Leadership has its challenges. People today almost expect those in leadership to exert their "power" for their own gain. Having just gone through an election, we know that people are often suspicious of the motives of those who lead. Money and power often go together and people get trampled on and used and sometimes abused. The same was true in Jesus' day. The Roman government was notorious for their ruthlessness and the Jews were virtually their slaves. Jesus was different, and He expected His disciples to be different. That's why it was surprising when two of His disciples, James and John, came to Jesus with their mother and asked Him to give them the two top positions in His kingdom. After telling James and John that those position were not His to give, Jesus gathered His disciples together and said,
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. NOT SO WITH YOU! Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).
Jesus made it clear that those who would be leaders in His Church would lead differently than those in the world who did not know Him. They would be servants of the people they were leading. They would actually care about the "sheep" over which Jesus placed them as shepherds. In fact, they would LOVE the sheep.
Where do you find leaders like this? I was in a meeting recently with nine such men - the Elders at Lighthouse, my brothers in Christ and fellow-servants of God's flock. In my years in pastoral ministry I have met others who have loved the people whom they are called to lead, but this group of brothers is unique in their unanimous desire to love God's people and to lead them with humility, grace and patience. It is a privilege serving the Lord with godly men who understand God's call to "shepherd the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" (Acts 20:28).
There must be no other motive for leadership in Christ's Church but love - love for God and love for His children. This is why God established the model of Elders in every congregation. There is no other form of "church government" revealed in God's Word. Jesus said that those who shepherd the flock must be willing to lay down their lives for them. Who can do that except those who are there with the sheep?! Elders who love the sheep are rare. Many people have been "run over" by leaders in the church who have had their own agendas and who cared more about themselves than about those whom they have been called to lead to Christ and to "feed." I have witnessed such behavior far too often. Perhaps it is because the leaders at Lighthouse have themselves been abused by such power that they are so ready and willing and eager to be the leaders Christ calls Elders to be - humble shepherds who love the sheep.
And those who truly love the sheep realize that the greatest danger to the health and life of the sheep is the poison of false teaching. Paul continued in Acts 20:28-31: "Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I lead, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."
No amount of false teaching can be tolerated in the Church. Everything must be judged by the unchangeable Word of the living God. It is up to the Elders to make sure that the Word of God is preached and taught in its fullness and in its purity in the Church. False teaching poisons the flock and leads people astray. The work of the Elders in the Church is not easy, and those who serve must know that they have been called and equipped and empowered by none other than the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ. When that happens, the Church is a beautiful testimony to the love and power and grace of God at work in His people.
Leaders in Christ's Church must love their "fellow-sheep," knowing that they, too, are sheep in need of a Good Shepherd. Thank God we have one in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior, our Lord and our Friend. I pray that God will raise up more leaders in His Church who will love those they lead. I thank God for those who serve the Lord with me at Lighthouse!