Radical New Leadership Model
Leadership in the Church should be different from leadership in the world. In the world
leadership takes the form of a pyramid. There is a hierarchy of power with one person at
the top. In contrast, leadership in the New Testament is always defined in the plural. No
one is ever designated as the single leader of a local church.
However, for most of
history, the church has moved towards the hierarchical model with the episcopal form of
government. Even the modern independent churches have senior pastors above their elders
and other pastoral staff. They are now moving even further towards hierarchy by creating a
new breed of apostles, who will take a place in the pyramid above the senior pastors.
I believe that the New Testament calls us to a radically different model of leadership;
a model which has never really been tried, except in the early church. This model is joint
leadership by a team of leaders who are equal in status, but who bring different gifts to
the leadership process. There should be no hierarchy or pyramid. The
directing role is assigned to the Holy Spirit.
The power of a team is greater than the sum of the abilities of its individual members.
A team of leaders who are empowered and lead by the Spirit has the potential to be more
effective than the pyramid model which is used in the world. As the church moves into a
time of intense battle for the future of the world, an extremely effective model of
leadership will be needed for the people of God. The church will never be victorious,
while it relies on a leadership model borrowed from the world.
There are four important principles that are essential for this new leadership model to
work. These are:
- Plurality of Leadership
- Fourfold Ministries
- Replication of Ministries
All of these principles are important.
i) Plurality of leadership.
The principle of plurality of leadership is basic to the New Testament. Each church
should be led by a team of elders (Acts 14:23). The minimum number would be three or four.
A Church will be led by a group of elders working
The elders would all agree to submit to each other. None of the elders will
important decision without the concurrence of the others. They will each give the others
permission to speak into their lives to provide correction. All important decisions for
the church will require a consensus among the elders. This principle of plurality of
eldership provides covering and protection for the church. There will not be one elder who
stands above the others. Having one leader at the top is both dangerous and unbiblical.
An example of this structure is found in the Church of Antioch, one of the most
successful Churches in the New Testament. Luke tells us that in Antioch there were
prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul (Acts 13:1). That is,
there were five elders who led the Church together. There is no suggestion that one of
these elders was the overall leader.
According to Acts 14:22,23, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every place where
there was a group of disciples. This was all that was needed to make a group of disciples
into a Church. Nothing more was needed. They never appointed a single pastor to take
The circles in the diagram below represent the elders of a church. The lines represent
their commitment to each other and the relationships between them. The strength of these
links between the elders is the source of the strength of the church.
I have drawn a church with five elders. However, the number is not as important as the
strength of the relationships between them. Even though they have different ministries,
they must have strong relationships with each other. Maintaining these relationships will
be almost impossible if there are more than about five leaders. (They will also be
maintaining relationships with six or seven people whom they are discipling.)
cannot relate in this way to more than about twelve people. Therefore if the number of
elders increases to more than about five or six, the relationships between them will
weaken and the covering will be broken and the strength will be lost. The chinks in the
relationships will allow evil to get in.
Plurality of leadership has not been taken seriously by the church. It has long been
normal in the church to have one person, usually a pastor, as leader. Even churches with
elders will have a senior elder or pastor. The common cry in the church is "We need a
pastor" or "We need a leader". However, this desire for one man to lead is
a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency towards slavery and
domination (1 Samuel 8:6-9), but those who have been redeemed should have the same
The New Testament never states that a church should have "a pastor". Paul and
Barnabas appointed elders in each church. They never left one man to run a Church or
singled out one elder to be a senior elder or pastor. They "committed them to the
Lord in whom they put their trust" (Acts 14:23). In Antioch there were "prophets
and teachers", not one pastor.
When Jesus ascended, he left his disciples with no one person to be the leader. He had
carefully discipled them, and taught them to expect the Holy Spirit, but he deliberately
avoided appointing a person to take charge. An attempt by two of the disciples to obtain a
position of precedence was strongly challenged by Jesus (Mark 10:35-45). The disciples did
very well without a single leader. (see Dangers of
Leadership by One Person)
Plurality of leadership has not worked well in the world, as sin gets in the
way. Sometimes, one of the leaders will try to dominate and take control. In other
situations the leadership is divided and is paralysed by mistrust or bickering. Most
people believe that because group leadership does not work in the world, it will not work
in the church. They find it safer and easier to have one person in charge. However, the
church should be different from the world, especially in its leadership. We need to
understand the implications of Jesus command to "Love one another as I have loved
you." This command is particularly important for church leaders. It is the key to
understanding how plurality of leadership can work.
