Leading or Lording

Bill Heroman, in a break from his interesting series on Jesus in Nazareth, has published challenging posts Lording it Over and Leading, not Lording. Bill is responding to a post by Alan Knox, to which he also replies in the comments. Here is a quote from Bill’s former post:

If anyone provides leadership in the body of Christ, they do a great thing, providing a wonderful service for both God and the saints. But if someone leads constantly, or exclusively, or holds permanent veto power over all decisions, then by definition I think we need to realize that such a person IS (de facto) “lording it over” the people of God. It doesn’t matter one bit whether their style is gracious or domineering. If you give all the orders, or permit all the orders, then you have, in practice, assumed the position of an earthly lord.

I have a lot of sympathy with what Bill is saying here. Lord Acton’s dictum (originally addressed to a bishop)

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

applies in the church just as much as in the political realm, if the Holy Spirit is not allowed to correct the situation. Sadly very many church leaders start out with strong individual ministries led by the Holy Spirit, but as the Spirit’s power fades they start to operate in their own power, which if not controlled quickly corrupts them and their churches.

The problem with Bill’s position is that the New Testament does teach that the church should have elders, pastors, overseers and deacons, without clarifying how these offices relate to one another. Bill’s suggestion that the role of a pastor in Ephesians 4:11 is “an exception for a very young church” is not tenable. He defends this in his second post with

But there is an “until” in Ephesians 4.

Indeed, but that “until” in verse 13 refers to the time when we “attain[] to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ” (TNIV). That is not something I have seen in typical middle-aged churches – it is something we can look forward to only in the kingdom of God. Until then Christians still need to be equipped and the body of Christ still needs to be built up (verse 12), and so the fivefold ministry of verse 11, including apostolic ministry, is still required.

Perhaps a more balanced position is that of Alan Knox:

Don’t misunderstand me, as an elder, it is not easy to lead without “lording it over” other people, but Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you.” So, it does me no good to state that I should NOT have authority over others, then go ahead and exercise authority. I must try to work this into my life.

Yes, the church does need spiritually gifted leaders. Ephesians 4:14 describes the alternative, what is likely to happen to a group of believers where the fivefold ministry is not exercised: they don’t grow out of infancy. Sadly this looks very like many churches today. What the church needs is not an absence of leadership, but leading which is not lording it but follows the proper biblical pattern.

29 thoughts on “Leading or Lording

  1. Alan probably is more balanced, I agree, but sometimes you’ve gotta push the pendulum to it’s opposite extreme to show where the true middle really is. Therefore, I won’t push my view of Eph.4 real hard, but I do have a different experience behind those ideas – topic for another day.

    My real point was realizing that Gentile Overlords were so-called because of positional power, not some particular style of governing. If you get the final say, the last word, the ultimate veto power – then you’re an overlord. Period.

    Btw, I’m pretty sure that isn’t true of Alan’s (& Dave Black’s) model for Elders. But I know a LOT of others who insist on the necessity of executive authority. The ‘check and balance’ of a decon board (or Vestry) only means a group of leaders shares that final position. “It shall not be so with you” contains a plural, and in my opinion, a collective “you”.

  2. Fair enough, Bill. You are asking the right questions, and perhaps that is the main thing.

    On the need for executive authority, I see various arguments. Perhaps someone does need to have executive authority when there are issues of sin or heresy in the church to be dealt with, but for only very sparing use.

    Then there does need to be someone, singular or a group, with a vision for where a congregation is heading and the resources to implement that vision – difficult but maybe possible in a leaderless church. Without this a church simply drifts around in circles, if not into really bad directions. Of course many churches with leaders do the same, if the leaders don’t do their job well.

  3. I agree with all those principles, Peter. Reserving executive power for rare cases works well when that power is extra-local. An apostolic principle in the 1st Century that obviously morphed into bishopics.

    Btw, my (perhaps somewhat idealistic) view of Eph.4 is that the ‘gifts’ actually train the body to share leadership and avoid drifting. Paul never pulled that off perfectly, except maybe in Philippi, but I think it’s what he was aiming for.

