the weblog of Alan Knox

Don’t confuse a leader with a leader

Posted by on May 29, 2013 in blog links | 5 comments

The church has a leadership problem. There are well-trained, educated, articulate, and organized people who are often recognized as leaders among the church. There’s just one problem: these may not be the real leaders among the church. Oh, they’re making decisions and making plans and casting visions… but, according to Scripture, is that what leading among the church is all about? I don’t think so… and someone else agrees with me.

Who? Well, for one, Arthur at “The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia” agrees according to his post “A Lack of Leadership.”

In his post, Arthur writes:

I am also not saying we don’t have any leaders in the church at all. We certainly do! What we lack is a recognition of people who are actually leading in the church through the Biblical means of service and example in favor of focusing on people based on position and title.Those are the leaders, the people who live and love as Christ lived and loved as best they can. It is the example of your life, the way you live, that makes you a leader.

The church is full of leaders and those leaders rarely if ever make demands of deference to their supposed “authority”. Say what you like and dress it up all you want in religious jargon but someone who is more concerned with people “submitting to their authority” than they are with serving people in humility and love is not a leader in any Biblical sense.More pointedly, the more you have to remind people that you are a leader, the less of a leader you really are.

Think about what Arthur is saying. Among most church organizations, there are positions of leadership, and people are placed in those positions of leadership, and those people perform certain functions and duties based on their particular positions of leadership.

But, that’s not the kind of leading that we find in Scripture. In Scripture, serving is leading, and leading is serving. I’m not talking about “servant-leadership.” I’m talking about serving – actually serving other people. The real leaders are the ones who are serving others.

If we follow the example or teaching of people based on their position of leadership, then we are not following leaders as described in Scripture.

Instead, according to Scripture, we follow the example of people’s lives as we see them serving others. This is leadership, and the proper response to this scriptural leadership is to serve others as well… to see others serve and then to follow their example.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-29-2013

    A leader who is easily confused is not much of a leader;)

    As I recall, scripture doesn’t say much about being a leader. It tells us we have an opportunity be an example. Or the corollary, be a follower of someone else’s example.

    The head of an organization is not much of an example to the members of the organization, except as an example of being in charge.

    In the context of most churches, the members don’t need an example of a good pastor to follow. There is only room for one at the top. They (we) need an example of one who is following Christ (sonofagun, we’re back to serving again). This is not easily seen from the distance most pews are from the pulpit.

    Let the heads of the organizations exercise their prerogative to direct the organization. Let us determine to follow the example of those who follow Christ.

  2. 5-29-2013

    Great post Alan! I love it!

    My question is this:

    Should we look at Jesus’ life as the example of leadership that we should follow?

    What I mean is this. Some people might say that Jesus spoke about God to great and small crowds alike. They might say that he traveled from place to place sharing the gospel. They might also say that he directed the disciples to go here and there and to do this and that (i.e. he delegated responsibility to others). Should true biblical leaders be doing these sorts of things as well? If so, some people might argue that the modern concept of a pastor satisfies the biblical example of leadership as exemplified by Jesus’ life. What do you think?



  3. 5-29-2013


    I know Arthur, and you, are speaking to the common usage of the word, but I have found that the automatic response of folk is to simply fall into the trap of assuming that if a person is recognized as “leader” everyone else are “followers”, or as one pastor put it “the hoi polloi”.

    There are better words for us to use in the context of Body life: mentor, example,or, as long distance runners such as yourself would understand, pacemaker. Actually, I like that one; a disciple following his Master and exemplifying the original Pacesetter,Jesus.

    Of course, none of these, and I’m sure there are better ones, imply the element of superiority, or, being of better quality, as the word “leader” does.

    Probably the best word would be “servant of servants”! My imagination goes into top gear when I think of a newspaper reporting that so-and-so has been called to be “a servant of the servants”.

    Hard on egos, but at least,consistent with Scripture.

  4. 5-30-2013

    I’ve often said that elders are ones who are ‘eldering’. Look for those who are already functioning in such a role. I suspect that was what Paul did when he chose elders and what he expected Timothy to do as we’ll. The church today would do well to acknowledge the elders among them and so honor them rather than canvas the local body for willing suspects to be voted into a position.

    Obviously, Alan is speaking to other examples of leadership as well. This is just one of my particular soapboxes. There are also those whose responsibilities require administration. Such roles are often combined with others. Often there is little or no correlation with the actual gifting and/or maturity.

  5. 6-2-2013


    There are a few passage about “leaders” among the church, and they are all related to serving others.


    That’s a good question. I would suggest that speaking with large crowds did not make Jesus a leader, at least not in the way that he described what it means to be a leader. That doesn’t mean it is wrong to speak with large crowds.

    Aussie John,

    Ah, yes, that’s the other side of being a real leader (servant) among the body of Christ. It means that you are willing to follow others as well.


    Yes, there are many different ways to serve others, and we can learn from and follow any of those examples. For example, my wife often leads me when it comes to physically serving others.