Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.

2 Corinthians 10:7

There seem to be so many books, courses and online stuff available at the moment on Christian leadership. Many seem to offer a tantalising and attractive guarantee of success. In my opinion some are management techniques with a random scripture thrown in for authenticity, others are methods or processes, “do this and that will happen!” Countless times over the years of pastoring churches I have been drawn in by the “latest book”, even changed my church to adopt a current “in” method. I have asked myself repeated questions about how seemingly bright, sharp, pastors and teachers (including me) seem to get attracted to these things. Is it a hope and longing for success when many have laboured long and hard for so many years? Or, is it a desire for fame? Is it frustration or is it a desire for New Testament authenticity? Some of these things or all of these things?

Let me just say, my thoughts and words are not aimed towards those who have built large, faithful and effective churches. There are some truly godly leaders out there who have some magnificent large churches, many have laboured for years. Not all forms of success are bad or wrong.

I have also become quite concerned about how we are drawn to building celebrity and a show at our Sunday services. Some of the stages and backdrops of our churches have become more and more amazing and impressive, the technical standards as high if not better than some concerts you might attend. The musicians exceptional, the speakers, trendy and cultural who, without notes, are able to speak to camera or cameras and attract an audience. I am not saying stop doing everything to the glory of God but rather I am asking for discernment and particularly biblical discernment to recognise what is leadership and what is Church. Why to we fall prey to other such things?

Look again at Paul’s word in verse 7, it’s not quite the same issue, but it is very helpful. Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.

Other versions of the Bible say it a little simpler and more direct. You are looking at things as they are outwardly. Meaning they are to compare outward with inward and draw the right conclusions. For the Corinthians this would include that they themselves were the fruit of Paul’s labours, his calling to be an apostle, he was their father and now they want to ditch him for something more dynamic (1 Corinthians 9:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Paul “ belongs” to Christ (as do his co-workers and all believers) no less than those who opposed him! Paul’s authority came from Christ and was always exercised for the building up of the Corinthians. His actions and words were not now incompatible, as some alleged, but were always aimed at the same goal being “in Christ.”

The “anyone” of verse 7 is more than likely a particular individual, the ringleader of the Judaizing influencers who was expressing the viewpoint on behalf of some. (Ah, that old red herring “the people are saying!”) What precisely is it that this person is claiming? What is the basis on which he and like-minded others are challenging Paul’s authority?

If we follow Paul’s argument, then we see that the opposer is claiming to be “of Christ” There it is! That statement that trumps all other statements “this is from God,” “I have heard the Lord,” “God has told me.” Keep in mind what I said earlier, “I am asking for discernment, biblical discernment in what is leadership and what is church”

Some commentators interpret this as those opposing Paul are claiming to be Christians and insisting Paul was not. But this is highly unlikely. As radically opposed to him as they were, there’s no indication in the letter that they questioned his salvation, but it does suggest that other red herring “my spirituality is greater than yours!”

Other commentators interpret this as the “Christ party” as opposed to the “”Apollos party” or the “Paul party” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Some people just seem to be able to convince others that they are much better in the faith than the current leader or leaders. Paul responded to such a claim by using the truth that he was of the Christ party as much as they. Are we not all of the “Christ party?”

A few commentators say that it may have been that some had known Jesus during his time on earth whereas Paul had not. Paul only encountered the risen Lord they had followed him from town to town, heard his voice, seen the miracles, witnessed the death and resurrection. Yep, it’s that person, when you are leading the church, who comes up to you to tell you that they have done more and seen more than you but not only do they tell you they tell it to others as well!

However, the most likely interpretation is that they were implying that they had some special, ongoing relationship with Christ and were making their point with false humility. One can almost see a pious pose, just a slight inflection of the voice, “I am Christ’s man, I belong to Jesus in a way you don’t. He has a higher interest in me than in you. He has a deeper affection for me than for you. I have access to his mind and heart in a way that trumps whatever claims you might make. Therefore, I and a few others have been given an authority and power and a place above you and your co-workers.”

It’s interesting, is it not, that usually these type of folk never commit the tactical error of publicly promoting themselves as uniquely “anointed.”They simply do nothing to disabuse their followers of such false perceptions. They quietly say, “of course I would never do that.” “I do love Paul but I do wish he was not like this.” They destabilise the flock and subsequently grow their power base.

Let me say it as forcefully as I can. Beware of all such claims of a superior or “super” spirituality! Beware of any suggestion that someone has special knowledge or insights unavailable to others! Beware of those whose only credentials are the visions they have allegedly seen or the angels with whom they have allegedly met, who have done this or that, have the gift of this or that and who sow seeds of doubt in someone else’s ministry whilst promoting their own.

On the other hand, genuine godly leadership is built on character and not just gifting. It is faithful and hard working. It leads through trials, suffering and loss. It does not seek a bigger and better platform but serves and sacrifices. It leads by humility and relationship, it does not regard itself as “better than.” It will lean confidently on the sovereignty of God knowing God can give thousands or ten but if one or the other it is content. Its appeal is the centrality of Christ not just displays of power or heightened encounters, but the character and person of Christ. It holds fast to the centrality of the cross, that Jesus is Lord and that in Him is found everything they need for life and godliness. It is all about you Jesus and nothing else.

It’s time to be discerning, to look at what is before our eyes (vs 7). To listen deeper, to ask questions, to examine scripture.

C H Spurgeon said this:

“I have not the slightest desire to suppose that I have advanced in the spiritual life many stages beyond my brethren. As long as I trust simply to the blood and righteousness of Christ, and think nothing of myself, I believe that I shall continue to be pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ, that this joy will be in me, and that my joy will be full”