Servant Leadership Doesn’t Work

Been reading a few links and been in some conversation from/with Jonathan Brink, James Kingsley and Darryl Silvestri lately which has got me thinking a bit about leadership.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. This whole leadership freak out in the church, and all the conferences we run to help people be better leaders, all the books that we write and read to successful leadership, and all the seminars and school classes we take to build up our character so we can lead better; I think its all a major deviance from the kingdom. There is way too much pure propaganda encouraging our youth, and our type-A’s to take hold of their skills and direct them to being a good Christians leader. The whole movement has very little theological basis. It’s a cultural phenomenon, not a biblical one. I grew up in churches that put a lot of emphasis on leaders, and growing leaders and discovering your potential as leaders. We end up building up really strong, confident people who can sway masses of people to do whatever God has called them to do. We end up building a lot of people that aren’t any better leaders, but are just really confident in their leadership abilities.

Even in youth, we allowed some kids to be on the worship team, and we didn’t allow others. So here I was, as a seventeen year old know it all who lusted daily, telling a sixteen year old girl that she couldn’t be on the worship team because she had a non-Christian boyfriend. Yes, I actually had this conversation. This kind of action was encouraged by all the leaders above me. I was a confident kid who had no problem removing people from places of leadership because for some reason I found myself as the gatekeeper for these types of things. This of course only served to empower me to build even more clear lines that would keep people in and out of roles that I thought needed to have only specific kinds of people in them. Inevitably this causes only people that I like and appreciate to be in any kind of leadership role at all, so I have an entire group of people that I like who are in any kind of position to remove me or change anything at all. It’s a slippery slope. It’s building an army of people that will protect you. So, in my previous experiences, the closer I got to leadership roles at my church, the quieter I am forced to become if I want to keep my position because the people above me could take you out because you are outside their lines. I could keep towing the line and exercise the power I was given, by guarding the gate of who else is allowed in. Fortunately for me, I didn’t shut up. I kept challenging the leaders above me. This caused me to be pushed out a lot quicker than I expected. I only really picked up on the challenging of the leaders above me, it took me a lot longer to realize how I should be treating the people that I was supposedly leading.

Here is my issue. We spend way too much time on something that Jesus barely talks about or refers to. In fact, many would argue that in every case that leadership or power comes into conversation with Jesus he flips it on his head. If you want to be a leader, don’t be one, be a servant. If you want to be at the top, then be at the bottom. If you want to be first, then be last. I never, ever heard these phrases in any leadership talk in church, and I certainly never practiced it or saw it practiced. If you want to be a leader, which you should, the general idea is that you have to be leadership material. You have to be strong, visionary, gets to-do lists done, strong communicator and you need to do whatever it takes to build those gifts into your character so you are a better leader. Right.

So there was a time when you would hear the term “servant leadership” thrown around. For a while, this started to seem like a good thing. This is more in line with what Jesus was saying and at least now is using the language that Jesus used. However, I’m unsure why we have to add the word “leadership” onto the phrase at all? Jesus didn’t do that. He didn’t say be a servant leader, he just said be a servant. It’s like we don’t want to let go of the control, the power, and the respect that comes with a term like “leader.” Perhaps we just can’t bare the humbling that comes along with that. If you do that you might end up just cleaning dishes a lot, or making too many hospital visits and not enough time for “real ministry.” We just can’t let go of the delegating, preaching, meetings, and the cool vision stuff, we think it’s way too crucial for everyone else. We think that eventually we outgrow this whole servant thing and move into the leadership thing. Then, to appease the biblical people, we just call ourselves servant leaders.

My suggestion is to just throw out the term leadership all together. Let’s become better servants. Let’s become better disciples. I can assure you, the problem with the church today isn’t that our leaders aren’t good enough. I don’t care how hard we try to build up better leaders, and invest in our leaders, and make better leaders; that is not the solution to fixing the church, or being more in line with the kingdom. Our problem is that we have way too many people thinking they are leaders and not servants. Servant-leadership doesn’t count. There is no such thing. Just be a servant. Let the leadership lingo slip from your language. If people end up following you, don’t focus on that, just keep serving. Then when you start to think you’ve been getting better at being a servant, and you start getting elevated to more places of leadership, humbly decline and take worse positions even further down the totem pole and serve everyone. Get rid of your books that give you all the techniques and pointers for being a good leader, and pick up some books on building a humble character who looks to be a servant. I can guarantee you, that if you do that, and you are in some type of “leadership” position then you’ll actually empower the people in your midst rather than control them to do what you think is right.

