Training Layman to Lead

The Origin of The Leader Code

In Church Leadership by Daniel Blakeslee0 Comments

The basis for the Leader Code is three Greek words used in the New Testament of the Bible to describe a leader. These words are translated into English in a variety of ways, depending on the context. The Greek words are poimen, pronounced poy-mane, which means pastor or shepherd; episkopos, pronounced ep-is’-kop-os, which means bishop or overseer; and presbuteros, pronounced pres-boo’-ter-os, which means elder.

These three Greek words are translated to describe a leader in different situations. In English we use the words pastor, bishop and elder to describe the leader of the church. Some denominational churches will assign these titles to different leaders in their denomination. It is important to understand that the Bible does not give any commands pertaining to church government. A denomination is free to design its own form of church government based on these words; however, the use of these words in the first century was applied to the same individual as we see in the Bible. There are several passages that use two or three of these words in the same context to describe the same individual.

For example, we read from the apostle Peter, who was also an elder, admonishing the other elders in their work in1 Peter 5:1-3,

So I exhort the elders (presbuteros) among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock (this is the verb form of the noun poimen) of God that is among you, exercising oversight (episkopos), not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

We learn that elders (presbuteros) are to serve as overseers by having oversight (episkopos) as they shepherd (the verb form of poimen) the flock. He is giving direction to the leaders to carry out the functions of a leader. He is exhorting them not to neglect one area or another. They are to take care of the work of the church as a pastor, minister to the people of the church as an elder and supervise the work of the church as the bishop.

While it is perfectly acceptable for denominational leaders to delegate one or more of those roles to different people, a leader cannot abdicate his or her responsibility to influence and manage people so that they accomplish the work to achieve the organization’s mission.

The apostle Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, knew his time of leading churches was going to end. So, he instructed one of his protégés on how to select church leaders in Titus 1:5-7,

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders (presbuteros) in every town as I directed youif anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer (episkopos), as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

Notice that Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders. You did not just become an elder by virtue of being old enough. This was an appointed position or calling, responsible to oversee the church as a bishop, and in other passages they are instructed to lead the flock as a shepherd or pastor. For example, in Acts 20:17,

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders (presbuteros) of the church to come to him.

and in Acts 20:28,

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock (derivative of poimen), in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos), to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Each of these words describe a leader in the New Testament Church. There is a reason that God chose to use three different words with different meanings to describe this job of leading. Each of these words describes a different focus or function. Upon careful examination and evaluation, you will see that each one represents a different drive or motivation of an individual. We know from modern studies of drive, or motivation that one’s drive will lead to related thoughts typical of that drive. The typical thoughts of these three drives will then cause expected behaviors that reflect the drive. These behaviors, when appropriate for the situation—the stress level, the complexity or simplicity of the task at hand and the skill and/or motivation level of the workers—determine the effectiveness of the leader.

By observing and classifying these behaviors, the dominant leadership style of the leader can be determined. The six leadership styles in prior research were classified as pastor, shepherd, counselor, elder, teacher and bishop. While these names were more descriptive of the leadership styles, they also lead to confusion with the offices in the church by the same name. The author has taught these principles in other countries that did not speak English and determined that these names also do not translate easily. For example, in Spanish, the word for pastor and shepherd is the same word. This led to the adoption of the Screwdriver, Hammer, Adjustable Wrench, Socket Set, Bubble Level and Tape Measure as the titles for the six leadership styles.

Using the names of tools as titles for the leadership styles helped to create a vivid picture of how each style functions, making them more memorable. In addition to describing the leadership styles as tools, the inner drives that are indicative of the three Greek words can be described as drawers in a toolbox. This completes the imagery for the student leader. It helps make the abstract subject of situation leadership more concrete in the mind of the learner.

Therefore, the three Greek words are the origins of what we know of leadership. It is the leadership code that pulls it all together. These Greek words describe the inner drives or motivation that people have. The drives are represented as drawers that a leader can open to access leadership skills, abilities, styles and methods.

This is the basis for the book I wrote a few years ago titled, The Leader Code. This has become the basis for my training system for church leaders. Upon this I have built my system for helping pastors transform team members (staff or lay-leaders) into effective leaders of teams.

Call me at 800-326-8761 to see how I can help your church.