What is the Right Model for Christian Leadership? // TGC Africa Opinions

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Vuyani Sindo and Don Carson trade opinions on Christian leadership, current challenges in the church, Christ’s teachings and what the cross has to do with it all…

Vuyani Sindo:

“Well I mean, for me, it’s been one of the disturbing trends I’ve seen. A couple of pastors recently have been at courts… and it’s to see how they model their ministry around the politicians. So you have now pastors that need to be ushered in at the Church where you have security guards on both sides. So people seem to take what they see among the politicians and they basically mirror their ministries around that.

The mistake of ‘coming in power’

Also I think the theology, as well, has been very disturbing. So, some will talk about how you cannot talk to people about a “powerful God” or a “rich God” if you don’t show your congregation that power or the riches of God. So, this, it tends to be phrased around the phrases like, you know, the ‘Man of God.’ As if he has an exclusive line of access to God that no-one else has. And I think for me we need to go back to the Biblical principal of how we understand the roles of the leaders. Particularly 1 Corinthians 1-4 which seems to go counter that. Where the gospeller is the one who comes in weakness rather than in power.

Going back to the Bible

The message you must proclaim is the message that the world does not necessarily want to hear. Some consider it as foolish that we preach Christ crucified. So I think pastors need to re-evaluate whom they model their ministries around. And I think if we go to the scriptures and look at the example of Christ and his disciples, and how they conducted themselves in their leadership and ministries, then I think that could actually help us within the South African context.”

Don Carson:

“Its helpful, I think, to remember what Jesus says in Matthew 20, 20-28 when James and John and their mother approach Jesus with the request that the two sons could sit at Christ’s left hand and right hand in the kingdom. Clearly she is thinking of an earthly kingdom. And to sit on the left hand and the right hand would make them the senior ministers of state. Maybe the Minister of Defence. Wanting the place of power. Of access to the Big Man. Thinking of Jesus as the Big Man.

Suffering to serve

So Jesus says “you don’t know what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup that I am drinking?” That is, “can you suffer the way I suffer?” And they’re completely ignorant. I mean, they say “yup, we can.” And he responds with a kind of twinkle in his eye, a kind of smile and he says, “well, there is a sense in which you can drink of my cup.” After all one of them is going to end up the first apostolic martyr, he’ll suffer. And the other one is going to end up in exile on Patmos in his old age. But he says “it’s not for me to give you those two gifts – sitting on the left or the right – but up to my father who is in Heaven.”

Coveting the treasured posts

The other 10 Apostles are indignant with the brothers. Not because they think that the brothers have done something wrong but because they didn’t get their dibs in first! They all want the treasured posts. And that is when Jesus ties his understanding of Christian leadership to the cross.

When he says “the kings of this world rule over one another and the governors and the leaders gloat over you. They control you.” And what he means in the context is that they soon get into a position where they feel entitled. They nominally are serving you. But in fact they are not serving you, they are serving themselves. They love the power. The power has hooked them. But he says “it shall not be so with you. But rather, amongst my disciples” he says “whoever wants to be served must himself serve. Whoever wants to be in charge must become the slave of all.”

Leadership looks like going to the cross

Jesus says “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So, the cross is for us not only the basis of our salvation. The ground of the forgiveness of our sin. It’s also the model of what leadership looks like. Leadership looks like going to the cross. That is to say, we seek so sincerely, so continuously, so unreservedly, the good of others that we sacrifice anything ourselves for their good.

It doesn’t mean there is no real leadership. When we speak of servant leadership we don’t abandon leadership. But it does mean that our leadership is not motivated by the desire for power. The desire to be number one. To be elevated. To become pompous. It’s desire… it is motivated by a desire to seek and to save those that are lost. It is a desire to seek the other’s good in spiritual growth, and thus to follow Jesus on his way to the cross.”