Leadership is probably rated amongst the top priorities in churches worldwide. Churches today are endlessly engaging in encouragement and training programs for young new leaders and seeking strong leaders to take their church to the next growth phase. People love to unite behind men and woman that can inspire, motivate and enthuse them. People want to identify with the success of others.
Unfortunately the leadership pattern in most churches today is distorted from Scripture.
The leadership structure of most churches has a hierarchy of one man in charge and a group of ministers who support him. These ministers form an elite group that is close to the leaders and the individual church member is isolated. Only special members often get to spend time with the leader. The relationship of the church member is also isolated from direct contact with God. Rather the individual can only approach God, or hear from God, through the leader or through his ministry.
However, God never intended His church to work in such a way. The Lord warns us about such leadership structures with the story of King Saul. But before we investigate Saul, let's find out who the true leader is.
John 14:26(26) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 16:13(13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Ephesians 5:23(23) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
The Bible is quite clear, Christ is the head of the church and He will lead His church with His Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man, no other man, pastor, deacon, elder or leader can ever take that place.
1 Timothy 2:5(5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
In the book of Revelation, Christ and Christ alone is found standing in the midst of the Church.
Revelation 1:13(13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
Revelation 1:20(20) The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
The problem starts when men want to choose their own spiritual leaders instead of leaving the choice to God. Before the disciples had the leadership of the Holy Spirit they made this very mistake. Judas committed suicide and someone needed to replace him according to Scripture. Peter addresses the crowd and they make the wrong choice.
Acts 1:21-26(21) Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
(22) Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
(23) And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
(24) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
(25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
(26) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Funny enough Matthias is never again mentioned in the Bible. Paul is however later on confirmed as the true apostle to replace Judas. He is not chosen by men but by God.
Galatians 1:1(1) Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
When God puts a man into an office or ministry, it does not matter if other men agree with it or not. It does not matter if he was voted in or voted out, the person remains called to that ministry until God decides differently. As Christians, we can only recognise a God given ministry or calling. We cannot train someone into it, we cannot decide who will have it and it does not matter if we vote for it.
Now, let's return to King Saul and how God points out the false leadership and how it relates to the church today.
1 Samuel 8:1-6(1) And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
(2) Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba.
(3) And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
(4) Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
(5) And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
(6) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD.
At first, it seems the elders of Israel had good reason to plea with Samuel. From a human perspective, the situation looked dire. Samuel was getting old and his sons were evil. Who was going to lead Israel? Notice even Samuel, even being a true prophet, made the mistake of putting his sons in positions of authority that did not belong to them. But we should learn to put our trust in God. He knows our every need and He will always provide what we require.
Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
God is long-suffering and patient with us but If we do not trust in Him for leadership and put His will before our will; He gives us over to our foolish desires and we will have to face the consequences. We might get what we want, but we miss God’s purpose and plan for our lives.1 Samuel 8:7(7) And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
The Lord gives Israel the desire of their heart and grants them a human king. Here we now find how the leadership structure of man looks like. In the next couple of verses, all the characteristics of human leadership are pointed out. We should take note of them and identify it when evaluating the leadership we found ourselves under.
1 Samuel 8:11-17(11) And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.(The people will trust in what is said and propagated by the people in their own community who have been appointed to leadership positions by the main leader. But not even David recommended this. Psalms 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.)(12) And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.(A hierarchy of ministers, assistant pastors, deacons and youth leaders is build up to give structure and order to the assembly)
(13) And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.(There be a lot of ladies involved in all sorts arrangements at all the church events and there will always be enough food going around)(14) And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.(The assets of the community will be used to grow the ministry)
(15) And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.(Their ties, intended for the Lord, will now be used to grow the church)
(16) And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
(17) He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
Yes, structured human leadership might work to manage and organise a large number of people. But it only helps as far as keeping the church ceremonies and events running smoothly. The message from the leadership is conveyed effectively and orderly. But the message is filled with church dogma and false doctrine. There is an elite ministry that mediates between the individual and God.
The true church of God has historically never been very large. Rather it has been a large number of small little groups. God’s power is always demonstrated by the minority conquering the majority. Gideon used only the 300. Samson was one against many. Adino the Eznite slew 800 men with the power of God. Actually, large numbers are rarely, if ever, an indication that God is with them. The Bible warns us about this phenomenon:
Matthew 7:13-14(13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
(14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
God is in the midst of the true church even if it is small. He is more concerned about the glory it might bring to His name that about the numbers.
Matthew 18:20 (20) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Paul often talks about the church in the house. You cannot fit a large number of people in a house. It's designed for a close knit family.
Romans 16:5(5) Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:11(11) For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1 Corinthians 16:19(19) The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
The church in China, the country with the largest population, only survived persecution by having small house church assemblies.
The great downfall of human leadership is shown as Samuel further explains to Israel the consequences of their choice.
1 Samuel 8:18(18) And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
At the time when you most need God, He will not listen. This is probably the saddest state of the human race.
Let's see how the depraved state of false leadership is further illustrated by this story.
1 Samuel 8:19-20(19) Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
(20) That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
We must realise that the majority of the people who find themselves under false leadership, want it that way. Few will realise their condition and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah 5:31(31) The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
People are inherently lazy. They want someone to do their religion for them. All they want to do is attend the ceremony, feel inspired and lifted up. They never grow in their knowledge of God and they continuously compare their lifestyle and level of spirituality with others. Paul warns us about this.
2 Corinthians 10:12(12) For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
The system of human leadership does not start off with a strong leader directing and growing a church community. Rather it starts from the bottom up. People want a human leader to lead them. The intention of people starting such organisations might be sincere and genuine, but because it is Biblically flawed in its foundation, the very nature of the system corrupt the leaders and the people. Politics works much the same way. Good and honest men eventually have to succumb to the mechanisms of the system they have created to keep their position and to please the people. The system does not grow primarily because of a movement of God but because people find in it common ground, acceptable views and opinions that match their lifestyle and which allows them to be accepted socially. Eventually, the system is directed and guided by the majorities’ opinion. In such a system a good leader is able to continually identify what will please, entertain and excite the people. The people then lift up the leader instead of God. The people do not build a relationship with God. Their knowledge of the Bible, God's commandments and a spirit lead life remains weak.
Saul became king, a short while after he was following his own will and not the will of God. He was lifted up in a place of authority by the people. This made him proud and selfish
1 Samuel 13:3-4(3) And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear.
(4) And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal.
Saul directs the praise to himself instead to Jonathan who deserved it. Because he is placed in authority by the people, he is bound by the people to please them.
1 Samuel 13:11(11) And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;
How many times have you done something just because everyone else was doing it, or because it was the “acceptable” thing to do? Or how many times have you done something because you feared what others would do or say? Because of the influence of the people who chose Saul as king, he bows to the pressure. Pilate did the same thing and it leads to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:
Mark 15:15 (15) And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified.
God is so against this type of system that he hates it. In the early church the deeds of this human leadership were rejected but later on, it crept in subtly and became a doctrine.
Revelation 2:6(6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:15 (15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The Lord identifies it as deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans. The definition of Nicolaitans is “to conquer the laity”, in other words, to conquer the people of God. This is done by removing the true leadership of the Holy Spirit and replacing it with human leadership.
There is a true Biblical oversight of the church and Peter explains it as follows:
1 Peter 5:1-3(1) The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
(2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
(3) Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
This does not point to one man leadership of a church, rather to living as an example to others. It talks about elders (plural), not one man. Elders provide guidance, advice, and scriptural teaching to the rest of the church who is not fully mature yet. Their lives are examples to the younger believers and they can be examples because they have walked a close personal walk with the Lord. Through their own personal trials and experiences, they can show the rest of the church how God’s promises are fulfilled and what He expects from us as it is written in the Bible.
