Why Do We Allow Toxic Leaders?

kinnon —  March 6, 2011 — 38 Comments

King in suit

In my previous post on this humble corner of the interwebs’ blogiversary, I told a little of my story of experiencing the left foot of fellowship from a megachurch leadership team. That experience has informed some of the discussion on church leadership at kinnon.tv.

Earlier today, Brad Boydston pointed to this interesting post from Joe Hellerman – The Allure of Toxic Leaders.

Hellerman is writing a book on “the use of power and authority in Christian leadership. The provisional title is When Pastors Were Servants: Recapturing Paul’s Cruciform Vision for Authentic Christian Leadership.”

Hellerman states,

The motivation to take on the project came from numbers of students at Talbot, and colleagues in pastoral ministry, who have found themselves on the receiving end of abusive, hurtful leaders. The book will contain, among other things, a series of narratives (well disguised, of course) detailing the various experiences that these men and women have had at the hands of narcissistic, dysfunctional leaders in their churches.

Here is perhaps the most counterintuitive reality I have encountered in the whole process of researching the topic: all but one of the dozen or so abusive local church leaders described in the book are still in their churches, fully in control of the church’s vision, ministry, and staffing.

I don’t find it counterintuitive at all. In fact, a scripture I will return to over the course of a number of posts, 1 Samuel 8 explains exactly what’s going on. The context is Samuel’s response to the people of Israel demanding a king. The Lord responds to Samuel (from The Message)

When Samuel heard their demand—"Give us a king to rule us!"—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.

God answered Samuel, "Go ahead and do what they're asking. They are not rejecting you. They've rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they've been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they're doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they're in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they're likely to get from a king."

So Samuel told them, delivered God's warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, "This is the way the kind of king you're talking about operates. He'll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He'll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He'll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He'll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He'll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he'll take for his own use. He'll lay a tax on your flocks and you'll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don't expect God to answer."

But the people wouldn't listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We will have a king to rule us! Then we'll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles."

When I was removed from my leadership role at the megachurch (apparently for daring to think the senior leader would live up to promises made), the official position was that I was to be shunned. Staff were told specifically not to speak to me.

A few, in fear, chose to. A number of active volunteers spent time with us – commiserating with us, telling us their own stories of experiencing the autocratic nature of the senior leader. A person who had experienced something virtually identical a year before me made a point of telling me their story, in detail. Yet. To a person, they are all still at this church. Even though our experience has been repeated numerous times with others in the six years since we left. In spite of what these people know to be true about the leadership of this church – and in spite of their own pain experienced at the hands of this leadership, they are still there.

Hellerman says this,

We are apparently attracted to toxic leaders. Psychological dynamics that lead us to rally around such leaders include a subconscious longing for a parental figure later in adult life, the need for security and certainty in an unpredictable world, and a desire to feel chosen or special, as we join together in community with others to support the noble vision of a bigger-than-life leader. We tend to look the other way, where integrity is concerned, if we can find an inspiring, confident leader to satisfy these pressing psychological needs.

At a deeper level, people respond to powerful, charismatic leadership out of a profound longing for a god-like figure in their lives. In religious contexts this person can be a gifted, celebrity pastor who simultaneously serves as both God’s representative and spiritual father to a willing, compliant congregation. Jesus was apparently well aware of this dynamic: ‘Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven’ (Matt 23:9). (Emphasis added)

And adds this later when speaking of a New York Times article on Rudy Giuliani’s leadership after 911 where one rabid fan calls him “God.”

Some of our gods turn out to be devils in disguise. This is true of public officials, and it is true of certain pastors in our churches. Yet we continue to tolerate and even encourage strong leaders who clearly misuse their power and authority.

Human leaders have clay feet. That’s why we need more than one of them at a time leading a local church. It is no accident that virtually every church in the New Testament was led by a plurality of elders-pastors. Maybe that’s how Jesus’ earliest followers interpreted his command ‘Do not call anyone on earth your father.’ (Emphasis added.)

I would suggest that we need to highlight the plurality of elders-pastors if we are to spare the church the damage done by the "kings" we've placed over us in far too many churches, of any shape, size or denomination.

I will come back to Hellerman in my future post on the Marlboro Man as a leadership model.

kinnon

Posts

A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

38 responses to Why Do We Allow Toxic Leaders?

