A dynamic leader, solidly grounded in the Scriptures and with a vision of how the gospel should be lived and shared for this particular group of Christians in this particular place, captures the loyalty of his congregation by the clarity and strength of his conviction. He plans, organizes, tells, and the congregation does as they are told without internalizing the vision. The leader is suspicious of any conviction that comes forth from members of his congregation and differs from his own. Thus he stifles the working of the Spirit in the hearts and lives of the congregants and they learn to look to him for spiritual direction in everything. Such a scenario has been repeated in varying degrees in many churches and congregations. Things look good at first, but it always ends badly.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Really, it should never be this way. This is why the apostles warned church leaders to never think of themselves as lords over the people of God, but rather to be examples. Yes, leaders are important, but the leaders are not the church.
The New Testament model of the church is of a body of born-again, Spirit-led Christians, all working together for the cause of Christ, the spiritual well-being of one another and the salvation of others. No leader, however dynamic and charismatic he may be, can by his own efforts produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his congregation.
The church can only exist where there are followers, followers of Jesus Christ. Among these followers there will arise ministers, deacons, elders, or whatever other name might be used, to feed, guide and watch over the flock. These leaders must first of all be followers and must never think of themselves as the government of the flock. Jesus Christ alone must be the Lord of the flock.
In such a group of born-again, Spirit-led Christians there will be a wide range of abilities, experience, opportunities and ideas, all of which can and should be used for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom. But we are also human, with all the weaknesses of the flesh and an enemy who will do his utmost to manipulate these weaknesses to create doubt, jealousy, hurt feelings and division.
There are three things that we much each avail ourselves of to avoid having these feelings lead to disaster and division:
- Brotherly love. We must look for the evidence of the life of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other people who may be very different from ourselves.
- Giving and taking reproof. We must be able to express our misgivings and our disapproval when a brother of sister embarks on a course that leads away from the simplicity and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must also be ready to listen and consider when one of them expresses misgivings and disapproval of the course we are taking.
- Prayer. We must pray for one another and trust that our prayers are heard by our Father in heaven and that He will act in a way and at a time that will be most helpful. It is much harder to be critical of someone for whom we are praying.
Finally, the remedy for strong leaders and feeble followers is not strong followers and a feeble leader. It is strong leaders and strong followers, with love and confidence in one another.