ForKnoc 07-11-115  

Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder



Paul R. Ford

ChurchSmart Resources, 2006, 213 pp., ISBN 1-889638-58-7



Paul Ford is a leadership and teambuilding specialist with Church Resource Ministries (  He has taught and worked with church leaders in several countries.  Ford argues that too many churches have become enamored with the business leadership model.  The first half of the book explores the problems that face us and the second half gives prescriptions for change.


"We have a climbing disease….  Bigger is better, more is better, higher is better."  (12) 


Chapter 1.  Christian Leadership Versus the Equipping Releaser

You may not understand leadership but you feel you should be moving up.  "Everyone wants to be a visionary leader, a leader who has influence over others in some tangible way." (18) 


"We must be careful not to buy in to the ways of business and organizational management strategies simply because they appear to work." (21)


"The leadership gift and the visionary leader concept became the in vogue way of climbing the leadership ladder for the evangelical pastor." (24)


Of ten pastors, two or three may be able to look out the window and see God's vision but the other seven have a problem and they feel guilty.  Glorifying one gift causes internal tyranny.  But God has designed another way.  (25)


The myth that anyone can be a leader is so strong that people with supporting gifts are devalued.  Those who feel unduly driven to become leaders can become trapped in unhealthy situations. (28)  The biblical reality is that God has prepared some to be "equipping releasers" of others. See Ephesians 4:12.  (29)


"Historically, the leadership gift was a subset of the larger group of equipping gifts that God has given so that the whole body of players can be prepared, mentored, or trained for their God-designed role.  However, the equipping gifts have become a subset of leadership."  "Let's move the leadership gift back into its proper place, as one of the valuable equipping spiritual gifts that are used powerfully for kingdom-building purposes."  (30)


"Christians must not seek the position or the gift of leadership; rather they must seek to empower others to discover and fulfill their places in the body." (30) 


Chapter 2.  Build ME versus Build Community

"It is difficult to find the communion of the Holy Spirit when the spotlight is on the self."  "Narcissism, exaggerated self-concern says, 'It's all about me…'" (35)  Entitlement says "I deserve it."  We feel we deserve what we have, what we want and what we need.  (37)  Evangelicals look and act much like our unhappy culture. (39)  Further, we are beginning to infect previously relational cultures around the world. (40)


God's ultimate strategy is relationships.  (42)  "God's design…is for relationships to have priority over position or results." (43)  But it is hard to live "we" when our culture thinks and lives. "I."  (44) 


God has designed us with strengths to offer others and areas where we need others.  One of the most important qualities of community is the freedom to admit our weaknesses and need for each other. (45)


Individualism encourages me to exhibit my strengths and hide my weaknesses.  Community encourages me to share my strengths and acknowledge I need you because of my weaknesses.  (46)  "It's not about me; It's about us." (48) 


Chapter 3.  Build Me Up and Put You Down

"If the American dream is based on anything, it is on the idea that anybody can make it to the top." (52)  "The ladder mentality gives me the opportunity to climb to my heart's content." (52)  "When people are climbing, this has a dramatic impact on how they work together in a given ministry." (53)


Christians battle with significance issues such as beauty, education, possessions, wealth, popularity, influence, work position, power, relationships with people of significance, status, success, and travel. (54-5) 


"There is no ladder to climb in the kingdom, only relationships in which to be faithful." (55)  "Life is really about the stewardship of relationships as God provides." (56)


"Every culture battles with the issue of leaders wanting to climb to the top and control people and things." (57)


"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (I Peter: 5:5b-6)  "If there is any lifting up to be done, God will be the architect of that.  He does not need our help!" (59)


"Peter challenges us to be good stewards of God's grace: 'Each one should use whatever gift he [or she] has received to serve others…." (I Peter 4:10)  (59)


"More and more evangelical leadership spends its energies promoting leadership- or vision-driven organization rather than healthy, multiplying relationships." (69)


Chapter 4.  The Body of Christ and Biblical Leadership

God's economy of grace can be represented by a life-giving, growing organism rather than a highly structured organization with strategic plans.  (72) 


"We are not just an organization of people that happens to be Christian.  Fellowship is truly a spiritual depth of unity and love that is created by the Holy Spirit." (76) 


Among the Russians, the Kazakhs, and the Tamil-speaking Indians, I discovered I had no position or power or value without relationship.  "The content had to be wrapped in relational clothing or it would not be received." (78-9) 


"The ladder so often encourages us to seek the end result or the higher position or the greater wealth.  However, God appears to be much more interested in the process of relationships along the way--whatever the goal or end result." (79)


"Each of us can try to decide what parts of the body we want to be, but attempting such will simply not work.  God is the composer and arranger of this organic masterpiece, and he intentionally designed the body just like he wanted it to be." (82)  "The body of Christ is also the great leveler.  There really are no ladders in the body of Christ." (82) 


"By living with 12 men, God in human flesh made a clear statement about how community develops." (84, quoting Ralph Neighbor)


Perhaps God does not need as much organizational and strategic help as we have thought over the past years.  Most likely he is particularly interested in our becoming more aware of his strategies through his organic design. (87)


Chapter 5.  Leadership Re-Engineered: Being a Good Steward

If we are the organic, living body of Jesus in the world, how does the leader fit in?" (91)


"There is no broad overview of the leader or leadership idea in the New Testament."  The gift of leadership is one among a number of gifts. (92)  Leader is not described as a primary word related to directing and managing ministry. (93)   The Scripture talks of overseers and stewards, or "relationship managers," of God's household. (93) 


"If I am faithful relationally with those whom God brings to me, and use my gifts as well, he will fulfill his kingdom purposes through that course of action.  God will then extend the process outwardly into oikos, household relationships, in ways that I could never plan." (99)