19 thoughts on “Servant Leadership Doesn’t Work”

  1. Great post Nathan. I’ve been mulling these thought a lot as well. The leadership and church growth models just don’t sync up with what the Gospels actually say.

  2. I have to challenge this one a bit guys…as in some of the thoughts, not all. To just say ‘servant leadership doesn’t work’ and then use examples of poor leadership that was not empowered by God and the principles of His Word to begin with just doesn’t seem to cut it, as there’s so much more to leadership than just that. To put a seventeen year-old in charge like that is just not good leadership to begin with is it? The examples of leadership you saw then Nathan perhaps simply wasn’t always true, biblical leadership. That is how power-hungry people operate yes, and we see it in the corporate world as well as in the church, but the higher standard you mention is not just being an example of a servant, it also entails principled, Spirit-led leadership of which there are many examples of courageous people in the Bible who lead that way…albeit they failed alot too. Your overall point of serving/servant style is good and true, but leadership entails communicating vision and directon, organizing that direction, delegating who does what and leading by example as best one can. The true servant of God understands there is always the human component that wants to derail him if they step ‘out of line.’ Leaders were appointed in every church back then and this still applies today. In many churches there is a real lack of leadership while others are ‘paralyzed by analysis.’ So if your point is primarily about ‘leadership attitude’ then a servant heart is very much needed, but if you’re trying to minimize overall leadership by saying it has ‘very little theological basis’ I think you’re out of line with that thought. We need strong, godly leaders and the bible gives much direction in this regard. The real problem I see is that everyone seems to want to be a leader and to judge and second-guess the leader and very few really want to be a servant/follower just willing to roll up the sleeves and get some work ‘for the Kingdom’ done. Perhaps that’s part of what you’re saying there.
    Your point about power and control is good, and having a humble, servant attitude is the antidote for that. I just don’t think we should minimize the importance of good leadership … perhaps re-think it in terms of godly character and motive…

    1. I’ll push back a bit harder cause I think it goes even deeper than that. This entire idea of leadership is a bloated concept. The scriptures don’t talk about “leadership” they talk about character of a leader, which just happens to be what the character of a Christian should be. There is nothing different that Paul is explaining what a leader ought to look like that we shouldn’t hold to for any Christian in general. If that is the case, then all leaders are are people who actually live like Christians.

      I’m not saying there is no such thing as leaders. I’m saying the idea of investing in leaders, leadership and the entire culture of putting someone on top while everyone else follows is a dangerous one. If we are all part of this priesthood, and we are all equal in Christ then it becomes a lot more flat than we want it to be. You are right, everyone wants to be a leader and no one wants to do any of the work. I just wouldn’t put follower and servant in the same boat. You don’t need to follow anyone (but Christ) to be a servant, and you can follow a leader and not be a servant at all.

      So by minimizing the importance of good leadership, I’m maximizing the need for better character in all Christians and all servants. Leaders need to come down from their pedestals, stop trying to “lead” better and just serve the people that ended up following them.

  3. I actually resonate with much of what N8 said…not all, but the spirit of it is good. Especially when we consider that God demonstrated so many times that His ways are not our ways. Our society does place heavy emphasis on peronsal skill, but in the church we should place the emphasis on humility, servanthood and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Which, in turn, yields a discerning heart to the Holy Spirits promptings and empowerment ( giftings ). I think, Nathan is just pointing out how sometimes, some of the church has fallen into adopting typical societal business structures in organization and loses sight of God’s ecomony for relationships and kingdom health and prosperity.

    Having said that, there is a biblical place for defined leadership and the implementation of spiritual discipline towards sinful behaviour and the visionary gift that leaders require to…well…lead. Are we missing some inspiration in leadership today, because of a lack of a growing distancing oneself from the “work”…I believe so…in some cases anyways.

    But, as usual, Ralph has explained my thoughts as good or better than I would:)! So, when in doubt, just defer to his comments. Thanks man

  4. So I’ll throw a wrinkle into all of this. To a great extent I agree with Nathan.

    For context, I actually got my Masters in Org Leadership with an emphasis in Servant Leadership. I’ve read most of the books on the development and presentation of the idea. The joke in academic leadership circles is that no one can agree on the definition of it. There are 253 documented versions of the definition and probably another 500 attempts. So studying it was like trying to hit a moving target.

