Church Leadership that Kills Community -- By: Gilbert Bilezikian

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 21:4 (Autumn 2007)
Article: Church Leadership that Kills Community
Author: Gilbert Bilezikian


Church Leadership that Kills Community

Gilbert Bilezikian

GILBERT BILEZIKIAN (Th.D., Boston University) is Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the author of The Liberated Gospel (1977), Beyond Sex Roles (1985), Christianity 101 (1993), Community 101 (1997), and numerous articles. He was a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., one of the fastest-growing and most innovative churches in the nation.

Introduction

After having relegated to oblivion for centuries its true identity as community, the church is finally rediscovering it with a vengeance at the dawn of this new millennium. In numerous churches of all stripes and denominations appears a surge of interest in recovering the constitutive elements of community life. Congregations are restructuring themselves into conglomerates of small groups. Corporate worship is revitalized. Hitherto passive believers are discovering the thrill of participating together in the ministries of the local church. Laypeople demand to be involved in the decision-making process relative to matters that concern their church life. A plethora of conferences and informal training opportunities provides innumerable resources and tools for church leaders and members alike to develop their skills as administrators, advisors, counselors, teachers, artists, musicians, dramatists, youth workers, missionaries, and even as publicists. Except for those bodies that opt to remain dormant and, consequently, doom themselves to decline and demise, the church is generally in a state of healthy effervescence.

However, as encouraging as such signs of renewed vitality may appear, the church must surmount one major obstacle in order to become again the new community that was created after Pentecost under the fresh impact of the Holy Spirit. Church leaders must return to the basic teachings of the New Testament to redefine their own ministries of leadership. Far too often, the prevailing models of church leadership are uncritically imported into the church as constructs borrowed from the corporate business world or from secular systems of administration.

As a result, multitudes of congregations are saddled with structures of leadership that violate the New Testament prescriptions for community life and stifle or distort its biblical expression. Transference into the church of worldly patterns of governance was absolutely prohibited by Christ. To the disciples who conceived of leadership as attaining positions of ascendancy, he described two prevailing models of secular structuring: rulers lording it over their constituencies and officeholders exercising authority over them. Jesus did not pronounce a value judgment on either. He recognized the emperor’...

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