The best lies are those that appear most like the truth. Hierarchical church leadership is one of those. Appearing to be Biblical, and even a necessity to church life, hierarchical church leadership has become entrenched in the psyche of the regular church member as correct, normal and fitting. Over the centuries it has held many captive, whether through multi-tiered hierarchical governance on the one hand, or single pastor leadership on the other.
It came about through our own doing when we once again defaulted to the same mindset that the Israelites had when they rejected God, wanting “a king like the other nations.” It exists wherever anyone thinks or acts as though he is above another, and it is entrenched whenever rank is given to anyone, creating a top down structure. The word of God alone is the only authority to which we should be accountable. Neither the Pope nor a local pastor has authority over you.
Do we need leadership in the Body of Christ? Yes, but not the type that we are generally used to, where ranking and reigning over one another is the order of the day. We need something that I believe Jesus and the New Testament advocated. We need to be submitted under the One Head, Jesus Christ, in relationships of mutual submission to one another, recognizing the roles and gifting each of us have.
The ministries of pastors and Christian leaders that have been part of this flawed tiered system have for the most part been very effective despite this flaw. I’m sure that the successes they have achieved make reflecting on this problem seem to many unnecessary and superfluous. Yet, if these pastors, and the churches that they are with, recognize this burdening and restrictive system of leadership and are unshackled from it, just imagine how much more effective they can be.
What I advocate is not the removal of the ministries of our local pastors and other Christian leaders, but rather the raising up of all in the body to be seen as equal to them. All rank should be removed. Many elders, able to teach and oversee should be appointed from within the church.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. Act 14:23
These elders are to be like older siblings in a home who are without rank and unable to effect change in the younger siblings except by influence and sharing the parents’ word. The younger siblings can equally hold the older ones accountable to the parents’ word to the extent that they know it. (In my analogy, God’s word is likened to the parents’ word in a family.)
So many will be helped, including the leadership, and many other hindrances will fall wherever this hindrance of hierarchical church leadership is removed. I will follow on with this in Part 2.
By Rob Morley