These past couple of weeks during my down time I’ve been listening to a Podcast put out by Christianity Today called “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” I was particularly interested in it because, as a younger Christian, the lead teaching pastor of Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, had a really big influence on me. He was a dynamic preacher who wasn’t afraid to preach the hard truths of scripture while still landing on the beauty and hope of the gospel. So, when the Mars Hill church network (based in Seattle) collapsed in 2014 due to pastor Driscoll’s domineering leadership and spiritual bullying, I was shocked and heartbroken. As you can imagine, the fallout was horrendous. Listening to the Podcast has been enlightening, and has had me thinking about what Biblical Leadership looks like. Here are a couple of passages that point out key qualities to avoid in Biblical leadership.
Seeking the Love of People – Jeremiah 5:26-31
Jeremiah 5:26-31 speaks to bad leaders in the midst of God’s people. Jeremiah says that through their cunning they are able to turn the whole of a people, God’s people, against Him and His statutes. These wicked men are not how we would expect them to look. They aren’t boisterous and loud, but they are “lying in wait… set to trap,” having become “great and rich… fat and sleek” (5:26-27). I tend to think that opponents to God are outspoken agents of evil, but Jeremiah 5 tells me that they are wicked inwardly, sowing deceit by the way that they judge and prophesy falsely for their own gain. By ruling selfishly, not from the authority of God, the people under their rule “love” them (5:31). The truth nugget for us is that love from the people is not the best measure for good leadership in the church. Honoring God, and pointing to Him (which will make some hate us) is the measure for which a leader is measured.
Self Reliance – Jeremiah 6:13-14
In Jeremiah 6:13-14, God speaks to leaders who are greedy for unjust gain. They look at their people, and instead of seeing them and meeting them with aid, they point to themselves, their accomplishments and their accolades and say “look at what I’ve done.” This passage is helpful in pointing out to us that Biblical leaders can easily become self righteous, even as ministers of the gospel of God. It’s very easy to glaze over the needs of the people in our sphere when we feel like we’ve “done enough” or like we’re “accomplished” Christians. The work of the kingdom is not over until Jesus comes back, and we ought never look at our lives with boastful self-reliant attitudes.
Self Ignorance – Acts 20:28-31
Paul admonishes Biblical leaders that, before paying careful attention to the flock, they are to pay careful attention to themselves, and their own conduct. It’s easy for Biblical leaders to “do a job,” when in reality, their main job is to edify the congregation through careful study of Scripture, and through the personal example of their lives (2 Tim 4:2). It’s only after taking care of their own lives that Paul gives the instruction that Biblical leaders are to admonish the church. It’s this sort of self reflection on one’s life that allows them to admonish (warn/reprimand) with tears, like Paul did with the Ephesians.
Perhaps you’re thinking… we’ll I’m not really in Biblical leadership, so how does this apply to me? Well, here are two reasons:
- The things listed above are great things to be praying against for your pastors, or for other ministry leaders in the church. They’re also key things to be watching out for as you interact with the leaders God has appointed in the church.
- We’re all leaders in some capacity, are we not? Perhaps you’re leading a young family? Maybe you’re leading a small group? Maybe you’re a shift leader, manager, or director at work? Maybe you’re simply leading co-workers, friends or family by the character and speech of your life? Regardless of where you’re leading, we should be paying careful attention to our conduct.