One of my favorite guys and discussion partners in the world, David Fitch today posted a bit giving five reasons he saw the idea of "leadership" as it is currently used as unbiblical. I don't think it was Dave's intention to disown any concept of leadership in the church (regardless of how I may have treated him on Twitter :), but rather to argue against it's misuse.
I've noticed in the last few years a real bandwagon of anti-leadership sentiment in some circles. I think it started as a push-back to the "CEO" model/mentality in some, and as such, I'm sympathetic. But from there, it's very much progressed straight down the road paved by hurt and abuse perpetrated by poor leaders to where we have many arguing that in the church, any concept of leadership at all should be avoided.
I get where that's coming from and certainly am in favor of flattening things as much as is possible- but the truth is, there always has been leadership in the church and there always will be- at least in biblical models of the church. There will always be the community as a whole and from that community certain men and women who serve by exercising the role of (depending on how you translate) presbyter, overseer or elder.
And inherent in the concept is a sense of both serving AND leading.
We'll get to that in a second- Fitch's five reasons were as follows:
1.) THE WORD “LEADER” ITSELF IS GENERALLY AVOIDED IN THE NT
2.) WHENEVER THE WORD “LEADER” IS USED IN THE NT – IT IS SUBVERTED BY THE CHURCH
3.) JESUS HIMSELF SUBVERTED THE TERM “LEADERSHIP.”
4.) CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IS DEFINED BY THE POSTURE OF SUBMISSION- TO THE WORLD THIS IS NOT LEADERSHIP
5.) THE BUSINESS MODELS OF LEADERSHIP WILL HANDICAP US FROM LEADING INTO MISSION.
I'll let you read Fitch's specific arguments over at his blog. For now, I'll just answer with a few of my own points.
1. The word "leader" is found and used in the New Testament.
Fitch cops to the "notable exceptions" of Heb 13: 17 &24 (forgetting vs 7, though!)... but then says that other than that, leadership is about diakonia, or service/servants in the NT. No argument that a biblical model of leadership includes servanthood, but it goes beyond that. Much beyond.
Fitch says "The NT on this reading appears to carefully avoid the models of authority available in surrounding society for defining leadership in the church." However, this isn't necessarily true. One of the most common words for leader in the NT, "presbuteros", often translated "elder" could and did refer to: 1. members of the great council or Sanhedrin 2.of those who in separate cities managed public affairs and administered justice and 3. among the Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches). The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably. (here)
It's clear that when describingleadership in the Church, the most common terms were also used of leaders in Judaism (both nationally and in the synagogues) as well as the culture around them.
Further, the command was to "appoint elders (presbuteros) in every city (ie, every church community)." (Titus 1:5) Why? That they might help lead and decide the affairs of the church- 1 Timothy 5:17 -- "Let the elders [PRESBUTEROS] who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine."
Another common phrase which carried connotations of leadership in the NT was "episkopos", often translated "bishop." What were the "episkopos" to do? Among other things "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son."- Acts 20:28