With one man leadership knowledge of the Bible is suppressed and replaced with man made dogma. Again we see the example in the story of Saul. The whole army of Israel goes to battle the Philistines but no-one has swords except Saul and Jonathan.
1 Samuel 13:22(22) So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
The Bible likens the Word of God to a two edged sword. Here we have the classic example of people having to face the enemy but they don’t know the Bible.
Ephesians 6:13-17(13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
(14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
(15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
(16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
(17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Without knowing the Bible people can also not have the correct faith.
Romans 10:17(17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The story of Saul shows that the wrong leadership does not glorify God and so called church leaders often surround them with the wrong people.
1 Samuel 14:2-3 (2) And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men;
(3) And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD'S priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.
Who is Ichabod why is he specifically named?
1 Samuel 4:21 (21) And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.
This verse shows us that human leadership surrounds itself with people that do not glorify God. A typical characteristic of a church led by human leadership is nepotism. How often have you seen a pastor of a church and then the son of that pastor also ministering in the same church? Ahiah was respected simply because he was the family of Eli. Even though Eli was a true prophet it doesn't make his sons or any member of his family automatically right with God. We have to judge each individual by their fruit. However, in this religious man made system, with Saul at the head(and any religious system for that matter), people have greater respect for who the people are, rather than for the Word of God. The ultimate religious system with human leadership is the catholic church. It has the largest following on earth with approximately 1.2 billion people. Yet God is not impressed with it and its doom is prophesied of in Rev 18.
We have to be led by the Holy Spirit to have the victory over the forces of Satan. God has a plan and a purpose and only those that are led by His Holy Spirit will know what to do when the time for battle comes. Remember John 16:13 - He will guide us into all truth and show us things to come. This way we are prepared while the rest remains ignorant in the day of battle. They will be caught by surprise. Jonathan and his armour bearer went on to fight the Philistines. The rest of Israel didn't even know he was gone. Even so do some not even know that there is a great enemy that needs to be fought, much less do they know how to defeat him. The Spirit speaks to the last church age, the age that we are living in and describes exactly the same condition:
Revelation 3:17(17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Saul instructed to utterly destroy the Amalekites. He disobeys and keeps some of the sheep and cattle. Yet as with the above when he speaks to Samuel it is as if He has done nothing wrong. In his own eyes, he is righteous and totally ignorant of his sin.
1 Samuel 15:13-14(13) And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
(14) And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
Another big problem with the human leadership is that one person (the leader) makes a mistake and goes on a wrong path and a whole multitude follows in that error. If we have the leadership of the Holy Spirit the Lord has various ways to guide us and He can even use a fellow Christian to show us our mistake. In a religious system, people lower down in the hierarchy cannot tell people higher up of their mistakes. It is seen as opposing the church or being jealous, judgmental or self-righteous.
In God's system, there is one authority and that is His Word. Everyone has to submit to it no matter who you are, great or small. God is more concerned whether you are obeying His Word and not what can be achieved by a man made religious system.
1 Samuel 15:22(22) And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
Man made religious systems often have wonderful worship services where they sacrifice their songs of praise. The people feel anointed but their obedience is lacking. They will have to face the same consequence as Saul:
1 Samuel 16:14(14) But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
If we continue in error eventually God gives up on you and leave you to believe a lie.
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11(10) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
(11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
The Bible warns us of a great tribulation where this man made religious system will persecute the true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 24:21(21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Again the story of Saul shows how the leader of the man made religious system persecutes the anointed of God.
1 Samuel 18:11-12(11) And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.
(12) And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul.
Are you part of Church denomination or a group that follows the teaching of some great teacher or prophet? Even if the teacher or prophet was correct and true, the man made system build around the ministry is false. Test your Church leadership with the Bible, make sure you are led by the Holy Spirit for He promises to show you the truth.
If you find yourself in such a system, there is only one thing to do:
Revelation 18:4(4) And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.