Spiritual Leading

Spiritual Leading Introduction

We have already explained how important ‘Respect of Leadership’ is on how effective a leader can be.  We compared ‘Command’ versus ‘Demanded’ respect in that article (read here). I must admit that my involvement in the research and writing of that article several months ago altered my perspective on the best approach to spiritual leading.  I want to explain how my perspective changed and why.  The following is quoted from an article I wrote last year.

“Though there are many different approaches to church leadership, from my perspective they can all be condensed down into two main types.  These two types of leadership are ‘Developmental’ and ‘Authoritarian’. I am sure there a many subtle variations of these, as well as a some other minor types, but, for my purposes it easiest to just go with these two.”

In that article I presented both of these types as equal spiritual leadingyet different.  I now know these leader types seem to  match up with the two sources of respect already mentioned.  Here is the remainder of the article, if you haven’t done so already, please read the Respect of Leadership article linked above before continuing.

“A developmental leader’s primary goal is to assist in the growth and education of those they are responsible for.  Success is determined by how well this assistance creates self-reliant individuals in their membership. This is accomplished by leading through example, and teaching everyone how to find their own needed answers in the scriptures.  Understanding is vital, ideas need to be supported by facts based on multiple references.  Questions are always answered, even if it takes a few days to find them.  This openness creates the important self-reliance necessary to follow the guidance found in Philippians 12 to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.  For this to happen, individuals need to know how, that means they require teaching, guidance, and examples that a developmental leader can and will provide.

An authoritarian leader’s primary goal is to make sure that everyone that they are responsible for follows their directions. Success is determined by how well their membership is able to follow what they are told to do and correctly accomplish it.  Loyalty is vital, the leader determines what ideas the membership need to know. The leader knows what is important, so it is not necessary for anyone to fact check them using the scriptures. Members, who need to be told what to do, seem to thrive under this leadership style. You should compare these members to sheep, which for their safety, have come to belong to an individual ‘shepherd’ leader’s fold.  The New Testament shepherd references seem to put Jesus in that position rather than an individual earthly leader, but the shepherd concept seems to be where the authoritarian leader type originated.

It is important to understand if your leaders are using ‘Developmental’ or ‘Authoritarian’ leadership techniques.  This knowledge can help you to grow in your church, as well as help you find which type of leader is the best one for you.”

Spiritual Leading in Retrospect

When I read this article again after our crew finished the ‘Respect’ article an important concept became obvious to me. It is that most ‘Developmental’ leaders ‘Command’ respect, and most ‘Authoritarian’ leaders use ‘Demanded’ respect. While it is correct that for most truisms there are exceptions, you could have an ‘Authoritarian’ leader ‘Command’ respect which results in their membership following them. But I think that a ‘Developmental’ leader that ‘Demanded’ respect from their membership and told them to learn would have to be impossible.

In my experiences I have always admired and responded well to leaders that command respect.  I now understand that this source of respect is why I best relate to ‘Developmental’ leaders. Learn about your leadership, be sure their ways to spiritual leading you are getting all your spiritual growth needs met.

Bro. Jeremy

Cannot Leave

We have talked about a leader commanding respect though a life founded on good character traits. Read both ‘Respect of Leadership’ and ‘Character in Leadership’ articles for background information.  One of the conclusions we came to was that Godly leaders command respect. When leaders resort to using demanded respect you are not be required to follow their leadership, preventing you from being trapped if they say you cannot leave.  I hope this true story will help explain why you always want to follow a leader commanding your respect.

One of the responsibilities of an evangelical Christian is to spread and share God’s message to others.  This is best represented by the passage in Matthew chapter 28 verses 18 and 19.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

This instruction by Jesus was directed to everyone, so it was very important for church leaders to teach this to new members so that they to can participate as well.  The instruction was not intended to produce a larger individual church membership size; it was directed at increasing the numbers of those traversing the strait and narrow way to God’s kingdom.  However, some church leadership only see the verses in Matthew 28 as a command by God to increase their own church’s size.  The larger membership shows the world that they, the leader, is successful, larger is always better to a fiscal success driven audience.  When there is an authoritarian leader in this situation, his goal of success is similar to this and has some interesting side effects.  See our Two Types of Leadership entry for background information.