    The development of Servant Leadership comes from Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East, which explores the idea of a Leader seeking redemption and learning from his servant, who ends up being the leader of a brotherhood. Only by denying ego can the character redeem himself. It is largely a humanist idea, even though the idea is rather intriguing and connects to what Jesus was speaking of. I remember having conversations about it in church when the idea took root.

    The basis of all leadership to me is love. It is the defining act of our humanity. But it seems to me that we rarely see leadership as the act of love, which often entails suffering for the other. We see it as power to define the parameters of action or organization, as Nathan spoke of. When that happens, it inevitably takes over us because we are human.

    Much love

  5. Good thoughts Jonathan. I hope I don’t come across as saying leadership focus has brought us nothing of importance. Obviously, it has, and if a focus on leadership has lead you to say things like what you wrote here, then we’re doing something right.

    Very cool point about Hermann Hesse’s Journey, I never knew that.

    I should have let you write this piece. With those credentials, with those titles, literally on Servant Leadership. Oops.

  6. Nathan, I would beg to differ. ;-P

    I liked what you had to say. And I didn’t see you as dissing leadership. Trust me when I say that those in leadership studies (in academic circles) diss it much more than you ever could.

    Much of the study is about power and influence. From my perspective, Jesus called people into leadership with Go and make disciples, but the practice was on love, not power and influence. The funny thing is when we focus on love we usually end up with power and influence and we don’t even know it.

  7. Neither Jesus nor Paul called people to be leaders. Instead, they created a fictive kinship group wherein the various individuals would relate to one another as siblings. Now, if you know anything about family relationships at the time those fellows lived, you will know that sibling relationships were to be defined by mutuality and equality (with the exception of the special treatment received by the first-born… but, of course, Paul refers to Jesus as the first-born so that conveniently removes that obstacle… just as naming God as the Father of this family conveniently prevents any person claiming the authority and power ascribed to fathers). This was a mutuality that involved each person sharing the same status and power as the others and each person sharing in the material belongings of the others.

    This is also why Paul is writing letters to assemblies (ekklesiai) that are in constant conflict and turmoil. Because there was no clearly defined human leader(s) within the assemblies, things were terribly messy, factions developed, etc. Paul, however, encourages people to remain in this messy place rather than developing a more regimented structure of leadership. This is also why he must cajole, beg, plead and convince the audiences who receive his epistles — Paul did not do much to consolidate himself as a “leader”. Of course, as with most of his other efforts, Paul fails to convince here and so leadership structures rapidly appear (as in the deutero-Pauline epistles) and, not surprising, those structures favour people with (relatively) higher status and wealth (some things never change).

    Thus, Nathan is bang-on when he argues we should strive simply to serve (and not be “servant leaders”). In service, I surrender my desire to lead a person anywhere. Instead, I assist that person in getting to where s/he wishes to go (even if I sometimes question the destination).

    Really, the notion of “servant leadership” functions as little more than an ideological gloss for those who wish to have their cake and eat it too (i.e. I can be self-glorifying and possess power over others, while also having a clean conscience and believing that I’m acting in the best interest of others).

  8. Nathan, you say “This entire idea of leadership is a bloated concept” and to that I ask, ‘What world dost thou live in?’ You folk tend to see it necessary to deconstruct everything that has been going on in the real world for the last few thousand years and I just don’t see why. People are failures by and large. No ‘system’ has ever gotten us out the this mess, be it political, educational or scientific. Only the saving power of Jesus Christ can help us. It is a spiritual thing, and remedied only when repentance and faith in Jesus in activated. No amount of deconstructing and rebuilding of systems will negate or add to our need for salvation and meaning through Jesus the Christ.
    There is hierarchy in any and every organization, secular or religious. You use the word hierarchy as a given negative, but why? It is a neutral word. As soon as we put humans into the mix, things tend to get screwed up and you and I are no different. I love teamwork and I love solving things with people and I love it when I can give someone else the credit for a job well done. I love it when we can serve together and work as a unit, but someone has to be responsible. The buck has to stop somewhere.
    As an aside, I find it interesting that when I use the scriptures to point out something, you do whatever you can to minimize what the scriptures say by pitting one verse against the other or undermining it in some other way because it’s coming from this old modernists (your categorizing of me, not mine :) perspective. Now you are using the very scriptures as a basis for your present argument. I find this rather incredulous….or maybe you have finally seen the light, Lol…

