Tag Archives: Ekklesia

Kingdom Leaders – Part 2

 

In the first post from this short 2-part series on Kingdom Leadership, which is part of a larger, ongoing study on the Doctrine of the Church (See the Doctrine Tab above – Ecclesiology), we looked at the request of the mother of James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, to have her sons sit on either side of His throne in His kingdom.  We saw how this was part of a repeated pattern of the disciples to aspire to positions of authority, which oddly enough followed prophecies of Christ suffering and death.

The passage under consideration in that post was Matthew 20:20-28, where the request for authority was made and subsequently rejected by Christ, who then countered with a rebuke and held up gentile authority as a negative example of authority/leadership.  As we may recall, our Lord pointed out to His disciples not only the dysfunctional nature of gentile leadership, “they lord it over them”, but counters with an example that goes against the structure of worldly leadership altogether, 26It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave”  This was then followed by the ultimate example of Kingdom leadership, our Lord Jesus Christ, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In this post, the subject is once again kingdom leadership, but this time it is not the gentile structure of leadership that draws the condemnation of Christ, but the Jewish leadership, ensuring that nothing apart from the new reality of Jesus’ pattern of Kingdom leadership will suffice.

Matthew 23:1-12 – Religious Leadership

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

In the passage above, our Lord is beginning His discourse of “woes” against the scribes and Pharisees, the unquestioned religious leaders of the day, with an exposition on the nature of the Jews’ religious leadership.  This section builds upon a question posed to the Pharisees concerning the nature of Jesus’ authority (Matt. 22:41-46), bringing the attention and focus upon the present religious structure of leadership.  The fact that the target of much of Christ’s ire was the religious leaders of His day, should cause us to sit up and take notice.

The introduction of this rebuke begins with the recognition that the scribes and Pharisees sit on the Seat of Moses.  This is followed by an apparent commendation of their teaching and a command to obey their leadership.  But this would be an incorrect conclusion.  By stating that the scribes and Pharisees sit on the Seat of Moses, Jesus is not commending them personally, nor their office, but is commending the seat of Moses, which either literally refers to a seat from which teaching took place in the synagogue (probably not) or that in so much as they taught correctly the Law of Moses, do and observe these things (more likely).  Was Jesus instructing the people towards unquestioned obedience of the scribes and Pharisees?  Absolutely not, in fact, just the opposite, in so far as they were correctly teaching what Moses had instructed, this was to be obeyed by the people.  This statement implicitly sets limits on the nature of authority for the scribes and Pharisees, in that it rests not in their person, nor in their position, but from an outside authority, more correctly God’s Law/Word.  Understanding these limits helps provide clarity in our day, as well as further illuminates an oft-abused passage such as Hebrews 13:17.

However, despite teaching the law of Moses, they failed to be an example for the people to follow.  Recall that in a recent post, Follow the Leader,  we looked at Hebrews 13:7 and concluded that the recipients of this sermon were exhorted to remember their leaders, particularly in their teaching of the word, consider their life, and imitate their faith.  They were godly examples of the Christian life which were to be emulated by those surrounding them.  In remembering their leaders, we saw the Hebrews had been taught the word, but that these leaders were not only teaching the word of God correctly, but were putting into practice what they taught, thereby becoming and example to the flock.

This is precisely the opposite of what was occurring with the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  Instead of being an example, they were authoritarian, “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.”  These burdens were the man-made traditions that they had developed which they tacked on to the God-given law. Additionally, they prided themselves in their authority and elevated status as leaders, “they do all their deeds to be seen by others as evidenced by outward symbols of phylacteries and fringes, the former referring to leather boxes containing scrolls of the law and the latter referring perhaps to displays of self-piety.  They enjoyed the privileges that came with their position, “they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues.”  They loved the attention that came with their position, “greetings in the marketplaces.”  And they loved the title that came with their position, “being called rabbi by others.  

This classic example of narcissistic, authoritarian, and abusive leadership is then contrasted with the scriptural model of Kingdom leadership in verses 8-12.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

First, we see Jesus spurning the use of titles, you are not to be called rabbi.  It is noteworthy that this follows upon the statement of condemnation for the scribes and Pharisees love of being called rabbi.  The justification for this is rooted first in the authority of God, you have one Teacher and second in the equality among the brotherhood of believers, “you are all brothers” (note: brothers and sisters).  The hierarchy is not God, then clergy, then laymen, rather it is God then man.  

The familial language of brothers leads our Lord into mention of the Fatherhood of God as the basis for not calling any man father on earth.  It is doubtful that this is a reference to genealogical father’s, as in calling your dad, father, because clearly the context is religious.  While it could in fact be applicable to use this as a condemnation of the Roman Catholic notion of “father”, it could also be a reaction against the notion of spiritual lineage or offspring, apart from God the Father.  In other words, the family tree of God’s children all have direct descent from God the Father, not through descent from other men (note that Acts 7:2; 22:1 are not likely references to ecclesiastical offices).

Next, the title of instructor draws the ire of Christ, as He counters those who would bestow this earthly title on someone with Himself as The Instructor.  The ESV translation of the word instructor could also be guide or master.  While the reference to teacher from earlier likely means one who communicates information, here we have more the idea of a positional leader or guide.  It is beyond dispute that those who function as teachers, or even as leaders, is permissible in Scripture, but what seems to be in the cross-hairs is assuming these positions or having the honor of the title bestowed upon oneself.  It seems then that the elevation of one man above another, within a religious context – including instruction, spiritual progeny (1 Cor. 3:4), and master/guide – is prohibited as the position for each is already held by God.

After condemning the titles of rabbi, father, and instructor, our Lord again responds with a nearly identical statement on Kingdom leadership as the one from earlier in Matthew 20,

The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

As with the previous statement, here again Jesus means that those among you who are serving, literally deaconing, shall be the greatest.  Those who are exalted, as in the titles and positions of honor previously mentioned, shall be humbled or brought low.  Whereas, those who humble themselves will be exalted, though likely this would be by exaltation from God and not by man.

In our modern day society of Christendom, leadership is often determined by placing a man into a position of leadership, which implies that he is a leader, that he is capable of leading, and that in that capacity he actually leads.  Said differently, you’re neither considered a leader or in leadership until you have the official title as such, i.e. pastor, elder, shepherd, deacon, etc.  The most that could be hoped for is the designation of ‘lay leader’.  However, Scripture presents a different concept.  It suggests observing those who are already leading by their service, functionally we might say, and subsequently recognizing that they are the leaders.

Additionally, here we find a note of warning against our modern propensity to elevate men to an official status and title within our churches.  Commenting on this is R.T. France

Jesus thus incidentally asserts his own unique authority: he has the only true claim to ‘Moses’ seat’.  Over against that unique authority his disciples must avoid the use of honorific titles for one another (‘Christian rabbinism’, Bonnard) – an exhortation which today’s church could profitably taken more seriously, not only in relation to formal ecclesiastical titles (‘Most Rev.’, ‘my Lord Bishop’, etc.), but more significantly in its excessive deference to academic qualifications or to authoritative status in the churches. (Tyndale, pg. 325)

Given these two passages, we can now summarize the Kingdom Leadership Paradigm:

  • Leadership is not taken, it’s given.
  • Leadership is not ruling, it’s serving.
  • Leadership is not domineering, it’s submissive.
  • Leadership is not positional, it’s functional.
  • Leadership is not exalting, it’s humbling.
  • Leadership is not authoritarian, it’s exemplary.

Whatever else we read and conclude in the New Testament concerning ‘ecclesiastical leadership’, as such, must flow down stream from both Matthew 20 and Matthew 23.

Who are your leaders?   Look around, it may not be who you think.

Paneled Houses

 

[This will be a little longer post than normal.  Rather than split it up into parts, I wanted to keep the flow together as I interact with MLJ on a very important, albeit controversial subject.]

Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Haggai 1:3-6

One of the men from whom I have learned from the most is the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  His book The Plight of Man and Power of God was my first exposure to his ministry, but helped me to understand the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God.  His sermons on 1 John were an aid not only my own sermon preparation, but a balm to my own soul when I was bridging the gap as an interim youth pastor.  While his book Spiritual Depression helped navigate me out of the darkness that came with being passed over for a full-time pastoral position.  More recently, his lesser known message, Ecclesiola in Ecclesia completely rocked my ecclesiastical world, from which I have yet to recover.  Alongside this, another prominent message, placed into print, has impacted my views on the nature of the church.  It was delivered to the Westminster Assembly at Welwyn on June 19, 1963, later titled “‘Consider Your Ways’: The Outline of a New Strategy” and may be found in the collected works entitled Knowing the Times.  The text for this message has been included above, from Haggai 1:4-5.

After introducing his message, and walking through his reasons for the subject, Lloyd-Jones says, “…our tendency is to say that all is well.  We are in our ‘cieled [paneled] houses’ (Hag. 1:4); everything is all right with me; my church is flourishing; everything is going well; and we tend to forget the conditions that prevail in the greater part of the country.  I am increasingly appalled at this and troubled about it: faithful evangelical people all over the country cannot get fellowship, cannot get spiritual food, and are at their wits’ end as to what is to be done in their areas.  This is a tremendous challenge to us.” (Knowing the Times, pg. 169)

From here, Lloyd-Jones proceeds to decry various evangelical movements and societies which in his day tried to rectify these issues by unifying for various causes.  This leads him to the major question of his message: What is the Nature of the Church?

“In the light of what I have been saying it is obvious that it is the nature of the church which has become the major question and problem.  What is the Christian church?  What is the real nature of the church?  How do you decide that?  We are all agreed in saying that you can only decide the question by the Scripture, but, as I have already hinted, when it comes to the realm of practice and the realm of actual decisions so often we are influenced more by tradition and history than we are by purely biblical exposition.  We are so influenced by the need to maintain the status quo that we start with that rather than with the scriptural teaching.” (KTT pg. 178)

Realizing, with Lloyd-Jones, that this is indeed THE question that needs to be asked and answered, given the current condition of evangelicalism some 55 years after his message, has led me to read, write, and study much regarding how our practice of doing church, whether you call it liturgy or a worship service or something else, has come to be what it is.  Regardless of where we find ourselves on Sunday morning, is there anything that we participate in that looks like or even resembles anything from the New Testament?  As Lloyd-Jones points out, not only in this message but consistently in his ministry, when faced with this question we are guilty of the great error of reading our existing situation back into Scripture, our inherited position as he calls it.

“The argument is that throughout the centuries certain things have happened and developed so that we find ourselves confronted by an existing situation.  That is all right as an actual historical statement but if we make the traditional ‘existing situation’ our starting point, we face a grave danger.” (KTT pg. 178)

Looking to our present circumstances, even looking to history, particularly the post-Reformation era, is simply a blind guide.  The fact is that if we were to take Scripture alone into the Congo jungle, having no prior knowledge of what a church should look like, it would be impossible to produce what it is that we see and experience today.  Therefore we must, as Lloyd-Jones says, return to the New Testament.

After making the case that our churches are given much to the practice of expediency of the times in which we exist, rather than a consistent application from Scripture, he turns to his second great question, “What is a church?”

This is a question that I’ve Iabored long and hard over, fighting through the tendency to answer this question without reading the present situation back into Scripture.  I commend to you the series on ekklesia found in the Doctrinal Index Tab.

The answer, according to Lloyd-Jones, is that the New Testament picture of the church is, “a gathering of people who have been ‘born again’.  It is the association of people who are the body of Christ and member in particular.  It is those who are ‘in Christ’.  That is how the New Testament regards them; that is how it always addresses them.  They meet together, conscious of His presence in the midst, conscious that they are a spiritual society with the Holy Spirit as their companion, as the one who leads them, and the one who inspires them, as the one who has been given to them to lead them into all the truth.” (KTT p. 179)

This definition is a good working definition and a starting point for understanding and defining a church, or better an ekklesia.  Even using Lloyd-Jones’ definition, is it fitting to refer to a universal church?  This becomes one of his closing questions for discussion, “Is there anything spoken of in the New Testament apart from the local church?” (KTT pg. 193)  This isn’t a fringe, Plymouth Brethren, or marginalized Anabaptist asking such questions, this is the good doctor, the revered Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Again, questions like this from him is why there are 8 posts and Lord willing more to come untangling this misapplication of a universal church (see the Doctrinal Index).

Returning to our question from Lloyd-Jones on what is the church, he brings us to Acts 2:41-47.  We’ll look at this passage in depth another time, but for now conclude with Lloyd-Jones, “Now that is the church.  The people who are being saved, who believe the truth, are conscious of this change in their lives; they have been taken out of the world, and are conscious of a new life and a new outlook, and have the desire to be with others who are the same; and the others gladly receive them.”

Next, Jones asks, “What, then, are the marks of a true church?”  This is naturally the next question.  What should a church look like or how does the ekklesia function when it gathers together.  Of the entire message, this is the only point of Jones’ that I would offer push back on, mainly because the answer to the previous two questions define how this particular question gets answered.  That said, Jones answers the question in accordance with traditional reformed views, The Preaching of the Gospel, The administration of the sacraments, and The administration of discipline are the marks of a church.

Finally, after making some applications of his message thus far to the situations and occurrences of his own day, Lloyd-Jones turns to his conclusion, a series of questions, in which he clearly points out that his goal is not to suggest a blueprint or a solution, only to ask questions and point us back to Scripture as the source of answers.

His first concluding question, which we mentioned earlier, concerns whether or not the New Testament speaks of anything other than the local church (He seems to be arguing against a visible, Catholic church).  Second, Jones says that in our look at history, we must return to the first two centuries.  He cautions that much of our time has been spent concentrating on the third and fourth centuries.  One may argue that this myopic view of history has resulted in a distorted view of the church, for which we are paying the price today.  Jones’ emphasis on the first two centuries is exactly right, and the reason why in our look at the universal church theory, we began with this period in order to see how the catholicity of the church came to be and why.

Third, Jones says that we then need to re-examine the history of Constantine and his supposed conversion.  This occurs in the fourth century, but remember that we must begin in the centuries prior in order to understand the events and circumstances that led to this.  Here is where we begin to find the putrid marriage of church with state.  The Reformers, as much as we may revere and appreciate them, were wrong to limit their views of church vs. state to Augustine and more specifically Constantine.  Jones writes,

“We have to be bold enough, in the light of the New Testament teaching, to query the most honoured names among us.  We have to venture to question and to query Martin Luther and John Calvin.  It would be a pathetic condition if we found ourselves saying that Calvin could never be wrong.  We have to question everybody, not that we think we are perfect – we know we are not – but we recognize that these men were fallible as we are.  We thank God for them; we rever their memories; but we do not believe they were perfect.  And, after all, they were men involved in such a fight and conflict that they could not possibly cover the whole field, and they tended to take certain things over.  To me, one of the tragedies of the Reformation was the way in which Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli tended to take over the notion of the state church.  They did it in different ways, but I think they all did it.” (KTT, page 194)

There is much more that could be said on this enlightening point from Jones, perhaps in a blog post soon, however the take away is that we simply cannot assume the position of the Reformers and adopt that to the twenty-first century.  They were working in a context that was coming out of the authoritarian abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore, their audience was largely ignorant and unbelieving.  Why did Calvin preach every single day?  To get the Word of the Lord out to a starved and deprived people.  Unfortunately, as Lloyd-Jones so deftly points out, their position was proverbially out of the frying pan and into the fire.  In order to keep the momentum of the Reformation, avoid utter chaos from growing larger than it already had, and to provide protection against the power from Rome, the first and second generation reformers aligned their movement with the State, maintaining the concept of sacralism.

Not only the first couple generations of Reformers, but this continued into the time of the Puritans as well.  Per Jones,

“they all believed in a state church up to a point.  Their differences were about what form it should take.  We must examine whether they were not all wrong; whether their belief can be justified from the New Testament; and whether they were not guilty of accepting an inherited position.”

Though I genuinely love the Puritans, this indeed was their chief error.  They made some corrections to the positions of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, and they fought against the pretentious ‘church’ buildings of the day, but they didn’t go far enough.  What was their reward for maintaining an inherited position and then realizing its error?  The Great Ejection of 1662.  If the redwoods and oaks of the Reformation were guilty of adopting an inherited position, it is sheer arrogance to think that the same thing is not occurring in our day.  Therefore we must, must, return to the New Testament scriptures.

The final two questions that Lloyd-Jones poses are, “when does the church become apostate?” and the exercise of gifts in the church, specifically, “are we giving the members of the church an adequate opportunity to exercise their gifts?  Are our churches corresponding to the life of the New Testament church?  Or is there too much concentration in the hands of ministers and clergy?”  This section is summarized by the following lengthy, but nevertheless profound statement

“When one looks at the New Testament church and contrasts the church today, even our churches, with that church, one is appalled at the difference.  In the New Testament church one sees life and vigour and activity; one sees a living community, conscious of its glory and of its responsibility, with the whole church, as it were, an evangelistic force.  The notion of people belonging to the church in order to come to sit down and fold their arms and listen, with just two or three doing everything, is quite foreign to the New Testament, and it seems to me it is foreign to what has always been the characteristic of the church in times of revival and awakening.” (KTT, pg. 196)

As he concludes his message, Lloyd-Jones dismisses the idea that he has developed a new blueprint for the church, instead he says, “I do think…the time has come when it behooves us, indeed it is our bounden duty – because we are who and what we are and because of the grace of God to us – to face this question, of the nature of the church, together.

We cannot just go on in the position we have inherited, which we have inherited from mid- and post- Victorianism and Edwardianism.  The machine is still running so many of these things, but is it running to any good purpose?  It is for us to call a halt and to stop.” (KTT, pg. 196)

In my experience, I know of no other question that will generate more controversy, more side-eyed glances, more suspicion, than what is the nature of the church?  Assuming the inherited position is not only expected, it is enforced.  In fact some have gone so far as to suggest that one should not even ask this question, for fear of what might be found.  Jones alludes to as much in the conclusion of his message.

What then are we to do?  Simply put, a reexamination of Scripture on the nature – form and function – of the church, or as we have seen in studies here, the ekklesia.  Those in professional, paid, pastoral positions who assume the inherited position and refuse the allowance of others to Scripturally examine the nature of the church commit malpractice.   Those of us who sit amongst the pews and follow the inherited position like lemmings are guilty of a dereliction of duty.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones was not representing a fringe position in his clarion call to return to the New Testament description and teaching of the church.  His message was as relevant 55 years ago as it is now.  We would do well to follow his guidance and head his call.

 

Knowing the Times

A Kingdom Leadership Paradigm

 

In our Lord’s earthly ministry, there is much that could be commented on from the records that we have in the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John.  In fact, it is this latter gospel account that informs us that had everything about Jesus’ ministry been written down, there wouldn’t be enough books to contain them.  However, there is one particular theme about Jesus’ ministry that touches everything else He had to say and came to do, a theme that we’ll summarize as a Kingdom Paradigm (pair-a-dime).

