Integrity: The Pastoral Leadership
“Take Me To Your Leader!”
Alien Leadership in the Church
I collect classic films on DVD.
Some of my favorites are the science fiction films of the 1950’s. I do not know if the actual line “Take me to your leader” was ever uttered in one of these movies but it became a cliché of the whole genre. These films sprang from the fear that mankind’s discovery of nuclear power would attract visitors from other planets, star systems or galaxies. From big budget, big-screen epics like MGM’s “Forbidden Planet” to low budget, highly serious warnings like Don Siegal’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to really cheap, terrible films like Ed Wood’s amazing “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (said to be the worst movie ever made,) these films entertained and amused us as they fired our imaginations. They kindled the minds of filmmakers of the Baby Boomer generation like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Ridley Scott who would continue these themes into this century. These films made us conscious of the limitless possibilities of alien civilizations, beings and laws, even if they were all products of fiction not science.
When something is alien to us, its source of life is a different one from ours. Alien rules and the forces at work are alien to us. In the Star Trek world, the Federation demanded what was called the Prime Directive—do not interfere with alien cultures, only observe and report.
I have witnessed alien influences in the church and I want to report. I observe methods of leadership that are not from the Kingdom of God. I see leaders operating by worldly rules that are alien to the Lord who saved them from the world. I sense forces at work that are not the power of God through the Holy Spirit. I am not under the restraint of Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock. I intend to do all I can to expose the alien influence in the church. Look out, Darth Satan, this space cadet intends to interfere!
Movie Parody #1: Plan 10 from Outer Space
“As a leader, you are a privileged person, a star. You must do all you can to entertain the people, they are your audience. Your success is in pleasing them. If you give them what they want, they will give you what you want; but you must never lose the “us and them” attitude. In this way you will be able to lord it over them, just as your heart desires and you will have power.”Darth Satan, Plan 10 from Outer Space
Like the hapless aliens in the worst movie ever made, Christian leaders have been observed to resort to and rely upon non-Christian methods. Some have exercised enough faith to receive the Lord’s salvation but not enough faith to lead by His example or by His truth.
Stardom vs. Servant-hood Artists serve humanity. In the Kingdom of God, artists serve the Body of Christ. Like our Lord Himself, we are called to serve not be served. Plan Ten from Outer Space calls upon us to be stars not servants. It is alien to the Kingdom of God for musicians to be stars or leaders to be VIPs. The Cross of Calvary pierces the stormy night of American culture like the beam of a searchlight with this message: Every person is a Very Important Person! In the Kingdom of God, all serve the King. Anything else is alien.
Entertainment vs. Artistry When the word artist means “performer” rather than “creator,” those ministering through the arts can be seen as entertainers whose work is a luxury to those who can afford it. If we are artists creating expressions of transformational truth and important beauty, then what we do is not a luxury but a necessity, a vital part of the ministry of the church, and a mandate from the King. God is the Creator not an entertainer. We are made in His image, so we must create as the Holy Spirit guides us. To use our gifts to selfish means is alien.
Audiences vs. Congregations We must view people in the pews in a Kingdom way, not an alien one. They are not an audience to be kept in the dark, aware only of themselves and the artist on stage. They are a congregation, a community. Audiences observe; congregations participate. Worship is a family gathering not a date with Jesus, a sacrifice of corporate worship not a concert. It is a time of giving not just receiving and a time to meet with the Eternal One not just His minstrels. The Bible speaks often to the context of personal worship in public. One of my favorite passages is found in Psalm 149: “Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.” This is the Kingdom of God. How dare we demote the congregation of the saints to the status of our audience. To do so is alien.
Lordship vs. Leadership and Power vs. Responsibility Plan 10 from Outer Space calls for “us and them” lordship over the people, a firm hand, and even a ruthless spirit that entertains no questions and suffers fools poorly. Jesus told us clearly that these politics of men are alien to the Kingdom of God. The leadership methods of this world are alien because they flow from the fallen heart of man. Hear the words of Jesus:
- “…He knew what was in man…”
- “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…”
- “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
Jesus’ instructions on leadership are simple and counter-cultural. In the Kingdom of God, leaders are servants, not rulers.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you,
let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matt 20:25-28 NKJV
When it is “so among” us—we are leading like aliens. The Kingdom of God is not advanced by personalities, power politics, plots, persuasion or manipulative presentations. The Kingdom advances by prayer and fasting, praise, worship, humility, service, sacrifice and obedience to God. Plan Ten calls for power seekers; the Kingdom of God calls for those who shun power and welcome responsibility.
Movie Parody #2: The Forbidden Parrish
“The rules you must govern by have been worked out carefully over generations of human experience. You must never be real or genuine; you must keep up appearances. You must constantly protect your hidden agenda; never let quarrels be about the real issues. Be careful to handle truth; it is dangerous. Handling it is more important than telling it. Avoid conflict over issues, quarrel frequently about personalities, personal preferences, and personal ambitions. Always remember to keep your distance.”
Darth Satan, Laws of Leadership for the Forbidden Parrish
In “Forbidden Planet”, the earthlings find themselves stalked by an unseen, alien force. In the movie the beast turns out to be the ego of man, and it still is today. Just such a monster stalks the leaders of the Forbidden Parrish. When the egos of Christian leaders go unchecked by the Refiner’s Fire and Launderer’s Soap of the Lord, unseen forces flow through alien rules of conduct.