    My ‘disagreement’ here is not about character or loving or serving or being Christ-like. All these are paramount to functioning as a leader. I just don’t see why the ’emergent’ has to deconstruct something else every time they want to make a point. I mean, to minimize ‘leadership’ is a large thing to try and deconstruct (good luck with that my friend!). It’s like cutting down someone or something else in order to ‘make me or my idea look better’ but it ends up not looking like a viable way of approaching or making a point. Of course a dictatorial, loveless ‘top-down’ leadership way of doing work in your world and in mine is not cool, but spend some time with me on a construction site and this is what rules the day, every day, all day. Any viable organization has a structure of leadership with built-in accountabilities, whether it handles it well or not they are there. When the leadership structure falls apart, everything falls with it. I know you don’t like the word structure but it is in the dictionary and is a necessary word even for building earth-ships :)

    You say “the idea of investing in leaders, leadership and the entire culture of putting someone on top while everyone else follows is a dangerous one.” The opposite to this is what…anarchy?? Leadership is necessary because human nature tends to rebel. Structure holds us together. Remove the police service from our community and what will you get? Disorder, chaos and no leadership. So I am agreeing with you on what a good leader should be, but this should not be at the expense of little no leadership at all. Why can’t it be win/win? Maximize leadership AND or WITH character? C’mon, I know we can agree!!
    The generation after you will all be writing about how the previous generation deconstructed literally everything and how that “now we have to rethink the very foundations that were destroyed in order to get some semblance of order and balanced truth back into the culture!!”
    Love and Truth-seeking,
    p.s. Let’s co-author a book and call it…
    The Ultimate Conversation Between Two Generations
    (I mean, we could write like 10 sequel best-sellers!)

  9. OK, this conversation seems to be going in too many different directions, it isn’t much about leadership anymore. Points made about me:

    – “you folk tend to see it necessary to deconstruct everything” – in response, yes, yes we do, I have a feeling it’s because the generation before us did a horrible job at constructing anything. Deconstruction is important and helpful for critical thinking. No one is saying it saves us, but we are saying that we want to use the heads that God gave us to understand the best we can and not blindly follow anyone who tells us what to do or what to believe.

    – I “use the word hierarchy as negative” – for the most part I do, yes. I see Jesus getting rid of hieracrchy. I see the kingdom flipping everything backwards (first last, last first, which is a direct statement against hierarchy). I don’t think hierarchy is positive, unless it’s putting Jesus at the top and all of us at the same level beneath. I don’t know of any other hierarchy that would be positive.

    – i “whatever i can to minimize what the scriptures say by pitting one verse against the other or undermining it in some other way” – i have no idea what you are talking about, and i have no clue how you somehow made it seem like because I am using the bible to help show what I think God is doing, that this is somehow incredulous. Feel free to disagree with my interpretations, as I do with some of yours, but I don’t see how questioning my motives of using scripture with that line above is saying anything, I would be curious if you could show me one time that I have minimized what the scriptures say to you?

    – you just “don’t see why emergent has to deconstruct something else every time they want to make a point.” – did you just call me emergent? That term is so five years old. i really don’t know why i am getting lumped into that movement that is self-naming dead. You didn’t really argue your case for leadership, you are arguging the fact that I’m arguing against leadership at all. So are you saying that we should just leave everything is, assume its right and stop deconstructing? What is wrong with deconstructing? This has nothing to do with cutting down something so I look better, this has something to do with cutting down things that can be harmful or put us at risk of going with the flow without ever comparing it to the kingdom and seeing if they are compatible.

    – Just because viable organizations have structures of leadership, doesn’t make it right. Look into co-ops, anarchy groups, house churches…there is plenty of examples where there is no “leader” and it is communities of people working together for the common good. I believe, as Christians, we should look more toward a common flatline model rather than a top-down model.

    – I agree, I would rather have both character and good leaders rather than good leaders with no character. However, I still don’t think that is the best necessarily. At least not how we have it setup. The senior pastor at a church who is making 6 digits so he can “lead” his church is a death-dealing model of church. It’s scarey actually. I don’t see that model at all in the scriptures. Paul had to beg for his money and it usually wasn’t for him, it was for others he was sending. So in a way, maybe a type of anarchy is a more Christ-like model than some of the models that we have going on in our churches now.

