The 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-Shaped Leadership: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Last week, we began this series by affirming that Jesus’ view of Christian leadership is the one that counts, and if we are going to raise disciple-making leaders for God’s mission in church and world, then no other view ultimately counts.

Additionally, we saw from Jesus’ teaching example that in His (glorious) opinion, great leaders are great servants.

Since every Christian leader is always a disciple first, therefore the prototype of leadership for every Christian leader is Christ himself, since leaders are first and foremost, disciples of Jesus. And Jesus modeled servant-leadership.

In the historic churches therefore, one is always ordained to the diaconate as a deacon first, prior to ordination as a presbyter or elder. The call to lead is always at the base level, a call to serve. Leadership is diakonia or service.

Today, we begin to look specially at what I call the 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-shaped leadership – five critical elements that constitute divinely approved and inspired leadership in Scripture and history. The first of this is ‘Call’.

God, rich in grace and mercy, calls us to himself. Disciples are those who respond in repentance and faith. Similarly, leadership is first and foremost the call of God to a man or a woman towards a godly task and vocation. It is not a job for hire. No prophet or apostle in the Scriptures ever applies to be one. God calls, and still does, and part of the call of the church at last, is to exercise a godly discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, to which amongst us are called to exercise leadership.

Disciples and leaders, like sheep, are safe so long as they learn to heed the call of their Master and Chief Shepherd.  

Years ago, when I was an under-graduate studying in London, I went with an international student group to stay on a farm in Cornwall, in South-West England – a novel experience for city-folk like me. One of our fellow students, a fine Christian man, was a farmer there. He was into poultry farming but also kept a flock of sheep. We had a great time visiting the flock with him. We noticed the sheep responded to a distinctive sound he made to call them. I remember a few of us trying to imitate the calling sound he made, but none of the sheep were deceived to follow us.

They had come to know the voice of their shepherd (John 10:4-5; 16). Jesus-shaped leadership flourishes when we develop an ear for hearing and obeying the voice of God. This must be clear and discern-able.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus had a habit of spending alone time with his Father in prayer (Luke 5:16 – something he taught disciples to do in Matthew 6:8). I find it interesting that Luke tells us that Jesus spent a night in prayer prior to calling and appointing his twelve disciples (Like 6:12-16). Why did he spend the night in prayer? I believe that the choice of his closest companions in ministry was a matter of vital importance to Jesus, and he diligently sought the Father’s mind on this, interceding for those so-called.

Consequently, every instance of the appointing of leaders (elders, deacons, etc) in the book of Acts is done in the context of prayer and often, fasting – Acts 1:23-26; 6:6; 13:3; 14:23. We don’t simply elect the leaders among us – we seek to discern God’s call and appointment on those he’s chosen. This was no flippant exercise of popularity, but a discerning of who God has called.

One qualifies for leadership only if one can prove a call from God. J. Oswald Sanders in his classic treatise on the subject, wrote that ‘Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or churchly assemblies. God alone makes them. One does not become a spiritual leader by merely filling an office, taking course work in the subject, or resolving in one’s own will to do this task. A person must qualify to be a spiritual leader.’ The call of God must be discerned or be clear in us. Whom God calls, he qualifies.

The clear evidence of a calling we receive to leadership is shown in the next ‘C’ on our list – character, which we will discuss next week.

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The 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-Shaped Leadership: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Jesus-shaped Leaders (by Manik Corea)

Discipleship can be defined as the redemptive process of learning to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus. It is coming to see all of life from the Father’s point of view and for his glorious ends, as Jesus did (John 5:19-20, 6:38). We are called likewise in Scripture to view people, our circumstances and the world from an altogether different vantage point than the world does (see 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, Colossians 3:1, 2).

In the Gospels, the teaching, parables and sterling example of Jesus often challenged the disciples to see things from a completely different standpoint, one that did not come naturally to them. Old habits die hard, but die they must, if the new is to prosper.

Indeed, for us to become bona-fide disciples, we will need new eyes – bereft and healed of our myopia and blindness from the cataract-like effects of sin and self-centeredness. These prevent clear sight and right response to the will and ways of God. We need sight that Jesus supernaturally bestows and restores, not merely improves – so that we can truly say, ‘I was blind, but now I see’.

But seeing afresh with new eyes is a challenge because we have gotten so used to seeing ourselves and the world about us through bad eyes in the dark night of sin. Too many of our perceptions and underlying beliefs have been framed and informed by years of following the notions and distortions afforded by faulty vision.

A case in point is the popular understanding of leadership versus Jesus’ startling teaching about it. In this next series of blogs, I want to take a look at some biblical principles and insights regarding a kingdom understanding on the call and role of leaders in the church and mission of God. I am calling it ‘Jesus-shaped leadership.’

