looking for leadership and definitely not submitting to others. That is, of course, until we get backed into a corner then we look for help. But leaders are set in the church to equip others for ministry, not to do the ministry, or to wait until someone has a

problem and needs ministry.

For some others, the concept of leadership is hard not just because of individual autonomy, but because they have been burned by abusive leadership in the past. They carry the pain of judgment of that experience and it festers into unforgiveness and more pain. To those in this circumstance, God offers healing and leads us to forgive the one who has abused us. This is not easy for some, but only through this healing will those who are the victims of this abuse be able to experience the fullness of what God has for them now, the life beyond belief.

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Topics: Leadership


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 11: 42-54

    42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

    43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

    44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it."

    45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

    46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

    47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

    52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

    53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

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