    – i feel like your comment was more about why i am writing these things rather than actually engaging in the arguement. So I’ll leave a few questions with you. What is wrong with deconstructing? What is wrong with arguing for things that have been set for thousands of years? What do you have against these “emergent” people anyway, and who are these people you speak of?

    I can assure you, I am not writing just to cut down everyone else in attempts to make my ideas sound better. I write because I enjoy thinking. I enjoy the process of understanding. I enjoy reading and being challenged and challenging. I write because it’s how I wrestle out issues in my head. I deconstruct because it’s never been constructed properly for me. I deconstruct because I love knowing and learning about all the little things that make this machine run and I want to know more and help tweak it where I can.

    Here is a book that is out that helps explain a bit of where I’m coming from with wondering why you dislike my deconstruction, http://www.amazon.com/Sacredness-Questioning-Everything-David-Dark/dp/0310286182, he’s one of my favourites as of late, we brought him into our conference in Toronto in March.

    P.S. We are running our eighth letter conference on oct 1-2, (www.eighthletter.com), if you and any of your peeps want to come and check it out, free tickets on me…just let me know ahead of time. Invite Marshall as well, there will be lots of washed up emergents there along with some good strong calvinists or baptists type (andy crouch, tim challies etc) so it’s got both sides represented quite well.

  10. Dan, thanks for your comment, that’s really interesting and certainly have never looked at it this way. I assume most of the leadership talk comes from Paul sending out leaders to work with different churches around and the roles of the disciples, but you certainly flip that on it’s head quite a bit.

    I should have named this post something to do with cake, great last line, thanks!

  11. To be fair, Paul does refer to himself as the mother of the Galatians at one point. However, while that may be a way of laying claim to the Galatians, it is also a bit of a shameful way to do so (what with Paul being male, and taking on a female identity… that doesn’t usually go over well in patriarchal cultures).

    Also, if Ralph actually knew anything at all about anarchy, he would realize that it does offer the solution to all the problems he posits. Additionally, that we follow a faith based upon grace (not law), means that we, of all people, should be open to finding ways to share life together outside of legally imposed hierarchies and rules. We are saved by grace, not by the law, and we live now according to the Spirit, not according to what is legal.

  12. Reading Hauerwas’s book called Communtiy of Character. This quote stood out in terms of this discussion.

    “But Jesus then begins to tell them that he is not going to be recognized as having such power, but indeed will be rejected and killed. And Peter, still imbued with the old order, suggests this is no way for a savior to talk; saviors are people with power to affect the world. To save means to be “in control” or to seek to be “in control”, and Jesus seeks neither. His power is of a different order and the powers of this world will necessarily put him to death because they recognize, better than Peter, what a threat to power looks like. For here is one who invites others to participate in a kingdom of God’s love, a kingdom which releases the power of giving and service. The powers of this world cannot comprehend such a kingdom. Here is a man who insists it is possible, if God’s rule is acknowledged and trusted, to serve without power.”

  13. good post. I have to admit I can only read so much of the posts between Nathan, Ralph and Dan before I get completely confused…I guess I don’t know what all the big words mean…but the original post was a good read.


  14. Yes Nathan, the conversation was moving in a different direction because I seen it as time to get to the bottom of why you think the way you do. For example you said, “the generation before us did a horrible job at constructing anything.” The problem here is not that we did such a horrible job, but rather that you were just raised in the wrong camp. Based on what you have said you believe over the last couple of years on various posts, if you were raised in a hippy commune and went to a nominal, liberal denominational church like say, the United Church, you would not be so critical of the older generation because you line up nicely with their outlook on many fronts! What you espouse may be new to you but it’s been around for a long time. And I do hope that people will not blindly follow what you (or I) say but rather I hope they too will think through it all and be genuine seekers …of truth.

