Tag Archive: elders


Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster) http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis

Image by weirdvis (Lynne Lancaster)
http://www.rgbstock.com/user/weirdvis

God’s Way Sacrificed

To many, the idea of church leadership through consensus sounds like leadership is taken from God and given into the hands of men. Nevertheless, it is precisely God’s way of seeing His will done in and through the Church. Sadly, the church is full of stories of leadership abuse, which could have been prevented if we had implemented God’s way of directing the church.

Authority

Church leadership only has authority to implement God’s leading concerning the whole church when group consensus is reached by the whole church. While one person may have God’s word on a subject, and with that the authority to share it, he or she still needs to obey God’s way and seek consensus before action can be taken.

Consensus Builds True Unity

This may seem like a painful process, but in the end it builds real relationships and true unity around issues. Outside of consensus, leaders easily default to the sin of preeminence where they employ the world’s ways and steam roller their ideas into action. Sadly, many church leaders justify this style by the success of their ministry, but the end never justifies the means! An environment of love is the only way to the outcomes that we seek and may often be more important than our goals.

Consensus Protects the Group and the Individual

Consensus is a way of protection. For example, in the case of church discipline in the New Testament, consensus is sought by involving everyone. This way a fair judgment can be reached through unity and also the fear of the Lord can be on everyone involved.

Consensus is the Fruit of Faith

Seeking consensus puts faith into practice. It is the belief that Jesus really is the head of the Body of Christ and is able to lead each member in unity.

Right and Wrong Examples

Acts chapter 15 is a good example of how the whole church is involved in resolving serious decision making and of how everyone was involved. Conversely, 3 John 1:9-10 shows Diotrephes as a leader who sought preeminence and bullied his way in the church.

For more on this subject you can read these related posts:

Church Leadership

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 3

Who Calls the Shots (Decision Making) in the Body of Christ?

Rank or Respect

Church Governance 101

Does the Bible Support the Position of a Senior Pastor?

The Super Guru Culture

Rob

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Peacock - CopyLeadership is determined by the extent you influence regardless of rank. And, contrary to how most local churches and denominations have been structured and governed, the New Testament church did not use or require hierarchy when it came to leadership. The elders, whether apostles, prophets, evangelists or pastors and teachers, had no rank in the body of Christ.  The respect due to them was by virtue of their calling to a particular role of servanthood in the body of Christ. Rank and titles did not exist, only roles.

The honor and respect that anyone received was the fruit that came from an environment of mutual submission. This atmosphere allowed for the recognition of one another’s roles. And, not only was this the case, but to further reinforce this counter-worldly-thinking, Paul said “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable, and the parts of the body that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor, and we make our less attractive parts more attractive. However, our attractive parts don’t need this. But God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it,  so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other” (1Cor. 12:22-25).

Those in the Body of Christ who were more mature were able to assist the Chief Shepherd as elders in shepherding the flock. God’s word, whether written or spoken, was the only authority. Consequently the elders had no more or less authority than anyone else. And yet, through their maturity and experience in the knowledge of God’s word they were able to be useful guides to each other and especially the young in the flock.

Sadly, this style of church was eroded over time by the desire for control and power among its leaders. And, in time, the church began taking on the very leadership styles of this world that Jesus told them, in Matthew 20:25-27 and 23:2-12, to stay away from. In these passages you will see that Jesus not only taught that we aren’t to lord it over one another, but also that we are not to even have authority over one another, nor use titles, because we are all brothers. See for yourself:

“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (slave)” (Matt. 20:25-27).

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat … But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:2-12).

Rob

Mutual leadership

Mutual leadership

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

Soon after sharing the gospel and churches were planted, it says this of Paul and Barnabas: “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.”

In the New Testament, no single pastor is left to run the church. Preeminence is given to none, and the work is entrusted to the Lord with elders given the responsibility of caring oversight, not government. It says of Jesus that the government will be on His shoulders and they lived like that.

Elders are to caringly interact, but are on equal footing with all. Any hierarchical leadership is usurping the Lord’s place and prohibits the Spirit from dynamically using the whole body. Being in charge (preeminence), whether desired out of lust for control, or for the noble idea of helping others, is not the way of Jesus.