Jesus saw leadership very differently from the way it is viewed in our world. In our world, it is all about power, influence and achievement– how high you got in order to dominate (negatively) or command (positively) people, where the loci of influence is your leadership style, personality and competence.

Jesus taught and modeled a different way of leadership that was not simply about the use (or abuse) of power for personal or instrumental benefit or corporate profit. Instead, it had godly influence and purpose, with an other-person focus. He defined it strictly in terms of ‘servanthood’ – the helping and building up of others in love and truth.

In the church therefore, leadership isn’t about how high your performance curve extends, but how low your service stoops.

Jesus’ object lesson on this is at the start of the Upper Room discourse, the night he is arrested and sentenced to die as recorded in John chapters 13-16. In John 13:1-17, Jesus does something which stuns his disciples. We read in verses 3 and 4 that Jesus, cognizant of his divine authority and soon-coming ascension, paradoxically rises to get basin and water to wash the feet of his disciples as only the lowliest of slaves would do.

Why this lesson, and why now? Perhaps the context for his action is in Luke’s account of their time in the upper room, where we read that there was a dispute among them about who is the greatest (Luke 22:24). Even at this desperate hour, they were still thinking about who gets positions and titles. Jesus called them (and calls us) not to seek for titles, but to serve with towels.

He drives home the intended teaching in John 13:14-15: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Jesus-shaped leadership confounds the strong and mighty of our world. Humility and lowly service, not power and authority, are its hall-marks.

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 11:43-45).

In Jesus’ eyes, to lead is to serve. No more, no less.

Jesus-shaped Leaders (by Manik Corea)

Recapping the Seven (Corporate) Principles​ (by Jon Shuler​​)

I have been asserting that nothing but a new reformation can bring the church of Jesus Christ into alignment with Gods will for the Bride of Christ. I have shared my conviction that an internal change must come in the hearts of all leaders for this to happen, and have sketched out five internal principles for change. But I have also argued that changes are critical in the ordinary life of the local church, and have enumerated seven external principles over the last few weeks that I believe again need to be central. Let me recap these last seven, numbering them in sequence after the earlier five.

6) Obeying Jesus as Lord. Accepting the gospel of truth, by faith, that Jesus Christ died for my sins is life changing. It rearranges the way a person thinks and feels. It starts a life long journey, if the acceptance is real. But how do we know? The clearest answer is we begin to obey the plain word of the Lord Jesus. A church that does not expect and require that of leaders and followers has veered into grave error.

7) Supreme Authority From Scripture. Faithful believers are taught by the Holy Spirit of God to trust the Holy Scriptures. They come under the central authority of their Lord and his word. They devote themselves to the apostles teaching as it is recorded in the new Testament. They receive and seek to live by the moral teaching of the Old Testament, interpreted in the cross of Christ. The church stands firm here or slowly dies.

8) Worship Means Life. Worship is not music, though music helps to lift our praise. Worship is not liturgy, though good liturgy can lead us into the truth as it is in Jesus. Worship is not what we do for an hour on Sunday, though gathering on the Lords Day is a mark of true believers. Worship is the call on all of life to be lived for the honor and glory of God.

9) Every Believer Becoming a Discipler. To follow Jesus indefinitely, without becoming a disciple-making disciple, is unfruitfulness, and casts doubt on true faithfulness. Catechesis must include systemic discipleship, and not just knowledge. All believers should soon grow into being disciple-making disciples.

10) Every Believer Equipped to be a Minister. The central task of all the designated leaders is to equip all the members of Christs body, the Church, for the work of ministry assigned to them.

11) Restored Apostolic Leadership. The emerging pattern of ordered leadership that characterized the church by the end of the apostolic age, bishop, presbyters, and deacons, is to be effectively restored to the local congregation.

12) Continual Reconciliation. The culture of the church must again become a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation in the love of Christ. Without this grace is nullified.

Next Week: Missing Principles?

 

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Recapping the Seven (Corporate) Principles​ (by Jon Shuler​​)

Expounding on the 12 Principals #12: The Principle of Reconciliation (by Jon Shuler​​)

When our eyes are opened to the truth contained in the Scriptures, we soon learn that the early church was not conflict free. Godly men and women disagreed from time to time, and differences had to be addressed. Conflict sometimes erupted and tore the family of God apart. It was part of an apostolic leaders task to seek to restore unity. But over centuries many leaders of the church have become less and less committed to this task, and that poses a dilemma: How are believers to be reconciled?

