Chapter 15: Church Leadership

Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is greater in the kingdom of heaven…But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone be hanged on his neck, and he be drowned in the depth of the sea!” (Matt. 18:1-7 EMTV).

Christ was answering a question on the issue of greatness––currently bestowed on leadership in Church organizations. One becomes God’s child at Conversion. Most adults, speaking glowingly about “good old days,” resent being treated like children––especially by those of the younger generation. But Christ requires a radical transformation, even if bones have to crack.

Respecting elders is reasonable, because of valuable experiences possibly sourced from them. But those elders are counselled to desist from holding onto nostalgic achievements. Jesus could not have uttered in vain; “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matt. 20:16).

Causing God’s children to stumble invites the consideration of a figurative millstone on someone’s neck—before being drowned in the sea. Jesus was emphasising the verdict against greatness consideration in leadership. The current civilization recognizes leadership as deserving honourable treatment over others.

Children are naturally open to learning. Adults have conservative tendencies, being highly critical of the bringers of new knowledge. Yet God’s revelations are inexhaustible. This calls for sobriety, as the above scripture cannot be regarded casually.

Major apprehension arises in consideration of whether what Christ said is taken seriously or not. Why was a huge millstone on someone’s neck, figuratively used? Where else did Jesus describe the intensity of this magnitude to those causing God’s children to stumble?

Both these are serious questions needing careful analytical answers as, indeed, most are not conscious of the significance of Jesus’ uttering of such words. The heavy millstone makes the person unable to recover, even if acquainted with Kirsty Coventry’s swimming skills.

This implies perpetual condemnation, as those led to stumbling also get perpetually condemned (Matt. 12:31). Many are brought into Christianity through the hard work and capabilities of Church leaders. Yet many are also caused to stumble through such leadership endeavours.

The business of preaching appears uncomplicated––but Jesus reveals the leadership function as something to be avoided like a plague. Those brought to Christ are God’s Children. The good works of pastors ought to be revered with a full understanding of Christ’s involvement.

Christians are accordingly advised to avoid hero-worshiping leaders. Christ can use anyone to produce commendable achievements. Another way of exercising love towards leaders is to help them avoid the disparaging millstones around their necks. This exposure requires being mindful of how Jesus became Lord over everything. Anything else, regardless of glamorous titles, is counterfeit.

We are saved by Jesus. We are justified by Jesus. We are led by Jesus. We are purified by Jesus. This is why the psalmist declares: “All other ground is sinking sand.” Indeed, Church leadership is necessary, and it is important to respect leaders without becoming passive accomplices in committing blunders with alluded retribution.

Pride comes before a fall (Prov. 18:12). A pastor is susceptible to pride through adulation from his/her admirers. He becomes vulnerable after achieving successes rather than failures. The formidable question is how parishioners can help church leaders against such a mess.

This cannot be easy when considering long-established traditions of practising Christianity. Misconceptions arise from leadership structures, identifying with the current civilization. Conditions of the New Civilization are opposed to the current. While rank structures denote capability considerations, the spirit-led Church makes that unnecessary.

Let us analyse one of Paul’s epistles, taken as implying leadership functions in God’s, Church. Caution is invited, as Paul did not specifically describe these as leadership rankings. Also, bearing in mind that leadership denotes servitude––when considering the teachings of Jesus:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11 KJV).


Apostles: The original meaning of “Apostle” is “one who is sent” or, simply, a messenger. As eyewitnesses, the apostles’ original purpose was to reveal Jesus as Christ. They are not necessarily greater than those to whom they were sent with the message.

They held valuable information, although the originator that information bears intrinsic value. Generally, when receiving a letter with exciting news, the tendency is to disregard the value of the postman. The recipient focuses on the originator of the message, not the postman, necessarily.

Those apostles exercised responsibilities that included the ordination of deacons (Acts 6:6). But their mission was primarily apostleship. For instance, some of them may never have gone through what Deacon Stephen experienced, having become directly empowered, spiritually.

It is easy to speculate that without the original apostles, the church could not have been established, after Jesus’ ascension. But, if those apostles had refused, God could have even raised stones, according to John the Baptist (Matt. 3:9).

Grace is extended to humans––making it the only reason God uses humans––though without making anyone more important than the rest. Generally, the first-century works of the apostles are appreciated, without acknowledging the author of Acts, who was not one of them.