    Maybe it’s not supposed to be pulled off perfectly. Maybe God’s house was meant to be easily collapsable… but everybody has to bring in part of the tent, or it isn’t the tent.

    Thanks for all the interaction, dear brother.

  4. Peter, this is great stuff on leadership. I need to be reminded weekly of the importance of biblical leadership.

    I do agree with your take on the five-fold ministry of Eph. 4:11.

  5. Thanks, Bill and TC.

    Bill, you are right that we shouldn’t assume that Paul pulled off church leadership perfectly. As TC has reminded us recently on his blog, the narratives in Acts are descriptive, not normative. Indeed we shouldn’t expect any one local church to be perfect or permanent. But I still think you need to make a place for local pastors as well as for extra-local apostles.

  6. Peter – Bill – TC

    I do have some questions about;

    Five fold ministry? Can’t find that in the KJV.

    And “biblical leadership”

    How do you reconcile “leadership”
    with Jesus teaching “His disciples”in Mat 23:10
    not to be called master/leader for
    you have one master/leader the Christ?

    King James Version –
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for one is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible –
    Nor be called leaders,
    for one is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English –
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only one leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version –
    nor should you be called leader.
    your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    The Amplified-
    you must not be called masters ( leaders )
    for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.

    Jesus told His disciples not to be called leaders and none did.

    Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    His disciples all called themselves servants,
    none called themselves leaders. None? None.
    None called themselves servant-leader. None.

    Just wondering. Be blessed.

  7. Amos, read Ephesians 4:11, KJV if you like. What do you make of these five roles which God gave to the church? Do you not see them as some kind of leadership, admittedly not at all the same as the worldly kind, but still some kind of leadership?

  8. Peter – That’s a fast, fast, reply.

    I’ve come up against this monster called a
    “Five Fold Ministry” it has caused a
    tremendous amount of control and abuse
    in the body of Christ where I live.

    Because of the abuse caused by these men
    who told people they were God’s gift to them,
    it gives me lot’s and lot’s of folks to minister too.

    God’s precious ekklesia who have been burnt, burnt out,
    kicked out, and crawled out, of the religious system
    that has perpetrated this myth.

    Once again, I can’t find “Five Fold Ministry”
    Why was that added to scripture?
    Only four places in the Greek?

    And where re the Apostles and Prophets
    I’ve never met one.

    I’ve never even met a “biblical elder.”
    One who meets the qualifications.
    Much less a “biblical leader”
    When did elder=leader?
    Is that in the Bible?

    You suggest that;
    “Do you not see them as some kind of leadership,
    admittedly not at all the same as the worldly kind,
    but still some kind of leadership?”

    Nope. Not at all. I see them as servants.
    I see them serving Christ and obeying Him.

    Leadership suggests that some lead and some follow,
    and we have separation, control, power and
    the beginning of spiritual abuse.

    Talk to you later I’m going to lunch.
    Be blessed.

  9. Peter

    Have you considered the ant?

    An ant is small and insignificant.
    Or is it?

    Go to the ant, thou sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise:
    Which having
    no guide,
    or ruler,
    Provideth her meat in the summer,
    and gathereth her food in the harvest.
    Proverbs 6:6-9

    Guide – 07101 qatsiyn from 07096
    KJV – ruler 4, prince 4, captain 3, guide 1
    1- chief, commander, dictator.
    2- ruler (of one in authority)

    Overseer – 07860 shoter {sho-tare’}
    KJV – officers 23, ruler 1, overseer 1; 25
    1- official, officer.

    Ruler – 04910 mashal {maw-shal’}
    KJV – rule 38, ruler 19, reign 8,
    dominion 7, governor 4, 81
    1-to rule, have dominion, reign
    2- to exercise dominion.

    Isaiah 3:12
    …O my people, they which lead thee
    cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isaiah 9:16
    For the leaders of this people
    cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

    Jeremiah 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep:
    their shepherds have caused them to go astray…

    Jesus took the time to tell his disciples
    not to be called master/leader. Mt 23

    The Interlinear Bible-
    Nor be called leaders,
    for one is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English-
    You must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only one leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version-
    nor should you be called leader.
    your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    The Amplified-
    you must not be called masters ( leaders )
    for you have one master ( leader )
    the Christ.

