Kyuboem Lee: Jesus and Leadership


The Dominant Approach to Leadership in the Church and Why Jesus Means to Upend It

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A couple of months ago, I was with my friend JR Woodward and the V3 Movement as they had their conference in Philly, and the theme was Reimagining Leadership. JR’s colleague, Dan White, Jr., opened the time by saying, “We’re thinking about leadership a lot these days,” to knowing, albeit weary, laughter.

Indeed. We just endured a midterm election. The Catholic Church is in a deep crisis over the abuse victims coming forward after spiritual leaders used their powers to engage in a decades-long cover up. As a result, the Catholic community has been getting rent asunder. Evangelicals (or at least the ones who tend to be older, white, rural to suburban) have come to be known in this country as the demographic that will most reliably side with the power that promises to look out for their interests—no matter how that leadership exercises its power, its personal moral conduct, or its policies towards orphans, widows, strangers. “We need a strong leader in times like this,” I hear many say. But was Jesus a “strong leader”?

Working on an initiative at my seminary for mentoring pastors in transition, I’ve been thinking a lot about pastors and what they’re facing today. Many are discouraged, isolated, and on the verge of dropping out. I have come to believe that so much of it has to do with the theology of leadership and power that we had passed down from Christendom. What I’m finding is even if we subscribe to the missional theology brand, we might not have been able to do away with Christendom habits that continue to live within our bodies and the Christendom structures that continue to shape our churches, denominations, and institutions.

Christendom is a hard habit to break.

A Different Way of Leading for a New Kingdom

There’s a reason many pastors feel used and abused—they’ve been living as cogs in the wheels of the Church Industrial Complex (as my friends JR and Dan White say in their book, Church as Movement).

What is the remedy?

It’s certainly not trying harder to keep the machine going. Jesus said there is a different kingdom—and a different way of governing, or leading. A different theology of power for a different kingdom. And out of it, a different way of structuring ourselves as society or organization or community. The greatest in this society will be the servant of all.

Henri Nouwen has a beautiful little book called In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, and Nouwen’s life itself is a lesson on that subject. He was a highly respected professor in an Ivy League school, but when he left all that prestige and entered into a community where he lived among people with disabilities and handicaps, he experienced intimacy with Christ.

In this book, Nouwen looked at Christian leadership through the temptations of Christ. He says we are tempted in the same way Jesus was:

  1. to be relevant (turn the stones to bread),
  2. to be spectacular (celebrity preachers who draw big crowds),
  3. to be powerful (control the outcome, bring about your desired end).

In the end, it’s all about power. And the way of power avoids the way of the cross. Nouwen says:

Power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love … It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.

This is the way of Christendom, but it’s not the kingdom. My Anabaptist friends are very helpful in pointing this out: Christendom has conflated the cross and the power of this world for a long time; Christendom is Babylon with a cross.

Christendom has conflated the cross and the power of this world for a long time; Christendom is Babylon with a cross.CLICK TO TWEET

The Church’s Thirst for “Strong Leaders”

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we meet Saruman. He is someone who, unlike Gandalf, went down that road of seeking power in the name of achieving good ends, like: build the church, feed the hungry, bring about a prosperous, peaceful, moral society. But along the way, power went from a means to an end, to the end itself, the ultimate good, and this happens oh so subtly. Although Saruman began as a wise man, his compromises with power ended up transforming him into a monster. A cautionary figure indeed.

We know that institutions and churches have become machines that crush underfoot the very people it was meant to bring the good news to when those in positions of power receive protection from the structures set in place by those systems in instances when abuse of power comes to light, and victims are instead silenced, shamed, blamed, and marginalized. Diane Langberg is a psychotherapist who has been dealing with systemic issues around power and abuse in churches. We need to give ear to prophetic voices like hers to help us grow in learning how to identify and fend off toxic power from infecting and disfiguring our leadership and institutions. Here’s a sample of how the machine works:

Diane Langberg, PhD@DianeLangberg

We are to have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness but rather expose them. It has often been my experience that when abuse in a marriage has been exposed the church speaks out in horror not against the abuse but rather against the exposure.


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A system produces exactly what it was designed to produce, and we need to own up to our systems that have protected abuses of power, perhaps even encouraged it with our desire for “strong leaders;” systems that produce Caesars rather than likenesses of the crucified messiah. Notice what I am saying here: the problem isn’t individual bad apples; the problem is systemic.

The Church must own that we have not only protected but encouraged abuse of power in our thirst for ‘strong leaders.’ We have produced more Caesars than likenesses of the crucified Messiah.CLICK TO TWEET

Not the Way of Caesar, but the Way of the Crucified Messiah

But we, as followers of Christ, are called to resist the temptation to be powerful and follow Christ in the way of the cross. When the disciples argued about who would sit at his right and left, Jesus said:

Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.

The mission of God would be much better served if the church were to find a new way than the old Christendom ways.

The theology of power that the church develops needs to better witness to the kingdom of God, not merely mimic Babylon.

We need leadership development systems that will encourage leadership fashioned in the image of Christ, not of Caesar.

Listen to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about our mission (HT to David Fitch for the quote) in his sermon on 2 Corinthians 12:9:

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christians should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.

We are following Jesus into the world—not in triumph and success and power, but rather in weakness. We are witnesses of the crucified King.

Post-Christendom Theological Education

As a theological educator, I am haunted by these questions: Are we doing an adequate job in helping our students to leave Christendom and enter into the kingdom of God? Or have we been helping to feed the machine? Are we teaching them and modeling for them and equipping them with the skills to build the beloved community (which is built on confession and forgiveness, and not built on productivity and usefulness, as a machine is), the character of servant leadership (not a star or CEO), and the theology of kingdom power that is found in weakness?

Out of earshot of students, seminary administrators and professors wonder about the adequacy of the theological seminary, a product of Christendom, for the work of mission in a post-Christendom world. Do we need new wine-skins fit for the new wine of theological education and leadership development in the rapidly changing landscape? Are there ways that the old form can be retrofitted and modified to better serve the function it was created to serve? What are they?

So many questions to keep us seeking the Lord and depend on him. May the Lord give us grace and faith to sustain us.



Why Men Should Not Be Pastors

A bit of satirical humour to give you a smile, wry or otherwise.

10 reasons men should not be pastors

“A man’s place is in the army.”

So starts David M. Scholer’s satirical list of 10 reasons why men shouldn’t be pastors. Most of you have probably seen the list before; it’s been around a number of years. We’re sharing it as a reminder that humor can be very helpful when discussing a hot button issue like women in ministry. (And to do our part to keep this great piece in circulation!).

Keep in mind that Scholer’s purpose here is NOT to put men down, but to use satire to show that many of the arguments used to restrict women from pastoral roles are rooted in cultural expectations and gender norms. And so without further ado:

10. A man’s place is in the army.


9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.


8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.


7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.


5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.


4. To be an ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.


3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.


2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.


1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

 Read the full article at The Junia Project

Great Wisdom From Oswald Chambers

From “My Utmost For His Highest”

Do You Worship The Work?

Do You Worship The Work?

Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.

But the opposite case is equally true– once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing– to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).


That’s Perseverance!

From the Bible Society:

Bringing the love of Jesus to children in the outback for 61 years


The first time Lance Jackson taught Scripture at a one-teacher school west of Ivanhoe in outback NSW he asked the class to tell him what they knew about Jesus.

“They all looked a bit dumb … Anyway, I pressed the issue, thinking they were shy, but at the finish a 13-year-old girl up the back put up her hand and said ‘Look, I don’t think he lives anywhere around here but I’ve heard Dad talking about him,’” Lance recalls.

“It was an isolated area but what struck me was I’m less than 500km from Sydney and there’s a whole room of kids who don’t know who Jesus is.”

