God has always wanted a people who could say from their hearts that God is their God. Passover was a shadow of the reality of Christ within the lives of human beings who from their hearts proclaim that Jesus is Lord. God has always wanted a people that it could be said of them that they are obviously God’s people. Pentecost was a shadow of the testimony of Christ’s anointing upon human beings who proclaim the power of Christ’s resurrection life to the world. God has always wanted a people who would truly live with God in His presence. The celebration of Tabernacles was a shadow of the abiding relationship with God found in the life of Christ. As leaders in the body of Christ we must lead in a way that these three testimonies become an increasing reality in the lives of those we lead. These three testimonies will be real within the context of the specific spiritual letter that God is writing in the hearts and lives of those He joins for a corporate testimony of His glory. This testimony takes both the leadership and the membership of the expressions of Christ’s body.
Men make methods while God gives wisdom. The leaders of a local church must seek the wisdom of God in all things and not rely merely upon their position as leaders and natural wisdom (Ephesians 3:10). Structure will not bring forth life, but life does give structure. The leaders of a local church expression must not propagate principles at the expense of imparting life. The restoration of the Church is not simply a restoration of certain truths and ministries to God’s people. It is the restoration of God’s Son to His rightful place in their midst. The leaders must seek Christ’s manifest presence in His Church. It is with a contrite spirit and fear of God that leaders must seek to obey His Word in everything. Their function as shepherds of His flock must be a manifestation of Him as the Chief Shepherd. The ruling leaders of a local church must oversee through a spirit of liberty and not control. It is under the direction of the Holy Spirit that they will seek to shepherd through the spirit of liberty. The Spirit of the Lord is the Spirit of the Chief Shepherd. The leaders should always seek to allow the Spirit to be Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17).
I believe that the governing team of the local church is a team of leaders who serve as overseers to the local church. Their roles as ‘under-shepherds’ are to be viewed in reverence and fear of God as being visual expressions of Jesus in His headship to the church. This is by all means subordinate to the personal relationship of each church member to God through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It is in every way subordinate to God’s Word and Spirit and cannot violate these higher authorities. The term “under-shepherd” refers to the fact that Jesus is the “Chief Shepherd” and that the team of leaders represent an expression of Him. As “shepherds” (Greek “poimen” = shepherd or pastor) they are expressions of the true “Shepherd” of the flock, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).
The leaders must work together to allow each member of the ministry leadership team to operate within the boundaries and expressions of his or her sphere of influence. The leads must yield to and express the Spirit of God the Father in order to allow each team member to fulfill his or her role within the church body. Each leader serves in whatever function given to him or her by the grace of God. It is by God’s grace that they are builders in God’s house. It is God who will use each one as He builds His house (Isaiah 66: 1-2). God will use the leaders as manifestations of Himself in building His house, and only that which is of Him will stand (1 Corinthians 3:9-13). Each leader must function in his or her unique area of service. There are no clergy-laity distinctions, simply different functions in the Body of Christ. Therefore, the leaders are not to be viewed as greater than the congregation. They are servants of God sent to assist the local congregation in fulfilling the role of oversight through a physical expression of Christ’s spiritual life (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Godly oversight is not control. It is learning to submit one to another in the fear of the Lord in order to manifest the oversight of the “Chief Shepherd”, Jesus. Godly authority does not carry the element of domination. Leadership is an expression of God and His means of releasing His authority and grace to, in, and through others. Leadership is given as a gift from God to the local church and it is relational, not a matter of obligation. Godly order is the divinely arranged assembly of individual parts of Christ’s Body into a collective whole.
Each church member has an authority to function in what God has given him or her. God’s anointing is given to each one in order to accomplish the grace given to them individually, as well as corporately. All grace is given to contribute to the manifestation of the whole body and thus releases the authority of the one Man Christ, of whom all share equal corporate authority. Authority does not come from position. It comes from responsibility given. When someone is given the responsibility of any area of rule, he or she also receives the authority to carry out that rule. Godly authority does not carry with it the power of subjection. It carries the true power of anointing and thus draws others to yield to its direction. Although the leaders have authority over the church, godly authority chooses not to use that authority in a way of subjection or control (2Thessalonians 3:9).
Authority (“exousia”) is given for edification and not for destruction (2 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 13:10). Overseers (“episkopos”) have authority over (“epitasso”) saints. This authority does not equate to value, it simply equates to function and responsibility. Authority given to overseers is not authority to have dominion over the saints. It is authority given to function as fellow workers for their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24).
Leaders are God’s servants. Church leadership is a harmonious order of servants submitted to God and one another. Every local church expression is meant to be a family of sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters who seek to live as the family of God in the earth. Leaders are part of that family, not dictators in a congregation. Leadership is not an escalating hierarchy of persons competing for authority. The leadership team of the local church must be committed both to God and to the local body, to set an example in servanthood and zeal for the house of God. Family must be more important than ministry, but because they lead in the family of God the family of God does the ministry of Christ in all things. They must covenant with God and each other to see the purpose of Christ formed in the corporate house. The objective of leaders is not merely to lead according to godly principles, but to lead according to God’s own divine direction and desires in writing a spiritual letter of His purpose and will. That spiritual letter expresses the community of God, not merely the works of God in the earth. Together the body and its leadership reveal the character, nature, way, power, and authority of Christ in a unique and specific way for His glory.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson