Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



Matthew 23:8-10.  “But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi’, because you have one Rabbi, and you are all each other’s brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father’, because you have one Father, and He is in heaven.  Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders’, because you have one Leader, and He is the Messiah!  The greatest among you must be your servant, for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.  (From The Jewish New Testament)


About Brainwashing

In the Army Security Agency from ’57 to ’60, every year we heard the recording of the same excellent speech.  The speech described U.S. prisoners who had been subjected to Chinese brainwashing during the Korean War.  The Army’s chief of psychiatric studies had delivered and recorded the speech.

Purpose of our hearing the speech was, of course, to warn us against brainwashing and to encourage us to organize escapes if we were captured.

However, one detail stuck with me from that speech.  It was a question.  The Chinese first put prisoners into a holding pen for a week.  Any soldier who showed initiative was separated out and put into a maximum-security prison.  The rest went into minimum-security prison camps.  While U.S. POW’s made hundreds of escape attempts during World War II, they made no escape attempts during the Korean War from the Chinese minimum-security prison camps.

Here’s the question:  What percentage of captured US troops in the Korean War were put into maximum security because they showed initiative?   (Answer at the end of this article*)

Some of the separated troops were privates.  And several of the men who were not separated out were bird colonels.  The separated troops were the natural leaders – a small contingent in any cross-section of people. I’ve pondered on this insight about the slender leadership layer in society and applied it ever since -- especially in regard to my experience with congregations.

The Protestant Ten Percent

As an active layman, I’ve experienced quite a cross section of American Protestantism – ten denominations: Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Protestant Reformed, both major Lutheran Synods, Pentecostal, the Vineyard, First Free Methodist, and Anglican – and 29 clergymen.  Of the 29, three challenged me significantly as a layman to deepen my relationship with Jesus and to pioneer in missions.  Well, that’s about 10%.

The reality is that most military officers, most corporate managers and executives, and most clergy are not natural leaders.  They can be taught to perform managerial actions, which have the appearance of visionary, wise, and caring initiatives when the real thing is lacking.

Thus, in America, we have lots of leadership training, in all sectors of society, including the church.  But for our congregations, the question is whether emphasis on leadership training is a Scripturally appropriate activity.

Should We Have Leadership Training?

Of some 73 verses in the New Testament which deal with leadership – the words “lead, leads, leading, leaders and leadership” – only 12 deal with the responsibilities of apostleship or guiding a congregation.

The other 61 verses fit the following categories –-

God, Jesus, God’s law or godly virtues lead us.  19 entries.  E.g.  John 15:20.  I know that His command leads to eternal life.  As with Israel, so it is in our congregations, it is the Lord who wants to lead us.

Unrighteous leadership – misleading, seducing, or leading others against the followers of Jesus.  28 entries.  E.g.  Matthew 15:14.  Leave them; they are blind guides.  If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.  And Luke 19:47B.  But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill Him.  In our congregations, especially, we must be wary of being misled.

Giving directions; guiding people or animals.  5 entries.  Luke 13:15.  The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?”

Lifestyle.  3 entries.  I Thessalonians 4:11.  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,

Prominent people.  6 entries.  Mark 6:21B.  On his birthday, Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.

Shared Leadership

Regarding leadership in the NIV New Testament, the word “leader” in the singular does not appear, but  “leaders” and “leadership” do.  The New Testament seems to teach us that one-person shows are not allowed in churches.  [Yet, 13 of my 29 clergy tried to corner all authority.]   Should we conclude that only shared leadership is authorized for Christian fellowships?

The three strongest Scriptural passages on leadership are found in Hebrews:

From the New International Version:

Hebrews 13:7.   Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:17.  Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Hebrews 13:24.  Greet all your leaders and all God's people.

And the same passages from the King James Version:

7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.

17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.

24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints.

These passages from Hebrews have been cited by clergy and hierarchies as justifying their authority – and sometimes to justify power plays and other abuses.  We would have been blessed if the Anglican translators in the early 1600’s had written “them which have responsibility to you,” rather than “them which have the rule over you.”

Remember, however, that the Anglican/King James translators were consciously defending the new Anglican bishops, priests and practices.  They used their translation of the Bible to legitimize the new Church of England.  Thus, the translators wanted to stress rule.

However, the overwhelming Scriptural pattern of congregational direction is servanthood, not “leadership”.  The Bible has over 1,500 passages on serving, only 490 on leading.  In the New Testament, the ratio is 302 to 79.

Are You a Doulos?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself and his followers – especially the Disciples – as servants.  (I.e. “doulos”, slave).  The same is true in all the following passages:

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

II Timothy 2:24.  And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient,

Titus 1:1.  Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

Philemon 1:16.  Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

James 1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

II Peter 1:1  Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

Jude 1:1  Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified [it] by his angel unto his servant John:

In each passage, the word “servant” is the Greek “doulos” which means “slave”.  (The King James Version also bowed to political correctness.)  Onesimus in the Letter to Philemon was an escaped slave, doulos. 

The Slaves of Jesus

Notice who called themselves “slaves of Jesus”:




Jesus’ brothers -- James and Jude.

Thus, the organizers of the Christian church saw themselves as voluntary slaves.  That’s a far different perspective than our present American church emphasis on “leadership”.  To check on our thinking as contemporary Christians, I used the search engine at Christianbook.com to check book titles and the results were:

Leader and Leaders                         6,943

Serve and Servants                          1,894

Slave                                                  473

Note, however, that the “slave” entries mostly referred to deliverance from slavery or deliverance from the slavery of sin.  Perhaps one entry in 20 used the Scriptural teaching of a “slave of Jesus”.  And to point out the obvious above:  Current American Scriptural commentaries on leadership and servanthood reverse the Biblical ratios.

Servant of the Servants of God

If we find “slaves of God” an indigestible concept, at least we could endorse the wisdom of Pope Gregory I, the Great.  One of his titles for the pope was “the servant of the servants of God.”  That puts things perspective.  For Christians, an organization chart should not a towering pyramid, rather it is a “V”.  The more rank a person has, the more responsibility must be assumed, along with a position closer to the bottom of the organization chart. 

The people with the most responsibilities to the fellowship have at least the following tasks:

+            Discovering of the Lord’s will,

+            Determining to follow it,

+            Testing their understanding of the Lord’s will with the members of the fellowship,

+            Assuring consensus and gaining commitment among the members,

+            Assuring that legitimate needs of all members are being met,

+            Walking with each brother and sister through pain, crisis, loss and joy,

+          Assuring that everyone is equipped to meet the challenges personally and within the fellowship; challenges from God, satan, fellow believer, enemies, and from our own cravings.

+          Aiding each brother and sister to discover his or her calling; aiding each to follow that calling; aiding each to stay delivered from the sin that entangles him or her.

+            Getting everyone fully involved and working together,

+          Assuring needed funding, facilities and supplies, through the prayer and effort of the fellowship; assuring that funds and provisions are used wisely for the benefit of all.  (Note:  Christians do this for their church organizations.  Mormons do it for the whole fellowship.)

+          Checking regularly to assure that the fellowship stays in the Lord’s will and effectively carryies out the mission.

+            Assuring that the fellowship does its part in carrying out the Great Commission.

+            Celebrating together the blessings of the Lord.

In a conventional American congregation, these assignments are an impossible load, because we are a fragmented, individualistic society.  We may expect the Pastor to do the whole job.  He can’t.  The laity is usually of little help.  Typically, urban church members do not see each other during the week except at events in the church building.

Realities of Servanthood

In Christian community living, however, these responsibilities are essential and natural.  They also can work effectively in a small town, if “community” is a reality and not a theory.

Regarding those dozen tasks, devout, effective church organizers have followed St. Paul’s example and done them.  But, so have some effective CEO’s and foremen, nurses and teachers, generals and sergeants, explorers and coaches.  But those who do them well are as rare and as treasured as emeralds.

Tip:  When you find a “leader” more concerned about status than productivity, you’re probably with a “leader” who isn’t.

Our congregations easily take the corporate or military structures as models for church organizations.  But, this is patterning ourselves after the world, when we should be setting new patterns for the world.

The difference between “leaders” and “servants” is not just a matter of semantics.  It’s a mind-set and heart-set.

How do we choose leaders in our congregations?  Many times, it’s by self-nomination.  We’re so starved for people who will take over tasks that we welcome anyone who volunteers.  Also, we tend to have the American attitude that anyone who is financially successful must be wise and can therefore be trusted with responsibilities.  So, in churches we often find the Boards of Elders and Deacons stocked with CEO’s, entrepreneurs, attorneys, MD’s, Realtors, and executives from corporations, universities, hospitals and non-profits.

In my experience, we don’t ask people the right questions before trusting them with responsibilities in our fellowships:

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior?

Are you faithfully following Him as your LORD?

Are you experienced in having prayers answered?

Are you experienced in navigating through the Bible to discover the LORD’s will?

Who have you led to the LORD?  What have been the results?

What is the Scriptural pattern?  In the Gospels and Acts, we see that at best, it’s the LORD’s calling a person.  Also, it happens when Elders recognize and appoint those who have shown the fruit of the Spirit.

Problems with “Leaders”

When we call those with responsibilities “leaders”, side effects occur:

-  Through leadership training, people may be inaccurately flattered into thinking that they are leaders.

-  The rest of us may think, “Oh well, she’s in charge.  I don’t have to do anything anymore.”

-  The person named to a leadership position can mislead himself or herself into thinking that they now can take authority, as well as responsibility.  (Of course, responsibility reqires authority, but damage will result if authority is used to manipulate people.)

-  If the “leader” is the pastor, he or she may need to have final say on all decisions – which will damage the health of both the church and the pastor.

-  If leadership centers in the pastor, worship can become performance art, rather than the congregation’s celebration of their life together in Jesus.

Understandably, we don’t have classes in our congregations on “Slaveship Training” or gatherings of “Slaves for Jesus”.  Very un-PC, and probably no one would attend.  But, with an understanding of servanthood, our church lives don’t have to be so hectic and exhausting.  Here are examples from my experience – where those with responsibility took initiative because (1) they were led by the Lord, and (2) the action was right and natural in the situation.

Victory Outreach in Mt. Auburn

Since 1996, the Lord has been calling me to live in Christian community – sort of a Protestant monastery.  In 1997, my wife, Margaret died.  But it wasn’t until 1999 that I had the courage to explore possibilities.

For six months in ’99, I lived at Victory Outreach in Mt. Auburn.  Victory Outreach was a church, a residential treatment program, and Christian boot camp for redeemed alcoholics and addicts.  It was probably the best urban seminary in the Nation.  This church had a passion for bringing people to Jesus and to recovery. 

We trained to go to the roughest places in town, find lost street people, and give them a message of hope in Jesus.  Our Pastor, Ronnie Lott, and his wife. Patricia, went with us.  And none of us were as gutsy in confronting pushers, addicts and prostitutes as Sister Pat.

We were passionate about salvation because we wanted to bring our brothers and sisters to Jesus before they died or He returned.  We assumed that their deaths or Jesus’ return could happen today or tomorrow. Victory Outreach is one of only two churches I’ve known which took seriously the responsibility to bring the message of salvation to the streets.

Example:  I was with our Home Director, Brother Ralph.  We were on Linn Street in the West End on a warm summer evening.  We spotted a very wet alcoholic clinging to a parking meter.  Brother Ralph walked up to him and said, “Brother, a year ago, I was in worse shape than you.  If you want to get off the sauce, take Jesus as your Savior right now and come live with us.”

We talked with the man for a while.  He chose to cling to the parking meter and the sauce.  But, Brother Ralph had made a difference in his life.  Before our conversation, he probably had no hope.  Now, he had hope.  And we met others who did accept our invitation.

Vineyard Central in Norwood

Then, for the next six months, I lived with Vineyard Central in Norwood – the only Vineyard congregation in the US with communal living.  It was a mellow place, with lots of opportunities to explore the Lord’s love and power.

Example:  Cater-corner from the church and our communal residences was Hap’s Place – a noisy bar. Every weekend evening there was noise and street fighting.  The police drove past regularly, and the resulting silence lasted at least three minutes.  Afterward, the noise still kept us awake.

