Identifying True Christian Leaders
by Glen Williams
It saddens me to see what we modern Christians think of as a leader. It's as if someone disconnected our spiritual gifts and we're unable to distinguish the leaders God chose from the ones man chooses. We tend to see their physical appearance, the political positions they take, the letters before or after their names, the titles on their resumes, and their ability to please everyone as the chief qualifications of a Christian leader. We're surprised and upset when these people lead us over a cliff, even though we led ourselves there by using worldly standards to choose a Spiritual leader. This article is all about who God says we're to follow and who's responsibility it is to make sure we're following the right leader.
The Title Means Nothing: We've all heard it! He's a "this" or she's a "that!" Title, education, political position, even looks are all meaningless. Oh, but what if he's got a Doctor of Divinity degree? Meaningless! It isn't that we should disrespect someone's worldly accomplishments. It's just that these have nothing to do with Spiritual leadership. One of the reasons Jesus, and later, Peter were ignored by the Jewish leaders was because of their lowly status as carpenter and fisherman. Here, we see a great example of worldly and Spiritual leadership. The chief priests wore flowing robes, had the best Scriptural training, were born in the best families. Everyone honored them, obeyed them and gave them preferential treatment. They made their living from the offerings given to God. In fact, many regarded them as gods. Yet, Jesus, truly God, was scorned, ridiculed and executed by the very people He came to save. The same is true of leadership today. We've all seen dedicated people of God who have little formal training, but decades of studying and living God's Word. Yet they go totally ignored or worse, by Christians, simply because of their looks or speech or humble employment. If we're to be followers of the one true God, we must be willing to hear Him when it comes to who He chooses as leaders. We must be discerning enough to use God's Spirit in us to rule out the pretenders.
If They Don't Say What They Do, Don't Do What They Say: Pretenders are people who are perfectly willing to use position and manipulation to tell you exactly how to live, but don't live that way, themselves. I once knew a pastor of a large Christian church who felt justified in accepting sexual favors from the wives of several church members, while ignoring his own wife. You never got a more compelling sermon than when he preached on sexual sin. This is an extreme example of what goes on in countless churches all over the world. More common is the pastor who preaches on loving Christian relationship but keeps a "professional" distance from the congregation. Yes, I knew a few of these...one left the church as fast as he could and lived as far as he could from the church, to avoid the people. Yes, listen to their words, but watch their hands and feet. Many of these people are in their positions because of their skill at spinning entertaining tales about the truths of life, but have no interest in those truths. They are the pretenders Jesus and Paul cautioned us about, false leaders who will say anything our itching ears want to hear, to lead us away from Christ.
From Fruitful Fellers Flow Fresh Fruit Followers: Jesus told us how to discover pretenders...by the nature of their fruit.. He said good apple trees won't have thorns and thorn bushes can't produce apples. Jesus told us to examine the fruits of someone's ministry before we join it, yet how many of us do that? What is the character of the minister's chief followers? How are the people maturing? Are there a lot of bad apples hanging around? Do you see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in the live of people? Jesus put the responsibility squarely on our shoulders as to who we followed. If you're being led over a cliff it isn't the leader's fault...it's the follower.
Listen To Learn If The Leader Is Listening: Faithful followers listen to God, and check to see if the leader is hearing God, as well. Acts describes the Bereans as faithful because they checked the Scripture to see if the Apostles were telling them the truth. Paul gave an assignment to everyone who is not the speaker in church...to listen to what the speaker says. Why? Not so you will always do what the speaker says, but so you will always know if what he says is from God. The Bible says you need no one to teach you except the anointing of Holy Spirit which is within you. Your responsibility in church isn't to follow in lock-step with the appointed ruler, but to question and challenge and investigate what the "leader" is saying. If any minister thinks you should take whatever he says as if it's from God, he isn't a minister assigned by God...he's a pretender.
True leaders are those who live the love of God. You can see the matured fruits of the Spirit in their words and actions. If they find a conflict between the Word of God and what they see happening, they will try, out of love, to correct it, rather than find a political solution that leaves people in sin. True Christian leaders have fruitful followers who display maturity in Christ. If you got to this part of the article without being angry at me, you may see a true Christian leader when you look in the mirror.
About the Author
Glen Williams is Webmaster at http://www.web-church.com
and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. He is an ordained minister who has been active in Christian ministry since 1989, counseling and helping people live in Christ. You can comment on his articles at Web-Church Christian Forums.
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