The simple solution to this dilemma, followed in the beginning by the faithful church, was that believers were expected to reconcile differences in the manner taught by the Lord Jesus. Those who sinned were to go to those whom they had sinned against, and seek forgiveness. Those who had ought against a brother were to go to him, and seek to be reconciled. Forgiveness was to be quickly given. In both cases, if that did not happen, they were to try again accompanied by one or two others as witnesses. If this too failed they were to take it to the church for resolution. It is time for this principle of reconciliation to be restored, first to the local church, and second to the wider family, if Christians are to be faithful to their Lord.

There are at least three levels of application that need to be addressed: interpersonal conflict between believers, conflicts within a given congregation, and conflicts between churches. Commitment to reconciliation in all three circumstances, though challenging, is absolutely necessary.

In the local church, conflicts between believers should be resolved without wider notice. It is to be part of daily discipleship. It is to be normal that committed people live with a desire to be in harmony with their brothers and sisters, and when they are not, to take the initiative to work it out. First between themselves, if possible, then with the help of their believing friends. If those two steps fail they are to take it to the church. But what does that mean? Once the church is too large to meet in one home it almost certainly means take it to the leadership of the local church.

What if they can not resolve the matter in private? What if it is roiling the whole local body? Then the local leadership must step in lovingly but forcefully. It is their sacred duty to work to resolve the situation, with clear submission required by all to the gospel of Truth. It may even (rarely) require a gathering of the whole local body. In extreme cases they may require the help of godly oversight beyond the local congregation.

It should be no different when the conflict is between two or more local congregations. Resolution must be sought by the senior leaders, following the same rules that Jesus gave. If the two do not resolve the conflict, they bring in a third or fourth. If that is not sufficient, they take it higher, first in their city or region, and then (if necessary) to their whole movement. If there is to be unity, as the Lord commands, there must be devotion to the principle of reconciliation. Unity is not an option if reformation is to come!

Next Week: Recapping the Seven (Corporate) Principles

 

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Expounding on the 12 Principals #12: The Principle of Reconciliation (by Jon Shuler​​)

Expounding on the 12 Principals #11: The Principle of Recognition (by Jon Shuler​​)

Last week my final two sentences asserted: there must be a congregational pattern of ordered guidance, leadership, and accountability. All the ministries are to work together for the common good.” This week my focus is on the challenge of recognizing true leadership in the body of Christ. Who is responsible for this ordered accountability? How is this to be accomplished? How is it to be validated? How is it recognized?

It is well known that the Lord Jesus appointed a few to give leadership to the whole. When the twelve became eleven they chose a replacement. Then we see the twelve appointing seven others to share in leadership. By the end of the first century there is only one way leaders are recognized, and that is they are discipled and recognized by the leaders who have gone before them. And it is becoming universal, if not already so, that the leadership of the church involves three different ministry types, or orders: the overseeing pastor or bishop, the presbyters (called in English for centuries elders), and the deacons. Local leadership is universally corporate, and this early local leadership pattern was recognized as essential, not optional.

As the church grew and flourished, this pattern was replicated wherever missionaries took the gospel. All three orders were involved in new starts from the beginning, or very soon after the beginning. It was the way the church was governed, and it was always local. Without this order, something was missing. When this order was in place, the church was recognized as part of the one body” of Christ.

At some point in time (the specific time is debated by historians but not the fact) this order broke down. Bishops came to have authority over many congregations, each with a single presbyter, and the relational unity that had existed was diluted. Deacons were now based where the bishop was seated,” and most presbyters were distributed throughout a diocese (a word taken from a late Roman Empire political jurisdiction). Over many centuries the recognized ancient pattern evolved, with the same names,  into a completely different structure. And the unity of the church suffered. At the Reformation in the 16th century, some movements and churches sought to restore a semblance of the ancient order, but the question must be asked: Has the order of the Reformation led to effective kingdom honoring church life and mission?

My answer must be given in two parts. Wherever and whenever the risen Jesus was returned to the center of the governing patterns, the gospel has flourished locally. Pastoral care is restored to its rightful place. But overwhelmingly the Reformation churches have defaulted to one man ministry and missionary vitality has waned. One person ministry” can never adequately model apostolic diversity.

The time has come to restore a pattern, if not there already, that is universally recognized by the global church, and is taught – in principle – in the New Testament.

Next Week: 12) The Principle of Reconciliation

 

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Expounding on the 12 Principals #11: The Principle of Recognition (by Jon Shuler​​)

Expounding on the 12 Principals #10: The Principle of Every Member Ministry (by Jon Shuler​​)

One of the oversights of the 16th Century Reformation was the unconscious way the single pastor model of local ministry succeeded the single priest model that had prevailed for centuries. The churches that broke from the Roman obedience carried the culture they had known into their polity. Even those who adopted Calvins attempt to reclaim an earlier pattern (as he understood it) soon had a practical, if not theoretical, focus on the single leader. The preaching minister was (and usually is still) seen as and honored as the Minister.” In a congregation with one Minister” the apostolic teaching that all the people of God have gifts for ministry is hard to recover. To this day, in ordinary conversation, Christian people and leaders speak of someone going in to the ministry” when they mean someone who is becoming a full time ordained servant of the church. It is not consistent with biblical truth, and it has not brought spiritual health to the body of Christ. A new reformation demands every member ministry be recovered.