Note these scriptures:

I wrote a letter to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be in charge (have preeminence), will not accept us. 3Jn1:9

Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers among the gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors act like tyrants over them. That’s not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to everyone. Mk10:42-44

But he said to them, “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? It is the one at the table, isn’t it? But I am among you as one who serves Lu 22:25 -27.  This is not about disguising our ways, but changing our ways.

It is not that we are trying to lord it over your faith. On the contrary, we are workers with you to promote your joy, because you have been standing firm in the faith 2Co1:24.

Do not lord it over the people entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock 1Pe5:3.

People are entrusted to elders for their care, feeding and guiding, not to be governed over by them; for their serving, not for any authority over them.

All can speak with authority as the Lord uses them. And, the word of God is available to all to be our authority. Positionally, we have authority over the enemy, but not over each other.  We are to serve one another and encourage one another in what the word says.  We all have authority to use the word of God to teach, admonish and even command one another. The word is the authority, not us, or any position of authority. Jesus wouldn’t give positions of authority in the church if He spoke against this.

Hierarchical leadership in the body of Christ is like slavery was in the New Testament Church. If we treat one another as Christ would have us, then, in time, leadership will take on a form where the term leader, as we use it, is redundant like slavery became to the body of Christ.

Leading should be mutual and without coercion. Some may, at certain times, lead for longer periods in one or other area than others. Typically, elders may find themselves leading a lot more than others, but their leading is to bring the flock to a maturity where they too interactively lead as the Spirit uses them in their gifting and with God’s word.

Those of us that have tasted the freedom of life in the church without hierarchical leadership will never want to go back.

Rob

Hierarchy

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

While we have taught and even encouraged complete dependency on Jesus as our Head with mutual submission to one another, in reality we have also erroneously instituted and taught hierarchical leadership in the Body of Christ as being Biblical. The two are at odds with each other in the Ecclesia and this hinders the flow of the Spirit. Instead of members growing into the full dynamic of a body where every member is in connection to the one head, Jesus, we have leadership with rank which easily and all too often short circuits the flow.

Through our leadership structures we have not only inadvertently created partial dependency on Christ, but we have also expected complete submission to leadership. This is one reason that we have a perpetual babyhood of believers in the Body of Christ. Granted, submitting does not necessarily mean agreeing, but mutual submission would at least allow for a two way street that our typical structures often hinder, especially when it’s not in the interests of leaders with so-called “authority over the flock”.

To those in the body of Christ in hierarchical leadership rather than relational leadership, I would say, “Come out of her my people.” That is, come out of the world’s ways of doing things. I would add to this, “Let my people go!” That is, don’t hold the body to ransom to a false leadership style. Be an elder amongst many elders and become one with the body. Let the Spirit teach and lead through you, but don’t presume to have rank leadership. You, like everyone else in the Body of Christ, should never have a hierarchical position in the Church, only a relational and functional one. There is One who is the Head! If we get out of Jesus’ way, He will be able to work in and through each member in the Body the way it was ordained to be.

(Go here for part 6)

Rob

serving alongside

Part 4 – No Rank (Go here for part 1, part 2, part 3part 5, part 6)

To justify the existence of leadership in the Body of Christ, some say that it is found throughout the biblical narrative. While it is true that leadership is seen throughout the Bible, we need to recognize that hierarchical leadership is brought to an end in the Body of Christ, except, of course, for Jesus, the Head. While oversight is given to elders, it is carried out through relational and not hierarchical leadership. Each member in the Body is personally and directly accountable to, and directed by, the Head.

Jesus’ leadership does not need intermediate hierarchical leaders. Yes, elders are called upon to teach and admonish among other things, but this is because of their experience and gifting and not any supposed rank. Surely, one might ask, “Doesn’t admonishing require that the one admonishing is above the other?” No, because the word teaches that we are all to admonish one another.

Once we entertain hierarchical leadership, we frustrate the flow of the Spirit in the Body of Christ, which is designed for mutual submission.