Christian leaders should be free of the sinful emotions, attitudes and behaviour that
divide and corrupt leaders in the world. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 outlines a set of attitudes
that will enable several Christians to lead together. These attitudes are not easy, but
they are very important. If they cannot be emulated between the elders, we cannot expect
the church members to love one another. The commitment of the elders to loving each other
is the key to how the body of Christ "grows and builds itself up in love" (Eph
4:16). Love at the top produces love throughout the body.
The best example of this leadership style is the Trinity. The Father said about the
Son, "Listen to him". However, Jesus said he could only do what he saw the
Father doing. He also said it was better for him to go away, so that the Spirit could
come; but the Spirit, when he came, gave glory to Jesus. Each of the members of the
Trinity have absolute freedom and authority to exercise their perfect ministry. Yet each
one honours and submits to the others. No one is in control. They demonstrate perfectly
how three persons bound together by love can work together in perfect unity.
ii) Fourfold ministries
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of the role of elders. He lists four
different functions that elders may have. An elder can be an apostle, a prophet, an
evangelist, or a pastor and teacher. These are not different offices, but represent
different tasks that an elder may do. Each elder will fulfil one of these functions,
according to the gifts that Christ has given him. Not everyone is an apostle or a prophet,
but each one exercises the ministry to which God has called him. Whatever his gifts, the
elder uses them to strengthen the people of God and to build up the whole Church. And
while apostles, prophets, and evangelists are important, primary leadership in the Church
will be exercised by elders who are pastors and teachers.
All of the ministries listed in Eph 4:11 will be represented in the church eldership.
This gives balance to the church. Without this balance the church will not grow to
maturity and unity.
|At least one of
the elders will be a prophet (R). He provides vision for the church and keeps it on the
right track. He will ensure that there is an emphasis on holiness. At least one of the
elders will be an evangelist (V). This will ensure that the church continues to grow. The
rest of the elders will be pastor/teachers (P). They will ensure that new Christians are
discipled and grow spiritually, leaving there old lives behind. There should be one of
each of these three ministries in every church. There will be more pastor/teachers than
evangelists and prophets. A balanced leadership will ensure that the church has the
correct balance between evangelism, nurture and discipleship.
In the New Testament, teaching was done within a teacher/disciple or shepherding
relationship, not by giving lectures. So pastor and teacher are not different ministries,
but different ways of looking at the same ministry. Paul says that elders who teach
are worthy of double honour (1 Tim 5:17). The elders to whom Paul is referring are
pastor/teachers. The other elders are prophets and evangelists.
Moving into an ascension ministry is not a "great" or
"heavy "thing. An Evangelist is a Christian who
loves to reach the lost. A prophet is just a person who has a
passion for truth and righteousness. A pastor is a Christian
who loves to see people restored and nurtured. The church has
made these ministries so "big" that only few can enter
them. This has robbed the church. Most believers
should be able to enter into one of these ministries.
Role of the ascension ministries is fully described in a new
book from Kingwatch Books. It also explains how they work
together as elders.
Where we Live
here to find our more
The elders would meet together on a regular basis to develop strong relationships with
each other. It was at such a meeting of the "body of elders" that Timothy
received the laying on of hands (I Timothy 4:14). At these meetings the elders would pray
for each other, and for their Church. They would guide, encourage and teach each other. As a body they would exercise oversight over the whole Church.
Any decisions affecting the whole Church would be decided by all the elders, when they met
together. If a church is based on relationships, rather than
programmes, there will not be many decisions to be
made. The only really big decision will be when to
send out a new apostolic team.
When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, he poured out the Holy Spirit. He also
gave gifts to the church for building it up to maturity (Eph 4:8). The gifts he gave were
apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers (Eph 4:11). Jesus obviously considered
that all four of these gifts were necessary for the church to build itself up in love.
Yet, we seem to think we can manage with only one, the pastor/teacher.
The modern church has been almost universally dominated by pastors. Prophets and
evangelists have been sidelined to para-church organisations or itinerant ministries. Many
evangelists, and some prophets, take appointments as pastors so that they can get into
ministry. The ministry of the apostle has virtually disappeared. All churches want a
pastor/teacher as leader. We have become so used to this, that most Christians cannot even
imagine anything different. I do not know of any local church which has tried to set up a
leadership structure that includes all four of these ministries.
