Skip to main content

What has happened in the hearts of many men who lead the Church of Jesus? How did they become so calloused, indifferent, and hard-hearted? It didn’t happen overnight but resulted from an ongoing wandering away from intimacy with Jesus. It resulted from a mixture of the fear of man and deep inward insecurities.

Jeremiah 14:10 (NKJV) “Thus says the Lord to this people: “Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, And punish their sins.”

Men start well. They serve as an overflow of their love relationship with Jesus. They are enamored with His care and concern for others and want to join Him in His mission to seek and save the lost. But somewhere along the way, they lose their bearings and replace love-based ministry with self-based authoritarianism.

2 Timothy 3:5 (NKJV) “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!”

Jesus displayed great compassion for the hurting, those struggling with sin, and those under the heavy oppression of ungodly or even semi-godly spiritual leaders. However, the spiritual leaders of the day received Jesus’ strongest rebuke and reproof. Why?

One reason is Jesus saw right through their facade. Jesus knew that they based their leadership style on “outward appearances.” In other words, they were more concerned with looking good and being popular than with actually helping people. Yes, they were more concerned with how people perceived and thought about them than how they made the right decisions. Pause right there and let that sink in.

The fear of man is a trap that many spiritual leaders fall into today, especially as they accumulate power, wealth, positions, and titles. They want to be seen as flourishing and in control, so they put on a facade of perfection. They love to assert their authority while at the same time saying they have no authority. Long gone are the days of servanthood and brotherhood. Those days have been replaced by power, control, and looking good. Often behind the scenes, these leaders’ lives are a mess. And instead of helping people, they end up hurting them even more.

It’s a modern-day problem as well. It’s easy to point the finger in the first century and act as if we are shocked. No! Today the same thing is happening. Don’t be fooled. Many men in leadership positions within the church, pastors, overseers, denomination heads, regional overseers, and the like, are more concerned with how things look than fixing the deep-rooted issues in their hearts. This prideful resistance is met with the very opposition of God.

James 4:6 (NKJV) “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Jesus had an encounter with such men recorded for us in John 5. Most if not all of the religious rulers in Jesus’ Day had long since left the simplicity of knowing God and leading people to Him. It was all about them and their power, righteousness, and control. Jesus even used their obvious behavior as a way to get the people’s attention:

Matthew 5:20 (NKJV) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven

While the religious rulers were students of the Scriptures, they were not allowing the Word of God to abide in them, thus changing them and anchoring them to the love and joy of Jesus. They revered and respected God’s Law but refused to allow it to produce faith in their lives. They read it religiously. They spoke it religiously. They followed it “outwardly” religiously. They missed it spiritually.

In the first century, the downfall of the religious rulers wasn’t a lack in their synagogue attendance, a decrease in their good deeds, a forgetfulness in their ability to quote the scripture, or their keen ability to find fault in others.

Their problems were: While they read, they didn’t hear. While they studied, they didn’t learn. While they spent ample time in the Word, it wasn’t IN them! While they searched, they didn’t find the truth. While they majored in the truth, they failed to live it out! They avoided love, brokenness, contriteness, and dependence upon the Father.

Jesus describes the progressive downward slide of failed insecure leadership in nine ways:

#1 – You do not have God’s Word abiding in you.

#2 – You search the Scriptures but miss Me.

#3 – You are not willing to come to Me.

#4 – You do not honor Me.

#5 – You do not have the love of God in you!

#6 – You do not receive Me.

#7 – You will receive anyone else but Me!

#8 – You stand accused before the Father.

#9 – You don’t believe!

John 5:39–47 (NKJV) “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. “I do not receive honor from men. But I know you that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Enough of it all. 

If we want to be genuinely effective spiritual leaders, we must abandon this false leadership model and return to leading from a place of authenticity and honesty, brokenness and humility.

Psalm 51:17 (NKJV) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”

We must be men and women who are quick to hear, slow to speak, and even slower to anger. We must put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and humbly receive the implanted Word, which can save our souls.

James 1:19–20 (NKJV) “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Our leadership must be saturated with love as we’re being careful to maintain a good conscience so that, when we are maligned, those who defame our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

In other words, our lives must match our message. Our character must match our conduct.

1 Timothy 1:4–7 (NKJV) “nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.”

The pathway of Jesus-honoring ministry demands dying to ourselves daily and depending on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we seek first the Kingdom of God. This is not a call to abandon all structure and orderliness. But it is a call to abandon the false pretense that has so quickly taken root in many leaders’ hearts and minds.

Leaders, where necessary, you must return to leading from a place of humility and brokenness, relying on the strength of Christ alone. Otherwise, you will continue to produce nothing but fruitless religion that does not satisfy the soul’s hunger and hurts countless men and women. Return to the days when you viewed serving Jesus as a privilege, undeserved and unearned.

Revelation 2:5 (NKJV) “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

Leave a Reply