Royal Leadership In The Church
The story of Saul's rise to the kingship of Israel in 1 Samuel provides
an excellent discussion on leadership that is tremendously
relevant in the church today.
Judge vs. King: What's the Difference?
In order to adequately discuss the differences between the roles of
judge and king, we must have a better understanding of what the
biblical role of judge actually entailed. To us, this term "judge"
with it the basic connotation of deciding legal matters, but the actual
of the judges was broader than that. The Hebrew word in question is spt
(shaphat, pronounced shaw-fat' ):
verb spt describes a range of actions that restore or preserve order in
society, so that justice, especially social justice, is guaranteed. ...
as a continuous activity it can be translated as rule, govern; as a
specific activity it can be translated as deliver, rescue or judge.
(a) To establish or maintain justice
(b) To pass judgment on or to punish
(c) To judge, settle legal disputes
among the people
(d) To rule, govern
As a verbal nom., ruler or judge
(a) An office in Israel
(b) The Judges in the book of Judges
(c) Rulers, e.g. of kings in general
and in Israel
Schultz, New International
Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Willem A. Van
Gemeren, General Editor, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mi. 1997. Vol 4, pp.
After the Israelites entered into the
Promised Land under Joshua, the
leaders of Israel were known as judges. These include men such as
Joshua, Gideon, Samson and others. In
Israel, the judges functioned as leaders. They were particularly
gifted and raised up specially by God for a particular purpose or need
(ref. Judges 2:16, 18, 3:10, 15, 6:12, 11:29, 13:25). When
Samuel's sons were not able to effectively serve as godly
leaders in the place of their aging father, the elders of Israel asked
all the elders of Israel
gathered together and came to Samuel at
Ramah. They said to him, "You are
old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead
us, such as all the other nations have."
But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased
Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: "Listen to
all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have
rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done
from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking
me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to
them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will
reign over them will do." (1
It may be evident that God was displeased with Israel asking for a
king, but it may not be clear on the difference between a king and a
judge or why this was so bad. The text
answers the question: The Israelites wanted a king to lead them, like
all the other nations. They wanted a royal, worldly leader like the
other nations. God was not good enough for them anymore.
Furthermore, this was a
continuation of a pattern of bad behavior on the part of the
Israelites-- forsaking God and serving other
gods. God did not command them to have a king, and if they were to have
a king, it was not to be in such a worldly manner:
from the earliest days it was recognized that
ultimately God himself was King (Exodus 15:18, Numbers 23:21,
Deuteronomy 33:5); he alone possessed absolute power and authority
(Exodus 15:6, 11; Judges 5:3-5, cf. also Judges 8:22-23). Any king of
Israel would have to appreciate from the outset that he was to rule
over Israel under God. Only on this basis of this fundamental
theological premise can the narratives of the advent of monarchy in
Israel be properly understood. Those narratives consist of the accounts
of the rise (8:1-12:25) and decline (13:1-15:35) of Saul, Israel's
first king. (Ronald F. Youngblood, 1 Samuel, The Expositor's Bible
Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, Zondervan Publishing
House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1992. Volume 3, p. 610).
The Law of Moses provided stipulations
for a king in Israel. Notice the role defined by Moses:
When you enter the land
the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and
settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the
nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD
your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place
a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16 The king,
moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make
the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told
you, "You are not to go back that way again." 17 He must not take many
wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large
amounts of silver and gold.
18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom,
he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from
that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he
is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere
the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and
these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and
turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his
descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
went on to identify the characteristics of the king they were asking
for (the format of this
highlights the enumeration of these items):
He said, "This is what the
king who will reign over you will do:
He will take your sons and make
them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of
12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of
fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still
others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves
and give them to his attendants.
15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it
to his officials and attendants.
16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and
donkeys he will take for his own use.
17 He will take a tenth of your flocks,
and you yourselves will become
his slaves. (1 Samuel 8:11-17)
We might summarize these characteristics as the following:
The Lord's instructions to
Samuel in 1 Samuel
8 demonstrate that some of these requirements from the Law weren't
going to be
Nevertheless, the Israelites were about to
put their security in the king.
While the Israelites might have enjoyed
boasting in their king and his splendor, and they probably hoped that
his army would be intimidating against the Ammonites,
there were some dangerous
shifts taking place:
- A large army.
- A large entourage of
officials, attendants and servants.
