Paul Calls Them “Enemies of The Cross“.
In the last passage of Philippians 3, Paul gives a stern warning to the church. There were false teachers infiltrating the ministry, Paul was under house arrest in Rome, something had to be done!
“17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:17-19)
Within this passage, we find 3 unique attributes of these “…enemies of the cross of Christ” whose “…end is destruction.” These enemies can cause a lot of damage while on earth! How can we watch out for such danger?
They have not yet received the Gospel or perhaps, they’ve been blinded, pulling the congregation away from it’s Gospel Mission. Allow me to unpack this passage, highlighting 3 trademarks of a dangerous church leader.
1. They’re Self-Satisfying
Paul writes, “…their god is their belly…” Not that these false teachers actually worshipped their stomachs, but they were led by their appetites. Matthew Henry says it best in his commentary of this passage:
“They minded nothing but their sensual appetites.“
Henry really gets to the root of the danger! These church leaders are concerned with the things in life that please them, that bring them pleasure. And these pleasures (pursued openly or in secret) pull them away from satisfying the Lord.
- Instead of “…their god is their belly…” a healthy church leader’s God should be Jesus. Our pleasure, our desire, our worship should be saved for Jesus.
2. They’re Self-Glorifying
Have you ever spoken to someone who only tells stories about themselves? You can be in a group, discussing a totally different topic, and this person suddenly chimes in with a story that’s centred around their experience or perspective.
It’s always about them! And the worst part is they’re completely oblivious that the people around them are uncomfortable, and even embarrassed for them.
Paul indicates that this is a danger to watch out for in church leadership. He writes, “…they glory is their shame…” pointing to their constant focus on themselves and the supposed ‘great’ things they’ve done.
These church leaders don’t have a clue that they’re an embarrassment. They glory in themselves, all the time. It’s absolutely shameful, but they’re completely unaware of the problem.
- Instead of “…they glory in their shame…” a healthy church leader’s glory should be in service. Our service is to others, and ultimately service to Christ.
3. They’re Earthly Minded
The last attribute Paul references is that their “…minds set on earthly things.” A dangerous church leader focuses on the past or the present. So much so, it often consumes them; everything they do and say.
To bring further clarity to the problem, these church leaders often have a tendency to worship the past. This worship of past traditions and religious systems can lead their behaviours and decision-making in the present.
Church Leaders that worship the past can become consumed with appearances in the present. They often asking questions like, “What will be say? What will people think?” Jesus words or thoughts become secondary, or tragically no existent.
- Instead of “…minds set on earthly things…” a church leader’s mind is set on heavenly things. Our pursuit should be future-focused in thought, word and deed.
Healthy Church Leaders
Just to make sure this post doesn’t carry too much negativity, let’s end on a positive note. To offset the above dangers, and thanks to Paul’s letter to the Colossians church, here’s an excellent trademark of a Healthy Church Leader:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3)
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
What dangers have you see in church leadership? What trademarks should we watch out for?