Jesus was only able to lead his group of disciples on his own, because he functioned
perfectly in each of these ministries. He is a pastor, a prophet, an evangelist and an
apostle. However, a human leader can only function in one of these ministries. A church
must have all these ministries to function effectively. Without an evangelist, a church
will not grow, as it should. The church will need to adopt church growth techniques from
elsewhere. Without a prophet, a church will be weak in vision and at risk of sinfulness.
The pastor will often have to go and look at what has been successful in other churches to
obtain a vision. I suspect that the reason that we have so many immature and weak churches
is that we have not accepted the gifts of leadership that Jesus gave us.
All of the ascension ministries are needed for a local church to grow to maturity. Many
of the spiritual gifts required will be manifested in other church members, but the
ascension gifts must be manifested in the leadership of a church. One person cannot
exercise all these ministries. This leaves no alternative but plurality of leadership.
We need to start taking the ascension gifts seriously. A local church should be
led by a team of elders. At least one will be a prophet. At least one will be an
evangelist. The others will be pastors/teachers. Each will bring different gifts and
skills, but no one will take preference. No one person will be leader, instead different
people will lead, depending on the situation and who has the gifts that the situation
requires. This model of leadership will be extremely demanding. It will require incredible
trust, loyalty, honesty, humility and love. Some will say it is too hard, but it is what
Jesus expects of his leaders. It is what makes us different from the world.
Every person who becomes a Christian will be discipled so that they grow to maturity.
Discipleship means learning to be a Christian by following the example of another
Christian. The disciple will be taught the truths of the Christian faith in the form of
on-the-job training. The person discipling will provide correction if the disciple goes
wrong. The person discipling will work in a very close partnership with the Holy Spirit.
They will bathe the disciple in continuous prayer.
to the eldership will be a condition of entry to the church. This is
symbolised by their being inside the lines between the elders. I am
not talking here about the heavy-handed submission that has damaged some
churches and destroyed some Christians in some cults. Submission
should not be a "heavy" thing. It is just a willingness by
believers to allow more mature Christians to speak into their lives, by being
teachable and willing to accept correction. Eldership is not about
control, it is for protection and development.
Submission must always
be voluntary. While Christians are in submission, they are protected
from evil. Disciples should be free to leave at any time, if they do
not accept the authority of the elders. The elderís goal is to see
them grow to maturity, not to build an empire.
Each church member
will be submitted to one of the elders in particular and to all in
general. Each elder will be accountable for some of the church
members, but all elders will be able to speak into the life of any
member. This will not be a very formal process. When a new member
joins, one of the elders will say to another, "You look after
this one" or "Iíll take this one". Quite often,
some of the discipling will be done by other mature members of the
body. The elder responsible will just watch from a distance.
A new Christian will be taught the basics of the Christian life. They will have lots of
questions. Some may need deliverance or healing. They will be taught to read the
scriptures and to pray. The most important thing they will learn will be to hear God
speak. This will allow the Spirit to work in their life. He will do most
of the work.
The basic things should be covered within the first few weeks of their being a Christian.
From then on it will be a matter of watching from close by. The elders may still need to
answer an occasional question. The disciple may need an odd warning, "Have you prayed
about that" or "What is God saying about that". Prayer covering will be the
most important part of discipleship.
Towards the end of the first year, the elder should start guiding the disciple into a
ministry. They will help them to identify their gifts and calling and put them in contact
with those who can teach them. For example, a potential pastor may start to assist with
discipling even newer Christians.
Most of the discipling will be done by the pastor/teachers.
The evangelist will be more occupied with preaching the gospel, than developing new
Christians (unless they have an urge to evangelise). Prophets tend to have very high
expectations of their disciples, with the result that they can easily be crushed. They
will be more focused on developing holiness and vision in the whole church as a group.
However, prophets will have a role in discipling potential prophets and evangelists will
assist with discipling potential evangelists. Every member will need the ministry of the
prophet from time to time. The evangelist will encourage all members to witness to Jesus.
Sometimes new believers will be discipled by one of the other members of the church, with
the more difficult aspects being handled by the elders.
