Study Guide: What Kind of Leadership?

Sunday April 27, 2008 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How have past leaders in your life actually offered healthy leadership?
  2. Why does Jesus get so angry with these abusive leaders?
  3. How can the inability or unwillingness to work with leaders hinder the Kingdom of God?
  4. How do you respond to the statement, “Some are leaders and all are followers?”
  5. If you are a leader of others, how does Jesus message on leadership challenge you?
  6. How has autonomous individualism hindered you from working with and submitting to leadership?
  7. If you have experienced abusive leadership, reflect on how this has impacted your life and your ability to step into the things of the Kingdom.