- All the trappings of
royalty- wealth, luxury, honor and the best of everything.
- Absolute control over
Israel Begins Royal
- It wasn't a rejection of
other human leaders, but a rejection of God.
- it represented a move from God-chosen style
of leadership to a man-chosen style of leadership. (Though God selected
Saul, it was not His choice to have any king).
- It reflected a move from
"regular-guy-made-mighty-by-God" leadership to celebrity, hero or
"star" leadership and the special treatment of the leader that goes
- It represented a move from task-based and
gift-oriented leadership to leadership based upon position, royalty and
- It established royalty
"overhead" (a cadre of attendants and the like), and introduced forced
taxation to maintain it.
- It represented a significant introduction of
worldliness into Israel, a slippery slope by which idolatry would
- It reduced all of Israel to being the slaves
of the king.
Samuel was directed by
God to find and appoint a king. Saul was from a family "of standing,"
"impressive" and a head taller than his peers. While we would be
correct in saying these traits are all somewhat worldly in nature, we
should be careful not to infer that he was unspiritual at this time. In
due time, his spiritual character would become evident.
was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel,
the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2
He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among
the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others. (1 Samuel 9:1-2)
So when Samuel conveyed the Lord's anointing to Saul, notice that
referred to him as "leader" and not "king." Samuel knew what type of
leadership was needed in spite of the calls for royalty among the
Samuel took a flask of
oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the
Lord anointed you leader over his inheritance? (1 Samuel 10:1)
God did not want the Israelites to have a king, out of his kindness to
his people he put his Spirit on that king anyway:
As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these
signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a
procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in
power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had
formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked
each other, "What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul
also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:9-11)
people received their new king eagerly and with great pride:
said to all the people, "Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There
is no one like him among all the people." Then the people shouted,
"Long live the king!" (1 Samuel 10:24)
The impending Ammonite threat was the
first major event for the new king. So when the Ammonites approached to
Israel, Israel's new royal leader was used by God to bring about a
The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the
last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and
slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were
scattered, so that no two of them were left together.
12 The people then said to
Samuel, "Who was it that asked, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Bring these
men to us and we will put them to death." 13 But Saul said, "No one
shall be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel."
14 Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there
reaffirm the kingship." 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and
confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the Lord. There they
sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the
Israelites held a great celebration. (1 Samuel 11:11-15)
After the victory, the happy royal
to celebrate the victory-- not by praising God but by slaughtering
their brothers who did not want a king! This illustrates the highly
partisan and divisive dynamic that comes with royal leadership.
Thankfully, Saul credited the Lord for the victory and rejected the
Royal Leadership in the Church Today
People in churches tend to identify with their leaders. Depending upon
the group, there is usually a monarchical (one-man) leader in a church.
He may have the title reflecting this primacy, such as "lead
evangelist," "senior pastor" or the like.
Even without a title of primacy, pretty much everybody knows who this
For good or bad, he is the face and heart of the church, the primary
influence of the church.
This has a natural appeal, especially to
casual members in our culture. Such a style of leadership is attractive
in many ways. Churches need
leaders, and a gifted leader
can control all
aspects of the church and build a church system that runs efficiently
However, such a leader and leadership structure can become "royal" very
quickly. This might happen through the people relying too much upon
him instead of rising up and becoming mature. Or it can happen from the
leader succumbing to pride. Leaders that are naturally gifted are
likely to be comfortable acting as a monarch, but they may
not be aware that this is not healthy for the church in the long run.
there are elders or a board for this leader to answer to, they may not
have the ability to prevent the royal leadership dynamic from becoming
reality. When that happens, royal leadership brings about numerous
unhealthy dynamics that may not be readily apparent:
- It can trump or usurp Jesus as the head of
- It can place itself ahead of elders or the
governing board (or subvert or control those groups), putting itself in
a situation where
it doesn't answer to anybody.
can introduces an "entourage" system that reinforces itself.
- It can take more than it gives, such as in
perks and benefits.
hidden mission is to entrench itself. In
such systems, phrases like "the elders are here to protect the leaders"
will be heard.
is often taught and expected, and money is the fuel
that feeds the system.
- It values loyalty to the royal leadership
over truth and
- It is divisive, dividing those who might be
loyal to the royalty versus those who might be loyal to God. People
with small character may associate themselves with the royalty, think
they're somebody special on that account, and act bold as long as they
the side of the royalty. People refusing to honor such a system due to
conscience and its unhealthy dynamics are put down and/or marginalized.