Luke had been hired by Theophilus––a senior government official, possibly doing intelligence work; or, political surveillance––desiring a truthful account of Jesus’ questionable activities (Luke 1:3-4 and Acts 1:1). Some people, without checking details of authorship––focusing only on inspired writings––may not even appreciate Luke, as the author of Acts.

Luke did not need to be ordained for such a mammoth assignment. Theophilus had been indirectly inspired to hire a professional, like Luke—scrupulously investigating and producing a truthful account of Christ’s activities. Those apostles were as human as any other, except being used by God. Jesus, who is not a respecter of persons could have used anyone (Acts 10:34-35).

Nothing was sacrosanct with the apostles––except being used by God in establishing the Church’s foundation, of which structure we are a part. Only the builder deserves accolades for coming up with the design and appropriate components to produce such a robust structure.

Prophets: Most people regard prophets as those who foretell. But the term can also apply to what happened in the past and is happening in the present. When the Samaritan woman perceived that Jesus was a prophet (John 4:19), it was not because of a prediction about the future that Jesus had demonstrated. This was because of a revelation about the past and present.

When the guards told Jesus to prophesy (Matt. 26:68), they were asking for a revelation about the present, not the future. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus made some predictions (Matt. 24:3-51. But even before that, the people considered Him a prophet (Matt. 21:11). This was because of His teaching and His miracles (Luke 7:16; 24:19; John 6:14; 7:40; 9:17).

Moses had predicted—”a prophet like me” (Acts 3:22-23)—and Moses was known more for teaching than for prediction. Jesus was a prophet like Moses, speaking God’s words. The role of prophets might include predictions, but not necessarily require predictions all the time.

God appoints prophets in the church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). The early church had numerous prophets. Some made predictions (Acts 11:27; 21:10). Others served in encouraging and strengthening (Acts 15:32). In Antioch, they worked with teachers (Acts 13:1).

Philip’s four daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9). Paul referred to a prophetic message that accompanied Timothy’s ordination (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). On the Day of Pentecost when people spoke in tongues, Peter said it fulfilled a scripture about men and women prophesying (Acts 2:17-18; cf. Acts 19:6). God was causing them to speak.

Paul listed prophecy as one of the gifts of The Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 11:5). A prophet is “spiritually gifted” (1 Cor. 14:37), just as any other Christian characteristic is a spiritual gift. Paul urged Corinthians to desire the gift of prophecy (vs. 1, 39)—but, judging by the way that Paul used the word, this rarely means predicting the future:

“Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort…. He who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:3-4). Prophecy is also for instruction (vs. 31).

God inspires prophetic messages to build and help the church. Prophecy, although a helpful gift, has its limitations. “We know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Cor. 13:9). Prophecies will cease (vs. 8). Love is much more important than the gift of prophecy (vs. 2). Every Christian should love, but not every Christian has the gift of prophecy. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us” (Rom. 12:6).

One of Paul’s instructions is that prophetic speaking should be done decently and in order. In keeping with social custom, women were to cover their heads when prophesying, while men were told should not (1 Cor. 11:4-5). Instead of speaking at once, people should take turns (1 Cor. 14:29-31). If God inspires a second person to speak, the first should be silent (vs. 30).

The result of such prophecies would then be “that everyone may be instructed and encouraged” (vs. 31). In summary, prophets help the church by comforting, edifying, encouraging, instructing, strengthening and sometimes by predicting. As prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts, a prophet is not more important than others. Hence, prophets cannot be regarded as leaders, necessarily.

Evangelists: The original Greek translation implies a person who publishes glad tidings (the gospel). The great commission was for evangelism (Matt. 28:19). But the greatest evangelists of all time appear to have been the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Bible shows only three references to the term “evangelist”; (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5 and Eph. 4:11). Philip had been one of the deacons (Acts 6:5), yet depicted as an evangelist, without showing ‘elevation’, if the term is considered senior to a deacon (Acts 21:8).

To assume that evangelism implied anything more than disseminating the gospel is adding what the Bible does not clearly show. The term “evangelist” shows no leadership inference. To evangelise implies heralding the gospel to others.

Like ‘prophets’ and ‘teachers,’ evangelists did not entail ordination, though shown in Eph. 4:11. All Christians are expected to evangelize. When compared with other considered administrative functions, nothing suggests an evangelist being ordained, like deacons, overseers and apostles.

Anyone can evangelise, within the church setting. The term evangelist may have been listed in Eph. 4:11––so that being not one of the other title-holders, makes one an evangelist––fulfilling the commission given to all believers (Matt. 28:19–20).

Pastors: The pastoral responsibility is bestowed on Jesus. Those carrying out that function are enabled by Christ––who similarly enables those with other functions. The most common leadership term, as espoused in Christianity today is “pastor.” Though biblically mentioned only once (Eph. 4:11), this is a Greek word whose original interpretation is shepherd.

It portrays an administrative function. As a shepherd looks after the flock, the pastor’s role is shepherding believers. In addition to attending to believers’ ordinary welfare, he/she protects members from false doctrines, especially the newly converted. A pastor is not necessarily always a preacher, as most people suppose.

Church pastors are admonished to imitate Christ’s gentle methods of shepherding: “Serve willingly, not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3 NIV).

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NIV) (Matt 20:27; Mark 10:44 NIV). While this requires someone with a gentle heart, appearing as carrying more responsibility the office holder cannot be different from others, enabled by Christ.

“The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (John 10:11–13).

Christ dwells among Christians, enabling them in whichever circumstances. In a good pastor, like others, God would be manifesting good works, without having to idolize anyone.

Teachers: Appearing last on Paul’s list, as if least important—but one can be tempted to reverse the gradient when considering structural rankings. Teaching carries the utmost responsibility. But Jesus manifests Himself as a perfect example of every category.

Jesus is an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a shepherd, an overseer, a servant and a teacher––an important term––taken from the Greek equivalent of “Rabbi” (John 1:38; 20:16 NIV). The significance of the term “Rabbi” is confirmed by Christ (Matt. 23:8).

But categorising those functions is another way of subjecting the Lord’s name into disrepute. Paul analogized this with functions of the limbs of a human body (1 Cor. 12:4-14). Other than what Paul outlined in Ephesians 4:11, there are terms like ‘Overseer’ or ‘Bishop’ and ‘Elder.’ These refer to administrative responsibilities similar to pastoral.

An elder is one who, through the accumulation of many years of experience, is well-versed in spiritual matters. This could be a retired pastor, for instance. The bishop’s responsibilities may be wider, as compared to local pastors, but such administrative responsibilities do not make one more important than others.

Whatever is done in Jesus’ name, credit goes to Jesus. Some of those office bearers can be regarded as better performers than others, but none is––except that Christ uses each, according to their respective calling. Imagine Christ calling Judas to the position of apostle––knowing exactly what needed to be accomplished through Judas.

No one has a role in the overall work of Christ, except as used by Him at any given time. Christians should only remain humble, with the understanding that all are under His grace, purified by Him alone.

I suppose the reason for designating other functions like pastor, is their administrative function; and not necessarily high ranking. For instance, a teacher is not necessarily ordained. Yet that function appears more demanding, like that of the gospel writers.

Deacons: This does not appear on Paul’s list but was first instituted by the apostles for serving on tables (Acts 6:2). This is the most despised leadership function. But a careful analysis reveals the opposite. Christ said the greatest should be the one serving on menial tasks (Matt. 23:11).

Timothy, a young minister sent by Paul to ordain deacons and overseers may not have necessarily held a greater or less important office than those to be ordained. Ananias, who anointed the blinded Paul, was not an apostle; and is not shown as having held an office senior or equal to Paul’s, or the remaining eleven apostles (Acts 9:10-12).

While appearing as senior to that of a deacon—considering inferred pastoral responsibilities—the two roles cannot be categorized (1 Tim. 3:1–7). They could be equal, but the deacon possibly accessing more spiritual power (vs. 13). The Bible does not show an overseer having gone through experiences similar to Deacon Stephen’s, (Acts 7:55–60).

When Christ demonstrated servitude, He intended to emphasise the significance of Deacons’ functions across the community of believers. An authentic Christian loves servitude and hospitality, not to attract admiration, necessarily, but to express true conversion. This was similar to the activities of a woman with the alabaster of perfume––invoking indignation on the dignitary, at dinner with Jesus (Luke 7:36-47).

The office of deacon appears despised (Acts 6:2). But Stephen and his companions were empowered with miraculous abilities after their ordination as deacons—leading to an increased number of disciples––bringing in, even the sceptical priests! (Acts 6:7-8).

Where did those deacons get that power from, having been ordained to perform menial tasks? The apostles must have been awestruck by that development––if considering themselves as senior to those ordained to serve on tables.

A Christian church is different from a secular organization. Understanding such issues allows Christ to use anyone, according to His will.

Laymen: There is no such thing as “Layman” in Christianity, a term casually used to refer to non-ordained believers. Rankings are traditionally convincing, to those with an authoritarian mindset. God’s Church is made up of believers with specific assignments, designated by Christ, not necessarily by pastors.

The so-called ‘laymen’ take comfort in being disempowered. They idolize those in leadership positions, supposing it to be a portrayal of piety. In Christianity, none of the believers is more or less important than the rest, according to 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and Matthew 23:8-12. Spiritual gifts are peculiarly allocated to respective members, according to Christ’s prerogative:

“But I say to every one of you, through the grace given to me, not to have an over-high opinion of himself, but to have wise thoughts, as God has given to everyone a measure of faith. For, as we have several parts in one body, but all the parts have not the same use, So we, though we are several persons, are one body in Christ, and are dependent on one another; And having different qualities because of the grace given to us, such as the quality of a prophet, let it be made use of about the measure of our faith; Or the position of a Deacon of the church, let a man give himself to it; or he who has the power of teaching, let him make use of it; He who has the power of comforting, let him do so; he who gives, let him give freely; he who has the power of ruling, let him do it with a serious mind; he who has mercy on others, let it be with joy.” (Rom. 12:3–8 BBE).

Speaking of Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, Paul further clarified: “So, if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me” (Philem. 1:17 NIV). Philemon was not an ordained Apostle, equated in partnership with Paul. Let alone Philemon’s former slave, for whom Paul was pleading with Philemon for equal treatment.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 NIV). “…Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free but Christ is all and is in all” (Col. 3:10–11 NIV).

Christian groupings include those affiliated but not yet subscribing to membership. Gospel authors, Mark and Luke bear testimony to this. Church organisations should not be moulded according to leadership patterns in the corporate business world.

There is no reason to fight over positions but to allow the spirit to lead when filling necessary positions. Who ordains people for positions of authority? The Apostles were erroneous in assuming that responsibility when ordaining Mathias (Acts 1:12–26).

God had been developing Paul, instead. Some Church leaders assume Christ’s role––appointing or demoting people in God’s church. The would-be pastors are often treated ordinarily, while those befitting appointments—in human eyes––get ‘promoted’. What confusion!

Christ should be allowed to work through genuine pastors who are often hindered by those assuming leadership in God’s Church. This disregards the consideration of appointment by the so-called authorities. Nevertheless, God approves of things done on His behalf (Matt. 18:18).

This implies that even wrong practices––leading to destruction––can be bound in heaven. Christ does not impose His will on humans––free to choose between submitting to Him, or not.

Nevertheless, seniority enables the ability to handle difficult tasks for novices. Futility lies in expecting favourable treatment, on Godly sponsored projects (Matt. 20:1–16). When God invites, it is not about how capable; but how willing the person is.

Each member carries the responsibility to pray for everyone, including leaders. Those without leadership positions can help––not by disrespecting––but by respecting leaders in the same way that everyone else needs respect. Leadership positions are held on behalf of Christ––when avoiding Pharisaic traditions (Matt. 16:6).

God allows others to be in fellowship, but for negative reasons (Matt. 13:30). The responsibility of Christians is to facilitate the preaching of the gospel in love, without doing what is not mandated by Christ. Those causing division should be handled, through specific guidelines (Matt. 18:15-18).

We have so far helped leaders to avoid offending others. How about those susceptible to being offended by those forewarned with millstones around their necks? Those succumbing to offence expose themselves to the danger of condemnation (Matt. 12:31).

Christ inferred heavy millstones on the necks of offenders––as the offended also get exposed to condemnation. Suppose the insulted person refuses to take offence. That nullifies the consideration of heavy millstones on other people’s necks!

This is why greater reward awaits those refusing to take offence (Matt. 5:11-12). In Christianity, no one is greater than others. Only Christ knows who and at what time to put someone in leadership. Jesus inferred leadership positions being for those known only by God (Mark 10:40).

Church leadership is bestowed on Jesus, using anyone, at whatever location, by whatever method at any given time. But all are under the grace to remain humble. All glory belongs to Christ. All this should be attractive––especially to those bestowed with leadership in churches.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

The Print copy is now available at for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at  for $6.99



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