Jesus managed to disciple eleven men successfully. Therefore it is unlikely that one
elder would be able to disciple more than ten (c.f. Deut 1:15). This means the elders will
be very focused. They will get very fast growth in their people. The danger when elders
are spread too thin is that people do not grow. (One leader with 120 disciples will have
iv) Replication of Ministries
Elders will replicate their ministries in their disciples (i.e. produce clones of
themselves). This is an extremely important principle. Every person who has developed in a
ministry, should be training up several people in that same ministry. In this way the
ministries of the church will multiply. Multiplication of ministry is as important as
multiplication of membership.
Potential evangelists will tend to be drawn to the evangelist. Potential prophets will
be drawn to the prophet. Potential pastors will be drawn to the pastors. They will learn
all that they can from them. That is why each elder is shown as having people with a
similar ministry close to them in the diagram. Each elder will be developing some people
who have potential to develop into a similar ministry. They will train someone to replace
themselves if they are called to leave. Jesus said that everyone who is fully trained is
like his master (Luke 6:40).
The true test of the quality of a church is what has happened to a person who became a
Christian in the church three years earlier. Are they functioning in a ministry (Jesus
disciples were)? If they are not, then the church is not functioning correctly. Is there a
development path for the new Christian? Can they expect to be functioning in a ministry
within three years? In a quality church this will be normal. (People who come to
Christianity with severe problems, may take longer to grow to maturity, but they should be
on the same path).
The following points about this leadership model should be noted.
- The strongest Christians are on the outside. The elders are on the edge providing
protection for the church. Their protection comes through submission to each other.
- The elders are held together by a strong bond of love and commitment. Unless they are
submitted to each other, it will be dangerous for others to be submitted to them.
- There is a clear distinction between being inside and outside the church. The lines
represent the boundaries of the church. Their purpose is coverage and protection, not
control. There will be no one sitting on the fence.
- In the modern world it is no longer possible for the church to hold people in the church
by fear or authority. If people are not happy, they will leave. The only way to hold
people is to draw them in by love.
- The love of Christ will be modelled in the relationship between the elders. This love
will be replicated amongst the rest of the Christians.
- Each Christian has strong relationships with other Christians.
The relationships between the members are where the strength of the
church resides. A key role of the elders is to build
- The newest Christians will be in the centre. They will be drawn to the centre by the
love that will be evident in the church. The centre is the safest place to be, as they
will be surrounded and protected from the world by many Christians. They will be
surrounded and held in the centre by love that is real.
- Everyone will be looking to the elders, so they will also be looking outward. For
example the potential evangelists will be going out to share the gospel.
- I am suggesting a radical change in the leadership model that is
common in the conventional church.
(If it does not seem radical then you have misunderstood what I am
- This model provides excellent spiritual
protection to everyone in the church.
One size does fit all
This leadership model should be applied at every level in the church.
It is suitable for a small church or a large church. One person
leadership is always dangerous and to be avoided.
A small house group, cell or house church should have four or five leaders who submit to each other. There will not be a full-blown pastor,
prophet and evangelist. However, there should be one with prophetic
tendencies, another with evangelistic leanings and one or two with pastoral
gifts. Otherwise, the group will be unbalanced.
Large churches should also be led by a team of elders, which includes
at least one prophet, one evangelist and several pastors As the
church gets larger, someone with gifts of leadership (Rom 12:8) or a
person with gifts of administration (1 Cor 11:28) may also be needed on
the eldership team. I am not enthusiastic about large
churches. However the principle of plurality of leadership is more
important than the size of the church. The New Testament is
clear about the former, but is silent about the latter.
At the other end of the scale, the leadership of the church in the
city, should be a group, who are submitted to each other. Some will be
pastors, but there should be at least one prophet and one evangelist.
Some may be the key apostles in the city. If the leaders of the church
in a city are all pastors, they will be unbalanced.
One person cannot be Jesus.
It takes three people to represent God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One person cannot contain the fulness of the Spirit. It takes two or
three to contain him. Therfore, only "shared leadership"
can represent the fullness of God.
The best example of this leadership style is the Trinity. The Father
said about the Son, "Listen to him". However, Jesus said he
could only do what he saw the Father doing. He also said it was better
for him to go away, so that the Spirit could come, but when the Spirit
came, he gave glory to Jesus.
Each member of the Trinity has absolute freedom and authority to
exercise their perfect ministry. Yet each one honours and submits to the
others. No one is in control. The Trinity demonstrates perfectly how
three persons bound together by love can work together shared
leadership. To manifest the full glory of the Trinity, the church must
have shared leadership.
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