Tag Archive: hierarchy


Photo: scottsnyde (Scott Snyder) Rgbstock.com

Photo: scottsnyde (Scott Snyder) Rgbstock.com

Biblical texts are often used as proofs for our own particular set of Christian values. Among those are texts which appear to subject women to men and wives to their husbands. But do these texts mean what many have ascribed to them?

Clarity for these texts are found in careful consideration of each passage in its own context and by avoiding transferring our own ideologies into the text. In the next posts I will cover two passages that speak of a husband’s headship in order to give some idea of their original meaning in context.

The first text, 1Corinthians 11:3, reads: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is to be understood as “source” or “origin” without the idea of rank and has as its meaning the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.

To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God

If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God

Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).

Order by chronology according to origin/source:

The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)

The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)

The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)

Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”

Someone may ask, “But, isn’t the husband meant to be the leader if he is the head?” and cite Ephesians 5:22-25: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This is the second text that I want to reflect on.

Firstly, it is key to note that just prior to these verses, verse 21 says “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is important because, in order for all the parts of the body of Christ to function properly, submission needs to be universal in the kingdom of God.

Secondly, the term “head” (kephale) has the meaning of “source” and not rank. The focus is on husbands being the source of care for their wives as Christ is for the Church.

Consider that coming out of darkness and oppression is both instantaneous and progressive. So, while we are instantly changed spiritually, we often take time to change behaviorally and it usually takes even longer for the effect of the gospel to change society, even Christian society.

So, just as masters and slaves were prescribed certain behavior in the New Testament and yet slavery was not being endorsed as a Christian ideal, so too, husbands and wives were prescribed certain behavior toward one another in their current context, which was not an endorsement of the status quo where husbands were the main providers and sole leaders and where their wives were heavily dependent and often the only “partner” in submission.

Slavery and subservient wives were the context, but not the ideal to which Christianity was pointing. God-breathed prescriptions were given into these circumstances in which those saved found themselves, which, if carried out wholeheartedly, were a means to a greater end – the emancipation of slaves and women.

Essentially, husbands and wives who came to Christ, were on a journey back to mutuality. On this road, wives were not to use their freedom in Christ to become reactionary, domineering or rebellious, but to remain in submission, a Christian trait for all. And, husbands, who according to verse 21 were to submit too, as the main providers at the time, were to use their circumstantial benefits to help lead toward spousal relationships of equality.

As for us today, while we can all draw from the many truths in this passage, only those who are saved within the highly patriarchal societies will experience a direct correlation with this scripture. Husbands in general have always been the head, being the main source of provision and, by default, since the fall, the leaders. However, if they carry out their role in Christ properly, they would be able to help lead their marriages (and eventually society) to experience mutuality with regards access to resources and the opportunity to lead.

In our modern world where women enjoy a lot more liberty in church and society, husbands are still to provide support for their wives to fully flourish. But, with the opportunities that many wives have, it’s now more of a mutual support of one another than ever before. In some societies we can taste the pre-fall dream of mutuality that was lost at the fall. Certainly Christianity in most places should have moved far from the sad years of men having sole access to the many resources that made them the primary providers and also, sadly, often dominate their wives and women in general. Yet, this is not the case because of narrow views of what certain Scriptures really meant. Worse still, is the modern trend to again enslave women in emancipated Christian society through the ideologies of Patriarchy or Complementarianism.

Pre-fall Mutuality:

Gen 1:28: And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Mutuality Lost and Post-fall Dominance:

Gen 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Mutuality Restored:

Gal 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, husbands and wives should be joint providers, especially of an environment for mutuality. There, Christ is their provider and alone is preeminent in every area.

Rob

Fostering Wolves

Fostering Wolves

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Fostering Wolves

When we elevate individuals in the church by kowtowing to them and their opinions, they can easily begin to think that they are superior to the group. And, very quickly they can seem distant and untouchable in the minds of regular members. It’s already a challenge to hold regular people accountable to one another and God’s word; imagine how much harder if someone has the idea of having preeminence. And, all the harder still if others believe the preeminence to be true.