Apostolic teaching makes clear that when someone comes to the Lord in repentance and faith, the Spirit of God takes up residence in them. It is also clear that Spirit gives gifts to all believers, and that the Lord assigns the ministry each is to walk in. This must be grasped by the people of God and their leaders, and then applied in the life of the congregation. What are some steps for this to happen?

First the whole congregation must be taught that this is a component of biblical Christianity. It is not optional. The move from conversion to ministry is meant to be a natural progression, guided by the Lord over time, and discerned and embraced by each believer with the help of the body and the leaders. A survey of the Holy Scriptures will quickly show that over two dozen gifts and ministries are identified specifically, and the actual number is greater and only known to the Lord. But each one is called to be a steward of the gifts they are given. Their stewardship means using their gifts in ministry for the common good. First for the good of their marriage, family and the church, and then – for some in particular- for the blessing of the world.

Second, there needs to be a clear pathway, owned and supported by all, that assists in the discovery of the gifts and ministry of each disciple. This may require an elaborate system in a large congregation, or may be organically lived in a smaller one, but the members of the body must all understand it, and be unwilling for any to be thought to be maturing in Christ if they are not discovering and growing in their ministry. Not the basics of following Jesus, the behaviors and life patterns that are simply Christian, but the particular calling for each follower. The basics should be learned in the homes of the people, parents and older siblings serving the younger ones, and extended family members sharing in this nurture. Basic nurture is not particular, it is universal. But the gifts and ministries of Gods people are varied and distinct.

Finally, there must be a congregational pattern of ordered guidance, leadership, and accountability. All the ministries are to work together for the common good.

Next Week: 11) The Principle of Recognition

 

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Expounding on the 12 Principals #10: The Principle of Every Member Ministry (by Jon Shuler​​)

Expounding on the 12 Principals #9: The Principle of Systematic Discipling (by Jon Shuler​​)

The church is meant to be a community of men and women who are not only disciples of Jesus, but able to help others become faithful disciples of Jesus. For this to happen, the local community of believers must have some pattern, some system, to ensure that day by day, week by week, those who are part of the body learn to walk as disciple-making disciples. For this to happen there must be a way for it to be the reality lived, not a concept talked about. There must be a principled pattern, owned by all leaders and learned by all followers, that ensures – by God’s good grace – that those who come to faith actually walk in that faith. They must learn to be “fishers of men” as Jesus described it. They must take their place among those making disciples of all peoples.

What is the simplest way that disciple-making becomes normal for all Christians?

There are a few things that must be clear before an answer can be given.The first prerequisite must be an absolute understanding that no one lives this life who is not born again of the Spirit of God. There must be a heart change or there will be no life change. If the love of God has not been poured into their hear that will not follow where Jesus leads. Any church that does not see this as central will never be a disciple-making church. Any leader who does not live this truth will not lead others into it.

Secondly, the lived life of one disciple-making disciple must be seen and imitated by another for systematic discipleship to be ordinary in the life of the body of Christ. Men and women following Christ with integrity must be seen to demonstrate this life style. Unconsciously in the sense that all they do is with a heart ready to help another follow Christ Jesus. It is not a program for them, but a relational lifestyle. With integrity in the sense that they do not speak of what they do not live. They do not try to get others to do what they are not doing themselves. One helping another is the way of the Master.

So is there a system that is needed? In the local church there certainly need to be because most of God’s people will never learn without some framework to assist them. The challenge is to keep it as simple as possible and no simpler. Three things need to be identified and communicated, regularly, effectively, and systemically.

First, what did Jesus teach about discipling? Learning what the word of Jesus says, and abiding in it (John 8:31,32; 13:34,35; 15:7,8; Luke 14:26,27,33).

Second, those learning must see others doing what they are learning. They must be with those who are actively living the disciple-making life. They must be watching others they esteem following and obeying Jesus.

Third, those who have seen disciple-making in others must begin imitating what they have learned and seen. They must step out of their comfort zone and begin. They must start doing what Jesus says do. If not they are not following. They will not be fruitful.

Used with permission, https://joncshuler.wordpress.com/

Next Week: The Principle of Every Member Ministry

Expounding on the 12 Principals #9: The Principle of Systematic Discipling (by Jon Shuler​​)