    If Jesus told His disciples
    not to be called master/leader
    and someone calls them self a leader
    or thinks they are a leader;

    are they a disciple of Christ?

    Titles become idols and
    pastors become masters.

    In His Service. By His Grace.

  10. Amos, I deleted your duplicate comment, which I assume was an error. But I have read all this before, in comments on TC’s blog. Don’t you remember how I supported you on that thread when most people were against you? I am not against you here, but I don’t completely agree with you. So please don’t copy comments from other places here – keep your comments short and to the point, interacting directly with the post or with previous comments.

  11. Hi again Peter

    You are correct about seeing those comments before.
    I went back and checked.
    It was with Damian on Castle of Nutshells.
    And I did appreciate the support.

    “Leadership” and “authority” has been
    really drilled into folks and they miss out
    on relating directly with Jesus and obeying His voice.

    They often wind up serving two masters.
    And not doing very well with either.

    I apologize for violating your rules of conduct.
    And sorry for the duplicate post.

    I do have more thoughts on the “Five Fold Ministry,”
    This has been quite a thorn to deal with
    and I wouldn’t see them as short.

    Lots of questions that most haven’t been able to answer.

    I’d appreciate it if I could post them.
    If not I’ll understand.

    Be blessed

  12. My mistake, not TC’s but Damian’s. The point really is that I don’t like people pasting large chunks of other material into my comment box.

    But I am interested in your argument about leadership. If you have some short questions to ask, I would be happy for you to post them here, and maybe offer my own answers. Or I might even upgrade your questions and my answers to a complete post, if that’s OK with you. But I don’t want long essays – anyway no one reads them.

  13. Peter – Thanks

    Jesus warned us about making “the word of God”
    of non effect through our traditions; Yes?
    Mk 7:14

    I now see this as a very serious warning.

    KJV – Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    If “Five Fold Ministry” is not in the Bible;
    Could it be a tradition of men that makes
    “the word of God of non effect?”

    Men wanting to be in control said,
    when Jesus ascended on high He gave gifts to men
    and “these elders” were “God’s gift” to me. Eph 4:8

    They would call themselves ascension gifts.

    Isn’t Jesus “the gift” of God? John 4:10

    And couldn’t the gifts be the gifts of the spirit?
    the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge,
    faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, etc…
    1 Cor 12:7


  14. OK, Amos, the words “fivefold ministry” are not in the Bible. What is in the Bible is this:

    11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

    14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16, TNIV)

    What do you make of this? Since “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers”, who are you to despise their work? – especially as it is as important as “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …”? Or are you claiming that this Bible passage was distorted or added by “Men wanting to be in control”?

  15. Peter

    I was complaining to God one day about truth.
    Lord, I cried, how are we supposed to understand truth?

    There are over 2000 denominations in this country,
    every one says they believe the Bible,
    and we all disagree about something.

    Here is what I heard;

    If it lifts up Jesus ­- it’s the truth.
    If it lifts up man – it’s a lie.

    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself,
    made Himself of no reputation,
    and took on the form of a servant.

    Jesus received not honor from men.
    and said how can you believe who
    receive honor one of another.

    If I honor myself my honor is nothing.

    I seek not my own glory.

    He told His disciples not to be called rabbi or leader.
    And none did. They all called themselves servants.

    When people claim to be in the
    “Five Fold Ministry” they have lifted themselves up
    above the rest of the body. Separation.

    Titles separate, always.

    They now have received honor fom man.
    They have a reputation whether they want it or not.
    And they honor one another with titles.

    They have now placed themselves in a position
    to Lord it over others.
    And you have the beginning of spiritual abuse.

    Are there apostles and prophets today? Maybe.
    I have never met one. At lest one who had the title.

    Rev 2:2
    …thou hast tried them which say they are apostles,
    and are not, and hast found them liars:

    The one’s that I have met who had the title
    didn’t even have the qualifications of an elder.

    We are warned of, false apostles, many false prophets,
    false teachers, false Christ’s, (false anointed one’s.
    false brethren, wolves in sheep’s clothing and the list goes on.