We schemed about how to get control of the situation: (1)  Harass the Xavier University professor who owned the building by getting the Norwood Building Department and Board of Health on his case.  (2)  Buy the building and evict the bar.  Or, (3) manage the property for the professor and evict the bar.

In prayer together, the Lord gave us a different leading:  Be present; be in prayer.  We realized, we could do that.  We owned two of the four corners and had the right to sit on our sidewalks.  So, for the summer of 2000, we had a sign-up sheet at Saturday evening worship. We did two-hour shifts in pairs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. 

We sat.  We strolled.  We prayed.  We talked with neighbors and each other.  It was pleasant and fun. The noise and fighting mostly stopped.  After the summer was over, we ended our vigils.  And here was the miracle – the noise and fighting did not recur.  It was great to discover that, as Christians, we can take authority over evil and win.  Now, six years later, Hap’s place is entirely quiet.  It has become a Norwood Police Substation.

Messiah House in Over-the-Rhine

After a year at home, I did another one-year stint with a Vineyard mission home in Northside.  But, the vision the Lord had given me was for a communal Christian home in Over-the-Rhine.  No problem.  I had a 2,200 square foot home at 213 Orchard.  I’d use my home and call it Messiah House. 

From experience, I know that Christian community is my natural, sensible lifestyle.  St. Paul accurately tells us that, apart from Jesus, we are slaves to sin.  We are all addicts.  The difference between suburban sin/slavery and slum sin/slavery is that suburbanites tend to have respectable addictions.  We all need protection from the world, the flesh and the devil.  We can stand almost anything but freedom.

For two years, I tried to recruit others to live in community, including several from our congregation.  No takers.  I continued – at times – in prayer.  In the fall of 2004, my prayers were answered.  Brother Eddie, who had been my Home Director at Victory Outreach, came to me for help.  I invited him to move in.

A couple of weeks later, Brother Brandon showed up, a young man who had grown up at Prince of Peace Lutheran.  We welcomed him.  Brother Tom joined us a couple of times a week for dinner.  He was staying at the Mt. Airy Shelter and was miserable.  He asked whether he could move in.  We prayed about his request and the Lord encouraged us.  We welcomed Brother Tom.

Tom was engaged to Carolyn.  On December 19, 2004, they were married, and we encouraged them to live at Messiah House.  They do the shopping and cooking.  Brandon and Eddie called Carolyn “Mom”, but I told her she’s really Wendy with the four lost boys.  We put in half our earnings to cover household expenses.

We gathered from 8 to 9 a.m. weekday mornings for Bible study and prayer.  It was easy and natural for us to have several conversations a day about Scripture or Jesus or a friend who needs Jesus.  We give each other a lot of prayer and encouragement, time and concern and love.

We became an intentional family.  As such, we didn’t think in terms of “leadership”.   When the Lord nudged me – His usual way of getting my attention – I knew that I should bring the matter up with the group. But, that wasn’t my special prerogative.  Each of us could and did bring up matters to the group.  We discussed them, prayed about them and decided together.

Consider what we didn’t need:  Slogans, fund raisers, mailings, staff, budget, denominational reports, endless meetings, organization charts, job descriptions, etc. etc. etc.   Life together in Christ doesn’t have to be such a strain.

For years we had easy sailing.  Our big challenges lay ahead.  Should we grow?  Should we renovate the basement as a dorm for men?  Should we take in men who have just come out of prison?  Should we take in other couples?  If we would really grow, should we move to a big location, with big capital costs and large monthly expenses?  We sought the Lord’s will.

I had rewound my guts to finance and renovate the basement as a living area for four to six men.  But, in prayer Brother Eddie received a word from the Lord about the issue:  “Rent apartments in the area.”  Do cluster housing.  If all residents in an apartment work, then the apartment finances itself.

With cluster housing, we could all gather each morning for prayer and Bible study.  We could eat together several times a week.  We could do ministry together evenings and weekends.  A beautiful solution from the Lord:  No budget, no mortgage, no loan payments.  But lots of praise and joy.


*   What percentage of captured US troops in the Korean War were put into maximum security because they showed initiative?  Answer:  About 5%.


Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2010 by Jack Towe

Note:  This article was originally published in Leadings on November 8, 2010.


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