These elevated individuals can subtly influence the flock or even blatantly rule them. Either way, it’s an environment for fostering false teaching. Paul warned the elders of Ephesus saying that “savage wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. Indeed, some of your own men will come forward and distort the truth in order to lure the disciples into following them” (Acts 20:29-30). Ever wonder why we have anointed men and women speaking different messages to one another to their own band of followers? I suggest that elevating people or allowing them to elevate themselves has contributed to this.

Super-Gurus

Paul readily used terms of equality when referring to people that he was a leader among; terms like, brother, partner, co-worker and fellow soldier. It shows his mindset and that of the early church. Super-gurus existed, but weren’t elevated.

There are, no doubt, some incredibly anointed teachers in the body of Christ, but as anointed as they may be, they are not above anyone else or above having their message examined in the light of God’s word. The Bereans, in Acts 17, didn’t dance around Paul, and they were commended for testing his message against scripture. In the same way, we should be able to test a speaker’s message and openly share our opinions if we believe the Bible to be saying something different. Also, this kind of interactive environment with a teacher can allow for more growth than simply hearing a one-way message.

Leaders Entangled in Sin

God’s word speaks of “the sin that so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1). Here, the author, a church leader, has clearly included himself with the pronoun “us”. By putting our church leaders over us, they are easily isolated and are more susceptible to fall into sin. Then, once involved with sin and without help, like a python strangling its prey, things can get more and more serious for them. Or, having begun with something small, the sin escalates to something more devastating.

Allowing formal or even subconscious hierarchy amongst us is a trap that can bring awful damage to the leader and to those who have wrongly elevated him. When leaders go astray, it is far less of an earth shattering experience if they are among the flock and not over them. Having been seen as equal to everyone else and just as vulnerable to sin and error, they are more reachable and easily helped.

Leading without Hierarchy

This requires brave leadership. No fear to lose people. Jesus lost many, but gained true followers through the Spirit. Don’t control; Jesus didn’t! You cannot really hold it together anyway. Members are designed to learn and grow in freedom. They are not yours!

For the sake of unity and fellowship it seems that if we focus on agreement over issues and on doctrine that we will always divide and be divided. If, however, we fix our eyes on Him who fellowships with each of us, despite our differences, then we may be able to accept one another with the same mercy and grace shown to us.  He lovingly holds us together in fellowship in His body, made possible by His death, resurrection and ascension.

If the Sadducees and the Pharisees, with all their differences, could come together under one roof, how much more can’t we who are unified by God’s Spirit and placed in the body of Christ. Jesus came under the same roof as people who rejected Him and who would have Him crucified! How far are you prepared to go?

Too idealistic for this world?! Yes, but, remember, we are not of this world!

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

The Super Guru Culture

Suoer Guru

Suoer Guru

The Making of a Super Guru

Some gifted men and women of God are unfortunately elevated to super-guru-status in the Body of Christ. Be they world renowned or local favorites, some individuals are treated as though they were a cut above everyone else. Sometimes it’s in part their doing, fueled by how they carry themselves, but it’s always as a result of how they are perceived by those around them. In other words, they are never totally self-made.

I am not saying that men and women of God cannot be greatly used by God and in some cases become world renowned. But, when these individuals are treated with more reverence than everyone else and people dance to their every tune and hang on their every word then they have gone seriously off track. This often appears as a form of honoring, which it may be, but this type of über-honoring is exclusive to them and is not only counter to God’s design, but also cripples the Body of Christ. (For more on this see my post, No Rank, Only Roles in The Body of Christ.)

Those positively affected by the teachings of an individual, or the signs and wonders associated with them, or even by the love they’ve received from them, easily fall prey to follow, and even elevate, a human and not Jesus Himself. People seem to fail to see that when they were touched through these individuals that it was Christ who touched them and that apart from Christ these individuals had nothing.

Sometimes, these gifted men and women are innocent of creating this super status given to them, and it’s simply the carnality of those in the church that helps make super-gurus out of people. The church in Corinth had this problem with some saying,“’I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’” (1Cor.1:12), and Paul spoke strongly against this. Others carry themselves in a way that demands superior treatment and people fall for it. John spoke a certain “Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them” (3John1:9).

Church created super-gurus can easily fall into the trap of enjoying this status given to them.  And, then, somewhat deluded, these gurus find support and defense for their delusion from their followers. This cult-like following that arises reinforces the sense that the delusion is truth and creates a feeling of security for those caught in it.

