If you want maturity as a Christian there are some old ways of thinking that you are going to have to let go. When you accepted Jesus Christ everything changed, everything became new but we did not necessarily let go of the old. There are some old ways of seeing things that have become stumbling blocks in our growing up process and one of those has to do with our vision of leaders and the impact it has on unity in the Body.
If unity is a sign of spiritual maturity the Corinthians must have had "fail" stamped on their foreheads. Sounds harsh but they had fallen into the trap that many Christians fall into today - leadership worship. You can't say that it doesn't exist because you can read it all over the internet. I often hear certain teachers and leaders being lifted up more often than Jesus. The problem becomes even more complicated when people start comparing and pitting one leader against the other. That is exactly what the Corinthians were doing:
My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas[a]”; still another, “I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:11-12)
You probably have certain teachers you enjoy learning from but I would hope you have a good grasp of the way the Body of Christ works. Each member of the Body has a different function, a different purpose in order that you can be built up and increased in maturity. The differences between leaders and their gifting are for your benefit. In order to move along in our journey to maturity we need to gain a good understanding of the Body of Christ. Do you know what you have become part of, what you belong to and how it functions? The best place to ponder this is in 1 Corinthians 12:
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Division can never take root as long as the various parts of the Body have this understanding along with the knowledge that there is only one head, and that is Jesus. Part of our maturing process is learning how God's love and grace allow us all to work together for the same purpose. The friction happens when we start seeing the leadership through the eyes of the world instead of in the context of the Body. Leaders are servants and leaders are gifted differently in order to meet the various needs in the Body:
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:27-30)
It is important to note that a leader never chose to be a leader, he was appointed by God. I think many churches have by-passed God and appoint their own leaders but that is an entirely different topic. It is enough for us to trust God in the selection and gifting of the various leaders. In doing this we will begin to realize how foolish we are to try to compare them and to lift up one as greater than another. Again, one of the clearest statements on the purpose of leadership in the Body is found in Ephesians 4:
It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s 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 4:11-13)
Note again that leaders do not choose their own calling but are appointed by Jesus. Their purpose is clear, "to prepare God's people for works of service". They are the trainers. They come along and teach us, help us, prepare us, train us. We do not get our strength from them, they do not choose our calling, we do not find our purpose in them and they cannot save us. They are not Jesus, only his servants and the servants to the Body.
Returning to the problem of the Corinthians, Paul gives us a great visual picture of leadership in the Body of Christ:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
Not only does our foolish attitude toward leadership reveal our immaturity it also becomes a stumbling block to our growing up process. We need the Apollos', Paul's and Cephas' of this current age. We need our pastors but we also need our prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. We have to stop being the disciples of men and become the disciples of Jesus. Some plant, others water but only God makes it grow. When we let go of our foolish thinking and grasp this Kingdom-fact we will begin moving forward in our growing up process. We allow leaders to serve us but we lift up and worship only Jesus.