When Jesus ascended into heaven with all authority in heaven and earth, He gave His kingdom assemblies a leadership strategy that would extend what He had established to every spiritual generation thereafter. [Ephesians 4] His plan is perfect: it really works! His plan needs no improvements: it really works! His plan provides for no exceptions: it really works! Following God’s designs produces good results in every facet of life and living.
Jesus gave the kingdom assemblies a leadership strategy to bring His people and the called together assembly into maturity. Individual and corporate maturity comes through leaders. Unity comes through leaders. Maturity comes through leaders. Preparation and positioning to produce ministry comes through leaders.
Each institution God created on earth mirrors this strategy because the universe functions through God’s leadership. God creates systems that operate based upon protocols. The family has leadership. The government has leadership. The kingdom assembly has leadership. Any system functioning without leadership is dysfunctional. In each case, God looks at the leadership He has designed into these institutions and says that its function is for our good.
In contrast, before a person is born anew, enters and sees the kingdom of God, he has a real leadership problem at the spiritual level. Even though he may be experience very good family and governmental leadership, he has a spiritual leadership problem. He is a child of disobedience to God’s leadership. Outside the kingdom means outside the King of the kingdom.
He actually has leadership but believes differently because he is being led by “the prince of power of the air, the spirit that now operates in the children of disobedience.” [Ephesian 2:2] In one sense this is the beginning of Paul’s discussion of leadership he introduces in Ephesians 4. The contrast between the earthly leadership Paul describes is between kingdoms of darkness and light. God involves Himself directly in the process of leadership; the devil involves himself directly in the process of leadership. “No man can serve two masters.” He will have a master.
The delusion and deception of being led by the prince of the power of the air is that people think they have no leader when their “no leadership” delusion means they are walking hand-in-hand with the enemy of God and His eternal purposes who is at work in the nations to deceive and delude. The unsaved man thinks of himself as free to do as he wishes, to be the self-made man, and to reach out for his potential. He is, in fact, a servant of the spiritual conspiracy against Jesus Christ.
Maturity and Leadership
Jesus leaves no impression that once a person is born anew “all He needs is Jesus.” Such a thought never crossed God’s mind, in fact, because Jesus came to establish a kingdom and passed that kingdom onto people who were equipped, prepared, positioned, and sent to provide leadership for the ones coming into that kingdom. Jesus builds His called together assembly with kingdom authority so the Ecclesia can exercise kingdom authority in the earth. Nothing the Church does can properly function without this authority, and nothing the Church does with this authority has been designed to function without human leadership.
The leadership Jesus designed and provided for His Body is a reflection of His own leadership style and function as our Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Evangel, and Shepherd. Jesus had a kingdom ministry, fulfilled His ministry, taught and prepared His disciples to do that ministry, and passed that kingdom ministry on to leaders anointed to do what He did and do greater than He did because of His new position at the right of the Father.
Recognize that Jesus never functioned nor does He function today with anything less than perfect obedience and submission to His Father even though they are equal. While many things have been said about His prayer that believers would be “one as We are one,” the most basic thing about that unity is leadership. The birth, death, life, and leadership of Jesus fulfills something the Father wanted: heaven’s dominion on earth through people. God is working to take over the world through people, and He became a Man to guarantee this will happen! Jesus accepted responsibility to get the Father what He wants.
Jesus is following leadership and everyone in His kingdom is following leadership established by Him. His leadership functions to mature His people into functional leadership. Any form of Church that does not produce kingdom leaders is dysfunctional or something other than what Jesus designed the Church to be. Such a Church will certainly see a great many births but will be engaged in a greater, long-term, extensive assignment of maturing babies into leaders. These two responses are by no means contrary to one another.
An immature Church must be ignoring the design of Jesus in some measure at some level, malfunctioning because of dysfunctional fathers, dysfunctional children, or a combination of both. Jesus designed and established a kingdom that would produce maturity through human leadership, activated and functioning Body parts, and a climate and culture of submission and honor. All these concepts are God’s, introduced by God, established by God, and something upon which God is pretty insistent. He isn’t seeking spiritual consultants to help Him improve on His principles.
Maturing through Activation and Activity
Luke describes His discussion of the ministry of Jesus as “what Jesus began both to do and to teach.” Jesus discipled through shared spiritual experiences: “You will do what I do. You will experienced the baptism I experience. You will be persecuted as I am persecuted. You will carry a cross as I carry a Cross.”
Notice how the discipling is personal but corporate at the same time. The discipling process cannot be compared to individual instruction in the sense that the development of leadership is totally self-focused. Discipling must have group dynamics, team dynamics, and corporate dynamics by design. Jesus didn’t design His Body to function in fragmented individuality. He requires the function of the individual parts to fit into a greater, more complex corporate entity; and, the “greater than one part” entity functions with a corporate assignment. There is not conflict between the individual discipling process and the functional role of the individual within the whole.
In other words, you need to be part of a called together assembly [ekklesia] to be properly discipled. Individualized discipling will produce achievers, not leaders. Jesus was producing a successor. He was preparing inheritors. Overt individualism is devilish to the extreme, contrary to Scripture and kingdom dynamics, produces division and confusion, weakens the Body to the point of being disassembled, and leaves the kingdom without a voice that changes atmospheres and transforms cultures.
Jesus was not the original spiritual career consultant! He was not out to turn each disciple into an Olympic gold medalist in one aspect of ministry or a mixture of spiritual functions. He didn’t offer each disciple a discussion of his personal potential with a heavenly revelation of how to become “the bestest one.” He certainly had leaders among leaders, and He certainly responded to each disciple individually, but He didn’t choose twelve guys He could separately turn into achievers. He was preparing leaders who could make leaders, leaders who could function in kingdom and corporate concert to fulfill citywide, regional, and national assignments.
Nothing Jesus did was designed to produce competition, comparison, or contrast. This certainly happened! But, Jesus didn’t produce leaders by banging them against one another, having apostolic talent contests, measuring one against the other in terms of numbers, miracles, message, and efficiency. He was instilling a very different motivation as the basis for their leadership.
What He did do was involve each of them in doing what He did. He gave them authority over disease and demons, authority to announce kingdom, and authority to represent Him in His assignment. They were all witnesses of what He did, but they were all participants in what He did as well. And, He involved them in all this ministry even when they were babies and juvenile in spiritual motivations, knowing one was a traitor and all would forsake Him when they didn’t get the result they were hoping for.
They came away from their preparation with experiences, tested by the same pain He felt, touched by the same hunger He saw in the crowds, troubled by the same religious and political spirit that killed Him. They were witnesses of things they understood by personal experience more than spectators. Their generation had many spectators, but in the end what really counted was the leaders left when the smoke cleared.
Maturity and Leadership Today
We have strayed quite a bit from this strategy. We lost our way immediately we began to update the discipling process by disregarding the leadership design and function Jesus established. This produced all sorts of strange behaviors and built all sorts of religious mazes. Jesus led to produce leaders, but the Church required only a few spiritual generations to turn that into a system that produced professional clergy. The same religious and political spirit that killed Him became the spiritual system that brought death to His Body.
Yet, there has never been a time when the earth did not have an expression of the original. In many instances, it faced the same threats Jesus faced and suffered death at the hands of the same spirit. Still, it remains. In fact, we have a better representation of the original available today than we have had since the first and second spiritual generations of the Ecclesia. Available, not dominant.
As difficult as it may seem, it isn’t hard to restore the leadership dynamics Jesus established. What is difficult is dismantling all the substitutes. What is difficult is finding functional fathers and children. What is difficult is a kingdom atmosphere and culture through which and in which these original leadership dynamics can function. They cannot function in church without kingdom because the church isn’t the church without kingdom.
Born again people should be part of a called together assembly by assignment, but they don’t enter the church when they are born anew. They enter and see the kingdom, and then they are called together as a functioning assembly to individually function as kingdom people trained to function as kingdom leaders in some aspect of “the ministry” that assembly has been assigned.
Leadership begins with personal leadership, but personal leadership is always developed in the individual by leadership. Children require leadership to develop discipline because the discipline must first come from outside them. The process of strengthening the will comes through leadership. Without it, children grow up with inadequate motivations, false expectations that the world will treat them like their momma, or on the defensive against abuse and misuse that cripples their relationships.
The mark of the modern American church is immaturity. The immaturity allows believers to be swept into the trends of the world, react instead of respond, float instead of swim, follow instead of lead, and fail to discern adequately enough to make good kingdom decisions. While we need a lot of help in many areas, without maturity we wouldn’t know what to do with what we received. We need leadership that matures!
When Jesus speaks of Himself as the True Vine and us as branches. He clarifies no fruit, fruit-bearing, more fruit, much fruit, and “fruit that remains.” The sense of “fruit that remains” that so vital is that the fruit remains on the Vine until it is mature. It does not drop off green. The “remaining” to which the analogy speaks is that staying properly “in Christ” will produce maturity as the end point, main goal, and perfecting work of His Lifeflow into our lives.
We are experiencing tremendous disconnect. The picture is not that “just hang in there” will automatically produce maturity. If that were true, “just handing in there” would produce fruit; yet, some branches are cut off, others repeatedly pruned, and the Lifeflow of the Vine isn’t an automatic maturity that comes by “just handing in there.” The process He describes is later defined by the function of leaders within the Body, else we are left to assume that Jesus is simply doing a poor job maturing His children. That line of thinking goes cross-grain with the tenor of Scripture. There is no problem with the True Vine!
We have lost a great portion of the meaning and operation of discipling. Discipling involves people with people. Jesus isn’t doing one-on-one discipling. Certainly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are directly involved in each believer’s life; yet, the strategy Jesus established for the Body is one of human leadership, accountability to human leadership, submission to human leadership, defined by the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of leadership as God created them.