The Fuhrer and the lambs

The cracks in the Evangelical Church are beginning to show. In the last year we have seen Evangelical's reject the doctrine of hell and claim the exact date of the second coming. These doctrinal deviations, however, are nothing compared to the widespread moral depravity that we see in the Church. Divorce rates and sex outside marriage are just as high in the Church as they are outside of the Church. Shame on us. We must realize, before it is too late, that changes need to be made in the Church.

Leadership in the Church is where the first changes need to start happening. Our current model, largely understood from a business perspective, is inadequate and does not match the pattern found in Scripture. To be fair, there is no clear model for church leadership in the Bible, but there are certain outcomes that we should expect if the model is working in practice; for example, why is it only the gift of "pastor" that gets a special designation? Are there not many members in the Church with different gifts (Rom. 12:3-8)? The problem with the current church model is that it makes a "pastor" into "the Fuhrer," which Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to in his radio address on the Fuhrer Principle. The basics of the Fuhrer principle are that people are looking for a leader to be their Savior but the leader must never allow this to happen.
A true leader must know the limitations of his authority. If he understands his function in any other way than as it is rooted in fact, if he does not continually tell his followers quite clearly of the limited nature of his task and of their own responsibility, if he allows himself to surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol–then the image of the Leader will pass over into the image of a mis-leader, and he will be acting in a criminal way not only towards those he leads, but also toward himself. The true leader must always be able to disillusion…He must lead his following away from the authority of his person to the recognition of the real authority of orders and offices…He must radically refuse to become the appeal, the idol, i.e. the ultimate authority of those whom he leads (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, pg. 141).
Too many pastors see themselves as the "Chief" Shepherd caring for the lambs of their flock, when really they are setting themselves up as idols. Servant leadership, recently popularized by the Global Leadership Summit (Willow Creek Association), is what is needed in today's pastors. Unfortunately the outcome of Servant Leadership has ended up like the outcome of asking someone about their greatest weakness, it is twisted to make them look better. Typically we think of leadership in terms of followers. We consider someone a great leader if they have a large number of followers, but that should not be the definition. Leadership, as it relates to the Church, should be about putting the "followers" first. It should be about finding the gifts of every individual and making sure they are using it. A pastor should be finding people to preach, instead of doing all of the preaching himself.

It is probably true that most people in the Church do not want to be a participant. Countless stories of not being able to find volunteers and the apathy of most church members abound, but that will not get any better with the current model. Christians need to see that it is not the pastor who is in full-time ministry, it is them. Pastors need to understand their role in building up the Church and not building up their Church. "He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12)."


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