Professional Christian “ministry” attracts insecure people looking for validation and significance like flies to manure. In this guest blog by my friend David Fredrickson, he shares what real servanthood is about and where real validation and significance come from.
Thousands around the world have been damaged by bad church experiences and are in need of spiritual abuse recovery. A church atmosphere of spiritual abuse normally has definable elements. An insular and isolated leadership culture is one of those elements. In doctrine, many of these cultures have the theology and language of servanthood. In practical expression, their leadership culture is one of hierarchy, elitism, secrecy, immunity, and privilege.
Many who have had a bad church experience, and are in various stages of spiritual abuse recovery from the hurt of that bad church experience, have to come to grips with a common ploy used by agendized leaders. That ploy is to label anyone who disagrees with them and their “authority” as a Jezebel. It is a persistent problem in many expressions of the body of Christ.
In an organization, leaders generally consider themselves in the right. It is part of the paradigm they create for themselves: if you have succeeded in making your way to the top of an organization, then, by definition, the values for which you stand, must be right, because they have been authenticated and validated by peers in the organization. In a cult-like controlling atmosphere, any challenge from within the organization to the values which the leaders have vested interest in, will always be considered as betrayal and a threat to the consensus orthodoxy of the group (whatever orthodoxy that might be). This adapted quote highlights a vulnerability leaders in any organization have. The church of the Lord is not immune. Church leaders often confuse confidence in the Lord and His Word, with confidence in themselves (as leaders) and their abilities in the Word. It is a powerful delusion.
In a church, a leader is someone who cares for people on behalf of God; someone who lays his life down, someone who gives his life away, who allows others to “spend them” and be loved the less for it . . . all gladly and without complaint. Many problems in church leadership are self-inflicted from embracing an organizational paradigm of understanding, rather than a family and relational one. God’s family does not have any CEOs. The church is not an organization to be managed. The church is a new way of living life together. The church is a new way of being human, together.
A godly leader is someone who would rather suffer personal loss than see the Lord’s interests in His people suffer, or His reputation be tarnished. A godly leader is someone who is willing to suffer injustice quietly. Perpetuation and maintenance of the organization, and the vindication of the reputation of its leaders is categorically not the same as caring for God’s people. It is often antithetical to God’s interests.
Godly leaders should be walking dead men. In fact, only walking dead men are worthy of our trust and submission. A walking dead man does not need his reputation defended, nor care if his organization is perpetuated. If a leader is not a walking dead man, clear thinking and proper decisions based on Jesus’ interests, not his own, will be the first casualties in crisis when paychecks are threatened by criticism and the departure of the allegedly “unsubmissive.”
The hegemonic control over people’s consciences and thought processes required by many who are the most devoted to a Protestant Reformation tradition, is more Papist than the Romanists they claim to be protesting. The control is dressed in the language of “submission to authority, accountability, honoring leadership, etc.” However, definitionally neutering Romanist thinking so as not to offend Protestant sensibilities does not negate the fact that in essence, they are identical to those same Roman concepts: you must categorically submit to an elite group of specially selected religious superiors, or suffer dire consequences, either metaphysical and spiritual in nature, or punitive and disciplinary in actual practice. The Greek word for “having authority” (exousia) is never used in the NT in reference to one believer (or leader) exercising authority “over” another  . . . never . . . not one reference.
Unfortunately, the practice of “marking those that cause division” is often used as a speech and behavior control template by these same leaders. It is exegetically indefensible and unjustifiable to apply this disciplinary passage to anyone who simply questions authoritarian leadership. The biblical context is that of those causing division by introducing doctrines and scandals that undermine the specific apostolic teaching concerning Christ, especially Gnostic incursions into the early church. Simply disagreeing with, challenging, and confronting a leader in his behavior and teaching is not categorically sowing division. It might actually be the redemptive hand of the Lord trying to intervene to stop self-destructive tendencies within leadership that they do not recognize about themselves. To claim otherwise regarding these passages, is simply a cultic control technique that should be resisted by all who call on the Name of Jesus as Lord. Dissent is not disloyalty. Disagreement is not disunity.
If you are attending a fellowship and some of these value systems, behaviors, teachings, and doctrines are being propagated as legitimate exercises of spiritual authority, I urge you to seek God and find safe harbor elsewhere.
 Adapted from Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human. Toronto: Anasnsi Press, 2008, 75.
 Majority opinion, the points of view required of subordinates to belong to the group. The problem with consensus orthodoxy is it becomes entrenched and not amenable to change and/or correction. Consensus orthodoxy within a group is not necessarily the same as biblical orthodoxy. Consensus orthodoxy degenerates into spiritual calcification if not challenged.
 Gender limitation is not implied throughout.
 2 Corinthians 12:15
 Adapted from Peter Leithart, Against Christianity. Moscow: Canon Press, 2003.
 Every NT verbal reference is active, not passive. That is, the idea of someone being passive as someone else exercises authority over them, cannot be found in the NT. See Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement, by Stephen Crosby, at www.goczn.com/srcrosby.
 Romans 16:17, etc.
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In the “real” world, the recipient of service gets to determine the value of the service received, not the individual providing the service. Demand determines supply and price. For instance, the customer in the restaurant not the waiter, determines the size of the tip, based on the quality of the service provided. Too often in “church-world,” we believe our own press clippings. That is, our own evaluation of ourselves and what is important, bears no resemblance to what others value or need, but we feel good about ourselves none-the-less. First century converts were motivated by things that we often don’t value highly.