  1. It will be hard to deal with toxic leadership until churches deal with their definitions of success. Nickels and noses are so often the bottom line. If the church “grows” (attendance increases for whatever reason) and the budget is met, then the natives don’t get restless. This is particularly true when churches take on indebtedness as a church lifestyle. I have sat in too many meetings where the treasurer’s report is one half the meeting. The atmosphere is ripe for toxic leadership. Authentic church life (whatever that looks like) is itself a repellent to those who propose to lead the church but with ego at the center. Toxic leaders don’t know how to do that kind of church. They can do numbers and they can do money. After 40 years in the ministry, not having a larger than life personality and with average to less charisma is not as big a curse as I thought it was when I started out in ministry. That doesn’t mean that I’m not toxic but I just can’t do the level of damage the super-apostles can do.

  2. Toxic leaders will be allowed and entertained as long as people keep their secrets.

  3. A friend of mine and a fellow church leader defended their pastor who was involved in a variety of improper financial transactions and was a well known liar because “he has the gift of evangelism and the church was growing”. It was as simple as that. He delivered results.

    The denomination, board, and staff all knew stuff was going on but let it alone because the church was growing.

  4. One of our men whose undergrad work was in biology told me last week it is in the tribal nature of human beings to defer to the alpha-male regardless of character or practice. He noted it is something of a capitulation that the tribe of which we are a part, we believe, will be sustained by giving way to this type of leader. Sounds like what you describe here.

  5. Empathetic compassion X 100. Our four lives too were trampled/wrecked, we’re still trying to heal after 6 years. The stories all read like a script, the pain so familiar/similar. I am so sorry for the violation of trust, the betrayal that happened to you. There is a comfort in hearing other’s stories.

  6. Yeah … I hung around about 2 years — until they used my hanging around as an example of how a former pastor doesn’t have to leave (after being dumped like a load of dirt) on their latest “victim”. After she told me that, it was a matter of weeks before the Lord released me to leave.

    I was trying not to make waves and be divisive. They didn’t want to hear the truth … and after I had exhausted all avenues of getting the truth heard, God let me go. I had been obedient. Whew, that was a long task, Papa!

    I’m with Sonja … as long as the people keep their secrets, things will never change. :^( It is a hard thing to blow things up in a family….

  7. After having endured decades of debacles from UNqualified (immature) and DISqualified (immoral, unethical) leaders in churches, ministries, and Christian educational institutions, I think I’ve landed on a cluster of key issues about why people stay under someone who tortures their spirit. I’m wondering if it is often …

    * The evil that is known is less fearful and less discomforting than the alternative of facing the unknown and all the many choices that will require.

    * It is easier for some of us to accept blame (we caused what happened to us) and shame (we deserve what happened to us) than to proclaim the defamer as evil. We’ve been conditioned to believe the lies of the bullies — bully parents, bully peers, bully pastors, etc.

    * Truth is not yet as evident to us because of the lies being told constantly, or as important to us because we have not yet comprehended the injustice of corrupt leaders and systems, and so we continue to settle for the lies and support the liars.

    Sidenote: Surely more culpability goes to those who should know better but who fail to act in counteracting evil actions of toxic leaders, than to those who are baby believers and do not know any better. And now, back to the regularly scheduled point, about why people stay in abusive situations.

    * On a rare occasion, I think God intentionally and overtly keeps someone in a spiritually abusive situation in order for them to witness what actually happens and bear testimony to the truth in the midst of the lies. Eventually (at least, this is what I’ve watched happen in my experience), every toxic leader or wannabee makes at least one huge mistake that can never ever be withdrawn from the public record, only covered up and/or lied about. Their lie is caught by witnesses, their anger and cruelty is irrefutably signed sealed and delivered on a piece of paper, the evidences of their spiritual idolatry and/or moral adultery is irretractably posted on the internet, etc. And then the truth MAY win out at last, although staunch and unthinking supporters of toxic leaders/systems will deny the truth or explain it away. But there are still human witnesses to the truth.

    Also … we’re dealing with a complex system of evil here. So it’s not all about just human sin and brokenness, but it also includes the components of spiritual warfare because there is someone evil who wants us dead or — if that doesn’t happen — debilitated, and a world system of culture that still tends to adore, endorse, and institutionalize bullying. And the culture of churches is not immune to any of these.

    However, with the increasing level of attention being given to intervention and prevention of bullying in both the secular realm, and in a few movements within the Church, perhaps things are on the verge of a shift! I hope so. I see the possibility on the horizon. But I also believe it requires us to love the truth rather than live with the lie, which means we have to grow up, call out evil actions and toxic people when we witness them, and allow the Lord of the Church to put us in roles of responsible leadership ourselves at a level warranted by our degree of maturity.