Cannot Leave

Cannot Leave

Church membership is like your personal cash flow, in that first you need to get cash, then you need to do what you can to keep that cash.  For a church leader it translates to first getting members, then convincing members not to leave.

There are a number of different reasons that cause a member to leave.  One reason might be they lost their desire for church, and decided to walk away from God.  Every leader needs to do everything possible to prevent this from happening. Another reason for members to leave might be normal life circumstances that just happen.  A couple of examples I have personally witnessed are job transfer caused by factory relocation, and marriage where the future spouse was a member of a same denomination church located in another city or even state. Even young people moving away to go to college caused a problem.

When the job transfer situation occurs, a commanding respect pastor would help them locate a church to transfer to, and assist them in the process of connecting with the new church leadership. When a member is getting married, a commanding respect pastor would possibly provide some premarital counseling, specially if they were performing the service.  But they would not direct them as to where they must take up new housekeeping.  The same is true for college, from the commanding respect leader’s point of view, learning provides the methods to greater spiritual growth.  This leader would try to help young people find a college that would not attack their Christianity, not try to stop them from attending anywhere. They would never think of telling them that they cannot leave.

A very different outcome is experienced if a demand respect leader is involved, in this instance it was Elder Johnn Elsien.  In the case of the factory closing, Elder Elsien said he received a prophetic message that it would be out of God’s will for the member to relocate his family to maintain employment.  This situation I witnessed, the family member held a very well paying factory floor supervisor position.  That job was certainly a blessing from God, as they only had a high school education.  The outcome was the family did not move, the job went away and was replaced by unemployment.  Later they were able to get a number of sales jobs, but nothing comparable to position they lost.

In the marriage situations a similar outcome occurred, Elder Elsien, as a demanded respect pastor, would not give them permission to marry unless they were going to remain members in his church.  In the case of a spouse attending a church in a different city, that spouse would have to transfer to his church.  Elder Elsien’s rational was that his church provided the solid stable support they would need for their marriage to succeed.

I don’t know if the fact that Elder Elsien was not a college graduate had anything to do with his view higher education.  But he did have a very negative opinion concerning college.  He frequently preached over the pulpit against continued education for high school graduates.  He was even against them attending Bible schools affiliated with his religious denomination.  My take was if the young people don’t go college they are more likely to continue as members where they grew up.  Another problem is also prevented, when a church member goes to different church somewhere else, they are likely to hear things taught differently.  An demanded respect leader would have more problems with this than a commanding respect leader.  As the commanding respect leader prepares their members to constantly compare what they know to what they hear.  Additionally their members are taught to disregard anything that is not supported by several in context scriptures.  The demanded respect leader expects members to accept what they teach and not question. They are trained to believe that they cannot leave.

The two church marriage situation provides a really interesting view of contrasts.  I would hope that at this point you have read the Two Types of Leadership article (TBA), as it would help you understand this better.  When one of Elder Elsien’s youth graduate from high school, they would eventually get married to someone they had met at state wide youth events.  What happens when the spouse has grown up under a commanding respect leader?  Elder Elsien will insist that the new couple attend his church.  The new spouse will now be confused by a totally different demand respect leadership approach.  They will not have respect for this leader, and not really understand why.  I have seen several outcomes from this: they end up staying, the spouse from the other church just quits attending (their view: this is not church), or the spouse from the commanding respect church forces the couple to move back to the other church.

God wishes for everyone on this planet to learn of his road to salvation.  It is not God’s plan that everyone be forced to stay in Elder Elsien’s or anyone else’s church membership no matter what, just so Elder Elsien can have a larger church.  When it says in Philippians chapter 2 verse 12 ‘..to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’, it sort of puts you in charge. In the balance of obey and your own salvation, the scale tips in favor of your own salvation every time. When some one says you cannot leave, salvation intervenes and God will show you how to work it out.

