When a country is rebellious it has many rulers, but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.
These words apply to every organization and reflect the general rebellious nature of mankind. We instinctively – based on our sinful nature – rebel against any authority over us. We fear rightfully so the rule of despots and dictators, but the reaction spoken of here is not against the dictator but against any organization or any organizer. The “man of understanding” is the one who rules to protect the people’s rights and in whom they place their trust for their own safety.
This overly independent spirit often shows up in churches and Christian organizations, and I see it regularly as a pastor, that many wish to come to church and teach a class based on whatever they care to teach and never have to be held accountable. There is, of course, an appropriate balance between individual freedom and responsibility to the greater community, but increasingly in churches there is an attitude of rebellious independence against any perceived control.
The person of understanding and knowledge is needed in today’s world, someone who can gently and firmly bring (a) order out of chaos, (b) harmony out of real or potential conflict, and (c) coordinated united effort out of an overly-independent spirit that breeds disunity. The overarching trait of this person is an understanding nature, one who listens to his counselors, who takes into consideration the thoughts and opinions and circumstances of others. To convince or persuade against the evidence is the opposite of this idea. A good leader is a good listener, who hears what others are saying and does not react defensively or emotionally to something that might appear negative at first.
James described this attitude when he wrote. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20). The Amplified Bible says, “Slow to take offense and to get angry” and this is the general idea.
I am grieved that I sometimes see in some churches an over-emphasis on authority in the church leadership. Certainly there is the place for leaders to lead and for people to respect the leadership of the church – Hebrews 13:17 says as much, but it is not the only verse in the Bible about leadership – there are other things to consider also.
There are certain things that a leader cannot compromise on and still remain right with God – biblical doctrine and Christian ethical behavior at the top of the list. We must first and foremost listen to God. Yet the most successful church leaders are those who also learn to listen to their advisers, who take into consideration the thoughts and opinions of others, and in whom others can trust that this person has the entire family of faith on his heart.
Admittedly this is not always easy. It requires creativity, patience, wisdom and knowledge, but a united, happy, and effective church is a treasure worth our best and most sacrificial effort.