Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WHEN LEADERSHIP IS IN THE WRONG

A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing


            “As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—these men added nothing to my message…James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.”         --Gal. 2:6,9

            “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong…When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all…    --Gal. 2:11,14

          Brothers, there is a hugely important truth here, and one that is desperately needed in this hour, among the churches that claim Christ as Lord in our society.
          Leadership in the Body of Christ is a different thing than leadership in the world.  Our leaders are measured by the Word of God, and their obedience to Christ in every matter.  They are not despots, or commanders.  They are servants, and are to be humble and gentle as Jesus was, washing the feet of those they serve.  They are to take the lowest places, and defer to Christ and to other men the privileges of their exalted positions.
          I say exalted positions, because Scripture makes clear that it is a fine thing to want to lead the people of God, as long as we realize it is the most critical leadership position in the universe.
          There is no earthly equivalent.  Being President of the United States is less important than leading a small group of people who are working to become like Jesus, and to follow Him.  In God’s eyes, the men who lead nations are pawns in His hands, ultimately doing exactly what His Sovereign will dictates, while His chosen leaders in the Body of Christ have been given freedom to act in accordance with their own wills, subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The man who sits down to disciple another man, and lead him closer to Christ, is more important than any other leader on the face of the planet at that moment.
          This is why, in God’s wisdom, He puts extreme limits on us as leaders in the Body.  Paul illustrates this in his own life and attitude toward the original apostles.      These original twelve men had been with Jesus.  They had walked with Christ and saw His miracles, and shaken His hand, and hugged Him, and talked with Him endless hours.  They had slept on open ground next to Him, and spent hard days with the Lord under the hot sun walking from village to village.  They had left everything and everyone familiar to take their chances with this itinerant Prophet.  These men had been with Jesus, and had been chosen by the Lord Himself to be the starting group of leaders for His People under the new dispensation of grace that began with the cross and the empty tomb.  He chose these flawed and imperfect eleven men, minus only Judas who had betrayed Him, and all of whom ran away from Him in His hour of greatest need, to lead His ekklesia, His ‘called out to be together’ people, as His Word, His good news of the Kingdom of God coming to earth, went out to the entire world.
          In other words, using normal worldly, human reasoning, these men were important.  Their reputation was big.  Their ministry impact was the biggest.  They were ‘pillars’, which meant Christ’s followers regarded these men as big men, holding up the churches by their strength, and their wisdom.  These men were visible leaders, teaching and preaching, writing, and making decisions with other leaders that would affect the whole Body.
          Yet Paul came in, this outsider who had no normal apostolic standing in the eyes of the churches, and defied the exalted leaders to their faces.
          But—and here is the important question—why?
          Was it because Paul didn’t like or respect Peter, or James, or John?  Was it because He thought they didn’t conduct their services correctly?  Was it because they wore the wrong robes on Thursday, or because they weren’t administering the Lord’s Supper correctly?
          No.  It was because these men were “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.”
            In this day of hero worship, and leadership idolatry—this day of the exaltation of men and their methods—our day of great departure from “acting in line with the truth of the gospel”—we must get back to the Plumbline and the Cornerstone, Christ Himself, the living Word of God, and measure all by Him.
          So many of our leaders have played ‘fast and loose’ with the Word, and taken licenses upon themselves to ignore certain parts and play up certain others, in order to justify what they are doing.
          Like Paul confronted Peter, so the least among us is allowed—no, required!!—to stand up and confront these men who step out of line with the Word, and therefore defy the very God who has called them to lead His People.  Any one of us can fail in the responsibilities of leadership (and will!), and all of us need the correction of others in this, as Peter and James and John, and even Paul’s partner in ministry Barnabas, were drawn away into error early in the game by the temptation to please men rather than God.
          Brethren, we in the churches are responsible, each of us as equals within the Body of Christ, to reprove and rebuke our leaders when we see that they are not “acting in line” with God’s Word.  This means their lives and actions, as well as their words.  Peter and the other “pillars” were compromising the gospel to get into the good graces of religious people around them.  They were ignoring the commands of God to follow the traditions of men.  They were disobeying their Savior and Master, Jesus Christ, in order to gain more followers and grow their ministries!
          Does this sound familiar to any of you?
          It should, as it surrounds us on a daily basis in our society.  We so-called followers of Christ have compromised in a thousand and one ways with the world, in order to grow our ministries and promote our agendas, supposedly for the Kingdom of God.  However, as Paul points out, “God does not judge by external appearances”, and the importance of these men will be judged by Him, not by us. We are not to be impressed and awed by appearances.  We are to be impressed and awed by Christ Jesus, and the Father, and in the fear of God hold one another to the Word of God.
          Notice here, in this explosive situation that occurred early in the life of the Body of Christ, that God’s appointed leaders, the original apostles, saw their error.  They chose humility when Paul confronted them, and realized they had gone astray.  Not only did they realize it, they acted on it, and came back in line with the revelation of Jesus Christ, in accordance with Paul’s rebuke.  They acted humbly, and repented, and even instructed the rest of the Christians under their care to watch not to fall into the same error.
          God’s real leaders—no matter how small you believe your influence is—you  must remain true to His Word.  And even if you don’t think you are a leader at all, you must hold your own leaders in the Body up to this standard, and speak up against any hypocrisy among us.  This is our duty to Christ Jesus, brethren!

         


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