Biblical Leadership

1 Corinthians Series #07: An exposition of 1 Corinthians 4:1-21. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, November 14, 2010.

I suppose we all dream of leadership in one way or another.  We aspire to be the leader, the boss, the one around whom everyone rallies.  In doing so we all have our own ideas about what makes a great leader.  To some degree those qualities depended on the field in which you are going to lead.  To lead troops into battle does not take the same set of skills as to grow a prize winning rose!  Still there are certain basics required if you are going to excel or lead in any area.  When it comes to the church we all have our ideas about what makes for a great leader.  That’s why it is understandable the folks in Corinth had their favorites just as we have our favorites.  We like this one’s preaching better than that one.  That one had a better personality than this one.  “He could really motivate while he put me to sleep.  He was a great comforter while he was aloof and hard to know.  Great organizer – never knew what was going on.”  The problem in Corinth was not that the folks identified with one more than the other but that they considered one a true servant of God and the others pretenders.  Paul’s focus in chapters 1-4 is to get them to see that that all their leaders are the servants of God and none of them really matter – it is God that matters.  He said, “I planted, Apollos water but it is God who caused the growth.”  In chapter 4 the apostle comes to describe what leadership in the church should look like.  He sets before us three characteristics of biblical leadership.  Our text this evening is found I the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21

This chapter brings us to the end of the first major section of the letter – Divisions 1:1-4:21.

As Paul has been addressing the various factions in the church he has had to address some of the  characteristics of leadership.  In this text he addresses the question directly.  What does biblical leadership look like?  What marks it as biblical.  This passive is not definitive.  It is not the only text in Scripture on the subject but it is one that addresses the issue head on.  As we work our way through the chapter we are going to find that…

Thesis: Biblical leadership is gospel oriented and focused on the crucified life.

It is important to note here, just like in chapter 3, that Paul is talking about those in leadership.  It is not that these same characteristics do not apply to all believers, for they certainly do, but that the specific context is the question of leadership.

That is clear because of 4:6 – I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Paul makes a clear distinction between himself, Apollos and the congregation.

I’m convinced this passage is much need in our day.  The church has become enamored with the corporate model with the pastor assuming the role of the CEO.  Churches are then staffed with committees, study groups and long-range planning groups to chart the course for the next decade.  I’m not suggesting that everything the church is doing is wrong.  I’m not suggesting that planning and charting a course of action is unbiblical, I’m saying the mindset is wrong.  The mindset is unbiblical.  At the same time the answer is not democracy.  The answer is not “give the people what they want.”

Well, what is the answer?
Paul spells it out in our text.

3 characteristics of biblical leadership.

  1. Biblical leadership is firmly rooted in Gospel soil.  (4:1-7)
  2. Biblical leadership consistently displays the virtue of genuine humility.  (4:8-13)
  3. Biblical leadership faithfully admonishes and lovingly corrects wayward saints.  (4:14-21)
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