The Rise of the New Bishops- Part 2
Learning to trust older leaders may protect us from the hype surrounding younger ones.

In part 1, Chad Hall questioned the emergence of popular young church leaders. Through their books, conferences, and postcasts these "new bishops" are attracting a great deal of attention. Hall wondered if their status was the result of their genuine spiritual authority, or the cleaver marketing of Christian publishers. In part 2, Hall suggests ways we can respond to these pastor celebrities without falling prey to the hype.

How can Christ-followers navigate the era of new bishops and guard against theology by marketing majority? Here are a few ideas?

First, let's not forget that faithfulness to God often does entail faithfulness to leaders. Leaders discerning God's movement and directing others toward faithfulness is Biblical. We happen to live in a world where we get to choose our leaders, and we should choose wisely. I hear some ministers today who almost seem unwilling to follow anyone other than themselves. Being your own bishop is not healthy.

Second, let's be savvy in noting the complex relationship between following and consuming.

We need to be alert to marketing hype and sensationalism and to separate message from medium lest we buy into an inappropriate message simply because it's packaged well. If we're blind to the new reality we can get sucked into inappropriate hero worship and faulty faith.

Finally, although this may not be politically correct, I suggest trusting older leaders rather than the hottest and latest leaders. While I'm not disagreeing with 1 Timothy 4:12, men like Gordon MacDonald, Dallas Willard, Leith Anderson, Peter Kreeft and Eugene Peterson have enough water under the bridge to lead me to trust them, which is distinct from simply admiring them. People live a long time these days, so let's not rush to make bishops of the young guns just because we live in a culture that worships youth.

And while were at it, let's not neglect the bishops who've lived in centuries past. The minor fact that they are dead shouldn't remove them from our list of trustworthy leaders. They may not have websites or bestselling books, but they have insights that many of us need today. (BTW, Christian History did not pay me to say this!)

So who plays the role of "bishop" in your ministry? Why?

Chad Hall is an executive coach with SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, NC. He's also the co-author of Coaching for Christian Leaders: A Practical Guide and Vice President of The Columbia Partnership.

December 18, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 16 comments


January 11, 2008  5:36pm

"postcasts?" The article on the end of "excellence" as a value comes to mind.

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mike rucker

December 21, 2007  4:11pm

gee, what a surprise... lots of different views, all claiming to be biblical, with sometimes-not-so-subtle references to others' comments as being just a little less holy than their own. and, just so i make my point clear, they are ALL right and can generally be 'proven' so with the appropriate citing of verses. c'est la scripture. which is why we have to use our reason along with the book, and not elevate this word to the level of the other Word. again, i must raise the point of the 'priesthood of believers'...someone's comment either on this post on the previous one said something to the effect that Jesus didn't say 'ok guys - you set up the rules after i'm gone.' no, He didn't. but they did.

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December 20, 2007  3:55pm

The Epistles are very very clear that an "elder" HAS to have some life experience-and there are admonitions to NOT laying hands too quickly to young leaders or untried leaders of any age. That said, the Bible is also clear that God frequently calls a young person-Daniel, Moses, Timothy, David, to name a few but it is NOT the norm. Another point here is the ability of all of us to "know" a person via media-TV, radio, podcasts, Internet, Facebook, etc. But you really cannot KNOW someone except those you live among. My position is that you should place great trust in men and women who have faithfully moved in a consistent growth direction, have shown wisdom, etc. You cannot possibly know someone who lives 2000 miles away and you have never met or do not know how he/she treats their spouse,children, friends, and family. Community is the basis for the church and watching people's lives. You also cannot really know someone unless you stay in the same church with the same people for years-church hoppers, movers, etc miss out the real life blessing of living among people for a long time.

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Bill Hull

December 19, 2007  9:52pm

Trust is the essence of leadership, and trust is based on integrity. Integrity is the sum of a person proven over a period of time. People choose leaders for many reasons, apostolic succession, talent, even personality or a sense of connection. The great temptation for us is to choose our "Bishop" because we think he can give us what we need and soon. Jesus chose a life of humility, submission, obedience and sacrifice. Calvin said it well, " The ruin of man is to obey himself." We are all in the struggle not to obey self, so look for a leader who has the same characteristics of Jesus. I love the story of the man who checked into a retreat center to seek God. When the monk showed the man to his room he said, " Let me know what you want and we will teach you to live without it."