Ideally, the best way to
address this royal leadership dynamic is to prevent it from taking
hold. This means that church leaders must absolutely refuse to become
monarchs-- constantly working to build a team of leaders, involving the
most mature members of the congregation in decision-making, and
submitting to a board of elders who are more than just a rubber-stamp
on their leadership. This also mitigates against the
inevitable shortcomings and sins of leaders, who cannot be as perfect
as the ideal of the royal leader that is expected by followers.
In churches where the leader planted the congregation or has been there
for a long time, preventing royal leadership from becoming entrenched
can be quite difficult. In such circumstances, the leader may need to
resign and move away so that
the church can mature out of that leader's shadow. Otherwise, royal
leadership will become a part of the congregation's identity and
Once royal leadership is in place, there are simply two basic ways to
respond to it-- it can be embraced or
rejected. There is no middle ground. Let's consider the
Scriptural support and conditions for each
position from the story of Saul.
Those who are eager to have a royal leader are quite happy when they
have one. They are eager to give him full reign and do as he says. They
receive a great deal of security from that leader being in place.
However, what really matters is the people obeying God, not
whether they have a
royal leader and fit nicely into that structure. Samuel's
the Israelites gives us a model of how those under a royal leader ought
act if they are truly interested in pleasing God:
Then Samuel said to the people, "It is the LORD who appointed Moses and
Aaron and brought your forefathers up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand
here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the LORD
as to all the righteous acts performed by the LORD for you and your
8 "After Jacob entered Egypt,
they cried to the LORD for help, and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who
brought your forefathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place.
9 "But they forgot the LORD
their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of
the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king
of Moab, who fought against them. 10 They cried out to the LORD and
said, `We have sinned; we have forsaken the LORD and served the Baals
and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies,
and we will serve you.' 11 Then the LORD sent Jerub-Baal, Barak,
Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your
enemies on every side, so that you lived securely.
12 "But when you saw that
Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me,
`No, we want a king to rule over us'--even though the LORD your God was
your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked
for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the LORD and
serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both
you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God--good! 15
But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands,
his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.
16 "Now then, stand still and
see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it
not wheat harvest now? I will call upon the LORD to send thunder and
rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of
the LORD when you asked for a king."
18 Then Samuel called upon the
LORD, and that same day the LORD sent thunder and rain. So all the
people stood in awe of the LORD and of Samuel.
19 The people all said to
Samuel, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will
not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for
20 "Do not be afraid," Samuel
replied. "You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the
LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after
useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you,
because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the LORD
will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you
his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the
LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is
good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him
faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done
for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king
will be swept away." (1 Samuel 12:6-25)
From this passage, here are some things people under a royal leader
should keep in mind:
- Confess that the Lord
(not the royal leader) has done the wonderful acts that have benefited
the people (v. 6ff). Out of his mercy, God will use even royal leaders
help his people.
- Hardships and defeat
come from forgetting the Lord (v. 9)
- Repentance and trust in
the Lord provides true leaders and deliverance for the people (v.
- Wanting a royal leader
is evil and unspiritual (v. 12, 16-19)
- God gives royal
leadership to those who desire it, even though it is not his preferred
way to do things (v. 13). Its presence reflects a weakness and
unspirituality among the people.
- You asked for a king,
you got a king-- know that he will reign over you (v. 13).
- Fearing the Lord and
obeying him brings blessings, being loyal to a royal leader does not
blessings (v. 14-15).
- Confess that desiring
royal leadership was and is a sin (v. 19).
- Do not turn away from
the Lord but rather serve him wholeheartedly (v. 20).
- Do not turn towards
worldliness and idols even though you have chosen a worldly type of
leadership (v. 21).
- For the sake of his
name, the Lord will not reject
you for embracing royal leadership (v. 22).
- Fear the Lord and serve
him faithfully (v. 24)
- Know that if you persist
in doing evil ("persist" because desiring royal leadership is itself
evil), you will all be swept away (v. 25)
It is evident from this passage that not all
of God's people will go along with royal leadership. Though probably
unpopular, they will object
to it as a matter of faith and conscience just as Samuel and others
Today more and more Christians have a "been there, done that" attitude
after having been a part of royal leadership systems, and they are
looking for something more
spiritual and authentic. They are looking for church structures and
dynamics where the maturity of the body matters more than the "royal
splendor," and they will be as troubled and grieved as Samuel when
royal leadership becomes
apparent. There are some lessons from Samuel's talk above that give
these people some direction in addressing those under royal leadership.
