Real Church

What divides the body of Christ – Part 3

 Silence of the Lambs

Churches and denominations have created an impasse for true unity, by holding on to different beliefs and practices that members are expected to adhere to. Any discussions outside the boundaries that are allowed in churches are generally muted by the immediate leaders who are often in no position to effect any real changes anyway. Should members believe otherwise, they are generally expected to keep it to themselves or leave quietly.

Around these issues, church leaders have simply become enforcers of the views that they have been brain washed into believing. (Sorry to be so harsh.) Why is it that, say for example, Methodist ministers think as they do as opposed to Pentecostal ministers? There’s no guessing as to what the flock ends up believing! Those who claim to be teaching God’s word, but are not accountable to it, or worse still, are given authority by their church’s established sets of beliefs, not only implement the divisions, but are protected in doing this too.

Now, each of these churches claims to be Christ’s church when they meet, but their differences only serve to prove that they often teach, outside of Christ’s authority, simply passing down what their founders had interpreted and passed on to them. Which church can claim to be right in every area? None! If so, we need to agree that unity based on doctrine has been a chasing after the wind, a futile exercise. In fact, it is a large contributor for ongoing schisms.

The Bible is God’s authority over all spheres of society and issues in life. Absurd as it may seem, but those in the church sphere need reminding of this too. Church history shows many small and large failures by the church to represent God properly. They are all as a result of not living in the light of God’s word. Drastic discrepancies between the Word of God and how the church conducts itself can develop and become engrained over time.

Appearing first as seeds of truth, incorrect interpretations or assumptions easily take root where the ground of our lives is barren of the Lord’s presence and the Word of God. Then, astonishingly, the lie can grow undetected for years among our plants of truth, even for decades or centuries. The unrecognized lie becomes so a part of life that thinking contrary to it seems wrong.

However, should someone venture upon the truth in God’s word that exposes the lie, he may feel compelled to take steps to uproot it, just as at the Reformation, and at other times, when the church needed to correct its ways. Sadly, in this process, we have often made our corrections at the expense of our unity. As a result, one of the worst weeds of all came about – the approval of division among ourselves to accommodate our differences.

This lie has become so entwined in our belief system that we can hardly imagine that it’s a weed at all. It seems so necessary and useful. But, when looking at God’s word, we see that a lot was tolerated in the early churches and things were very messy, yet dividing wasn’t an option. In contrast, today we have sterile environments where, like me, many members have kept silent on their views to keep the bond of peace. But this too is wrong if it’s only to maintain a false unity and keep a false peace around questionable doctrine and not around Jesus. There is a difference. In my next post I’ll share more on the mindset needed to once again embrace the unity that we have lost and begin to uproot the lie of division.

Rob

Real Church

What divides the Body of Christ – Part 2

No Reason to Ever Separate

We are all a part of Jesus and the ecclesia and that is our reason for gathering. We have made the idea of dividing around doctrine the norm of Christianity when it shouldn’t even be in our thoughts. If Jesus hangs out with you, then who am I not to do the same?

Rather than to unrealistically expect to raise people in our squeaky clean versions of doctrine and ways of doing things, we should learn to accept and live with anyone that Jesus does. We all know that He is in the midst of each of our gatherings, yet sadly we cannot find a way to be in each other’s presence despite our differences.

For the most part, what separates us is no reason to do so. In fact, I’m not sure that there is a reason to ever gather separately. Our separating smacks of the old apartheid (I speak as a white South African). When one’s in the middle of it, you might not really see it for what it is, but certainly in hindsight it is something to be ashamed of.

I like to think of church like family. There needs to be some very serious differences to keep a family from sharing a Thanksgiving meal together. Surely our differences that we separate over are meant to be overcome by longsuffering and not through separation. Our variant views are seldom flagrant sin and even the necessary separation of those who are unrepentant and practicing obvious moral sin is only so that they may be restored.

Not only is our separation shameful, but it hinders our own blessing, for where we live in unity God commands His blessing. Hanging out with each other despite our differences is not easy and it will require a lot of His grace and the love that Jesus said we would be recognized by, but surely it’s worth it.

We cannot find our security in our doctrines and denominations, but we have our security in Jesus and the word of God. We were not left to have to choose the best group. These groups are of our own making through putting our knowledge above the type of love and unity where there is a freedom to disagree.

Let us remember 1Cor 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Rob

Real Church

What divides the Body of Christ – Part 1

Growing or Cloning

On “joining a church” believers may be in the early stages of discipleship, unaware of what the teachings of the new group really are or mean. Should they later discover something that another group holds to be true and important to have become important to them too, it seems sad that often the only way to embrace the new truth is to leave where they are. This is because denominations and many churches give “their members” little room for exploration, and even less to accommodate different persuasions and practices. Their minds are generally made up on their accepted practices and beliefs.

Granted, denominations and churches have been strongholds of truth, but it’s the manner that they stand for their so called “truths” that becomes divisive. The “Our way or the highway” mentality generally exists and it creates a forced and false unity within the groups all the while creating disunity with other Christians! When we divide over “truths,” aren’t we denying the members of the body of Christ the opportunity to learn to love the whole flock, despite differences? Isn’t our focus wrong from the start? Do we really need to agree with each other in order to happily gather with each other?

In today’s scenario, we are expected to find a “church” that we feel best accommodates our personal beliefs. Do I believe all of Billy Graham’s views? No, but it would be sad if on Sunday I sat in a church down the road from where he was and even sadder if I was his son or daughter. Imagine the Sunday morning when your family is divided all over a town because of beliefs that divide. We can’t! So why do we divide God’s family!

Signs outside church buildings read “All welcome!”, but in truth mean “Clones welcome!”

Rob

Leadership, Real Church

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 2

Part 2 (Go here for part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6)

In Part 1 I said that when hierarchical church leadership is removed many hindrances and limitations will fall away. This is because voice is given to the people through whom the Spirit wishes to speak. No single person has authority over another and nobody is able to veto anything, whether intentionally or not. Also, people are able to act more freely. Instead of the feared mayhem the opposite will be true. We will begin to see the Body act under the direction and leading of the Jesus alone, who not only is able to lead each individual, but also the group as a whole.

Many a pastor will be released from the burdens that they have unnecessarily carried when released from single pastor leadership or tiered leadership of any sort. The single pastor or tiered leadership model creates huge limitations in vision, insight and implementation. Often pastors carry the bulk of the work and responsibility that’s intended for many to share. If multiple elders in the body are seen as pastors, then the burden that one or a few carried will be greatly reduced.

If change is made to our church models and pastors are released from the undue weight that they carry, we might even see other gifts surface in some of their own lives. Previously hidden by the title of “pastor,” some might be better teachers, evangelists or maybe administrators.  If this begins to happen, then the role of pastor will be seen more clearly as distinct from the others.

Flawed systems, like those with hierarchy or even the single pastor model, come about unintentionally and somewhat innocently as they appear to be Biblical and useful ways of exercising control.  The truth is we cannot control people in the body of Christ. It’s not our job; it’s the Lord’s. Freedom to explore, learn and grow under the word of God with Jesus’ leading should be given to all.  It can get messy, but loving eldership rather than controlling leadership can help “get the clothes picked up.”

In part 3 I will discuss some obvious challenges of this model.

By Rob Morley

Leadership, Real Church

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 1

Part 1 (Go here for part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6)

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

Leadership, Real Church

Starfish Characteristics in the Body of Christ

Here are some of my thoughts on starfish characteristics in the body of Christ and leadership.

When Jesus exercises His leadership through individuals in His body, this leadership has the characteristics of being multiple in nature, catalyst in style and temporary in existence. Any other form robs the head and the body and takes on a worldly, controlling, lording it over, Papal style. Unfortunately this is seen in Christian leadership throughout the body of Christ and is all too common the default setting in our lives.

Multiple in nature:

Everyone is a leader simply by their example in all that they do, either for good or bad. Sobering thought! This is lifestyle leadership and it ideally shows and encourages each other in:

1. the need of dependence on Jesus

2. the outcome of dependence on Jesus

However, besides this lifestyle leadership, the group should give room for anyone at any time to be a catalytic leader.

Catalyst in style:

Anyone may be required or called upon to lead at any one time in a specific area, as a catalyst to bring about change/movement/direction. We know that the head is the real leader of the body, but it is not uncommon for a body part to be chosen by the head to lead the body at a particular time. For example, when marching we lead off with our left foot, or our hand might lead the way forward in the dark, etc.

Temporary in existence:

A catalytic leadership serves a brief time of existence and exists solely for sake of the body, ready to be called on again in the same or another capacity.

Imagine the impact of a people who are both individually and corporately solely dependent on Jesus and who help each other grow in this dependence on him (the role of elders).

Slideshow:

I would like to suggest that the slideshow The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Marina Noordegraaf’s  visual adaptation of the message and content of the book “The starfish and the spider” by Ori Brafman en Rod A. Beckstrom) that I found on the internet shows some of the traits I have mentioned. I think we can learn something from the starfish on how we as a body (the Body of Christ) can function in lifestyle, only we’re even better off in that we also have an indestructible Head in Jesus who will lead us.

Make room for each other. We can all hear the voice of the Lord!

Rob Morley