    On hierarchy: Most definitely a hierarchy with Jesus at the top and the rest of us equal below is a good and biblical view. My point is that in general life there are many more applications of hierarchy in which you can’t just say, “Okay everybody, Jesus is in command here, so line up and follow suit…everybody just…do stuff!!” And if you did, why does the bible say that there is a job for deacons to do and another job for elders to perform in ruling the affairs of the church? And why are specific spiritual gifts given out to every believer if it they aren’t to be used a certain way within the structure of a local church body? Hierarchy in any organization is simply an ordered group of people who have specific responsibilities. It is not evil!! People are evil. In your business and mine, maybe we can do it all ourselves but when you have a group of people working together in a larger organization there needs to be an understanding of who does what and when. Chaos results if the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. To the person who suggested that I may not know what ‘anarchy’ means, I pose the question back, because anarchists themselves can’t even agree on what it means! For example some think it should be non-violent while others think violent revolution and terrorism is the proper path to an anarchist society. That is polar opposite. So which one do we take? To believe in your type of anarchy is to no doubt reject the sinfulness of humankind and to assume that people will not do bad, lawless things when no one has the authority to correct them or maintain order. It is a state of lawlessness where evil will still fight with good. How is anarchy even biblical when the scriptures say the people are to “be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” and “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men?” (Submission is also a trait Jesus taught). It also says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God, and …”the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Even during the Millennium, Jesus will rule supreme and His people with Him. So good luck with the anarchy thing, then and now. Do I agree with more open and honest democratic government? Yes. Plebiscites? Sure. Anarchy? No. Bad idea.

    As for minimizing scripture I simply don’t have the time to look back and cut and paste the times you have either criticized my use of scripture as the only basis for my argument or simply said that you do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. You have referred to me as one who is a ‘circular arguer’ that only uses Bible verses to support what I believe and you have also promoted the importance of ‘conversation’ as if it is some sort of final say…at least until new conversations reveal new ideas. Nathan, I’m not attacking you on this; it’s just the difference between us. I’ll stand on record as seeking to allow the Bible to be the final say on all things. I’m just sayin’…

    As for the ’emergent’ term, it’s just the flavor of the month anyways. You certainly are lumped into this category, but call it whatever you want. You label me a ‘Modernist’ and an ‘Evangelical.’ I don’t really call myself those things either. I am a truth seeking Christian who believes it all comes down to truth and error, and God is the ultimate judge of it all. I am instructed in His Word to stand up for truth and oppose falsehood. It is the only reason why I respond to your posts here, because truth is worth it. I do not have all the answers but I seek them from God’s Word.

    As for “coo-ops, anarchy groups and house churches” someone IS leading, don’t kid ourselves here! Are you not a leader at your church? You are. Is there a decision every week as to who will be your speaker on Sunday morning? That’s leadership. Who set the place and time for when you meet? The leadership. Who does the book-keeping? Who decided that person should do the books? Why can’t I do your books (besides the fact I would suck at it, maybe I would still want to)? Every organization has some form of hierarchical leadership and this can run smoothly and as a team when people have the right attitudes in place.

    On Paul and his ‘begging for his money.’ Please show me where this is in the Bible.

    What is wrong with deconstructing? There is nothing wrong with questioning things and using that to learn and possibly trying new things. I did a lot of that after growing up within a certain sect of people who had some strange ideas about certain aspects of Christianity. We have parallel backgrounds in a lot of ways Nathan. It may not all have been constructed well for both of us but to rip it ALL down is not wise. I didn’t ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ by opposing, deconstructing and disbelieving foundational truths and essential doctrines of the faith I learned there which were ‘once for all entrusted to the saints.’ (Jude 3). I have sought to peel away that which was absurd and keep that which was solid. Yes it is a lifetime pursuit. Was it not the devil himself who twisted scripture even to Jesus when He was being tempted by saying ‘Has not the scriptures said…?” One can’t simply destroy the basic tenets of biblical Christianity and reconstruct them back any old way they want. I say ‘any old way’ because what I see in a lot of your writings is really nothing new. It is just re-packaged liberal theology that has been used to ‘deconstruct’ biblical Christianity for a long time. People need to see it for what it is. Same old ideas, new generation’s packaging. Human reasoning is now called ‘a conversation’ and ‘critical thinking’ where science (among other things) is elevated above scripture, where the Bible is not to be taken too literally, where a ‘social gospel’ of helping people (not wrong in itself) takes the place of the real gospel of Jesus dying to save people from sin, where hell is not a real place, where the Bible is not inerrant, where homosexuality is not sin, where Jesus is not the only way to heaven, and so on and on…
    I am for deconstructing error, not truth. Isaiah 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

    The ’emergent church’ has many branches and emphasis from one group to another. There are many good things I like about it. I like some of the ‘packaging’…the methodologies. I like a lot of this actually. I love new ideas and methods. What I dislike is where many have completely changed doctrinal belief to the point of truth being called error and error and false doctrine are now being called truth. Jesus Himself said that in the last days “watch out that no one deceives you” and “At that time many will turn away from the faith” and “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” I see a turning away from the essential doctrines of the faith these days. I understand what it means to turn away and deconstruct some of the old ‘packaging and methodologies’ the church has used over the years BUT there is only ‘one Lord, one faith and one baptism.’ This doesn’t mean any one group or person has a corner on all the truth, but certain bottom line tenets of the Christian faith just can’t be both ways.

