Jesus people, loving people

We want a king!

How we lead and how we follow reveals a lot about us. Let’s explore this.

Like a blazingly bright city on a hill, like a vibrant international tribe or like a fire lit by God Himself, the Church is the most exciting thing to be part of on earth, if we see it right. It’s God’s family and His chosen tool for changing the world with the love and power of Christ. Church is also, quite unfortunately, made up of you and I with all our wonderful and painful flaws.

So as God’s people we are wonderful because we are God’s, but flawed because we are people. Until God finishes His work in us this creates tension. How can we work together to best reflect what God is like without getting in the way? How should churches be led and run?

We read in scripture how a few thousand years ago God’s people, Israel, was in a real mess. Heroes were flawed and victories were short-lived. As the story of the struggle, the book of Judges, recounts:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 17:6)

They hardly had anyone to guide them.

And so God led His people, Israel, by appointing prophets and priests. These leaders were to be His voice and hands, with each group able to complement and critique the other. But the people weren’t satisfied with this arrangement. 1 Samuel 8 describes how they begged the prophet Samuel for a king. God wasn’t enthralled with the idea:

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.
(1 Samuel 8:6-7)

They simply weren’t impressed enough with God. They wanted a charismatic human leader they could look to, to inspire confidence and to tell them what they must do to make their nation great. God knew they’d regret it. Kings would rule with an iron fist, they’d take the cream of the crop and make citizens into slaves again. As it has been said: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Nevertheless, because they insisted God gave them kings. Some were good but many abused their power exactly as God had predicted.

Even so, if we side with God He’ll always use our mistakes for some greater good somehow. In Jesus, God Himself stepped into this line of kings. But this God-king Jesus was a king unlike any earthly kings. Many in his day expected him to be a militaristic earthly ruler like the kings of old, but he came as a servant, not to be served. Here was a king who chose a donkey for his triumphal coronation procession, not a warhorse. Make no mistake, he is the mightily fearsome creator, ruler and judge of the universe, but he is also a humble servant.

Back to Church. Clearly there’s a right place for authority, for leadership, for rulership: Jesus was an immensely charismatic leader! Many Churches genuinely thrive on the gifting of a few individuals, with very centralised organisation and well controlled social and missionary work. This isn’t intended as a critique of the methods of any particular church, except perhaps our own. All genuine authority is founded in God, and when organisational authority is used well it can be an incredible power for good. However, in the kingdom of God rulership is radically different to the twisted way of this world.

Sometimes we can be tempted to beg for an earthly king, some kind of charismatic leader to inspire confidence and call us into their big vision. When God raises up charismatic leaders, all good. In some sense we all carry royalty, so good church leadership will have a noble, confident, royal edge to it. But often when we beg for a king, according to God it’s not current leadership we’re rejecting, but Him. We simply lose sight of God’s ultimate sufficiency as our Leader of leaders.

Genuinely godly leadership doesn’t take God’s place and it doesn’t create an unhealthy reliance on itself: it points people to the ultimate authority, God Himself. While good friends can carry us through doubts and fears neither Church nor church leadership should take the place of a personal relationship with God.

If leaders are like shepherds, a good shepherd doesn’t feed his sheep by stuffing grass into their mouths, but instead he walks ahead, shows them where they can find grass and then keeps watch. In the same way we must lead but not control, and we must each learn to drink from the river of life.

Published 14th September 2018 with tags: church leadership


  1. Lynette says:

    Thankyou for all the articles you send,
    like all of us ive much to learn.
    God Bless you jesus Army Brethren,

  2. John Lewis says:

    Hello there- this article is very thought provoking- I really appreciate the bit about if we side with God – He use our mistakes somehow- that is very encouraging wisdom- However- I am troubled by something- My understanding of Scripture- and my own experience of Christian life is that God chooses to work through leaders- this who have the nerve to stand up- speak up- stick their head above the parapet- and you appear to be decrying that- Am I misreading your message? Look at the Archbishop of Canterbury- or the Bishop of Leicester- Are they not anointed men?

    1. Aidan says:

      No, not decrying that. As the article says: “when organisational authority is used well it can be an incredible power for good. However, in the kingdom of God rulership is radically different to the twisted way of this world” and “good church leadership will have a noble, confident, royal edge to it.” So this is decrying autocratic leadership that replaces God’s rule, not the kind of leadership Jesus showed. The basic premise of the article is that although God raises up any kind of leadership He wants, the kind of leadership we look for reveals the state of our relationship with God as our ultimate leader.

  3. Dan K. says:

    A real leader is under Jesus’ orders and Jesus told the Apostle Peter what His orders were, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, and one more time feed my sheep”. Note, Jesus’ sheep, not Peter’s sheep, something that today’s pastors sometimes forget. Next Jesus told His disciples to make disciples. Again, these are to be Jesus’ disciples, not their own or their denomination’s disciples. They are to teach new converts to learn to be led by the Holy Spirit, not by their own commands and directives, something we do not often see today as pastors and leaders too often are in great fear of losing “their” sheep, sheep that really are not theirs at all. As we get closer to Jesus’ return, there will be more persecution and Jesus’ sheep need to learn to hear the Master’s voice so that they can get through the persecution (tribulation) of the coming days.
    Dan K.

    1. Aidan says:

      Very well put, Dan.

  4. zachariah says:

    Receive many greetings in the Lord. We are happy to inform you that through internet we have come to know you and your ministry which were so much interested about. After some days, we came together as the leaders and decided to contact you so that we can have your teachings at our midst, and we wish you to come to Kenya-East Africa-our church and minister with all of our believers’ trust that you may establish fully in your ministry with us. We know God is able for you to extend.

    As young growing ministry need your prayers especially in spiritual matters. Will love to send you some pictures of our ministry since started up to day. Also that of our precious orphan children for your loving prayers. AMEN. We await your response soon as the Lord allows you. May it please you honor and love to hear our humble call to come over us here Kenya Africa.

    Pastor Zachariah.

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