An often quoted Wimberism in the Vineyard movement is that “everyone gets to play” (I’ve written about this here). We often encourage our church family to remember that there aren’t any “superheroes” in the kingdom of God and that all of God’s people should participate in areas of ministry. This is a natural outworking of Ephesians 4:11-16 in which church leaders/ministers are gifted to the Church in order to equip them to build each other up and do ministry.
In Marty Boller’s wonderful book The Wisdom of Wimber, he explains John Wimber’s intention behind “everyone gets to play” as follows:
“For Wimber, it was not good enough to have a church with just a few select leaders operating in the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, he would go to great strides to prove his point that, indeed, everybody can play when it comes to healing the sick, casting out darkness, and caring for the broken-hearted.”
This, along with many other Wimberisms, is one of my favorite New Testament realities because it rightly understands the importance of encouraging the Body of Christ to function in the calling, function, gifting, and purposes of God.
But I have some concerns about how this concept is manipulated in ways that I think go beyond both the NT and Wimber’s own view. This is especially true in light of a growing phenomenon wherein disgruntled church people suggest things that essentially boil down to a rejection of leadership within the Church primarily because they have been under leaders who have failed them in some way.
The Church Needs Healthy, Humble, & “Biblical” Leaders
I am not one who buys into dictator-style leadership and I strongly believe that biblical leadership is modeled through humility, service, grace, mercy, and love… not to mention many other qualities and characteristics (which Scripture has a lot to talk about!).
But I do believe the New Testament explicitly indicates that one of the gifts that Christ gives to the Church is leaders. In fact, in the Pauline text I’ve already referenced (Eph. 4:6-11), the apostle indicates that the people serving in those leadership roles are the actual gifts to the Church.
And while everyone, and I do believe everyone, gets to play, not everyone gets to lead… at least in the same way. If everyone were a leader, what meaning would be behind the author of Hebrews when he writes:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb. 13:17)
Or St. Peter’s commandment to:
“… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3)
This is not to mention Paul’s advice to the Ephesian pastors when he writes:
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
Now I’m in agreement that some churches have unhealthy leadership structures and some churches are led by pastors who are ill-equipped or have ill-intentions. No argument here. But I also think that there are a lot of those who are disgruntled with the church that need to read Kenny Burchard’s “What’s the Most Biblical Form of Church Government.” After all, many of these folks tend to take serious issue with forms and structures and make statements like “the office of Senior Pastor is an unbiblical concept” or “churches need to follow the biblical pattern of church government.” And while I have some convictions about what is likely the common New Testament model for church polity, I love that Kenny wisely writes:
“If I’m right, then the most biblical way to think about church government is something like, “What structures and methods would work best for us as we keep our unique mission and challenges in mind as a congregation?” In other words, I think it is actually unbiblical to prescribe something for a congregation that doesn’t actually help them with their mission, because the Christians in the Bible structured things for their functions, and not to serve the structures themselves.”
This leads Kenny to suggest two key ideas:
- Structure is the servant of function.
- Structure is not the servant of structure.
All this is to suggest that the different forms or structures that exist in different churches may or may not be helpful or healthy. There’s a lot of variables (e.g., How big is the congregation? What gifting exists? etc.). Often way too much time is spent on form or structure and character quality is either overlooked, ignored, or almost addressed as a minor issue. Only after things have “blown up” do the questions concerning character (or the lack thereof) become a serious part of the conversation.
This is unfortunate.
At any rate, here’s what concerns me about this trend among certain folks… in order to get away from having leaders, people will almost use any means necessary! The biblical witness gets manipulated, Church History is cherry picked, and their experiences begin to trump other people’s experiences or opinions. Ironically (or not), many of the people making these statements are often functioning as leaders or want to be leaders or end up being leaders. Hmmm. But that’s getting off subject. Here’s my point…
Yes, Everyone Gets to Play. No, Everyone Doesn’t Get to Lead
In the Vineyard movement, good leadership is a valued gift to the church. We value leadership because Scripture and history values good leadership. Specifically speaking, John Wimber valued leaders (cf. his chapter “What is Biblical Leadership?” in Everyone Gets to Play). Alexander Venter, whose book Doing Church is somewhat of a Vineyard “church manual” writes:
“Leadership is critical. It is the key to healthy Church life and growth.”
Suggesting that “everyone gets to play” doesn’t mean that “everyone gets to lead” does not also suggest that everyone can’t eventually lead either. It’s far more complicated than that.
But in some very complex ways, leadership is a combination of calling, character, gifting, abilities, influence, vision, and passion (and a lot more). Not everyone in a local church has all of this and even those who are functioning as leaders don’t have all of it (hence the importance of leadership teams!).
My point is that just because everyone gets to play doesn’t mean everyone has the same level of responsibility in a local church, region, or movement. As the aforementioned quote by Marty Boller clarifies, “everybody can play when it comes to healing the sick, casting out darkness, and caring for the broken-hearted.” Everyone can do that. But not everyone has the same level of responsibility in the local church.
Which some people probably are very, very, very thankful for… ha ha!
What do you think?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Good thoughts Luke Geraty….the leadership gifts of overseer/shepherd/etc are still one that Jesus truly calls specific individuals to. Agreed.
This is not meant to be harsh but keep in mind this is America and we are all pre-programmed for the pursuit of self interest, self rule, and mistrust of government — any government. So, disgruntledness is part of the American way and should roll off backs of those aspiring to lead.
Also, In all due respect ,”Not everyone has the right stuff to lead”, is the wrong message in a time when there is a famine of leadership and there are, in my opinion, an army of capable spiritual orphans, waiting around to be formally named, chosen, approved and anointed to lead.
I call them orphans because I believe that we do not have enough elders — spiritual fathers and mothers — to choose, anoint and approve of them. And I don’t see that tradition of eldership being a focus in the Vineyard movement. So the do-ing goes undone at a time when we need an explosion of ‘doing’.
I wish we had a tradition of eldership. But, in lieu of that I am counting on our new small group model which seeks to draw people together around common interests and passions — it has the potential to create a new way of organizing and managing the ‘doing’ in the church – one that doesn’t require people to be chosen, approved and anointed in some formal way — such as I think you are suggesting.
In this model the ‘church’ becomes an entrepreneurial incubator for developing new micro-ministries and leaders develop naturally and groups grow as people volunteer their energy and resources and commit to a common cause and a group action. At least in the beginning those groups will be light on managerial structure, people will wear many hats, and most likely there will be a lot more input from the group and transparency around decision making (again the American way).
Thanks for your thoughts! Your model will hopefully work well (though it too has it’s challenges!).
I also think Phil Strout has done a good job of trying to get the “tradition of eldership” embedded into the Vineyard, so it probably depends a lot on which specific context we are talking about… esp. considering that the local context I am in has a strong view on the plurality of pastors/elders. 🙂
I agree with most of what’s said here. I have questions about some of the unsaid and applications stuff, though. It seems fairly complicated, actually.
What is the definition of “leader” that you are using for this article? -Is the gift of Service one of the gifts that everyone gets to play with? -If so does your definition of leader include people who see an unfulfilled need in their church or community and take steps to use that gift of Service to serve people in that need? -Should that person wait for some sort of formal organizational approval before using that gift of service and filling the need in their small group, church or community or are they free to lead in that capacity without such an organizational approval? If God is the one who provides spiritual gifts does not the gifting itself imply some sort of anointing or approval to use it in that capacity in that moment?
Who appoints /raises up leaders in the Church?
Is everyone who sits in a leadership position or who has a leadership position within each church appointed by God?
Is God limited to anointing leaders through existing “little c” church structures and processes?
What is a good process for a church organization to use to identify the leaders that God is anointing?
Those are excellent questions!
Maybe that’s more blogging material…. 🙂
Careful Adam, you are using critical thought. That is frowned upon in most churches. Keep it up by the way.
Hi Luke – You make some great points, and state them well. Though I have never read “What’s the Most Biblical Form of Church Government” I would have to say that my understanding of the Bible sees church structures as being ideally both practical and sprititual – How very Vineyard of me! That is to say, it has to do with calling and gifting, and also an individual’s character and obedient response. One the practical end, furthering the idea of structure being a servant of function, when creating and modifying leadership structures at our church, we have found it helpful to keep three ideas in balance. Responsibility = Accountability = Authority. We define responsibility loosely participating in the work of making things happen in a particular area of ministry. Accountability means being accountable for the results of any action or direction and how that furthers the mission and values of the church as a whole. Authority means the ability to decide what happens. At all times, we strive to make any “position’s” level of authority, accountability, and responsibility roughly equal. If authority is high without accountability and responsibility, you get people who think they get to make decisions and other people have to implement them (responsibility) and answer for them (accountability). On the other hand, if authority is too low, you have people carrying all the internal sense of how important this is (accountability) and doing all the work (responsibility) while being powerless to make needed adjustments and changes so everything is more effective. You can do the thinking on the highs and lows of the other areas and their consequences to whether a structure actually works. In addition, we have found the most important factor in any decision and whether it works is often the level of relational trust between those involved. There are many more ways to effectively solve any problem than just one. But no solution is going to work without trust between the people involved. If we are all doubting each others’ intentions, there is no leadership structure in the world that can solve that. Just a couple of hard-won ideas from a church leader who has moved through many stages of re-thinking leadership structures.
Great article! I’m not sure the new testament even teaches leadership. Servantship, followership maybe but nothing that would lead me to see it as leadership.
Able, what are your thoughts about Romans 12:8’s use of proistemi? It seems like leadership and servanthood do not need to be mutually exclusive ideas according to St. Paul…. thoughts?
I guess I would say that the way the word leadership is nuanced in our day and way is far from the various levels of Servanthood found in the early church (deacons, elders etc). I think what the word servant looked like to Peter (for example) pre foot washing was vastly different what he and most others understood it mean after Christ’s passion.
Can you comment on your thoughts about the ‘not so with you’ teaching Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew?
I think Jesus makes it clear that the type of leadership in the kingdom is pretty “upside down” in comparison to the world (or Gentiles, in the text).
Yawn…..Something as complex as leading should only be done by the chosen ? Give me a break. Most of those who are leading, shouldn’t be. When self appointed leaders get over themselves, and stop being threatened by anyone who demonstrates the anointing, and God forbid, surpasses them, maybe the church can actually function like a body as God intended.
Have you visited most of these churches you just suggested are full of these kind of leaders?
Oh, you have visited most of these churches and made sure all the leaders are qualified ? The mass exodus from our churches should be proof enough for anybody. These people aren’t walking away from God, they are walking away from a religious system that has done very little to help, and in many cases has hurt them them on their journey.
“the anointing” such a loaded and dangerous phrase in my opinion.
That’s probably because leaders are the only ones who are allowed to demonstrate it. Why would anointing fom God be loaded and dangerous, unless of course you are trying to control and define it ?
But if I dont control it how else can I get a paycheck? How can I keep my power!
Well given that you are reading into a number of statements and making unsubstantiated claims… I’m going to simply suggest you maybe you consider that your perspective is simply that… yours 🙂
That’s the normal response, Luke and Able. Point out what you see as potential causes for responses, rather than dealing with the meat of the issue of what the person is actually pointing out. Jesus says I’m qualified, and He has no issue with me leading, which is actually servanthood. So it makes no difference whatsoever, what conclusion leaders come to. I lead in the things that God has called me to, whether or not I have man’s approval. It’s pretty simple really.
I don’t have an issue with servanthood, servant leadership, or disagree that God’s approval is most important. But you seem to assume (key word there) that it does. That’s too bad. That’s what’s frustrating about this… you did it again. You misread, misinterpreted, and ignored my point. I think people call that trolling. Yep… they do.
Oh well, there goes another misguided Christian, right ? When you write articles about how everyone does not get to lead, you imply that leadership is left to the anointed, or gifted among us. Let me give you some insight.
I was asked not to lead at my last church, in a specific area of ministry, because I “needed greater measure of healing” in my life. When I asked the pastor if he needed a greater measure of healing, he answered with a resounding “Yes”
So, He gets to lead, and needs more healing, I don’t get to because I need more healing. How convenient.
So let me ask you, what is your point to the article ? What truth were you expecting people to come away with ? How is it encouraging to anybody, by telling them there is an in crowd, and an out crowd. You might get to lead, you might not. I guess it depends on the leader, right? We need a better system.
Nope… that’s not at all what I implied. In fact, I wrote:
Then I actually provided Bible verses that indicate that there were (are) leaders in the Church.
I don’t deny that there can be better steps or processes for churches. That’s a false assumption. But it depends upon the church because, as I already stated, I don’t buy into your generalizations, which I wonder if they are tied to your previous church experience rather than empirical data.
And that isn’t to suggest your experience wasn’t or isn’t valid. It’s just to suggest that maybe it’s not the ONLY story out there.
Furthermore, I didn’t suggest you were another misguided person.
Why you so quick to jump to these conclusions? 🙂
Because when you sign off, “oh well”, that implies, there is nothing more I can, or want to say, and am washing my hands of this person. Words do mean things.
Wha? James I think you need to find a guy in leadership that you trust and ask them to read this article.