Appearances vs. Reality Alien leaders in the church tend to underestimate the intelligence of the congregation, considering themselves as smarter, as keepers of the secrets. The church is not a secret society. There is no need to hide a biblical agenda. There should be no difference between the public face of the church and her inner heart. Integral leadership is essential to a church that is what she appears to be—a community of Christ-followers. When we find ourselves talking about how things look versus how they really are, pass around the space helmets and ray guns; we are leading like aliens. Church people sense when “what’s going on isn’t what’s really going on.” The Holy Spirit will give them discernment to sense that truth is being managed rather than told.
If we are for real, the way Jesus taught us to be in the Sermon on the Mount, we will not have to worry about appearances. When parishioners see leaders blessed as they mourn, hunger, thirst; when they see them despitefully used, going the second mile and turning the other cheek, they will know their leaders are serving the same Jesus they are following. Leaders are not aliens, they are simply believers. The Kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When a church is riddled with strife and self-interest, some alien kingdom has come.
Movie Parody #3: Invasion of the Spirit-Stealers
“You are not one of them, these pitiful ones weeping at the cross and crying out for help from the Holy Ghost. You are strong and self-sufficient. You must lull them to sleep with your smooth skill. Do not be afraid of them, except for their joy. It is dangerous for it strengthens them. It focuses their attention on others and the need of humanity. Keep them fat, happy and dumb. Feed their self interest. Above all fear their spirits. They must not be stirred up, especially by worship, prayer or the truth. Beware of truth; it will set them free and reveal your invasion of their ranks.” Darth Satan, Notes for the Invasion of the Spirit-Stealers
In “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, a small town physician discovers aliens invading his town by growing huge seed pods containing replacement bodies for the people. When the people go to sleep, they surrender to the aliens. “Peace” is the result as the community looses its human fire. Ungodly leaders, or leaders unwittingly using ungodly methods, rob the people of God of their inner fire and of their strength-supplying joy. The power of the church is the power of the Holy Spirit moving upon the lives of God’s people. Modern alien thinking robs this ministering power from the people and assigns the ministry to professionals. The powerful Kingdom truth is that God impacts the world more through everyday people in their everyday lives than through our presentations on the weekends. Alien leadership seeks to make the congregation dependent on the leaders rather than empowering them to live lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, lives of craftsmanship, integrity, and the eloquent witness of compassion for the hurting among us.
Apathy vs. Passion Apathy is the friend of alien leadership. Passion is its enemy. The alien leader seeks to placate people and avoid conflict. The Kingdom Leader seeks to find consensus as he/she listens for the voice of the Spirit even in unpleasant or whiney critics. The first pastor to engage me as worship arts consultant, Dr. Mike Rakes, said, “Steve, never sacrifice truth for harmony.” How “kingdom” is this thinking and how alien to this world! Truth stirs people to care and when they care they act. I love to pastor artists and worshipers because they are passionate people. It is great fun to lead a passionate congregation in worship because their passion quickly places the emphasis on Jesus. Alien leaders consolidate power when the people are preoccupied with themselves, when they are apathetic toward the Kingdom of God, lost on their own friendly little Class M planet.
Ease vs. Joy “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion.” Leadership that merely reinforces comfort zones is alien to the Kingdom of God. The Bible is an anthology of stories of people having their comfort zones destroyed when they encounter God. If the Promised Land is to come within us, we must drive out the Philistines in us. Worship is very much a process of marching around the walls of our comfortable lives until they fall before the sound of our voices and instruments. True Worship comforts those who mourn but it does not affirm the apathetic.
Man-Pleasing vs. God-Pleasing Alien leaders are the invading spirit-snatchers. They empower people in an alien way, not a Kingdom way. When we become man-pleasers rather than God-pleasers we surrender the reigns of leadership to the people in a way that robs them of their true heritage. If they come to church expecting to hear their music, see only what they understand and affirm, and experience only a nostalgic glow instead of the move of the Spirit, it is because alien leadership principles have led them to be this way. This is a perverted “democracy” that inevitably turns inward and becomes comfortable and self-congratulatory.
However, when Kingdom leaders put the focus on God and not the people, when His preferences and desires, as revealed in the Book, are taught and sought, when we become a God-pleasing congregation, true empowerment comes. When community is the focus, both the community of faith and the cultural milieu in which the congregation finds herself, then the Lord is beginning to give our hearts a new set of desires because we have learned to delight in Him. The primary rule of leadership in the Kingdom is this: “… the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” Quarrelling and strife are alien devices and are not the tools of the Kingdom Leader.
Sweat vs. Anointing A major theme of the New Testament is that the power of the church is the power of the Holy Spirit in and through us. This is our anointing—the power-flow of the Divine through our humanity. The alien way is a way of sweat—a sign of the curse of sin. In short, alien leadership wears out the saints whereas anointed ministry renews the saints. This is the rest promised to the people of God who had to leave the wilderness of God’s miraculous provision and cross over into the Land of Promise where they would have to work to eat. How can this be the promised “rest” of God? The work of the Kingdom is restful because the Master of the Universe is our Covenant Partner. We obey in the natural and He supplies the supernatural as the Apostles stated over and over. However, our fallen flesh cries out to work the cursed ground and we disdain rest. This is alien to the Kingdom of God. Jesus said his physical nourishment was to do the will of the One who sent him and finish his work. Paul knew that the works he did were really done by the power of the Lord within him and he told us to live the same way.
As citizens of another world, one untouched by sin and the fallen heart of man, we must follow our Leader. If we follow hearts that are not fashioned after the heart of God, we will be led into alien territory and techniques. Instead of the profane instructions I used to introduce the sections of this article, let us look at the real instructions Paul gives us:
Plan One from Heaven, The True Parrish, The Ministry of Spirit-keepers
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Col 2:6-8 NIV
We are people of the Kingdom of God. Why should we lead like aliens?
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved