If you attend Cities Church for a few weeks, you’ll quickly notice that you never know who will be praying or preaching or giving the exhortation any given week. In our first 19 Sundays, Pastor Jonathan has preached 8 times, I’ve preached 6, Pastor David has preached 4, and Pastor Michael has preached once. The exhortations have been similarly distributed. And this isn’t simply a random occurrence. Team leadership is a deliberate strategy on our part and something that we see as a key part of our DNA as a church.
We have at least three reasons for this strategy. First, we see a diversity of leadership in the Bible. Whether it’s the twelve apostles in the ministry of Jesus, or the reference to a plurality of elders and deacons in Paul’s letters, from the beginning of the church, God gave multiple leaders to the church in order to advance the mission. “All things are yours,” says Paul, including leaders like Paul, Apollos, and Cephas.
Second, we believe team leadership leads to wiser decisions. Team leadership means team decision-making, which means better decisions, since we’re able to compensate for each other’s blind spots. But we believe in more than just team decision-making; we believe it’s good for the public leadership of the church to come from multiple individuals. Just in the book of Acts, we’ve seen Peter stand up among the disciples; we’ve seen Peter and John together address the Sanhedrin; we’ve seen seven men selected to jointly oversee the distribution of food to widows; we’ve seen Stephen and Philip speak publicly, and Barnabas exercise leadership in bringing Saul into the church. These leaders have different gifts and abilities, but they are united by a common vision of God, a common mission, and a common doctrine.
Sharing the teaching and preaching load is good for the pastors (since they are free to devote themselves to other forms of ministry such as evangelism and equipping), the pastors’ families (since Dad is regularly able to sit in the pew with his family), and the congregation (since they are able to hear from multiple voices as well as see the other pastors learn from and be edified by other men).
Finally, Jesus is the head of the church, and we believe that team leadership helps to remind all of us of this reality. Just as it takes many members to make up the body of Christ, so also it takes many leaders to reflect the headship of Jesus to that body. In Ephesians, Paul says that when Christ ascended, he gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (all in the plural), to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain mature manhood. If we want to make mature disciples, we believe we need a team of leaders. Multiple leaders, speaking the truth in love, help us to grow up in every way into Christ who is the head of the church. He’s the one who does the equipping through multiple leaders, so that the body builds itself up in love. We believe that public team leadership prevents the church from becoming too dependent on one man. Hearing God speak in his word through different personalities, styles, and emphases keeps the focus on the message rather than the messenger.
Of course, team leadership carries particular dangers, and this reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let us seek refuge in him now.
Prayer of Confession
Lord Jesus, when you ascended on high, you gave gifts to men. Fundamentally, you gave us the Holy Spirit, and we celebrate the gift of that Joy on this Pentecost Sunday. But you also gave leaders to your church and to the world. We live in a culture that is personality and celebrity-driven. We love to turn leaders into idols, to put people on pedestals, to boast in men rather than boasting in God. And we also love to see the mighty fall. We love it when the celebrities that we’ve propped up come crashing down, and we maliciously rejoice in seeing leaders suffer. Idolizing men and celebrating their crash are great evils.
What’s more, as your covenant people, we too elevate men to a high place. Even in a setting of team leadership, we can take the leaders you give and make them into idols. You give us Paul and Apollos and Cephas, and we immediately say “I am of Paul” and “I am of Apollos” and “I am of Cephas.” We move from recognizing and celebrating different gifts to comparing and elevating certain gifts above others. Instead of receiving all of your fullness through all of your leaders, we become narrow and shallow and shriveled, able to receive truth and edification only through particular people. And so we seek your forgiveness for boasting in men and sinfully comparing leaders. We pray that you would give us right hearts that would celebrate all the ways and all the people through whom you give us yourself.
We know, Father, that if we in the Church regard sin in our own midst, or in our own hearts, our prayers will be ineffectual. And so we confess our individual sins to you now.
Assurance of Pardon
Let’s stand for the assurance of pardon. By confessing your sins, you have become less. And by becoming less, Christ has become greater. Having humbled yourselves, it is now the desire of our gracious Savior to exalt you with him. Therefore, by the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!