Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Mutual Submission part 5 – Leadership

Posted on 14 Jan 2014 in Christianity, Discipleship, Leadership, Ministry, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Missed previous posts in the Mutual Submission series? Catch up here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

A book you would not want your boss to have

(Photo credit: cseeman)


As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all… So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:1-6; 11-13

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8:34


Leadership seems to be a buzzword lately. Everybody wants to be a leader. There are blogs, conferences, seminars, podcasts, books, magazines, and retreats that are designed to make you a better leader. I even stumbled across this.

For some, it’s a feeling of superiority. If they get to lead, that means others have to follow. They like the command and presence with being the person in charge.

For others, it’s a feeling of worth. If they have the fancy title then they have the right to demand respect. In whatever area they feel ill-equipped or insecure, having the title of leader can mask that pain or shame.

And for far too many, leadership has become a way to manipulate and coerce others to ‘fall in line’ with a particular belief or ideology.

This attitude and mindset has even crept into many areas of the church. I even embarrassingly said to another pastor once, “Wow. You’re a lead pastor! That’s pretty cool, getting to call the shots and all.” I’m forever grateful for his loving and gracious rebuke, “Yeah, I am, but it’s not what matters. I really want to try and follow Jesus better.” I’m grateful for it, because I later found myself a lead pastor, and quickly realized that there had to be more to my substance and humanity than my title, because that would leave me someday.

In the church, talk of leadership, void of discipleship, is an idolatrous stance of self-glorification. [Tweet that]

All of the conversation on leadership in the church even recently led my wife to remark: “Ugh! It all just makes me want to throw-up. There are too many leaders and not enough disciples.”

[pullquote]”Ugh! It all just makes me want to throw-up. There are too many leaders and not enough disciples.”[/pullquote]

So how does a church lead (and more importantly disciple) through mutual submission?

  • Through a recognition that the church is not a business. The modern layout of the church has done a lot of harm to body-shaped thinking. To practice mutual submission we need to remember that we aren’t, and don’t function, as a business. The pastor isn’t the CEO and the church council does not serve as the board of investors. When we resolve conflicts like a business, we do more harm to an already fragile church system and further isolate large portions of the community. The gathered church should resolve conflict and handle decision-making as a loving family with a heavy stock in relationship, not in a bottom line.
  • Through remembering that everyone follows the same Lord. Those that wish to lead should avoid using any semblance of the phrase, “The buck stops here”. Under no circumstances does leadership have the capacity to wield decision like a sword, urging people to fall in line or be cut down. The buck stops with no one but Jesus. The point of leadership is not career advancement but servanthood.
  • By adapting communal accountability instead of hierarchical decision-making. Paid clergy has led to an ease in laity accountability. While I still feel that there is a place for paid clergy in modern church structure, the pastor has been led to believe that they are the only ones capable of handling the tough (or socially awkward) decisions. When people use phrases like, “But that’s what we pay you for, that’s you’re job”, we create an atmosphere of unaccountability and treat is as an excuse to avoid living in community with whom we disagree.
  • By clearly articulating gifts and direction. One thing that’s helpful in church decision-making is an understanding of the gifts present in the congregation. When we look at Ephesians chapter four and see the gifts that Paul mentions (Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist), we find that these gifts lead to a fully mature church. Leadership should always be represented in these five gifts. Decisions that effect the local body should be discerned together in community. There are even times when total sacrifice of decision should be given away to those with particular gifts

Mutual submission in leadership needs to be void of personal advancement, power, and a desire for prestige or recognition. For the church to fully capture the opportunities on the horizon, leadership must be rethought and refocused. It’s only when we empty ourselves of our personal glorification and submit to one another out of love for Christ, can the church fully embrace the opportunity to offer something different.


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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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  • Elise Hiebert

    Well, if we’re using Jesus as an example, did he ever use leadership as a motivator? His goal was ALWAYS servanthood. Whenever that goal seems to shift, there pride will be waiting for you ( me, whoever…)

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