Mutual Submission

Mutual Submission: A Radical Approach to Christian "Team"


Submission: Hypotage = "arrange in order under (a recognised authority)".

"I am in charge."

"No one is going to tell me what to do". "

Submission" is not an attractive word. Some people do not like the idea of submission because they are not "on top". The world's competitive standards sometimes creep into the church, where they are intentionally or unintentionally imitated. Consider Deuteronomy 28:13:

"The LORD will make you the head, not the tail"; adapted out of context, it is used in a triumphalist way on behalf of man. God will not give his glory to anyone (Isaiah 42:8). Other people feel threatened by leaders and prefer to remain outside of accountability structures.

Followership is usually neglected ... to everyone's detriment.

But without submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and then to one another, individuals, families and ministry teams stand alone (or have limited effective shelf lives), gifted leadership becomes dysfunctional, and ends up pursuing society's objectives, not those of Christ (Colossians 3:24).

Jesus modelled servant leadership. He was completely confident of His mission and authority, but submitted to the Father; during his earthly ministry He was prepared to wash the feet of his disciples, a duty normally left to slaves (and commanded us to have the same attitude, John 13:15).

I have seen some high potential Christian leadership teams break up. Not over doctrinal schisms, but because of relationship failures. Success (or apparent lack of it) went to their heads, they (tragically) jostled for relative position, superiority and ascendancy, and ultimately forfeited great blessing because their ways were inimical to the cause, character and testimony of Jesus Christ. They simply would not submit to one another.

The challenge for modern Christian leadership is to work through second order differences and keep our eyes on the prize, in a spirit of humility, collaboration and dependence on God.

"Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:21)

1. Importance of Integrated Teams

Christian teams that "work" practice mutual recognition and submission. Christian leadership is not intended to be a "one man band", with a solitary figure declaiming from a pulpit, or executive office, with everyone else in spectator roles.

The most effective leadership comes from integrated, synergistic teams.

Consider the following analogies from the Bible and life.

If we focus (primarily) on role of position, we are focusing on the wrong thing. Teams that are strictly hierarchical often miss out on outcomes intended by God because they do not "run on all cylinders" & become side-tracked, with each layer doing its own thing.

"Mutual" leadership functions through relationship with God; it is not hierarchical for the sake of an arbitrary "pecking order". Mutual submission does not undermine authority; it actually enhances it.

2. Results of Erroneous Paradigms

Many poor leadership models exist. Some are adopted by the church.

Biblical mutual submission stops us adopting/imitating the world's patterns.

By being submitted to one another we actually create a protective shield.

3. Jesus Christ & Submission

Jesus' life and teaching flew in the face of cultural mores that the way to lasting happiness is to look after ourselves first

4. Leadership in the First Church

Jesus is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:15-20). He "gives" ministries (Ephesians 4:11-13). The pattern in the New Testament church was a plurality of leaders, depending upon one another, accountable to one another, submitting to one another, and living out a mutuality in ministry.

The NT church recognised and benefited from diversity and plurality of leadership

5. Mutual Submission DNA in the Christian Life

Submission and teachability are (by definition) central planks of genuine "discipleship"; involve surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and God's will in our lives

Our purpose is to live by God's order in the church and home/personal lives.

6. What is Mutual Submission in Christian Leadership?

Definitions vary.

Christian leadership that works is not threatened by accountability; but embraces it.

7. Common Challenges

The New Testament does not use roles to portray personal importance or superiority. Too many people want to be in charge:

There are challenges in achieving mutual submission, but the investment is worth it.

8. Benefits of Moving to a Mutual Submission Leadership Model

Mutual submission is a sign of a healthy relationship with God and church & family life.

9. Integration

Effective ministries never work alone.

10. Implementation

Mutual submission is gift from God, to bless the church (Psalm 133).

Finally... If you are a Christian leader:

Leading this way will not demean or diminish you; it will build you up and give the Holy Spirit room to do much more than you can possible achieve alone. (After all, it is not about your superiority, your security, or your position; it is about Jesus Christ.)

God will give you the pattern and power to exercise servant leadership as you and your team work together to build the Body of Christ and carry out His purpose in your world.

"in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work" (1 Corinthians 12:6)


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