Does our leadership style set us up to fail?

22:54 Thursday Mar 5, 2015


I have heard many leaders complain that their people are talking behind their backs and unforgiving of their human frailties. They say that all the hard work and sacrifices they make goes largely unrewarded and are quickly forgotten.

Many evangelical/pentecostal Christian ministers are now facing burnout and, with no viable successors within their congregation, they see their ministry as been doomed to die when they do.

Once vibrant churches are no longer growing. Instead they are loosing even their most loyal longterm members who are quietly slinking away completely dissolution with the self-obsessed and sin-laden church management.

It is easy to blame rebellious individuals and gossip as the root cause - or even blame the Devil or a resident witch for bringing down our once vital ministry. But there is a much more fundamental problem that must be addressed by the church before we will begin to see a reversal of the current trend.

It comes down to one word: judgement. Not God’s judgement of people who are ‘speaking against the anointed’, but our continuous and damaging judgement of others, which is engrained in our leadership traditions.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. 41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~ Luke 6:37-42 (NIV)

Let me start by pointing out what should be obvious, but many of us miss. How often have you heard - including in song - the first part of verse 38 from above being used to describe the blessings you will get from financial giving?

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” ~ Luke 6:38A (NIV)

But as we can see when this verse is put into its original context, it takes on a much more sobering and sinister meaning. Let me paraphrase it to highlight its true meaning:

As you judge and condemn others: as the much derision and scorn that you pour out will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:37-38 (Paraphrased)

It sounds to me like what will be poured into ones lap is not a blessing, but is the equivalent of spiritual sewage - multiplied into a continuous unending flow.

“So”, I hear you ask, “when do we ever judge others?” In three distinct and ever more damaging and dangerous ways.

1. Perfect Leaders

Firstly, our whole leadership system continuously stands in judgement of others and sets us up for judgement ourselves.

How often have you seen someone disqualified from leadership for one of the following reasons:

  1. Characters flaws
  2. Age - or age in the lord
  3. They are ‘not yet perfect’

Each of these is a judgement that denies the work God has done in their lives and His anointing on them.

When we deny another’s anointing, even saying that their prophetic words or words of knowledge are ‘from Satan’, is this what Jesus referred to as “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3:29)? After all, it was the scribes who denied Jesus’ anointing that prompted Him to warn of this ‘unforgivable sin’.

We know that most of the time these excuses come from weak leaders who are scared of the challenge that an up-and-coming leader with a strong anointing may pose to their own authority or leadership. But it also says, “You are not yet as perfect as I am and therefore cannot be in leadership” - Oh the irony!

I even had a Bishop say, and I quote, “Wait until he has been fully perfected” when asked if I should be ordained in the church he was the head of. Personally I did not wished to be ordained as a Pastor in this church, as I am an Apostle, not a Pastor, and I don’t need to be recognised by him or anyone else: not that my opinion was asked before the question was posed. But the very statement spoke volumes about that church’s leadership style.

Just a biblical note: one is only ever fully ‘perfected’ after death - so I suppose I will be waiting a long time to be asked to be ordained by that Bishop.

Now, there are many instances when a person is truly not ready for the task they are wanting to perform, but we need a way to mentor this person into that role - not dismiss them using character assassinations and the like. Also, if you have a personality clash with the person in question, you need to ask yourself why God put them in your congregation being feed by you? Your job is always to lift them up, not to put them down.

Personally, I tend to give the loudest people charge over the very area they are complaining about with full encouragement and support. It soon exposes the real cause of the issue - which more often than not is the very person who is complaining!

When all barriers are removed for progress, including my perceived poor management, this person either makes a positive impact on the situation, which is wonderful and my management decision is well justified and praised, or they end up removing themselves voluntarily as they realise the problem isn’t as simple as they initially thought. Either way, everyone wins and no one feels belittled or disregarded.

Primarily, any leadership criteria that suggest that one must attain a certain level of ‘perfection’ before one is qualified for leadership, simply sets the current leadership up for judgement when they fail to meet those same standards in their own lives. Is it no wonder that our congregations are watching us so closely and pounce on any sign that we are hypocrites - falling short of that same high standard that we use to disqualify others.

Here’s a thought: why don’t we stop disqualifying others, clearly state that perfection is NOT a criteria for leadership, be more real with the congregation about our own human frailties and create an atmosphere in our church of openness and honesty?

I always say to Pastors, “Don’t keep telling your people to be perfect, or you will simply create perfect liars - and end up being surrounded by closed hearted, deceitful leaders. Instead, be real (open and honest) about yourself and your own issues so that the people will now feel comfortable being open about their issues and be able to receive healing.”

2. Condemnation Sermons

I cannot say how often I have heard, “If you do, or do not do, this or that or the other, then you are going to hell!”, used from the pulpit during a fiery sermon on sin and righteousness. Remember:

For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:38B

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ~ Luke 6:43-42 (NIV)

The easiest sermon to preach is one of sin and condemnation. This is probably why lazy or ungifted preachers end up always preaching these sermons.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours, to convict people of their sins and of judgement - and he is very good at doing His job!

