In my previous blog, Leading From Behind, I mentioned Professor Hill’s proposition in the Harvard Business Review that future business leaders would “lead from behind.” In juxtaposition to that, Jesus led from in front—in other words, we follow Him. My own conclusion about today’s ecclesiastical pastors is that they should do neither. They should lead from among the congregations they serve.
Because the church came of age in the time and presence of the Roman Empire, she (the Body of Christ) borrowed from the Empire’s model of hierarchy. The Empire had a Caesar, Governors, Generals, and a whole slew of foot soldiers and slaves. Somewhere along the way, the church adopted such a hierarchy as her own. We simply have different names—popes, bishops, monsignors, pastors, and a whole slew of laity.
Along with adopting the hierarchy, we deemed it to be Biblical because such people as elders, shepherds, teachers, and presbyters are delineated in Scripture. There’s one big problem with this. Even though these offices are mentioned, there is no grand hierarchy affixed to their presence in the church. As a matter of fact, these positions (if you want to call them that) are described as gifts to the church. These gifts are present for a purpose. That stated purpose is to, “equip people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:7-13)
No Grand Hierarchy
A close reading of the New Testament gives us a picture of a church serving together, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm. No one is giving orders, life is shared, and servanthood is the byword of the day. The elders, apostles, and teachers weren’t kings. They were co-workers in Christ. They weren’t generals. They were the servants of all. It’s no wonder their number was added to daily (Acts 2:42-47).
People surrounding them saw a loving, giving group of folks who cared for each other and those around them. There was a strong attraction to such a group. That kind of attraction still exists today.
What doesn’t exist today (for the most part) is the way the church operated in the early days. Back then, preachers preached, teachers taught, encouragers encouraged, administrators administrated, givers gave, those with the gift of hospitality… Well, you get the picture. Everyone played a part, and no one lorded it over another.
Reduced to Two Segments
In today’s church, we’ve devolved into two segments of people. There’s one small group of people paid to do everything (we now call them clergy) and a larger group who chip in a few bucks and observe the clergy (they’ve been reduced to laity). There’s absolutely nothing Biblical about this arrangement.
To make matters worse, many clergy types have become dictators. They like having the authority their congregations hand over to them. They sometimes get burned out, sometimes wallow in their own hidden sin, and always trust in their own ability to lead.
It’s time to put Jesus back out in front where He belongs. He is the only real shepherd after all.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA]