Steven Kozar, who runs the so-called Messed Up Church segment for Chris Rosebrough’s Pirate Christian Radio, has a habit of confusing himself over etymological English terms that don’t show up in the Greek or Hebrew used in the original Bible texts.
This time he makes a little YouTube video that hones in on a New American Standard translation concordance to point out that the word ‘leadership’ only appears in this translation once.
Using this inconclusive device he pours scorn on the notion that leadership conferences are at all useful or desirable to the Body of Christ.
This video appears at the Pirate Christian Radio website.
The original Bible texts were not written in English
Actually, without wanting to remind Steven of the obvious, it should be pointed out for his benefit that the word ‘leadership’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the original texts because they were not written in English.
That’s right, the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Old Testament in Hebrew.
‘Leadership’, in fact, is a fairly recent English word in respect to its current meaning, so you wouldn’t expect the earliest translators to use it either.
1821, “position of a leader, command,” from leader + -ship. Sense extended by late 19c. to “characteristics necessary to be a leader, capacity to lead.
(Online Etymology Dictionary)
Yes, so the term ‘leadership’ was first noted in 1821, and advanced towards the end of the 19th century to a meaning akin to the present day.
What we do have is a number of other words and phrases that lead us to the understanding that God does indeed delegate leadership responsibility to certain people, and along with this, gives us principles that we can apply to encourage excellence of ministry.
What is leadership?
Leadership is defined as the act of leading a group of people or an organisation. To lead is to show others the way, or to take them by the hand and take them in a certain direction, to guide and direct, to move a group forward by going out ahead.
This sounds and looks very much like the role of a shepherd, which is the Biblical epithet given to the pastoral ministry of the Church.
Jesus, of course, is the Chief Shepherd. He leads (there’s that word again) by example. He shows us how to walk in the Spirit and live our lives in a godly way. He teaches us His ways.
But we also know from scripture that Jesus delegates the responsibility for pastoral ministry to the Church by appointing under-shepherds, or overseers.
As an example of this, Paul, before departing from Ephesus, called together the local shepherds and gave them this admonition:
Acts 20:28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Overseers are called shepherds of the flock of God. The Greek word for shepherd here is poimaino, which means to tend, feed, keep, nurture, rule and govern a flock, this flock being made up of the local assemblies in Ephesus and its surrounds.
Notice, too, from the teachings of Jesus, that the essence of leadership is servanthood. This principle is taught throughout the Body of Christ, including in what are termed leadership conferences. It is a seam running through the axiom of leadership taught.
It is beautifully illustrated in the passage where Jesus calls Peter to pastoral ministry.
John 21:15-17 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.
To feed is to lead to green pasture. To tend is to shepherd – poimaino.
Not only do we have the accepted precept of the sheepfold being guarded, guided and overseen by the shepherd, we also have the stronger reference to rulership.
1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
The Greek word used here is proistemi, which means ‘to superintend, to rule, to be over, to preside over, to care for, and give attention to’ others. Paul strongly urges the saints to identify and recognise those who are given charge over their souls.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.
Notice carefully that this instruction is given directly before the admonition to ‘warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, and be patient with all’. Paul is putting in order the process of discernment, correction and assistance to those who struggle with their faith. He is setting on place a divine order to the means by which the local church is overseen.
Although we don’t have space to go into depth here, we should also be reminded of the concept that Jesus introduced of followers and disciples, who are all being led.
Criteria for leadership
He also gives strict instructions to those who aspire to leadership roles such as deacons and overseers.
1 Timothy 3:5 …if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?
Again the idea is rulership of chosen individuals of a portion of the Church. Paul lists leadership as a gift in Romans 12.
Romans 12:6-8 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
The writer to the Hebrews has much to say about rulership in the Church.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Hebrews 13:24 Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints.
This is fairly conclusive, then. Whilst the term ‘leadership’, being a modern word, doesn’t appear in the texts, the idea of the shepherd leading, and those in oversight leading is very much present.
Then, of course, we have the Overseer, also called the Bishop, which is another term for superintendent of a local flock or church. Episkopos, which literally means ‘overseer’, is defined as ‘a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent’.
What of the ‘only’ time ‘leadership’ appears in the NAS version? Well, it comes up in Numbers 33:1, and appears in the NKJV thus:
These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
So this indicates that Moses and Aaron were given authority to lead Israel out of captivity. In fact, we know that Moses was chosen by God for this particular task. All through the Old Testament God chose men, and sometimes women such as Deborah, to lead His people out of captivity, danger, or trouble.
There is much more we could say about this. We haven’t covered the gifts set apart by Jesus of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, who are given to help mature the saints for the work of the ministry, to mature the local church flocks, and provide cohesion in the Body under Christ.
Repentance is a change of attitude for the better
Clearly Steve Kozar and Pirate Christian Radio have an issue with people who are called into leadership positions in the local church.
Hopefully their attention will be drawn to this article, or they will discover from the Word for themselves that God sets apart certain people to lead flocks and congregations.
Therefore ongoing training, teaching, exhortation, encouragement and admonition of those who are set apart to leadership is a very worthy exercise, which should be undertaken by those who are experienced and mature enough to train others.
As Steve Kozar unwittingly hints, deriving one’s doctrine from a concordance without digging into context can be misleading if you go about it in an immature way.
Perhaps he should apply it to his own use of the concordance.