Brother Jeremy

Getting Trust from Respect

Trust from Respect

It is important to be searching for more truth, the Bible directs us to seek more, to grow our understanding to greater heights. To pursue these goals, it is important to research and study to be sure you know what is true.  It is vital to have your foundation in Christ fortified with multiple scripture sources, and to know what they mean.  You need good leadership that you have come to trust from respect of their character to guide the learning process.  It is also beneficial to have others with greater experience available to teach and guide us. But it is even more important to know God’s word when you see hear it, so you can identify when a speaker is ‘creating’ their own private version.

Church is supposed to be a place of learning,

Not all leaders are good teachers or guides. Unfortunately many leaders that find themselves in the role of teacher and guide are ill trained or uneducated in these disciplines.  Too often when someone gets a leadership position they assume that they have now been gifted with everything that is associated with that position.  They believe that God will now endow them with all the stuff they didn’t know without any effort on their part.

A good leader understands that they must earn the trust from respect by their membership. Respect is gained through continued honesty and display of good character traits. They don’t have to be a know-it-all, God will still help them understand and grow just like times before they became the leader.

Very few new leaders automatically have all the required abilities to support their new role. They also don’t inherit 100% of the membership’s respect or trust. The possibility exists that they might not be able to do everything unassisted or without training.  Many are good leaders, but not good teachers, some are good teachers but not good leaders.  They can plan and have visions for church growth, but not have good research skills or teaching abilities.  A good leader knows their own limitations and works around them.  This can be done by delegating to others, for teaching, providing Bible study aids, and Bible research counsel. All the while gaining respect from the membership little by little.

trust from respectToo often the leader assumes that they must do everything by themselves. In some cases they honestly believe that God will give them all of the necessary abilities and skills they are lacking.  Other cases might exist where the leader believes that it is their responsibility to command and direct his congregation / followers, and do so using what ever methods they know, or grew up with.  A good leader needs to teach and guide, but if their leadership did not teach them how to do this successfully, they will only duplicate what they had experienced. Sometimes this teaching included that their membership is required to blindly respect, trust, and obey them. just because they are now the leader. Unfortunate….

Trust me it’s in there

In one situation I personally experienced while under Johnn Elsien, I expected ideas presented by either teaching or preaching to be located in the scriptures.  I had been taught to have that expectation from previous leader I had grown to respect.  When I heard an idea presented that appeared to be contrary to what I had already learned, I could not freely accept it.  As I was new in this leaders church, I had yet to have the same respect for him as I held for my previous pastor. I had to learn to trust again, the strange teaching generated questions in my mind that needed answers, God is not the author of confusion. Remember someone else does have that title.

Come to find out after some further research, I couldn’t find any scriptural basis for that new idea. There is several things going on here, I am trying to learn respect for a new leader, while wanting to know where this new idea came from.  For all I knew, it was actually there, and I had missed it. I tried several time to talk with Elder Elsien about it. After ignoring my questions, his official stated response was somewhere between ‘If you don’t understand this, just believe it because I know it is true, God has showed me this truth.’  and ‘Don’t question your leadership, it is our responsibility to get you to heaven.’

Did he really believe what he was saying? Was it is just a cover-up for lack of knowledge? How would I know, God knows.  It would be very sad if it were arrogance, where the power of leadership has overcome common sense. What I do know is that my trust in this leader dropped significantly, and he never did gain my respect.

Summary: Trust from Respect

Stepping back a couple steps. Assuming that Elder Elsien DOES take on the responsibility for his followers, what if he is WRONG?  If this leader is wrong, does one bad apple spoil the whole bunch?  If the congregation / followers have obeyed a leader giving wrong directions, are they saved by obedience?  Or if an uninformed misguided leader ends up missing salvation (insert any reason here), do they take everyone else with them?

If you read our article on character, it is obvious that God has a plan for producing good leadership.  It is our responsibility to expect our leaders to have the good character as described in 1 Timothy.  It is okay if your leader has to gain your trust from respect they have earned. In the mean time, the fact that we might have to do a thorough job of researching and fact checking ideas seems a whole lot safer.  It allows you to learn what your leader is about and what they know. Hearing ‘Trust me, it’s in there somewhere’ is like driving your car into a ditch which gets you nowhere really fast. You need to be able to respect and trust your leader, and your leader needs to be trustworthy and earn your respect.

Brother Jeremy