    Nathan, it’s not about who ‘wins this debate.’ I don’t want to get to a point where it becomes an endless, pointless argument either. Either way I buy lunch tomorrow when we meet, unless you punch me in the face and grab the bill. (To which I will fake like I’m knocked out until you’ve actually paid…unless I am actually knocked out)! Just needed to take a mental break there…
    I just want anyone who actually may be reading this to not just ‘think critically’ with human reasoning, but to think according to the understanding of the Spirit…not just always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth, but to actually come to a knowledge of essential truth… not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit. Paul also said, “from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (Acts 20:30,31a).
    On Hauerwas!! Another good ‘ol liberal theologian. His ‘consensual understanding of the faith’ sounds like just another ‘conversation’ of the critically thinking minds to me. His thoughts on ‘Jesus power’ are nice but not the real or whole picture, as usual. Jesus allowed the soldiers to take Him and nail Him to a cross so that His ultimate sacrifice (death, burial and resurrection) would save us from our sin. As believers Jesus is to be ‘in control’ of our lives in our obeying and following Him as Lord and Savior. For Hauerwas to say that Jesus did not seek to save if this meant to be ‘in control’ is a typical liberal ploy to box Jesus in without seeing the big picture of who Jesus really is. If His ‘power is of a different order’ then be clear on what that ‘order’ really looks like. He is the one who also made a whip and drove out the buyers and the sellers from the Temple. He is the one who verbally ripped the Pharisee’s by calling them a bunch of snakes while setting them straight. He is also that rider on the white horse that Revelation 19:11-21 talks about. He also sends the fire from heaven that devours the beast and the false prophet and throws them into the lake of burning sulfur, where they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (hmm, sounds like an actual place too) There is alot of power that Jesus uses at various times to conduct and impose His will as He pleases…He is the potter. Indeed His power is of a ‘different order’ because He holds all things in His hand and He shapes it all – and we are not Him, but we have His Spirit and His many promises. His Kingdom is not just about creating a utopia here on earth of God’s love in ‘giving and service’ and ‘serving without power.’ It is about God’s love in sending Jesus to save humanity and in giving us HIS POWER through witnessing His Gospel, and in giving and serving while making disciples. The ‘powers of this world cannot comprehend such a kingdom’ that is built through the saving power of Jesus Christ and not through intellectual reasoning, worldly philosophy …or critical thinking.
    See you tomorrow, lunch or coffee.
    I do win for loooooooooongest post however…!!!

  15. Well, this is just way too much and too random to respond to everything, so I’ll just pick a few things. However, next time maybe try to stay on topic, or we can battle out specific topics on email or elsewhere, but we really should pick one topic at a time.

    1. I’m against hierarchy in terms of taking power” over another person. The Christian perspective needs to be that we give people, communities, tradition, scripture authority in our lives. We should not support systems of power. Maybe listen to some of Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh’s commentary on collossians for some thoughts on the verses of submission to government and facing into the empire. They are from Toronto and have done some great things to say. I have them on MP3 if you want them. I understand roles, and serving where your gifts lie, but I do not think gifts lie in being authoritative or having power to make decisions for others.

    2. I don’t know if I have ever accused you for only using Scripture. I probably have challeneged how you read it or your interpretations, mostly because I disagree with how your interpret and what you use the scriptures for. I do think you are circular and now think you are a bit hap hazard as well after these responses. You stand on record for allowing the Bible to have the final say and I’ll stand on record for stating that when you say that all you are really saying is that your interpretation of the Bible has the final say, which is exactly my problem with how you use the bible in the first place.

