A story is told of a Body that was attempting to cross the street. A disagreement arose between two Members, Miss Eye and Mr. Foot, as to who should take the lead in the ordeal. Their quarrel only led to more dissension and Mr. Leg soon began insisting that neither were fit for the position. When it seemed that this feud could only end in Bodily harm, Mr. Grayhair inserted himself and demanded silence. “The solution to our problem,” he said haughtily, “is that we have no leader. Let each Member do as he wishes.” The Body was never heard from again.
While it may be clear why this idea didn’t work for the Body, some people seem to think that the ideal church is a leaderless church. They believe Christians can gather and encourage one another without the need for leaders. There are however, two problems with this.
Practically speaking, if you remove the leaders from an organization, it will crumble. Huge companies such as Apple and Amazon would not exist if it were not for their leaders. The local church is, in a sense, like these organizations. Without leaders to carry it forward, it would collapse. However, the larger issue with a leaderless church is that it is not Biblical. God has always used leaders to guide his chosen people throughout history.
The Old Testament
When God called the children of Israel out of Egypt, He did not tell them all to make a run for it; He sent a very special leader to guide them. Moses was in many ways inadequate, at least by human standards, for this position. In Exodus 2, Moses killed a man, then fled Egypt as a murderer. Later, in Exodus 4, he admitted that he was a poor public speaker. However, perfection was not what God wanted. Despite Moses’ faults and misgivings, God used him to lead the children of Israel until the end of his life.
The book of Joshua describes the leadership of Joshua, Moses’ successor, as Israel entered the Promised Land. Under Joshua’s rule, Israel flourished. Then, in the book of Judges, Israel rebelled by worshipping idols and intermarrying with pagan nations. God sent foreigners to oppress Israel until they repented. Then God raised up a leader to free them, but as soon as this leader died, the rebellion repeated itself. Several times in the book, the author gives a reason for the terrible state of Israel. He says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Because Israel had no constant leadership, they fell into this endless cycle of rebellion and were only saved from it by the brief periods of leadership from the judges.
Eventually, God established kings as the leaders of Israel. These kings were far from perfect, but again, that did not stop God from using them. As long as the king was willing to humbly serve God, Israel thrived. However, most of these kings led Israel into idolatry and many other sins. Because of this, Israel was punished and put under the rule of foreign kingdoms.
Throughout the Old Testament, God used human leaders to shepherd His chosen people. Whenever Israel had a leader that truly followed God, it thrived. However, when there were no leaders – or the leaders chose not to follow God – all of Israel suffered.
The New Testament
God’s desire to guide His people through human leaders did not change in the New Testament. Jesus appointed the twelve apostles as the first leaders of his newly-established Church. The book of Acts and the apostle Paul give clear teaching on what leadership should look like within the church. The apostles mainly worked as overseers and evangelists, planting new churches and supporting already established churches. They ordained leaders in each of these churches to guide the new Christians.
In Ephesians 4:11&12, Paul writes, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Clearly, Paul believes that churches are meant to have appointed leaders. He also believes that there are qualifications for such a role which means that not just anyone could be a church leader. In Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives more teaching on the qualifications of church leaders.
The Church Today
While the church may have changed somewhat since the time of the apostles, God is still the same God and He still uses leaders in His church. As Paul teaches in the New Testament, there are Scriptural qualifications to be explored and used when selecting church leaders. However, just as we see in the Old Testament, leaders will have their faults. God does not require perfection; just humble hearts willing to obey.
It is all too easy for our churches to end up like the Body. Without leaders, our churches will fall apart. But, if we follow God’s plan for his people, our churches can flourish.
|Joshua Blank is from NYC, but will be living in Boston for the next four years where he will be attending Sattler College. He enjoys learning, living in the city, good discussions, and anything related to music. He is hoping to use his business degree as an opportunity in foreign missions.|
“BTV: Behind the Scenes.” Out of Control. 3 May, 2003. Radio