But, someone might ask, “Doesn’t Romans 12:8 (and elsewhere) use the word ‘leads’ or ‘rules’ to do with leadership in the Body of Christ?” Yes, however this has some possibilities of meaning and also application. Often a hierarchical interpretation of “leads” or “rules” is how many would read it, because that’s the paradigm they’re used to. However, “leads” or “rules” (Gk. proistēmi) as used here can mean any of these: to set or place before; to set over; to be over, to superintend, preside over; to be a protector or guardian; to give aid; to care for, give attention to; profess honest occupations.

In Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 24 the author speaks of “those who have the rule over you.” “Have the rule over” comes from the Greek word hegeomai which could also have be translated, account for or guides.  These latter options are more in keeping with the Spirit and the word of God elsewhere and Jesus’ express prohibition on hierarchical leadership.

In the light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:25-27 and 23:2-12, I believe we have no choice in how we interpret these passages. Jesus is not only saying that we mustn’t lord it over one another, but also that we are not to have authority over one another. Simply put, Jesus is saying that we are to serve one another and that He doesn’t want us to have authority over one another.

We do ourselves a disservice by creating positional leadership for God’s gifted men and women in the Body of Christ by turning roles into titles with rank. Experience, calling and gifting has given them knowledge and wisdom to impart and the means to do it, but they have no authority to rule over anyone.

We cannot easily imagine church without rank-style leadership. This is because we are so conditioned to experiencing church being governed in structures like those of this world. You might say, “Surely, having no rank is only for the mature.” Yet, isn’t such a statement a lack of faith in Jesus’ ability to lead His people? Also, just as learning to swim by running won’t help at all, so too, learning to respond to one another in mutual submission cannot be taught properly where rank exists.

(go here for part 5)

Rob

I have a dream

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, let me share my dream.

I have a dream that one day we will again gather as the ecclesia, regardless of our differences, united by God’s love as expressly seen in Jesus, and letting nothing get in the way of that. Until then, the current church paradigm where we divide based on doctrine is at odds with this.

When considering the issue of division in the body of Christ and trying to remedy it, we need to make the scriptures our starting point rather than our experiences, and the Scriptures certainly don’t advocate what we see! Ignoring them and looking only at historical and current circumstances, we might feel inclined to justify what we have. However, it’s dubious at best to think something is God’s intention when He never advocated it.

We need to accept that unity in Christ already exists despite our disagreements over doctrine. We already have true unity in a very real sense through having been joined together in Christ. You see, in Jesus, God has reconciled man to God and believers to one another. We have all been baptized into one body. It’s in recognizing this that we have our platform to enjoying this unity with one another.  In other words, we can have unity, because we do have unity.

The unity that we already have in Christ needs only to be made manifest, but this requires our co-operation. One way is by not making other reasons a prerequisite for unity. It’s by creating other reasons as the basis for unity that we have negated the greatest reason, and so doing have undone God’s intentions. Through making certain “truths” a basis for unity, we have only created schisms. For example, ones mode of baptism, end time theology or understanding of the baptism in the Spirit may be the biblically correct one, but as a basis for unity it doesn’t trump our unity in Christ that already exists. By all means have your ideas, share your ideas, but don’t create churches based around them. Chances are, amongst all your “truths” you have something wrong anyway.

In this day and age, most believers recognize members of various churches and denominations to be their brothers and sisters despite differences in doctrine and practice. However, by making doctrinal beliefs and practices a primary reason for unity, churches have denied everyone the joy of celebrating in unity. I believe we need to have gatherings that accommodate all believers, where views are not quashed, and where we love one another by allowing our various views to be aired and corrected by God in His time. In Phil. 3:15 we have an example of where Paul accommodated believers holding different views where he says, “…if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

A national sports team has their millions of fans in unity despite varied views on play options, player choices, etc. This unity is often expressed when supporters gather together in front of the TV in homes, pubs, etc. In these gatherings you can often hear disagreements among supporters of the same team, but this does not detract from their celebratory unity.

The Bible, like the rules of play for a game and not our interpretation of them, is sufficient security for keeping the general course of conversation healthy. We tend to think that our particular interpretation of scripture that we inscribe in statements of faith, church constitutions, etc. gives security to truth for future generations. However, this has often proven to be divisive and often little security at all. The Bible is enough. So, if on the interpretation of the Bible we disagree, let’s let the Bible and The Author correct each other and not let our differences keep us from gathering together and celebrating our unity in Jesus.

By all means meet where you do, but not out of a need to be separate from others in the body of Christ. Elders, as those who lead by example, be inclusive and unthreatened. God can handle His Household and will give you the grace to help ensure that the truth of our unity is guarded amidst differences, even amongst yourselves.

Rob

In Acts 15:19 it appears that James is the leader in the church in Jerusalem when we see that he makes the final statements after the church has debated the issue of circumcision among the Gentiles. However, when we read in the translation “my judgment” it is not to be likened to the expression of a judge with the final verdict. This is simply the personal view and suggestion of the church’s brother, elder and apostle, James.

Historically, he had the last say when he shared what he did. However, it was what the whole group had been led toward by the Spirit to have agreement on through all their participation. We cannot presume that everyone was waiting for James to deliver the final verdict.  Any of the apostles or elders could have said these words and we would be wrong to read into history that they were the lead elder or senior elder simply because they were the last person to speak.

Notice too, that the letter that was sent is not from James, but from “The apostles and elders and brethren.” Also, it was not sent to some church leader, but to “the brethren” of many churches. The content also shows who was to be credited for the final verdict where it says “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us (the brothers, elders and apostles), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.”

Granted, a strong argument for James’ leadership in the Jerusalem Church exists, which if true, needs to be considered as leadership without rank, as everyone’s was, in the context of the “all ye are brethren” and “it shall not be so among you” statements of Jesus.

This James (Jesus’ brother), is prominent in the New Testament, but this does not equate to rank leadership. We are reading far too much of our church experience into this historical account if we use it as a bases for the practice of having a senior pastor. This is especially a problem if the text can be comfortably viewed in a way that fits Paul’s specific instructions elsewhere and all of the other historical accounts in the New Testament.

In 1Timothy 1:3 we see Paul “urged” Timothy to “remain behind” to settle things in the church of Ephesus.  Timothy is not the pastor, nor lead pastor, but part of a church planting team. In this letter, Paul instructs Timothy on the appointment of elders among many things, but never is the appointment of a senior or lead pastor mentioned.

In Acts 14:23 we see the appointment of a plurality of elders with no sign of seniority given to any, “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.”

Elsewhere, Paul meets with the elders of Ephesus with no sign of a special meeting with “the senior leader”. You would think that by then, such a person would exist. Also, Paul addresses his letters to the elders and saints with no sign of a senior leader in the list of recipients or his content.

The Catholics with their tradition defend the Papal system from the Bible. We have done the same with our own systems and are so entrenched that we cannot see that what we have is wrong.

Rob

I really can’t believe, nor see it written, that the Lord would have left His deity, become a man, suffer as much as He did and die for us only to give the running of the church into the hands of a few decision makers who could get it right or wrong. Just imagine, “Oops, I (we) led you astray for the last 16 months, I’m (we’re) sorry!” This type of scenario was avoided in the early church because the structure was without rank. We so easily read hierarchical leadership into texts, but it never existed. Respect for experience and roles (not rank) play a part, but mutual submission to all, under One Head, is how things were done in the New Testament. His body doesn’t have many heads. Such imagery belongs to the dark side. He alone is the head!

The early church respected that we can all hear the voice of the Lord and that all need to participate in decision making. In Acts 15:6, 22, 28 we see that all in the church were drawn into the process to achieve consensus in hearing the Spirit before a decision was made. Peter and James had roles to play, and the elders too; nevertheless it never outweighed the Spirit and the Lord’s headship over every member. In Acts 15:22 we see how all were involved: “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to…”

There is love, respect for one another and God, and safety in involving everyone. Jesus made it clear, when speaking against attitude and rank that “Ye are all brothers” and when speaking of having authority over one another “it shall not be so among you”. Jesus alone calls the shots and He is well able bring about consensus through the His Spirit.