Nip it in the Bud

It’s one thing expecting a reasonable man to be accountable to others in the Body of Christ and God’s word, but far harder a deluded one, and then on top of it, supported by a band of deluded followers. Now, I’m not talking about those we generally all think are whacko, but rather the gifted men or women, pastors, teachers, etc. who are pretty much on the straight and narrow with their views. It’s by allowing these individuals to speak and act with an air of superiority and the false notion of God-given preeminence, or by allowing them to be thought of in such an elevated way that we help to create these untouchable personas.

Many a regular pastor, Christian teacher and blogger have been tainted by this to some degree or another, but it becomes easily magnified in the more well known “apostles”, teachers, etc. We are responsible for creating and allowing this problem and we need to nip it in the bud before it begins. Nip it in the bud in your own thinking about gifted people. And, nip it in the bud in the way you carry and think about yourself. Deal with it in your fellowships when you hear people wrongly elevate others.

Personally, I don’t kowtow to hierarchy in the church anymore or to illustrious gurus. I disdain any hierarchy in the Body of Christ and also this guru culture that feeds this problem. These are the ways of the world that we have brought into the church and that causes partiality, the unhealthy dependence on individuals and is the cause of people going astray.

Rob

Organic Church proponents, of whom I am one, are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water when it comes to our view on preaching, teaching and big meetings. The typical style of a modern church meeting in the west, where teachers and preachers speak to large audiences sitting in rows, is getting a bad rap from some in the organic church.  Frustrated by the stifling of their gifts and the lack of participation of themselves and others in church life, some have responded by seeing the activity of meeting in buildings and listening to a teacher or preacher while looking at the back of another person’s head as the problem.  But is it? Isn’t the problem rather that this kind of meeting has usurped the many other expressions of church? In fact, hasn’t this happened to the extent that this meeting is even commonly known as “church?” And, isn’t it true that these meetings get handled as if they had premier status over any other that the church may have?

Firstly, is the idea of sitting in a large building to hear a man teach or preach unbiblical? While homes were undoubtedly the most commonly used venues for church meetings in New Testament times, nevertheless, these larger meetings played a major part in Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s and others’ ministries.  And, this was not only in the temple while it still stood, and in the Jewish synagogues, but this practice of speaking to large groups in ad hoc and formal setting happened at various times in various places. Jesus addressed crowds on many occasions, for example, on a mountain with the Sermon on the Mount, and similarly in a valley, and also from a boat, in the Temple and in synagogues. Peter, Paul and others did so too. In fact, on one occasion, Paul chose to use a hall for the ministry he had in Ephesus and he did so for two years.

“But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation (synagogue), he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.  This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.  And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them…many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices” (Acts19:9-12,18).

While it can be rightly argued that the home became the common place for church meetings, they certainly were not the only place. In the above text we see that while Paul was in Ephesus he chose to use a “hall” as a place to minister from.  Although homes became wonderful venues for the church to meet in, larger venues were great and effective places for certain forms of teaching and preaching.

Let’s not bark up the wrong tree!

I believe that the problem is not with these larger meetings, but it’s rather with the typical church governance practiced in most churches. Up-and-coming preachers or teachers usually embrace the common system of church governance in front of them, unaware that it’s unbiblical. In its basic form, they get given the title “Pastor” and get to preside over a church. An unbiblical hierarchy is established and as a result, these “pastors” are treated differently. Unintentionally, but nevertheless automatically, they come across as being above the common folk (their brothers and sisters).  With a system that puts such a “man of God” is in charge, it’s easy to see why Sunday morning becomes the premier meeting and sadly often times the only meeting. It’s also easy to see why his gifts become the focus at the expense of those in the flock.

To counter this, let’s not swing the pendulum away from having these larger meetings or from championing those who teach or preach effectively to large audiences, as most church pastors do. In doing that we would not only be losing out on a valuable form of ministry, but also be in danger of not growing teachers and preachers for the next generation. Preaching or teaching to a large gathering is not a problem. Rather, wrong church governance is!

Rob Morley

mutual submission

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

We have patterns in our Christianity that follow the exact philosophies of this world. One of these is in the area of leadership. We are aware that we should not lord it over one another, but our structures have hierarchy and establish automatic preeminence in the body of Christ. Occasionally and refreshingly, I might add, a leader steps out of his role and gives free room for the Spirit to move in a group, or the Spirit simply bypasses the leadership and does amazing things through the body. When this happens we all enjoy the fruit that comes from submitting to the Only Head and one to another. Then, for some strange reason, we default back to our structures that allow someone positional leadership and our beautiful experience of being led as a body by Jesus Himself goes south.  We are like kids playing dress-up, just temporarily wearing the clothes of the freedom in the Spirit and then we return to our own fashion of tradition.

The reason that this happens isn’t that strange. You see, we think that positional leadership is biblical and so we make room for it. Now, if you are anything like me, then alarm bells are ringing because you are sure, or in fact know that there are Bible verses that show positional hierarchy in the body. I would suggest after a good look at these texts in the context of all of Scripture, that they have been misinterpreted according to our worldly thinking. Texts that “obviously” show positional leadership in the church turn out, in actual fact, not to be showing that at all.

Many have experienced good leaders, but that doesn’t justify positional leadership. Surely mutual submission to one another has fostered the true brotherhood rather than positional leadership that easily gets in the way. Some argue that it is not in the doing away of positional leadership, but in the correct application of it. However, the fact is that you cannot reform what never had a biblical mandate in the first place. Mutual submission does not do away with leadership, it just fosters a better form of it.

The only authority anyone needs in the Church is the word of God. Where there are differences of opinion in interpreting God’s word, each need to be valued by allowing God in his time to show them the truth. For things not specifically prescribed in God’s word consensus is needed. Seeking consensus can take long and will require, love, patience and humility, but it is in this attitude that we can expect the Lord to bless us.

Doctrinal positions may differ and sometimes consensus cannot be reached on issues of say procedure. Room should be given for separate views or ways to be taken, and for the Lord to show His approval or disapproval of them. However, we should avoid meeting separately or enforcing our views on the group we are in, like happens in the denominational systems of today.

(click here for part 4)

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

“Servant leadership” is a misappropriation of Jesus’ words, where instead of being servants, we choose to be leaders with servant-like attitudes.  On the outset it seems right, but all the while we maintain the status quo of worldly hierarchical leadership that Jesus didn’t want among His people.  It never fulfills Jesus’ intention of simply having servants, who by their words and lifestyle, lead.

Servant leaders and servants appear on the surface the same, but the default of a servant is to serve and the default of a leader is to lead. Jesus asked for one of these. You cannot have both! Note, Peter wasn’t asked to lead the sheep, but rather care for them and feed them. Caring meant giving the Shepherd’s love and feeding meant giving the Shepherd’s Word. Peter and other leaders had nothing of themselves to give. They were simply servants serving Jesus’ love and word. Leading through serving, not serving by leading! The Chief Shepherd reserves the right to do the directive leading of His sheep. Corporately this is discovered through mutual submission one to another.

Consider Jesus’ words below and ask yourself if you are a leader who serves or simply a servant. There is a world of difference. The first has position, the second has none. Jesus asked for the latter not the former.

“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes {position} of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them {position}, and they that are great{position} exercise authority upon them {position}. 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).” – Matthew 20:25-27

It may appear that it’s only a different attitude that Jesus asked for, but at closer inspection we can see that Jesus wants us to have neither the wrong attitude nor authority over one another in the body of Christ.  Paul’s words, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” – Phil 2:3b, best capture the attitude we are to have toward one another. Creating hierarchy automatically undermines this attitude.

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat {position}… 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 {position}, and the chief seats in the synagogues {position}, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi {title}. 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 {title}: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters {title}: 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.– Matthew 23:2-12

Brotherly mutual submission and hierarchical leadership are mutually exclusive ideas. You cannot have both! We are called to the former!

Jesus too, chose to be a servant who led, not a leader who served.

Are you a servant leader or are you leading as a servant?

Related post: Church Governance 101

The Bible passages with the inserted {words} are from a very insightful presentation http://biblicalelders.com/presentation.htm (Note: not all views in the presentation are supported by Light and Life Bible Ministries)

By Rob Morley

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