    3. In terms of Paul begging for money, begging may be hyperbolic a bit, but you can try 2 corinthians 8, its actually quite beautiful the equality he seeks. you can’t deny Paul was trying to spread the love and get money around to all the churches, that’s all I was trying to say here, i apologize if it came across like i was accusing paul of being like benny hinn

    4. i’m not “ripping” it all down, I’m deconstructing because there is a lot of truth to be found in the process, if it’s truth, then there is nothing to worry, it can’t be taken apart anyway. if it is what you say, a lifetime pursuit, then why are you opposed to me doing it? Do i deconstruct in a way that is wrong? Is there a better way to deconstruct? Or are you just in disagreement with what conclusions I am coming to? Do you think something is solid that I think is obsurd? I think if you follow closely what I write, and how I write you will see that I am not just throwing them out, I am going back to them if anything, I try to read scholarly works from both sides, I try to read early church fathers and the scriptures to base my view on. the more I read of it, the more I think I have a case for the things that I’m saying. I don’t just come up with these ideas on my own :) no social gospel is replacing the gospel, and no thinking is replacing scriptures, I don’t separate them, they are all part of the asking and seeking process.

    5. The emerging church has far from “changed” doctrinal belief. It’s because of the thinkers under this label I was introduced to Barth, Hauerwas, Breuggeman, Wright, Volf, Peterson and the list goes on….all theologians and thinkers that this movement has a large respect for. Most if not all those people are still tied into their denominations who have been Christians far longer than the Baptists have been :) Most other people that I know that are part of these “emerging churches” are also part of denominations that are trusted evangelical denominations. They did this because they are Christ followers and don’t want to deceive anyone but also want to seek truth with freedom. I’m curious if you know anyone, besides me and a few of us at thestory, that is part of the ’emergent church.’ I know plenty, and the things that you dislike about them is more of a stereotype than a reality.

    6. It’s never been about winning with you. I enter into these conversations with you for all the people that read them. At some point your hard headedness, “spirit lead thinking” (whatever that is) incontextual scripture throwing, conservative viewpoint needs a bit of balance and I think I offer that. I get so many e-mails and conversations about my debates with you online, I know they are read, so i’ll just keep doing my part by adding the other side so we are better able to see the truth.

    7. finally, i am not trying to draw away disciples like your acts quote may suggest, i’m not even trying to distort the truth. i just don’t think you realize how biased your viewpoint is. how does one think according to the spirit rather than think critically? did god not give us a brain? does he not give christians the spirit? are these two separate modeS? i for one like to think that all this critical thinking that goes on might just be lead by the spirit. again, this statement of yours is extremly lopsided and fails to acknowledge that the brain and ciritical thinking could very well be a very important part of what the spirit is doing in us.

    Maybe I did respond to everything. If you’re going to respond, may I suggest you pick 2-3 of these points and respond to them individually, or break up your responses into points?

  16. To the person who suggested that I may not know what ‘anarchy’ means, I pose the question back, because anarchists themselves can’t even agree on what it means! For example some think it should be non-violent while others think violent revolution and terrorism is the proper path to an anarchist society. That is polar opposite. So which one do we take?

    Same can be said of other movements like, oh, Christianity. Some think that it should be expanded violently (Harper’s legal terrorism), others think it should be non-violent. Polar opposites… egad!

    However, I suggest that if you read Kropotkin, Proudhon, Goldman, Bakunin, Hardt & Negri, Ranciere, etc., you’ll be able to see the richness of the traditions (as, I’m sure, you see some richness in Christian traditions).

    To believe in your type of anarchy is to no doubt reject the sinfulness of humankind and to assume that people will not do bad, lawless things when no one has the authority to correct them or maintain order. It is a state of lawlessness where evil will still fight with good.

    No, no. This is one of those superficial arguments made by those who don’t know and don’t want to know what they are talking about. One can accept the sinfulness of humankind and be an anarchist. In fact, it is precisely the acceptance of that sinfulness that make some people (like myself) consider it folly to arm some folks (police, soldiers, etc.) and give those people a crazy amount of power (the police police the police, etc.) and expect them to act as good people! One would think that an appropriate respect for human fallenness would lead us to question that sort of thing.

    Anarchy isn’t necessarily lawlessness — it simply desacralizes the law and puts it into the service of the life of a community of people (rather than allowing it to be appropriated by the interests of the powerful). It recognizes a justice-beyond-the-law. This is why Proudhon is correct to assert that “anarchy is order” (BTW, the most famous anarchist symbol, the “A” in a “O”, respresents this saying).

    Besides, any person who reads Paul should know that there isn’t anything particularly wrong with living in a state of lawlessness — the state of lawlessness, according to Paul, can also be the state of grace.

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