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Essentials of Discipleship: Seminar 12 - Leadership and Submission

Dear church,

On 18 October 2015, Elder Tan Chong Tien and Matthew Koh taught on the topic of leadership and submission in the church.

First, we learnt that leadership in the church is to be characterised by humble servanthood. As Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:26-28:

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

This is further reiterated in Mark 9:35, where Jesus again told his disciples: "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Christian leadership is not leadership by force or coercion, nor is it leadership by personality or charisma. Christian leadership is, first and foremost, leadership that expresses itself in humility and the desire to serve others.

Next, we learnt that all Christians are to submit to each other, not to be selfish, but to count others as more signifcant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Yet, this submission is not directionless obsequence. Rather, this submission is framed by the ultimate allegiance that we owe to Jesus. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:21, Christians are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Paul goes on to emphasise the interaction between Christian leadership and submission as he writes about how husband are to lead their wives as Christ leads the church, and wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. The same applies in parent-child and master-servant relationships. In each instance, a Christian in a position of leadership is to look up to Christ's example in exercising this leadership; in each instance, a Christian in a position of a follower is to follow and submit in the way that the church follows and submits to Christ. Christ is the ultimate model and example for all Christians (whether considered leaders or otherwise) to model their lives after.

We then learnt some practical tips about how, in the church, we should rightly submit to our leaders. The following are some of them:

  • We ought to treat our leaders with kindness and respect, including remunerating them reasonably.
  • We ought to affirm and encourage our leaders, so that they can serve the church well.
  • We ought to pray consistently for our leaders.
  • We must not idly spread rumours about any leader, but should be quick to give them the benefit of doubt.
  • Even if we have legitimate reasons to disagree with our leaders, and wish to seek change for the benefit of the church, we should disagree in a biblical fashion and do it in respect of areas the church is called to be accountable for.
  • We should not place unreasonable expectations on our leaders.
  • We must always remember that a Christian community is marked by wise submission and lowliness, and instead seek the interests above our own, as Jesus Christ did.

Question 48 of the New City Catechism asks: "What is the church?", the answer to which is: "God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another."

This is a lofty vision for the church, and something that we can only achieve if we live together in mutual submission, and humbling ourselves to serve one another. Let us pray that, as a church, we will learn and practise what it means to live together and love one another as Christ first loved us.

This Sunday, Tan Yee Kiat will be teaching on the topic of "Future Hope". Do join us at 5pm after service for this very interesting class.

The Discipleship Seminars Committee