Myth #4 – Organic Churches Do Not Have Leaders
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28
Many people think that because organic churches have no clergy, they have no leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, we tend to think in ways that are not according to the mind of God. Clergy does not equal spiritual leadership. For many, it is almost impossible to think outside of the framework of the presently popular clergy-driven system. But actually, that system did not exist in the early church and just doesn’t fit into the contextual narrative of that story. Jesus clearly told his disciples that leadership in his kingdom would not look anything like the top-down hierarchical system of the Gentiles (Romans).
So what does true New Testament leadership look like?
There are Three Ways We Can Define Such Leadership:
1.) Such Leadership is Based Upon Corporate Mutual Submission
Many folks coming into new groups attempting to become organic have the mindset that they will not initiate anything in the group for fear of leading in some way. Their thinking moves along these lines; we do not want anyone to initiate anything because Jesus is to be our leader, not any human. Actually, this is the opposite of God’s thought according to the scriptures. In reality, we are ALL leaders in his Body! After all, we are called and destined to be a priesthood of all believers.
“But you are a chosen race, A royal PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” 1Pe 2:9
We are ALL called to lead and to minister. Our Christ is the ALL in ALL (of us). But the key is that we all (hopefully) desire his Headship and his Centrality and to live by his Life. But all of these things or aspects of Christ are expressed THROUGH US! But this can only happen as we all learn to live by Him and abide in Him. This comes by mutually submitting ourselves one to another. He is our only Head and we discover his direction and leadership by submitting ourselves to the members of the body. This will happen in different ways at different times. Different members of the body will lead in different areas at different times depending upon what the Head wants for that particular season. It’s not about ecclesiastical position or titles. It’s not about people lording it over or controlling others. It is about all in the group wanting the expression and headship of Christ above everything else.
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5:21
2.) Such Leadership is Based Upon Spiritual Life
All spiritual authority is based upon and comes from spiritual life. It does not come from anything made by man or any man-made system. It does not come from institutional positions, ordination, or titles (Matt. 23:8). It can only come from above and is based upon heavenly (spiritual) life (Jn 3:27).
That is why when a group of people are meeting (and living) organically there will be some who exhibit a greater degree or intensity of spiritual life. They will be gifted in certain areas that will help God’s people during crisis times. They will have a special love and concern for those who are hurting. They will develop faster and mature quicker than most in the group. And they will display the humility and lowliness of the One who came from Nazareth. These are the “elders”. But they are not showcased or singled out in any way. They are just brothers and sisters among the rest of the brothers and sisters. They will not lead the meetings or do most of the ministering. They will not make all of the decisions for the rest of the church. They will hardly even be noticed.
Watchman Nee said that form always follows spiritual life, not the other way around!
3.) Such Leadership is Based Upon an Embracing of the Cross
This is probably the most important part of true spiritual leadership in the church. The spiritual life that I discussed above is only produced in the life of a believer (or the corporate body) as they embrace the work of the cross pertaining to the self-life or soul-life. I am not referring to the aspect of the cross of Christ that redeemed us from our sins. Of course, that was really important and very much needed. Rather, I am speaking of the ongoing work of the cross to deal with and break our self-centered lives. Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. This is a daily process. As we yield ourselves to him, he breaks our outer man and begins to release the spirit within us. Our only involvement in this process is to yield to his work. We cannot crucify ourselves! The flesh cannot kill the flesh! Only the life that is within us (Christ Himself) can do this work. But it will take much longer if we resist him. We always have our free will, and therefore must submit and yield to his work within us voluntarily.
Simply stated, organic church just plain doesn’t work without the cross. That’s the place of freedom. That’s the place of transformation. And that’s the place of true community!
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” Phil. 2:1-11
Nice blog! I think you would appreciate mine too.
Today I blogged about how there are no ranks in the church.
Even though some may lead more than others we are all equals in Jesus.
I have been relational housechurching and planting for 30 years.
Christopher “Captain” Kirk
John S Wilson III said:
great article Milt, appreciate this a lot! Your description of organic leadership being mutual submission and upon spiritual life makes me sigh, a sense of rest fills my spirit. Have seen too often, especially for many of us having come out of institutional church, me included, not wanting to start or initiate. Guessing I did so mainly at first because I wanted to hear Christ in me, wanted to learn to hear Him. So often I have found myself being the initiator, having retired from the military it is something of a habit that I wanted to make sure it was from Christ and not from me. I’m still learning to hear Him. In the latter part of your article Christ in you spoke really clear to me: “We cannot crucify ourselves! The flesh cannot kill the flesh! Only the life that is within us (Christ Himself) can do this work. But it will take much longer if we resist him. We always have our free will, and therefore must submit and yield to his work within us voluntarily.” Learning to love by His life instead of reacting by the flesh is something I am still learning. Thanks again for your heart brother, :).
Kat Huff said:
Milt, Your blog posts on Myths have been helping the ekklesia, especially those newborn locals. It is amazing how Father is using your blog. What a fantastic series. Thank you. You are very much appreciated!
Trevor Honeycutt said:
Good stuff Milt! I really like how you bring out that leadership in church-life is based on spiritual life & fruit. That keeps us looking for Jesus, instead of worldly things like titles/degrees/philosophies/etc.
Michael Fleming said:
“Different members of the body will lead in different areas at different times depending upon what the Head wants for that particular season.”
That just may be the best one sentence summary of organic leadership I’ve ever seen. Thanks!
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