8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: ~ John 16:8 (NKJV)

Our job as ministers of the Word of God is to ‘Feed His sheep’. We need to remember that Jesus is our example:

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. ~ John 12:47-48 (NIV)

There is a judge, but we are not that judge.

How do you think the congregation feels when you have been condemning them all on Sunday, then doing the very things you judge them for during the rest of the week?

I believe we have forgotten what it means to nurture someone in love. We think parenting is more about a system of rewards and punishments than about love.

As a parent’s desire is to nurture their own child, bringing them to maturity (a maturity where by the child loves and respects themselves so that they can now also love and respect others), so our heart as church leaders should be to nurture God’s children.

Let me ask you, “How much respect and love would you have for yourself if all I did was continually point out your flaws and treat you harshly every time you made a mistake?”

Some parents think that this is what parenting is all about - it took me years to ‘recover’ from my father’s parenting: the constant put downs, beatings and belittling insults. I grew up feeling unworthy of love and of respect. Someone literally had to tell me that I had the right to be loved and respected. What is more, it wasn’t until I had fully accepted that I had these rights that I was able to give them away (give myself as a living sacrifice ~ Romans 12:1) in order to serve God.

You cannot give away something you do not have.

If we are dysfunctional parent, we will also be dysfunctional Pastors and leaders.

Do we show our people the same patience, genteelness, compassion and love as the Father has shown us?

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~ Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

Maybe we should be going to parenting courses instead of Bible College to qualify for being a Pastor. It is not so much a matter of how much you know the Bible as opposed to how much you know God - and His heart.

3. Unbiblical Leadership Structure

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Have we inadvertently taken on the World’s leadership patten instead of the one Jesus exhorted us to.

The world’s pattern:

“The higher you are placed in an organisation, the more important you are and the more you are worth—including getting a higher pay packet. Everyone must be unconditionally subservient and obedient to their leaders.”

God’s kingdom:

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” ~ Mark 9:35 (NIV)

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. ~ Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Mark 10:45 (NIV)

The world’s management system is ‘top down leadership’:

This is signified with a triangle with the point at the topthat is, the leaders are at the top and everyone else is below them.

In God’s kingdom, leaders are ‘servant leaders’.

This is signified by an upside down triangle where—the leaders are at the bottom, subservient to those they lead.

There are no ‘chiefs’: there are only servants. This does not mean to say that no one can be a leader. A leader, however, is someone who is serving the church and its people: not the other way around. The all-important thing here is humility and attitude. They themselves must be under Christ and being lead by the Holy Spirit in all they do.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers [masters (KJV)], knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. ~ James 3:1 (NKJV)

If we want to know if we are a leader, look at how many people we are serving (i.e. doing good works for; visiting; showing hospitality; loving them with your time, prayers, grace and compassion). Also look at how many people are following us: because leaders have followers.

We are all equal in the sight of God. No one is better than anyone else.

11 For there is no respect of persons with God. ~ Romans 2:11 (KJV)

Everyone has a role to play in the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the head.

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. ~ 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

It is also important to understand that all who are Christians, that is, all those who are born again—filled with the Holy Spirit—are anointed to ministry in Christ. When the Apostle Paul is talking of the gifts of the Holy Spirit he does not stop at the fivefold ministry.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (NIV)

Also, earlier in this chapter he fully describes the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NIV)

When we as leaders and ministers, who are gifted by the Holy Spirit “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” ~ Ephesians 4:12

If we hold our people back from exercising their gifting, be it through jealousy, a desire to control or even just ignorance, we are clearly not fulfilling our role in the church. Our role is to equip the saints for ministry, not hinder them by placing expectations of absolute perfection on them before they can even practice their gifting.

After all, which one of us is perfect?

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:8 (KJV)



We wonder why our people grumble and complain; why they seem to always mistreat us and spread gossip about us. So often it feels like our people are sent by the enemy to disrupt or destroy our ministry. We also wonder why they are so ungrateful of all of our sacrifices.

We are confused at the success of others and our own church’s failure to grow and prosper. We wonder why, despite all our preaching and teaching, no one is changing and sin is rampant in the church.

Maybe it is time we carefully re-examine our leadership systems and the criteria we use to choose leaders if we are to succeed in doing the Will of God and being good stewards of the ministry he has given us - and that ministry is the people.

Maybe we need to need to re-examine the spiritual laws as they pertain to judgement:

As you judge and condemn others: as the much derision and scorn that you pour out will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ~ Luke 6:37-38 (Paraphrased)

Maybe, it is time to take a course on good parenting and grow our understanding about how to love and nurture our people to maturity in the lord.

And if we have stopped loving our people, it is time to take a break and reconnect ourselves with the Spirit of God.


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