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December 19, 2007  3:37pm

"Who plays the roll...?" A spiritual brother, who like me, is a business man. He models Paul's example of "refusing the right to be paid". His leadership is example driven just like Peter said it should be, not position, title, or expert talker driven. He fulfills Paul's "faithful saying" regarding "desiring the work of an overseer", as well as the qualifications given. 100% of his relationships are two-way, one another oriented, rather than one-way communication oriented like the hired kind. The chief shepherd is a 100% two-way communicator. He never degenerates into one-way communication. He is fully reproductive as a leader rather than sustaining perpetual dependency like the hired variety. He fully entrusts to faithful men, and makes sure they entrust to others. It is so simple yet so supernatural. Those who like nice flowing lectures about spiritual things will not have an appreciation for this kind of leadership since it includes heart to heart accountability.

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December 19, 2007  3:31pm

Implied in some of the comments above is that maybe what we need is a re-emphasis on the local church as the basic unit of God's movement. When the local church is considered of secondary importance, it's only natural that Christians would resort to media celebrities, just like the carnal world does. I hope we can all grow in devotion to our local church and God's Word only supplement our spiritual development with the Rob Bells, Mark Driscolls and so on. Too many churches and pastors have been hurt because congregants insist on comparing them to the latest flavor of the month preacher or author.

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Sam Andress

December 19, 2007  2:24pm

Evangelicalism is nothing more than Free Market Catholocism. The Vatican is in Colorado Springs with Bishopricks in Lake Forest, CA and South Barrington, Ill. I know Rob Bell has distanced himself from the term evangelical as it has become identified with a free-market hyper capitalist conservative consumer Christianity. But he mentioned in one of his interviews he is an evangelical in the words original subversive sense. The differnece with these "new bishops" is I don't think they are going to live their lives to fight for a term or church that is defining itself by notions of the Christian faith that worship Truth claims of the Enlightenment. Instead they are just gonna do church and start new churches that take the teachings of Jesus seriouisly. Oh, and by the way, they have started these churches already. I'd call them more the new prophet-poet-sages of our day than Bishops. Seems to me when those claiming to be the people of God became more institutionally idolotrous than the world around, God didnt raise up more bishops, he raised up prophets. Prophets emerge from guilds (communities) outside the instiution. They always have, even going back to the 8th century Amos of Tekoa!

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Greg Brothers

December 19, 2007  2:13pm

I'm intrigued by your reference to "cleaver marketing by Christian publishers." At first, I thought it was a typo, but on reflection . . .

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miguel de st. anthony

December 18, 2007  10:07pm

Bishops are really about oversight and accountability of area pastors. While greater Christendom, or popular evangelicalism may recognize various pulpit powerhouses as prominent icons of thought leadership in the realm of spiritual truths...who do pastors regard in this manner? Who's the pastor of pastors - that would be closer to modern day bishops. Also, how do we differentiate between a persona popular for inspiring homiles, versus submission to a spiritual authority even when such involves accountable chastisement or corrective instruction? I don't know if the "bishop" office was as much about lay popularity versus regard for spiritual maturity, wisdom and appropriate governance? My childhood pastor used to say his biggest fear was to walk down from the pulpit to a crowd of smiling faces where everyone said, "that was just great. I so enjoyed every word!" If some people weren't pierced or moved to grow with some discomfort to "life as usual" then he had probably taken an easy route and shortchanged the full weight of the Gospel.

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Ted Handley

December 18, 2007  3:35pm

Isn't it possible that God has raised up these new leaders? It isn't as though most of them are presenting a new Gospel or leading people down a wrong road. To the contrary, most of the emerging churches are trying to take us back to 1st century Christianity. You know, back when it was relevant, engaging, orthodox, and world-changing. Don't sell these guys short. God is putting new wine in new wineskins.

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