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Servant Leaders

We interrupt this series to announce exciting news. Anton Bosch’s new book Building Blocks of the Church: Re-examining the Basics is hot off the press!

For those of you who are regular Herescope readers, this is good news indeed. Pastor Bosch’s book couldn’t come at a more timely moment. The book stands as a sharp contrast to the modern church growth movement’s heresies about the church and its structure, especially the New Apostolic Reformation/2nd Reformation.

It is a must-read book for those who have been disenfranchised from their local churches and have nowhere to go. This book teaches that God has equipped local believers through His WORD and by the power of the Holy Spirit to have a church. It is manual for how to set up a local church from scratch for those who never thought they could do it. Very encouraging! Very timely!

Below is a refreshingly biblical excerpt from a passage in the book that talks about the true nature of servant-leaders.

An excerpt from Building Blocks of the Church by Anton Bosch

Peter deals with the position of leaders in detail in 1Pet 5:1-3:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

A few important details must be stressed about this passage. It is imperative to note that Peter does not refer to elders being over the flock, but twice uses the word among. Notice that he does not position himself as an Apostle or superior, but simply as a “fellow elder,” reminding them – not of the fact that he had witnessed the resurrected Lord (which he had) – but that he was a witness to His sufferings. He does not speak of their authority as elders. Even when acting as overseers they are to do so from the platform of service, and were to lead by example.

Not only does Peter express the position of leaders as being servants, but also warns that they are not to be lords or masters. This word lords is used four times in the New Testament. Jesus used it in Matthew 20:25 and Mark 10:42 in describing the manner in which the Gentiles dominate those who are under them. In Acts 19:16 it is used in connection with the sons of Sceva who attempted to exorcise a demon. The demon then “overcame” or “overpowered” them. Leaders must not overpower people and control them by force, manipulation, fear, or any of the many ways in which leaders dominate people. Leaders are not to dominate but are to serve. One of the most damaging “waves” to hit the church in the last fifty years is the abuse of power by church leaders. These range from the “heavy shepherding” practiced in many groups to the extreme control of Jim Jones and David Koresh. Even a mild form of heavy shepherding is toxic to the faith of the believer and is, in fact, a usurping of the role and authority of Jesus Christ in the life of that believer.

As long as leaders stand above believers, they ipso facto stand between the Christian and the Lord Jesus Christ. From this mediatorial position they are expected to dispense God’s wisdom, direction, Word and care to the flock. In some denominations they are even expected to intercede for the people with God. Such leaders are dependent on the flock and the flock is dependent on the leaders.

Leaders who dominate need the flock to provide for them financially, stroke their egos, and be willing supporters as the leaders work toward their personal goals – often sold to the believers as “the vision.” In many other ways the minister needs the congregation and needs its submission to him. In order for the leader to sustain his position, he ensures that the members remain dependent on him and that they never rise to a spiritual place where his role could become superfluous. Thus it is in the authoritarian leader’s best interest that a believer never grow to a position where his relationship with Jesus Christ is so strong that the leader becomes redundant. Doubtless, no one does this consciously, and yet the reality in many churches proves that this co-dependency is very real.

On the other hand, it is a lot easier for the congregation to hire their own personal chaplain – to inquire of the Lord, preach a nice sermon once a week, visit them when they are sick, marry their children, and bury their dead – than for each believer to walk in humble dependence upon his Lord and Master. This is what went wrong at Sinai when the people delegated Moses to hear from God. They got on with their mundane lives instead of walking in a dynamic relationship with Him. By this we do not mean that ministers (servants) should not serve the congregation in these ways, but rather that this is no reason for the individual believer to abdicate his own responsibility to maintain that relationship.

If, however, the leaders take their position as servants to the church then the whole picture is reversed. The position of a servant is under, not over, the one being served. From this stance the leader cannot interfere or get in the way of the believer’s relationship with Christ. Instead of fighting to maintain his position between Jesus and the church, he should be pushing believers closer to the Lord until each of those believers is able to also take the position of a servant to the church. Instead of working at keeping his job he should be working himself out of a job. This is the principle behind Paul’s journeys. He never remained in one position for so long that believers could become dependent upon him. Look at the Ephesians, where he had spent more time than anywhere else (Acts 19:8-10) except his “home” assembly. The Ephesians were the most likely church to become dependent on Paul because of the time he had spent in their city. However, when the time came for him to be taken to Rome he was fully confident of their ability to continue without him, and he placed the responsibility of the fellowship’s protection and care with the local elders. (Acts 20:25-28)

Ephesians 4, which majors on the church and not, as some suppose, on the ministries, defines the duty of the gift-ministries, “…for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry….” (Ephesians 4:12) The NIV translates this verse: “… to prepare God’s people for works of service….” For too long the clergy and commentators have defined the duty of ministries in terms of the misplaced comma in the KJV which says: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” creating the impression that the ministries have three functions of which the second is to do the work of the ministry. Yet verses 7 and 16 in particular, and the whole chapter in general, emphasize the role of each member and not just that of the ministries listed in verse 11. MacArthur supports this view:

Paul’s language indicates that it is not the gifted men who have the most direct responsibility to do the work of service…. The leader’s purpose in God’s plan is not to try to meet all those needs himself but to equip the people given into his care to meet those needs (cf. v. 16, where this idea is emphasized)…. Spiritual service is the work of every Christian, every saint of God. Attendance is a poor substitute for participation in ministry. (MacArthur, John F. New Testament Commentary – Ephesians. Moody Bible Institute. Chicago. 1986. p155)

(To be continued)

This article is taken from Anton’s book Building Blocks of the Church. P83ff www.antonbosch.org/books. The price is $13.95 and 10 or more copies is $8.50 (approx 40% down) plus S&H.