(Presented at the 2011 KY/IN Christian Fellowship)

The assigned text is Hebrews 13:17  “Obey your leaders and defer to them: for they are tireless in their concern for you, as men who must render an account.  Let it be a happy task for them, and not pain and grief, for that would bring you no advantage.”

As we begin to think about elders and leaders consider a couple of situations with me.

  1. While working at Woodland Bible camp and especially during Senior Citizen’s Week of 2008, Janell and I received a call that our 15 year old granddaughter was to have surgery early the next week to remove a tumor in her abdomen.  There was concern that it might be serious.  The camp was not a local church.  There were no recognized elders there, though some were elders.  We looked to a few of the leaders present to come to our camper and pray with us.  They were men involved with a church but they knew when hurt comes how it feels.
  2. On October 10, 2010 our first daughter had a heart attack on Sunday morning.  She recognized the symptoms, took aspirin, got dressed, called the hospital and the family hurried to the emergency room.  They were waiting on her and in less than 2 hours she had received an EKG, heart cath, and had the stint implanted.  Of course we were in Sunday School (I was teaching) so Janell hurried to the emergency room, I finished the class, borrowed a car and hurried there also.  Who was there? People from the church who knew the anxiety, to pray and support the family.  They were not appointed elders, but they were ones doing leadership for the Lord.  They were not thinking about it being their responsibility in the church.  These were actions of leaders caring for the flock.
  3. About a year ago the Locust Street Church was looking for a minister even though we had two gifted preachers in Hall Crowder and Billy Jack Smith it was felt some younger blood was also needed.  There is an elder and a deacon…did they make the decision?  No.   The men were invited to the meetings.  Leaders, whether  recognized or appointed, were involved in the decision.   Some of the men may accept being recognized as such in the future….but leaders non-the-less.

What’s the point?  In the words of Max Lucado” ELDERS ARE ELDERS BEFORE THEY ARE ELDERS”. One doesn’t find a flock after being recognized as a shepherd.  If he is selected as an elder and then wonders what he is to do, something is wrong.  He is one who is leading in the work of his congregation…who has a heart for the flock.  He has love and concern for the people whether he has some special recognition or not.

The assigned topic is ELDERS “WALKIN AND TALKIN”.

This certainly is an appropriate topic for the church today.  In this day and time in which we live Godly leaders are desperately needed.  May God bless the thoughts shared at this time.

First I wish to read the text of the Hebrews 13:17 passage.  “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them; for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief; for this were unprofitable for you.” ASV

In looking into leadership one learns there are different types or styles of leaders.   Even the somewhat negative types can actually be beneficial in some situations.  God even used Pharaoh to accomplish His purposes

The AUTOCRATIC leader makes all the decisions and dictates to others in the group.  If this is a godly leader and has the respect of the group – things can work.  His kindness, caring and participation, if used, can be somewhat effective.  This is most often thought of as undesirable, and in most cases, this type may be very self absorbed.

The BUREAUCRATIC leader tends to work by committee and leaves a great part of the decision making to the committees.  This needs lots of oversight and can be very cumbersome to actually get anything accomplished.  Any church is fortunate if there is sufficient numbers of members who take seriously the Lord’s work to effectively fill these small leadership groups.  But this can be a way of grooming ones for greater responsibility.

Another type is DEMOCRATIC.  It is a good idea to be listening to the whole group, but allowing the whole group to make the final decisions can produce undesirable results.  To my knowledge the United States has been the most successful with this type of leadership.  But the Biblical base with which it started is its key to success.

CHARISMATIC leaders come on the scene from time to time, and that is true in the churches as well.  But some examples are not so encouraging.  Hitler was a charismatic leader supposedly employing a more democratic type.  This shows the power of charisma when Hitler was able to exterminate millions of Jews.  Then Jim Jones was able to lead his group from the states to a remote area off the northern coast of South America.  It is still unbelievable to me that people could be convinced to drink the Kool Aid.  Still today there are those who are captivated by a charismatic leader.  In just the last few weeks Harold Camping has come on the scene again. And we have seen people can be convinced to sell their houses and divest themselves of all their possessions believing he could know when the Lord Jesus would return.  But a certain amount of charisma can be beneficial to a leader.

LASSEE FAIRE would seem to be a type with very little oversight.  Everyone does much of what they themselves decide to do.  During the time of the Judges the people had success only when God raised up a godly person to lead.

There is a type of leadership that is TOXIC leadership.  Responsibility is abused from all angles and the group is left in worse condition than when that type leader is gone from the scene.

NARCISSISTIC leaders are those with an elevated concept of themselves and want everyone to understand how important they are, and in their opinion, the whole depends at least 90% on them.  It goes without saying that anyone who leads needs to possess some self confidence; but there is certainly a limit.

The question must be asked, ARE ANY OF THESE TYPES BIBLICAL? Even though types of these appear in scripture few are similar to the leadership spoken of in the New Testament.  It would be possible to see Moses as a charismatic leader.  Joshua seemed to follow in the footsteps of Moses holding the confidence and respect of the people.  Saul would fall into the Narcissistic category in an unhealthy way by choosing his own way and rebelling against God.  David appears to share the charismatic and democratic styles.  He certainly had the admiration of the people and thoroughly organized the government.  It is interesting, and I must admit a little boring, to read those responsible for the army, the king’s food, the labor force, the temple rotations, etc.  Then there is wise old Solomon who proved to be a Toxic leader for the nation of Israel, for it divided after his death.

Biblical or Godly leadership in the New Testament is characterized as being like a shepherd and various characteristics are mentioned by more than one writer.  When leaders are mentioned, it does not always necessarily refer specifically to appointed elders.

To be continued next month.

-Dick Lewis lives in Johnson City, TN and  worships with the Locust Street Church of Christ. He is an Elder.