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Chapter 19 - Leadership
Having come to an understanding of what Christianity was supposed to be, we should begin to consider some of the many ways it has gone wrong. People both in the church and out of it can see a perplexing presentation of Christianity over history and at present. To achieve clarity, we will have to examine some of the many contributing factors that have combined to produce such a hodge podge of competing and contradictory claims.
One of the defects of our fallen nature is the desire for prominence. We might see this addressed by Jesus using two examples from the Lord’s supper.
And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. - Luke 22:23-26
He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. - John 13:4-5
Some denominations have institutionalized ceremonial foot washing as a practice for their denomination to show humility. However, the act of Jesus demonstrated humility as well as providing a useful service. The streets of villages and cities in the ancient world were usually ankle deep in donkey manure as donkeys were the means of transporting goods for millenia.
The desire for prominence and social ambition can be found in men of all cultures. The Hellenistic (Greek) world had already established with the academy a forum for men to prove their skills in rhetoric, sophistry, and erudition. Even in Israel men sought and rose to levels of admiration.
Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; - Acts 5:34
One of the most learned men in all of Israel was called upon to render an opinion regarding the ministry of the Apostles.
And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. - Acts 5:38-39
The best Gamaliel could come up with was ‘if’. He had probably heard Jesus speak. He had probably even seen those filled with the Spirit speaking in foreign languages. He may have seen Jesus perform miracles. He offered his assessment of the ministry of the Apostles. All he could offer was a pragmatic ‘wait and see’ suggestion. Gamaliel might have been brilliant, learned, and respected. However, when it came to truth, he was as ignorant as a rock.
The influence of the flesh leads men to seek leaders who have qualities of learning, intelligence, captivating speech, and a charismatic presence. In contrast, Christian leaders should be full of humility, wisdom, faith, truth, and love. They should be led by the Holy Spirit, have a love of the brethren and God’s word.
The elevation of a man is usually associated with the organization of men into a collective system that he can administer. The early church slowly transformed from being led by men of godly character to men of ambition, prominence, and political skill. The organizations they formed focused more on works which are of the flesh.
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