"I seek to be a steward of who I am through my spiritual gifts, while at the same time being a good steward of the relationships he gives me along the way.  If I am faithful to be who I am, where I am, he will fulfill his purpose and give clarity to each step.  Such is the functioning of his economy of grace." (100)


The nature of leadership in the New Testament is that of equipping or preparing the saints for the work of the ministry according to Ephesians 4:11-16.  (100)  "Jesus, the gift-giver, gives certain believers gifts that are to 'equip, prepare, establish or strengthen' Christians for service to the Lord and to fellow humankind." (101)  "The biblical priority is that the saints be prepared for ministry, not simply led." (101) 


There are three crucial concepts here:  (1) Christian leaders are "stewards of God's grace-driven, of powerful spiritual gifts and of their households of relationships."  (2) Leaders are "equippers of body life gifting and relational unity." (3)  Leaders are "true ministers, servants who serve by the very nature of the word and the very model of Jesus…." (106)


Chapter 6.  Leadership Re-Engineered: Stewarding Our Lives

"The model of right relationship appears to be much more important than the capacity to lead large groups or preach with great illustrations." (111)  By comparison to leadership qualifications in Timothy and Titus, we are wrongly focused on skill set training rather than relational stewardship training.  (111)


"Mending broken relationships is key to the whole fabric of the body of Christ and central in our witness to a lost world." (114) The disease of broken relationships is wreaking havoc among Christians.  "Self-serving Christians will leave relationships and churches at the drop of a hat for any number of personal reasons.  The result is weeping in heaven as the brokenness dominates." (115) 


"Reconciling our relationships with God and with one another is an essential stewardship responsibility for every spiritual leader -- for every Christian." (118) 


Paraphrasing Paul, "Don't build yourself up in inappropriate ways, but rather make a serious, clear-headed examination of who you are." (120)


"Spiritual gifts are not simply those activities in which we do well.  Spiritual gifts are where God powerfully shows up in our actions by the power of the Holy Spirit." (123)  'If we minister in his power…there will be no question about who gets the glory!" 


A person's spiritual gifts may be only supporting gifts, only equipping gifts, or a combination of both.   "The joy comes in powerful serving and supporting, not in any effort to move up or try to become more important by the world's standards for success." (125)


"In our desire to help God enlarge his church, we have focused on the tasks of ministry, tied this to cultural ladder-climbing, and lost sight of the who in the body of Christ while we chase down the how…and the where….  The organization has overtaken the organism, and consequently, the living body of Christ has had some unexpected constraints placed upon it." (132)


Chapter 7.  Organic and Healthy Body Life

"We simply cannot reach the world as the living body of Christ with current Christian organizational models." (137)  "The wisdom and power flow primarily through our relationship with Christ and our organic or natural interconnectedness within the body -- relationships!" (138)


The applications Jesus modeled, the new wineskins:

#1. The Stewardship of Relationships and Spiritual Gifts.

#2.  The Body of Christ as Organism -- Not Just Organization. (142)

#3.  Practical Steps from "I" to "We." (147) 

       From independence to interdependence.  From self-interest to service

       Living in accountable community

#4.  The Body Life Design Team. (149)

       Don't confuse significance with role.  Choose team unity & community.


Chapter 8.  God's Economy in Body Life Leadership.

"Paul, in all his dominance and directness as an apostle, did not refer to leadership as the issue…."  "There is no leadership ladder in God's economy." (156)  Leadership "is actually a series of functions to be fulfilled by a group of people."  The tasks of leadership are fulfilled most powerfully by a number of gifted players, not one." (157)  


Ford identifies five leadership functions (and has found no one who is powerful in all five)

       Values Keeper

       Team Builder

       Active Listener

       Vision Sharer

       Equipping Releaser (162)



#5.  Be Watchful Through the Stewardship 3-Step: 1. The Stewardship of Who I Am, 2) The stewardship of Who We Are, and 3) The Stewardship of the Groups of We: Whole Church Body Life (166)

#6.  Moving Toward Functional Leadership Language. (171)  Use ministry language that signifies what we want to be about ministry-wise as stewards.  We are all equippers and/or supporters of the saints. (173)


"God's plan for leadership is that it be a shared process fulfilled by a group of gifted equippers who bring the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit to every situation and need." (174)


Chapter 9.  God's Economy in Body Life Evangelism.


#7.  Listening to Those Whom God Brought to Discern More Clearly What God Intends. (Watching and listening for God's heart in the body of believers) (181)  "God's plan includes literally thousands of burdens and passions so that together the body of Christ can reach the world.  Such is God's economy." (182) 


"If you ask people who or what is on their hearts, and they think you really want to know, they will tell you. The problem is that most Christian leaders in every type of ministry simply do not ask!" (183)  This doesn't mean you endorse anyone to do anything.  Some are not prepared.  "Submission and an attitude of servanthood are essential prerequisites for releasing people to their ministry passions." (184)


"God gives big picture vision to key leadership.  God gives individual pieces of the big vision to all the players."  And the two interact.  (185)


#8.  Watching and Listening as Overseers.

Call your board members watchers and encourage them to watch and listen for God working among the people.  (189) 


"The key to effective evangelism is choosing to be a good steward of God's power in me--my spiritual gifts--in the context of relationships in which God places me." (191)


#9.  Evangelism -- Be Who You Are Where You Are. 

"People are looking for authenticity and truth revealed in real people and genuine relationships, where the message and the messengers have the same integrity." (191)  "With unbelievers, in fact, using our gifts becomes our most supernatural means of serving and loving them." (192) 




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