  16. Amos, I agree with much of what you say. Those who lift themselves up as in certain offices very likely are not the ones gifted by God for that ministry.

    Nevertheless there are some gifted by God for these five ministries, no doubt including some who serve in true humility while also being honoured by ignorant humans with ecclesiastical titles. But is it wrong to refer to someone e.g. as “pastor” if he or she is truly gifted by God for that ministry? The problem comes surely when the title “pastor” is used as a pretext for bossing others around.

  17. Peter

    “But is it wrong to refer to someone e.g. as “pastor”
    if he or she is truly gifted by God for that ministry?”

    The fast answer now is; Yes, it is wrong. Very wrong.
    If someone wants to call you “pastor” run as fast as you can…
    They tried making Jesus king, he said no, and he was qualified to be king, Yes?
    Just because you have gifts and are qualified should you accept the title?
    Do “Titles become Idols” of the heart? Do “Pastors become Masters/leaders?”
    Trust and obey – Not think and decide.

    I’ve come to understand the danger to both
    those who think they are a “shepherd.”
    And those taught, they are “only” “sheep”
    and need a human “shepherd” to lead and guide them.

    In the Bible, How many people… have the title pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… referred to as pastor?
    In the Bible, How many people are… ordained as a pastor?
    In the Bible, How many congregations are… led by a pastor?

    Every titled “pastor” I’ve met also had the “title” reverend.
    Can’t find that one in the KJV either; Can you?

    Now the Anglicans really have a slew of titles; Don’t they?
    Father, priest, pastor, rector, vicar, reverend, most right reverend.
    Had a friend. Teased him all the time. Who are you today? { ; o )
    And he wore a dress and got paid for giving 15 minute sermonetts.
    Ah! Religion, It’s a beautiful thing…

    If no one in the Bible is “called or has the title” “pastor”
    don’t I help “perpetrate a myth” that is not in the Bible
    and help “the traditions of men” make the Word of non effect
    when I call or refer to someone as pastor?

    I believe you already know the word “pastor” is Greek for “shepherd.”
    “Shepherd” was a low place then, but… “Pastor” is now a high place,
    a title, a profession, a salaried position and accepted by the world system.
    Where is that in the Bible? Tradition of men? Nullify the Word of God?

    Along with the “title pastor” comes, (a few things we didn’t ask for?)
    power, profit, prestige, prominence, position, recognition, reputation,
    honor, self importance, self worth, etc. (and leaness to the soul?)
    Yes, God, gives you what you ask for – and something extra. Hmmm?

    Could these be, “those things that are highly esteemed among men
    but is an abomination in the sight of God?” Luke 16:15

    Could these be, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
    and the pride of life, not of the Father, but is of the world?” 1John 2:16

    Most, that I’ve met, started out wanting to serve Christ.
    They didn’t want to steal the glory that belonged only to Jesus.
    They just didn’t refuse it when the glory came. The tests had begun.

    A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. Pr 29:5

    Bread of deceit is sweet to a man;
    but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel. Pr 20:17

    Yes, I’ve failed a lot of tests and eaten a lot of gravel myself. Ouch! { : o (….

    “The Lord is “my” shepherd.” Psalm 23. I’m happy being a sheep now.
    And the servants get to see the miracles. John2:9 Ahhh! Peace, Joy, Love!!!

    You’ll have to admit there is a tremendous amount of
    “shepherd” burn out, for him and his family, in the religious system.
    The shepherd and his family live in this glass bubble and have to
    watch everything they do. They have to “act” in a way that either
    pleases the people (fear of man) or keeps the people in line.(Lord it over)

    Either way it is different from who they really are. (Hypocrites?)
    It’s almost impossible to heard a hundred people sheep.
    They don’t seem to respond like sheep sheep.

    Alan Knox – “it is not easy to lead without “lording it over” other people”
    It’s impoosible. (Just my very humble opinion.) Leaders=Lord it over=always.
    But, if you see yourself as a servant you let Jesus do His thing, Let Him be Lord.

    I’ve had friends of mine who just couldn’t do it anymore.
    They had to leave for their own well being.
    An Episcople priest, an Assemblies of God pastor,
    a Baptist pastor and evangelists who traveled the country.