  8. When we see the true nature of a toxic leader, it still takes awhile to unravel the “spiritual” justifications for being a part of the group. It is likely a mix of both good reasons (other healthy relationships in the group), deceived reasons (submit to spiritual authority, don’t be divisive), and needs we are trying to fulfill (this elite group or role makes me feel important). In the end, as we all know, the price of leaving is high.

    But those who leave believe the price of staying is too high. When I let go of the spiritual bondage of trying to submit to a toxic leader, I eventually learned that attempting to follow someone that you do not trust or respect is a toxic thing also, and it will erode your personal inner integrity.

    Good post Bill, and thanks for sharing your responses everyone, very insightful.

  9. Great & insightful post & comments. Very helpful.

    I would add that people also deeply fear uncertainty and ambiguity. Asking hard questions sends us into the unknown, when many were attracted to the church because of its promise to have all the answers. Whether theologically or in leadership, it is easy to interpret that uncertainty as “the enemy”, deciding instead to just “have faith”. Deadly.

  10. Brad/Futurist Guy,

    My guess is that most toxic leaders didn’t start out that way. At some point their motivations were, at least from their perspective, Christo-centric. What would you say are some common indicators that someone is sliding toward toxic leadership? Are we talking mainly about general idolatry (Counterfeit gods type stuff), or are there some indicators that are more specific to leadership and not just life in general?

  11. Thanks for this post. I would count Hellerman’s new book as a hopeful shift in the Church’s uncritical embrace of the secular leadership culture. I’m not sure I can add to the great insights already posted here in the comments, but I think there’s 1 other factor in people keeping quiet about toxic leaders – they genuinely believe they are responding in submission, or that leaving gracefully is somehow a more “christian” response. We’ve not done a good job of modeling healthy Christ-like confrontation, as Jesus encouraged in Matthew 18:15.

  12. Hey Rob, good question, and since one of my dominant learning style things is that I don’t know what I know until there’s a question to answer or a problem to solve, some of the very first things that come to mind often prove important. So …

    … when I read your question, my gut-level instinct was that there are at least two categories going on here: those who are confirmed controllers by the time they reach adult life, and those who slouch toward toxicity over time.

    The confirmed controllers learned during childhood and adolescence how to manipulate others through positive charm and suck-up abilities, or the negative version of violence and threats to instill fear. (So, this isn’t about a specific personality or temperament.) These may be the kinds of people who HAVE to be “in charge” in order to feel good about themselves, they know from practice how to get their way, and – frankly – churches are easy EASY pickin’s for those who just need a bunch of people committed to being “nice” and/or committed to trying to be their best and orderly in a disordered world. Aren’t they the most easy to control …?

    While they are deeply broken in their ways of relating, God can still work to transform them. (I know I’m “supposed” to say that, but I really do believe from experience that some of the most broken people can still see incremental change in their lives.) However, in my experience, these instinctive controllers types generally seem to be incorrigible. Like Diotrephes – whom John, the “Apostle of Love,” called out in clear and direct terms – they love to have pre-eminence. Their smooth-talking tongue always has a ready response or a pseudo-apology ready.

    Sadly, the only recourse I’ve seen work *in the long run* is to stand up to them. Call out their anger. Call out their “spins” on the “truth” which equal lies. Call out their self-serving actions. Respect their humanity, yes, but no, do not protect their inhumaneness. They are Spirit quenchers and spirit killers; they are selfish and malicious, even when they come across as slick and innocent.

    Meanwhile, for those leaders who start out sincere but who slip-slide-and-away into spiritual abuse, here’s what immediately comes to mind as warning signs:

    * They show signs of despondency about the slowness of the ministry/congregation to grow numerically and/or in level of maturity.

    * They haven’t developed disciples to the level where others can use their gifts, and so they as leaders and any staff are burning out from too much to do to keep the machine running.

    * They get frustrated that plug-and-play methodologies imported from some other culture “don’t work right” in their locale, and they don’t know what to do about it because they genuinely are trying to make the ministry work. But they’ve never received training on how to build a mission/ministry strategy and infrastructure system from scratch. They’ve never received training and opportunities to learn how to develop new and relevant ideas, or practice creativity skills. They’ve never walked through the process of studying their own local culture. So, often, they start trying any new program, they start hunting for The Next Big Idea because they don’t know how to generate their own, they look for some supposedly universal methodology

    When they’ve moved from the frustrated to the frantic stage on these issues, they’re likely on the brink; since they cannot control culture, responses, or results, there are only a couple things left to help them feel secure in the midst of chaos. Things like: (1) Overcontrol of people and programs. (2) Denial of anything “negative,” maybe even labeling it “gossip” in order to stop it and thus give the appearance of growth/success. (3) Redefining “success” as what is already happening. (4) Harping on how if we were just more committed, just more faithful, just more generous in our tithes and offerings, then God would be blessing with more tangible results. (In other words, they’ve gone into “if/then legalism,” where IF we do “the right things,” THEN we will be blessed, but not otherwise.) (5) Stoppage of input from trustable leaders, peers, family members, etc., that looks to be leading to lack of accountability.

    I’m sure there’s more, but those are the first things that come to mind. And yes, those are all common toxic tactics among the practiced abuser. But when we notice these as early-stage behaviors in our leaders who’ve been sincerely trying to do what’s right, time to do an INTERCEPTION because they’re at risk. And if they refuse challenge, correction, and assistance in moving forward, they need to know that the consequences go up a notch and eventually it will be INTERVENTION, which may (and actually should) mean removal from their position – for the sake of the Body and for the sake of the person himself/herself.

    In the case of sincerity-slippage leaders turned into abusers, it’s Romans 6-7-8. We want to what’s right, but we find we can’t. We want to avoid doing what’s wrong, but we do end up doing it anyway. Who will deliver us from this wretched body of death? The Triune God is already at work in these leaders and in their situations to bring personal and communal transformation. Hopefully we can find the compassion to understand their plight, and the courage to challenge them truthfully and gently as possible, and the commitment to assist personally in their redemptive process.

    Wow, a three-point outline. That must mean it’s time to stop. So I will. Hope that’s of some help …

  13. Brad,

    Thank you for the provocative response. I’ll be digesting it for a while.

  14. Well said, Don. And I’m glad you “can’t do the level of damage the super-apostles can do.” :-)

  15. And it’s all about the results, isn’t it. Sigh.

  16. Brad is my blog-resident genius friend – and one of the MT (Missional Tribe) ‘Gators.

    He along with Sonja, Peggy and Linda always flesh out any discussion we get into. (As do Brent and Rick – the other two ‘Gators.)

  17. Todd,
    Interesting insight.

    Kathleen,
    I wish you couldn’t empathize so easily.

    Peggy,
    Un-flippin’ real. We walk with limps.

    Brad,
    As always, thanks!!!

    Jamie,
    Another important contribution.

    Rob,
    Great question.

    Jan,
    Confrontation is hard – and I’m afraid, too often, you don’t get the opportunity to confront. The leader who “fired” me told me he was wearing his CEO hat when he did the deed – rather than his “pastor” or “friend” hat. How weird is that?

  18. A friend of mine calls this the church’s version of Stockholm Syndrome. Regardless of what they’ve done or how they’ve done it, no one wants to call out what they see. Those that do will be punished for their honesty. So they stay, and they fight inside themselves, and inside their families to keep everyone positive about the situation they’re in.

    The popular model often makes the senior pastor the father figure. Before long, it’s easy to see how the father figure lets everyone down, because lo and behold… turns out he’s a sinner like everyone else. Even if that is the case though, you’re not likely to get repentance from the top.

    How’d we get there? A really poor understanding of leadership and authority. How’d that happen? Usually a really shoddy ecclesiology that leaves huge holes open for any latest “results-oriented” model to fill in. And at the core of that? A poor theology that assumes that Jesus isn’t enough to lead His church and that God isn’t serious about what, and how, we operate in the world.

    Or something like that.

    • Carl / ex-pastor June 9, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      There’s another aspect of this as well though. A LOT of people I ministered to in my church identified me “as a father figure”, but then mapped all their father issues on to me as well. I didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it, but it happens as Forest Gump would say. I don’t know how you can avoid it. We DO stand before God and intercede for our people as Moses did, and they grumble against us as well, just like Moses. So the “abuse” argument works both ways. I’ve had a lot of people come back and apologize and say they were wrong, but there was a lot of pain in the process.

  19. Our church is dealing with this now from the other side. My husband is one of two co-pastors, and many people are very unsettled and angry about our lack of a senior pastor. Very few can give a reason why except that they want one. I’m praying for the leadership to remain strong and stay the course.

  20. Sounds like the people of Israel in 1 Samuel 8, doesn't it.

  21. Great discussion so far.

    In my experience/thinking, i see the reason we allow toxic leaders is because at some level we have a false belief that they are “anointed to lead”… that they are somehow more specialer than the rest of us and there fore they are called by God to a task/position that the rest of us could never do. It’s all BS, but still we buy into it for some reason.

    I guess (as I examine my heart) we do want some sort of superior leader to tell us what God wants for our lives, to lead us into various forms of “Victory”, and ti “expand the kingdom”. In other words, we over all have a deficient understanding/view of the kingdom life Jesus is creating.

    We really are like the people of Israel. We shout, “Give us a king” in so many ways. Instead of bowing before the truth that there is one head, one faith, one baptism, we choose to be like the broken world around us and give toxic leaders footholds to continue their hurtful rampage in the name of God.

    Lord, hear our prayers…

  22. i’m from that transition era in vinyl recordings and i dunno … i always found clear stereo a whole lot better than scratchy mono. if only we could learn that lesson of mediation as congregations …

  23. I think that toxic leaders have a whole different set of skills that most of us do not have.

    They know how to get ahead (power) and they know how to hang onto it.

    I’ve seen this over and over again in most corporations that I have worked for.

    The real #@*holes that don’t have much knowledge, and are not great workers (but have those forementioned skill sets) seem to wrangle their way towards the top.

  24. Bill -
    It’s helpful to know where you’re coming from with a lot of your posts. Not so that I can dismiss you. Sadly, I can empathize (like many others here), but I’m glad to have seen the light before continuing down the same path. A lot of pastors are so wrapped up in what they think is their christocentricy that they don’t realize that it is inextricably weaved together with their own lust for power. They simply cannot see it. When confronted, they know that because they are so christocentric/gospel-centered they can’t possibly confess or recognize their sin. Is that right? Absolutely not. Does that get them off the hook? Absolutely not. It’s just to show that there is sometimes no possible way for such pastors to get free unless the Holy Spirit convicts them. Should they be confronted? Absolutely. Should they be removed? Absolutely. But there’s no way to force such self-righteous pastors to see their sin. I’m sounding awfully judgmental here, as I know my own propensity toward sin in other ways (and sometimes the same ways). I guess this rambling is simply to say – I understand where you’re coming from; I empathize; I can empathize with (but do not absolve) the arrogant “christo/gospely-centric” abusive pastor(s).

  25. Steve,
    What you describe perfectly are the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I talk about that in these posts on the site. Thanks for the comment.

  26. For what it’s worth, my life experience suggests that a world with a plurality of leadership may not be any better. When you have elders who are not elected, but are instead chosen by God (however the heck that happens) – it gives them a license to act as they please (in the name of TRUTH and flock-protecting, of course) with no one to answer to (since God has appointed them, no human has the right to fire them). I have never been part of a church where leadership has been handled well for any significant period of time. It makes me think that we’re nowhere near the right track.

  27. Tim,
    I'm reminded of what Chris Wright said in the interview we did with him this past fall. Paraphrased 'before we worry about raising up leaders, we need to raise up disciples.' The issue is that two many leaders/elders/pastors/teachers/whatever, are not first disciples of Jesus – before they are ever placed in a position of leadership.

  28. Thanks for the link, Bill.

    I’ll check them out.

  29. At present I am working with a group of younger pastors who are wonderful young men, all very relational in their leadership styles. They are all under some form of attack from within their congregations and because they are relational the attacks are more vicious and personal than what I have seen from working with a more secular leadership style pastor. (I used to be on staff at a church with a very corporate style senior pastor and decided that wasn’t a biblical model and didn’t fit me anyway.)

    My fear for these young men is that they will retreat from relational engagement in leadership due to the bruising they are experiencing from Christians and become more corporate in order to protect themselves. It is truly important that we surround such young leaders and encourage them and love them well so that their hearts are protected from the fiery darts of criticism and unrighteous anger. Sadly, the very ones Jesus came to save are the ones who insisted that He be crucified, not the unbelieving pagans. The church can be a painful place to serve.

  30. Very true John. The conversation about toxic leaders is not complete without an understanding of the toxic drives of followers, such as unhealthy expectations, need for power and control, codependency and enabling. Not only why do we allow toxic leaders, but how do followers contribute to a toxic system?

  31. I’ll try not to think about this in the context of the new enthusiasm for church discipline and Hebrews 13:17 that seems to be cropping up these days.