A paradigm, in it’s most common meaning and usage, is defined as a clear or typical example, properly speaking an archetype or pattern.  Under the administration of the Old Covenant, there were certainly patterns and examples as well, but those reach their completion in Christ Jesus.  Not only did the Lord come to fulfill those old patterns and examples, but by establishing a kingdom paradigm, He came to upset or alter how we view this world and each other in His Kingdom.

Perhaps more than the other gospels, Matthew is intent upon describing and defining the Kingdom of God (properly, the “Kingdom of Heaven”).  This is summarized with the verse highlighting the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”  Additionally, the founding principles of this Kingdom Paradigm are found in Matthew 5:1-7:29, which is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount.

By the time we reach Matthew 18 in the account of our Lord’s ministry, we are given the Kingdom Paradigm regarding relationships in the Christian Community.  One aspect of these relationships that’s specifically addressed is leadership and authority within the community.  The baseline for this particular facet of the Kingdom Paradigm comes by way of a question asked by the disciples, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1)  Depending on how Jesus answered this question, would define for us the paradigm, or pattern, of the kingdom.

Notice our Lord’s response below

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of themand said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4

This instruction on humility, as the entrance requirement into the kingdom, sets the tone for the next three chapters which outline and describe the nature of kingdom relationships, including kingdom leadership.  Likely because Jesus had yet to fully open their eyes to this unfolding paradigm, the disciples fail to grasp the simplicity of this reordering, that one must become like a child, and are given second opportunity to comprehend it in the chapter that follows

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. Matthew 19:13-15

Reiterating the statement made earlier on a humble child being the greatest in the kingdom, on this occasion the disciples were given a tangible example, but again failed to fully comprehend the message.

A third example for the establishment of this new Kingdom Paradigm, comes by way of a parable, but nevertheless brings us to the same conclusion.  This parable, referred to as the “Laborers in the Vineyard” is found in Matt. 20:1-16 and addresses the principle of equality in the Kingdom, regardless of when someone enters.  Jesus’ concluding statement on this parable serves again to highlight the paradigm we’ve been discussing, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 20:16

A fourth example for this re-ordering of cultural structure and one which lands more clearly on the nature of leadership in the Christian community, builds on both the two earlier passages where Jesus indicates that that one must become like a child to enter the Kingdom and the third passage, where last is first and first is last.  This particular example comes from Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Such a request from a misguided, albeit well-intentioned mother, harkens our minds back to the opening question in this section from Matthew’s gospel account, “Who is the greatest?”  This question had already been answered, those with the humility of a child are the greatest.  The low are high, the high are low.  The rich are poor, the poor are rich.  The last are first, the first are last.  This is the Kingdom Paradigm and it most certainly applies to leadership, the servants are the leaders.

While we will look at this particular passage from Matthew 20 in greater detail in a follow-up post, suffice it to say that the Kingdom leadership paradigm, outlined here by our Lord, was  contrary to the nature of worldly leadership then, “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority” and it is contrary to the nature of worldly leadership now.  Summarily, kingdom leadership is not top-down, authoritarianism, but bottom-up, servant-hood.  This, as we will see, is not the same thing as the popular, modern notion of a servant leader, or more clearly that  leaders serve.  Instead, it is that your servants are your leaders.

Jesus’ Kingdom Paradigm is intended to cause us to view the world through an upside down or inverted kingdom lens.  What the world perceives as the proper ordering of society is power, class, or wealth.  And what they perceive as the proper ordering of leadership is authority and domination.  What Jesus establishes as the paradigm for the Christian society is to be like a child.  In kingdom leadership it is humility and service.  The very pattern for this is His own life-giving service (deaconing = [diakoneo] – more on this later) which stands as the ultimate paradigm for the kingdom and the model for how we relate to one another in our Christian communities.