However, Samuel's further
Saul instruct can give us further instructions on how to deal with
royal leadership itself when it
fails morally (as it inevitably will):
- Pray for those under a
royal leader (v. 23).
- Teach the way that is
good and right (v. 23).
- Let those who want
to follow a royal leader do so (v. 24-25).
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 "I am grieved that I have
made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried
out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD
all that night.
12 Early in the morning Samuel
got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to
Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned
and gone on down to Gilgal."
13 When Samuel reached him,
Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's
14 But Samuel said, "What then
is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle
that I hear?"
15 Saul answered, "The
soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the
sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally
destroyed the rest."
16 "Stop!" Samuel said to
Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night."
17 Samuel said, "Although you
were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the
tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he
sent you on a mission, saying, `Go and completely destroy those wicked
people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them
out.' 19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the
plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?"
20 "But I did obey the LORD,"
Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely
destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The
soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was
devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at
22 But Samuel replied:
"Does the LORD delight
in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as
in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than
and to heed
is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the
sin of divination,
arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have
rejected the word of the LORD,
rejected you as king."
24 Then Saul said to Samuel,
"I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I
was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you,
forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD."
26 But Samuel said to him, "I
will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and
the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!"
27 As Samuel turned to leave,
Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to
him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has
given it to one of your neighbors--to one better than you. 29 He who is
the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a
man, that he should change his mind."
30 Saul replied, "I have
sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before
Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God." 31
So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD.
32 Then Samuel said, "Bring me
Agag king of the Amalekites."
to him confidently, thinking, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."
33 But Samuel said,
"As your sword has made
your mother be childless among women."
And Samuel put Agag to death
before the LORD at Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel left for Ramah,
but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel
died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him.
And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1
In our day and age, "failed leadership" is practically a euphemism for
a leader committing some sexual sin or financial impropriety, and any
these are often excused as mere "weaknesses" or "shortcomings." But
failure consisted of rebellion and arrogance (1 Samuel 15:23), and
are just as serious as any idolatry or sexual sin. Unfortunately, these
are often accepted and excused as the "down side" of gifted or
visionary leaders. Royal leadership
encourages this arrogance, and arrogance will doom any leadership
in the eyes of the Lord, no matter how gifted or visionary it might be.
In dealing with a royal leadership that fails, these directives and
instructions follow from this text:
leadership in the church puts these mature Christians in a predicament.
They want to rejoice in victories God brings through a royal
leadership, but they hate to see these tainted over and over again
because of the worldliness involved. They don't want to be rooting
against God's people, but they don't want to see worldliness or the
destruction that comes from it in the church either.
- Confront the wrongdoing
and manipulations. Do not be intimidated by royal leadership, do not
excuses or blame-shifting tactics from it. Remind the royal leader that
he is nothing without
presence. Legitimate spiritual leadership is always based upon truth
and righteousness (v. 17-23).
- Reject the leadership,
not because it is royal, but because of its sinful conduct. Do not be
persuaded by shallow, self-serving justifications for bad behavior
masquerading as an apology (v. 23-26).
- Remind the royal
leader-- if he wants to be a royal leader, he must behave accordingly
or he forfeits the role (v. 27-29).
- It is ok to worship God
with the failed royal leader, in no way does it constitute an
endorsement of royal leadership or the individual (v. 30-31). God is
bigger and more important than the royal leader.
- Make things right as
much as you can, clean up the mess the failed royal leader has made if
possible (v. 32-33).
- At a certain point, have
nothing to do with
an impenitent and failed royal leader but mourn for his failing (v.
Hopefully, leaders that have
acted as royal leaders can see how unhealthy, divisive and destructive
of leadership is and can change. They could tear down royal structures
or even resign and move on to force a congregation to mature and put
leadership structures in place. But if not, they must bear the
the impact of their sins and failings.
Christians who confront royal
leadership but find it
entrenched and immovable can follow Samuel's example and have nothing
to do with it. This doesn't mean that everybody embracing royal
leadership has fallen
away from the Lord, but that mature Christians need not be bound
by such immature leadership.
The Widespread Modern Attraction to Royalty
live in a time where people look
for royal leaders in many areas.
They are called celebrities. Recently, I was sitting in the waiting
room of an auto repair shop. There was a TV on in the waiting room and
the news was on. Most people were reading magazines or papers, ignoring
the news. But then there was a story about Tom Cruise, and next thing
you know everybody was watching. Americans are hooked on the celebrity
culture. Check the covers of the magazines readily available the next
time you're in the check-out line at the grocery store.
Politicians, athletes, actors, musicians,
entertainers, and even
leaders aspire to such fame. When they "arrive," they are treated like
royalty and act like royalty. These
celebrities may have an
entourage, and cameras may follow them everywhere they go. They have
benefits and perks that most people cannot even imagine. They are
treated this way because
for some reason people have a need to have human heroes and to somehow
themselves with them.
Looking at this phenomenon, it is
easy to blame those aspiring to celebrity for acting and being treated
royalty. But this is a symbiotic phenomenon, and as in the
case of Israel looking for a king, much
of the fault lies with the people. The
next time we complain about some entertainer making millions of
dollars or some celebrity hiring people to tie their shoes in public
(so the celebrity won't be seen bending down), we should consider that
our purchases of movie tickets, CD's,
tickets and the like are what enables the whole system. The
demand for entertainment and hero-worship, backed by money paid to
satisfy it, makes the
whole system go.
Even in the Christian realm, Christians,
leaders look for recognition as a means of being able to influence
today’s celebrity culture,
even the most well-known ministers remain relatively obscure. Perhaps
the best example of this phenomenon is Rick Warren. Pastor of a
megachurch in southern California and author of the bestselling book,
The Purpose Driven Life, he has appeared on countless
radio and television programs and on the cover of numerous magazines in
the past several years. His book, with sales exceeding 25 million
copies, is reportedly the biggest selling non-fiction book in U.S.
history (with the exception, ironically, of the Bible). Yet, despite
such accomplishments, Mr. Warren remains unknown to most adults in this
country. Three of out every four adults (72%) say they have never heard
of him, including two out of every three born again Christians (63%).
For actors and artists, awareness facilitates potential sales. For
ministers, awareness fosters influence on lives. A favorable image
provides access to people’s minds and hearts more readily.
George Barna, who directed the research study, commented that the low
awareness of the Christian leaders evaluated coincides with other
recent studies showing that Christianity is losing its grip on American
culture. “You cannot make a difference in someone’s life if you do not
have entrée in that life. In our society, even clergy compete
for people’s attention and acceptance. One of the reasons that the
Christian faith is struggling to retain a toehold in people’s lives is
because even the highest-profile leaders of the faith community have
limited resonance with the population.” (Major
Christian Leaders Are Widely Unknown, Even Among Christians, The
Barna Group, 2006)
I'm not against Christians having influence
in the world. But as long as Christians are inclined to treat
their leaders in a worldly way, thinking there will be a spiritual
benefit to it, there will always be a market
for royal leadership in churches. And there will always be royal
leaders who want to accomplish some "great thing for God" by using
these worldly methods.
as Israel and the church are different, so too leadership in Israel and
the church are different. The contrasts between kings and judges
discussed here shouldn't send us on some hunt for the "one true
leadership structure" nor some attempt to correlate the various New
Testament leadership roles with the various Old Testament leadership
roles. Such an effort is beyond the
of this article anyway.
These lessons from the rise of royal
leadership in Israel
should instruct us about what kind of
leadership God likes and doesn't like for his people.
absence of royal leadership patterns in the New Testament
church should be clearly evident. The apostles and other church
planters in the Bible never stayed in one place long enough to become
"royal leaders" but instead raised up a plurality of local elders to
lead in their place and to
guard against this sort of thing happening (ref. Acts 20:30). They
would never allow anything to discredit their ministries (e.g. 2
Corinthians 6:3). But when
Christians start using Old Testament
models of leadership instead of New Testament models of leadership,
they are missing the point of the gospel and are close to negating the
Messianic ministry of Christ itself.
Everybody should know that
while royal leadership brings some benefits, it also has significant
drawbacks- it thwarts maturity,
and damages people. Where there is royal leadership, there will also be
confronting its failings and cleaning up the messes it makes. There
will also be a need to establish
healthier churches and leadership structures for those who have seen
enough of royal
leadership to know there is something better.
Those who put God in his rightful place can
also put their leaders in their
rightful place. Christian leaders can be respected, loved, learned
from, appreciated and
encouraged. But they should never be treated as royalty.