  32. WenatcheeTheHatchet March 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Hebrews 13:17 and the church discipline happy camp stuff has been part of the young, restless Reformed movement for quite a while now. Is it seeping out to other traditions?

    I guess the dynamics of hero worship aren’t hard to understand. The toxic leader (or even a non-toxic hero) attains by dint of personality, ambition, and accomplishment a glory that he (and it’s usually a he) offers to share with others in exchange for loyalty and service. People are drawn to the personality of the leader in exchange for being given some part, however small, of being part of something that matters. The appeal of the toxic leader for a person is that despite the character flaws he has a glory that the follower gets through any connection to the leader, even a tangential one such as having heard that preacher’s sermons online from ten states away and identifying with whatever the preacher says. We as Christians tell ourselves that what we’re identifying with is the voice of God speaking through that man when it is our identification with the man himself. I don’t say this just to rip on toxic leaders it’s the process we go through even with people we don’t consider to be toxic leaders. We are drawn to those whom we feel not only have a glory that is unique to them but even more so are drawn to those who we find are willing to share that glory with us in some capacity. It’s why Jesus’ teaching that whoever would be greatest must be the servant of all is still such a difficult teaching to take to heart. We want glory to be about what we receive more than about what we give, often giving things that are not even ours but provided by God’s kindness as a benefit to others. That’s my experience of how a well-meaning Christian can be suckered by toxic leadership.

  33. Bill – Toxic leaders? Hmmm?
    Never met a so-called church leader who wasn’t toxic.
    Myself included. Oy Vey!!! :-(

    Much agreement…
    You ask for: More Disciples – Less Leaders – Please.

    I was wondering…
    Where are you with the use of the word “leader”
    for a “Disciple of Christ?” ;-)

    Jesus always recommended the **low place.** Yes?
    The word “leader” seems like a “high place.” Yes?

    Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders”
    for **His Body.** “ONE”

    As man – Jesus humbled Himself,
    made himself of NO reputation,
    and took on the form of a **Servant.** Php 2:7-8.

    How do “you” reconcile the use of “leader” when
    Jesus told **His disciples** NOT to be called leader?

    Jesus, in Mat 23:10 KJV, told **His disciples**
    “NOT” to call themselves “Master / Leaders,”
    for you have “ONE” “Master / Leader” Christ.

    King James Version -
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for “ONE” is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible -
    Nor be called leaders,
    for “ONE” is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English -
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only “ONE” leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version -
    nor should you be called leader.
    your “ONE” and only leader is the Messiah.

    Jesus told *His disciples* NOT to be called *leaders*
    and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras… a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God…,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God…
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant…

    *His Disciples* all called themselves **Servants.**
    None called themselves “Leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “Servant-Leader.” None.

    If Jesus told *His Disciples* NOT to call themselves
    “leaders” and someone calls them self a “leader”
    or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they a “Disciple of Christ?”

    Or, NO LONGER a “Disciple of Christ?” Oy Vey!!!
    Or, just a **disobedient** “Disciple of Christ?” ;-)

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    Seems to me if you’re a “Disciple of Christ” you’re
    NOT to be known as, or take the position of, a leader.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring,
    and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold,
    and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{ Jesus }}}}}

  34. I have seen a ton of this toxity in the mega world as a consultant. another reason people who know about it stay is because it is hard to admit your own support of it and lack of discernment for so long. I believe the silence of friends is more wounding than the stab from the enemy.

  35. the problem is false premise of ‘spiritual leader’ over people. scripture describes elders as ‘among’ the Body ….as in the priesthood. we are all priests if saved. many with titles are teaching a caste system for the Body.

  36. I’ve done Master of Science work in the past in the area of Organizational Leadership and Toxic Leadership has been an element of that. There’s an element of humanity that is narcissistic and is drawn to search after positions of power to indulge itself. Sadly, as is noted here, there is a large element of humanity as well whose corresponding needs lead to a toxic dance in this arena. It’s much like an addict and a codependent but on a larger scale.

    A good articles from a leader in Leadership Research is:

    link to connectiveleadership.com

    A book on the subject by the same author that is seen by many as a standard in beginning to understand this phenomenon is:

    link to amazon.com

  37. Bart,
    Thanks for the book recommendation. I've just bought the Kindle version and have read the first few pages. Once I've done the yard work around here today (now that the rain has stopped), I'll dig in. 

    I'm in the process of writing a series called the Celebrity-Driven Church and this book will be helpful.

    Thanks again.

What do you think?