How To Move Away From Church Politics: Pt. I

Leadership Model: A New Mindset

 Church politics often devastates church unity. Divisions bring hurt. Hurt produces schism. Schisms rip relationships asunder, destroying unity. Church politics contributes to “church hoping”. Since most local churches pattern their leadership meetings after the C.E.O. hierarchal business model, agendas out line reports to the upper echelon of the hierarchy, old business to be reviewed, and building maintenance, business management, and current “hot potatoes” to be discussed. Finances, or lack thereof, often control what is or is not on the agenda.  By the end of the meeting tempers can flare, disagreements exposed, and disgruntled attitudes can replace hope and direction. Wanting our business meetings to be like worship sessions, “devotions” are read with an opening prayer, but unlike worship which draws all men toward Him, the political battles over heated topics causes withdrawal instead. I have witness church politics at the local, district, and denominational levels, and it never has been a pretty thing nor an unifying process.

Is there an alternative? As long as we opt for a business model with hierarchal power we can expect the same results.  “You can not serve God and money,” yet we patter our church leadership style after the Wall Street business model.

First, we must acknowledge that leadership in the kingdom of God walks beside a brother and sister in the lord, not lording over them. The mother of two disciples was soundly rebuked by Jesus when she wanted her sons positioned for power beside Jesus in his kingdom. In fact, true kingdom leadership bows down while washing feet in service and is willing to lay prostrate by physically and spiritually laying down their life for their brethren (I John 3:16). There is no elevation, only revelation through peer relationships of acceptance and equality. “Chairmen of the Board” and “Senior Pastors” are not scriptural. Contrary to what my Roman Catholic brethren believe, Peter was no “Pope” above everyone. He became known for opening his mouth and inserting his food, humbling himself often. He was even rebuked by Paul at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) in front of all the Church leaders. Being humbled and being willing to follow the Holy Spirit is what propelled him into leadership.

Second, no one is elevated above another! Everyone has a gifting, a talent, a voice, a passion, a calling, a point of view unique to their own personal spiritual walk. When willing to lay all that down at the feet of Jesus and his brethren in total surrender through service does respect come as a peer. Jesus disciples were known as “The Twelve”, not Peter and the eleven, of Peter, James and John and the Nine! They became twelve apostles, all peers, all equals in a linear horizontal relationship. Even James, Jesus’ brother, not one of the twelve, became recognized as a leader.

Who would be in charge of a leadership meeting using the five-fold model? Who is the “Chairman”, the “C.E.O.”, the “Senior Pastor”, the individual where “the buck stops here”? No man is! Christ is the head. He placed His Holy Spirit in charge. Will the participants be willing to listen to him and be obedient to his leading no matter how illogical they may seem? The gospels are filled with illustrations of what seemed to be stupid things His followers were instructed to do, but obedience brought fantastic results! The problems comes when most church leadership teams rely on their agendas, programs, and institutional organizations to work out problems rather than allow the Holy Spirit to “problem solve”.  It is easier to “designate” others to do things to “solve the problem” than it is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit who may tell you to lay down your life, repent of your attitude, redirect your stream of thought, and then actually serve the very person who seemed to have originally opposed you.

So the alternative to the American C.E.O. business model of dominant pyramidal power is embracing a linear leadership style of serving, the taking of the apron and washing the other’s feet as Jesus exemplified. It is never dominating over, but walking beside each brother and sister in the Lord as equal peers, accepting one another’s diversity and differences, and drawing from that diversity instead of using it to cause division. It is a leadership style of “laying down your life for the brethren” constantly. You become known for your humility, your servant’s attitude, your selflessness, your character instead of your power, position, or title. This is the beginning of a new mindset of church leadership.