It is experiences such as this that have kept the 82-year-old Presbyterian pastor teaching Scripture for the past 61 years. The record shows that in that time he has brought the gospel of the Lord Jesus to children in 48 schools in NSW, three in South Australia, 12 in Queensland and two in Victoria, all in bush areas.

Faithful Scripture teacher Lance Jackson

“That motivated me to just keep pressing on – because you had to really discipline yourself,” he says.

“I grew up in a climate and a church where you made a commitment for life and you didn’t rust out, you burnt out.”

Now based in Glen Innes, in the northern tablelands of NSW, Lance still coordinates Scripture for 18 classes in three local schools and the annual training courses. He also still works on a voluntary basis as a pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Glen Innes.


Read the rest of the story here

Ray Ortlund: What Kind of Men Does God Use?


The Bible says, “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  This is a big part of the power of the gospel.

Horatius Bonar painted that picture with greater detail after observing the kind of “vessels” God clearly used with divine power.  Writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, Bonar proposed that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival stand out in nine ways:

1.  They are in earnest: “They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung.”

2.  They are bent on success: “As warriors, they set their hearts on victory and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head.”

3.  They are men of faith: “They knew that in due season they should reap, if they fainted not.”

4.  They are men of labor: “Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul; time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing.”

5.  They are men of patience: “Day after day they pursued what, to the eye of the world, appeared a thankless and fruitless round of toil.”

6.  They are men of boldness: “Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness and loses many a precious opportunity; it wins no friends, while it strengthens every enemy.  Nothing is lost by boldness, nor gained by fear.”

7.  They are men of prayer: “They were much alone with God, replenishing their own souls out of the living fountain, that out of them might flow to their people rivers of living water.”

8.  They are men of strong doctrine: “Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power.  It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword.”

9.  They are men of deep spirituality: “No frivolity, no flippancy . . . . The world could not point to them as being but slightly dissimilar from itself.”


Violence and the Christian


Last night my Cell Group viewed a short presentation by Ray Vander Laan from a former Crusdaer fortress in the Holy Lands. It was a powerful depiction of what Ray called “Misguided Faith”, the belief that we can turn Jesus’ command to love our enemies into a program of death and destruction.

While it is not possible to accurately estimate the number of people killed in this series of wars launched by Europeans to reclaim the Holy Lands from Muslims, a million deaths seems to be an average guess. 

This morning I read about an atrocity committed against Christians in a Muslim country and someone responded that Christians need to get smart and retaliate “like the Buddhists.”

I can understand the motivation for such a statement, but it isn’t a christian attitude.

I get angry and I want to lash out at times. If a group of people attacked my church, my friends, my family I would want to retaliate.

Jesus dealt with the sin of the world- which at its heart is a violent attack on the sovereignty of God- by showing love not retaliation, by dying not killing, with grace not war. There will be judgement, but that is God’s last resort, not the first option.

To be clear, I’m not talking about self-defence here or protecting your family in the face of a real danger. This is about wanting to use the weapons of the world to achieve the goals of the Kingdom of God.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 (ESV)

In relation to the Crusades, these acts of warfare 1000 years ago in the name of Christ are still a stumbling block to talking to people about Christ in the Middle East. 

When we seek to do Christ’s work in ways that are not Christ’s the long term effects are always disastrous.


Perks of the Office


Judging by most standards, being a pastor is a rotten job- long hours, little pay, lots of criticism by armchair experts.

Of course most pastors are not doing a job, but living out a God-given passion. That makes all the difference and greatly outweighs the negatives.

One of the huge privileges is the way people invite you into the deepest, most intimate parts of their lives, the hidden secret places.

Sometimes people share their struggles and shame, desperately hoping to find acceptance and forgiveness. What an honour it is to listen to the cry of their heart and to express the reality of God’s love to them.

Other times people come and share their great joys, just wanting to have someone celebrate with them. They might be in a place where the news cannot be made public yet- an award, a promotion, family news. What a joy it is to share their happiness and to be entrusted with their confidence.

There are many parts of my life that I love, and some that I find challenging. The real excitement comes in sharing those special moments with special people.