Rob

Shepherds of the Flock

In one sense all elders are pastors, but not in every sense. The terms elder, bishop, overseer and shepherd are synonomous terms, and are synonomous with the term pastor. However, this is not always exactly true.  Context dictates a terms meaning.

Many in the church, because of their character, knowledge in the faith, life experience and ability to teach should be recognized as elders able to pastor or shepherd the flock (see 1 Tim 3:1-7). However, some of these elders are specially gifted as pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets and apostles (see Eph 4:11-12).  These specially gifted elders don’t outrank the other elders; they just offer richness in their specialized area of gifting for the benefit of the flock. Like players in a team have different roles and specialize because of their abilities, so too should the elders in a church.

Perhaps you are an evangelist, apostle, or prophet or maybe you are none of the above. Perhaps some of us are trying to attain to something that we aren’t and some of us aren’t what we could be. Freedom and blessing comes from finding out who we are and living that out. Note rank has no place in the body of Christ. We are to accomplish the role or function that we are called to, not achieve or receive any rank. Rank is of this world. (Anyway, we are all Sons of God. What more could one want!)

All elders pastor in a general sense, but not in the specific way that some do in the church.  Many a modern day “pastor” is clearly not one at all, and many a “lay” person is so much more pastoral and more likely one of many who are gifted to the church in this role. Some modern day “pastors” are not the specific gift to the church spoken of in Eph 4:11-12, but are rather one of many elders called to shepherd (see 1 Peter 5:11-12 and Acts 20:17,28).  These “pastors” may be more of a gift to the church as administrators, helpers, etc., while others may are more likely teachers, prophets or evangelists.

It seems that the term pastor or shepherd has a more specialized meaning and expectation in Eph. 4:11-12 than the broader idea for all elders to “shepherd the flock that is among you” as used in 1 Peter 5:1-2. I propose that in one sense all elders (barring perhaps those who are aged, but yet still babes in Christ) are shepherds, see Acts 14:23; 15:4,6; 20:17 and 1 Peter 5:1-2, but that not all of these shepherds (elders/pastors) are the specific gift of pastor that Ephesians 4:11-12 speaks about.

Are you an elder who pastors in the general sense it’s expected of elders, or are you an elder gifted with special pastoral gifting with a more specific role as a pastor? Like the term apostle has more than one meaning, perhaps so too does the term shepherd or pastor. In a sense all elders are shepherds or pastors (see Peter’s expectation of elders to be shepherding in 1 Peter 5:1-2) however, I propose that it’s from among these elders that some will clearly emerge and be seen to be gifted as the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers as mentioned in Eph 4:11-12. Pastors are specially gifted Elders/Bishops/Shepherds.

From this, we can see that the same train of thought can be used for the term teacher, that is, all elders should be able to teach, but not all elders are gifted as a teacher in the sense it’s used in Eph 4:11-12. So, while all elders should pastor and teach (1 Peter 5:1-2 and 1Timothy 3:1-7) and in a sense are therefore pastors and teachers, this does not make them gifted as the pastors or teachers seen in Eph 4:11-12.

There are different roles, focuses and levels of gifting (I speak of levels as gift ability and frequency of use and not hierarchy) for pastoring and teaching. Every elder needs to be competent to teach and uphold the basics of our faith and guide and assist those around them. Yet, not every elder has the gifting to teach or pastor as well as others among them who have been set apart as gifts to the church, clearly gifted in teaching and pastoring seen in Eph 4:11-12.

Like prophesying once or twice doesn’t make you a prophet, so too the ability to teach may help qualify you to be an elder who teaches, but not have the gift of teaching as expressed in Eph 4:11-12. Similarly, all can and should be involved in evangelism, but try as I may the simple message Billy Graham spoke will never have the effect through me as it did through him unless I’m specially gifted as an evangelist.

To find out who you are in the body of Christ, and live that to the full, will be the best way to bless God, yourself and those around you. Who we are to the body emerges as we allow the Spirit of God to work in and through us. When this happens, those around may recognize your role and gifting more easily than you do. A church environment that allows one another to grow in their gifts is a great help to experiencing the fullness of what God wants to do in and through one’s life individually and together through the body corporately.

By Rob Morley

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

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