    Lot’s of ugly stuff going on behind the scenes. You know what I mean.
    Oh, not on sunday morning of course. That’s the entertainment. The show.
    Sunday we “act” like we’re really christians. It’s the law.
    Look over there…Is that Jesus crying over what people are calling, His Church?
    Is this what he had in mind for His bride to look like? His temple? My,My…

    They were in an “office” and “position” that’s not in the scriptures.
    Pastors in pulpits, preaching, to people in pews.
    And it better be good…. Every week… My, my… stress, stress…
    CEO… Councelor… Team captain… Smiley face… etc.,etc…

    They had to try and serve three masters. Oy vey!
    Jesus, the denomination, and the congregation.
    No wonder there is so much burnout.

    Jesus already knows how to shepherd His sheep.
    He does a much better job then we ever could.

    I’m getting long winded and I’m just getting started.
    Still have to cover the dangers for “the sheep” led by a man.
    Hmmm? Those who are led by the Spirit? Are they the sons of God?

    Well done thou good and faithful; leader? pastor?

    Love and peace.

  18. Amos, I’m not sure how to answer you. Would you like me to put your last comment in a post, as a quote from you? Then we can see what answers we get, and perhaps open up a real debate. But I won’t quote your comments at length in a post without permission.

  19. Peter

    Sounds like an interesting idea.

    Let me get back to you.

    Trust and obey. Not think and decide.

    Would like to run it by some friends and to hear His voice.

    In His Service. By His Grace.

  20. OK, Amos, I’ll wait until I hear from you again. If we go with this, I expect some people will be quite hostile to you, but I won’t be although I don’t go all the way with your position.

  21. Peter

    Have you ever tried jousting with windmills?

    Don Quixote had an advantage.

    His jousting was with mythical giants.

    The giant of “the spirit of religion” is real,
    I can see the folks who blog here are
    also battling this giant. God bless them.

    Some times the giant bites back.

    I have suffered from this giant
    both while I was in the system,
    and since I left.

    Jesus said, if they hated me they will hate you.
    If they persecuted me they will persecute you.

    Does Jesus and the cross come to mind.
    He was Love and a tradition breaker.

    I’m not surprised when it happens,
    but neither do I care to give it,
    “the spirit of religion” an advantage
    over someone’s better judgement.

    Not many folks are overjoyed
    when you question their traditions.

    We wrestle not against flesh and blood.
    But sometimes flesh and blood can be
    influenced to do harm.

    Yes, thru the centuries,
    Christiandumb has been a bloody sport.

    The pages of church history
    are covered in believers blood.

    Often shed by someone who claimed
    to be a believer also. Hmmm?

    If Jesus says this might be a good time for a crucifixion
    then it will be okay no matter what the outcome.

    I don’t take it lightly and I thank you for the warning.

    I appreciate your concern. The Lord bless you.

    Oh yea – You might get some heat also. { ; o )
    Plenty of room on this cross.

    A man with nothing to lose
    is a rebellious scoundrel to those who do.

  22. great discussion!! Would like to see it continued with more voices from each point of view. As a person “in the middle” of most every discussion I get myself in, it’s beneficial for me to read and be able to see what scripture is used and how and go back to think further.

    AAmosLove – u don’t have a blog?

    Thanks 🙂

  23. Peter


    Go ahead and post the comments.

    And you don’t need my approval for anything.

    Post it anyway you like, with any comments you feel are necessary.

    We’ll see what happens.

    Be blessed.

    RANDI – ur correct – no blog just a website about;

    God’s Words of Comfort & Healing



  24. Randi, thanks for the encouragement.

    Amos, I will post some of your comments when I have time. But just at the moment time is an issue – and I have already blogged twice today, the second post is still pending.

  25. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » Is it wrong to refer to someone as “pastor”?

  26. Rafael, I recognise that every form of ministry in the church can be, and probably has been, abused by some, especially by those who want power over others. That does not in itself invalidate that form of ministry. But it does mean that the church always needs to be careful to avoid such abuses.

  27. Pingback: A New Take on 1 Timothy 2:12 - Gentle Wisdom

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