Leadership, Real Church

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

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

Real Church

One Church, Not Many

It is unfortunate that we have allowed our differences in understanding God’s word on certain issues to divide us, when Jesus accepts us warts and all. In the light of Jesus’ work at the cross, a Baptist and Congregationalist for example, should freely worship, fellowship and pray together. After all, we don’t have separate groupings around the throne of God. Love should cover the issues that divide, and if you believe something differently, then love is the best way to influence someone.

Having said that, wrongly dividing by denomination should at least serve to prick our consciences, that there is one (universal or call it what you like) church. You see, we would all agree that the Christian family living next door to us is part of Jesus’ Church (singular), even if they gather with another group of believers. Or, how about when hundreds come forward at an evangelistic campaign, repenting and believing, not yet part of any local congregation, have they not in that moment become part of Christ’s church? For practical reasons they may in the future meet with other believers separately, yet they will always remain part of Jesus’ one Church.

What of the trucker who is saved while listening to the gospel on the radio? It may take him a while to find a congregation. Is he not part of Christ’s church while not in a congregation? Also, many don’t like to meet in our congregations precisely because of all this controlling thinking. Are they not part of Christ’s church?

Unfortunately, wolves have and do come in and take the sheep after themselves. This, however, does not negate the sheep from being Jesus’. Let’s ask ourselves, “How much of the Wolf is in me?”

Let us “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:1-6 KJV).

Yes, we should definitely resist the controlling mechanism of people lording it over one another, like in the history of the Catholic (Universal) Church, but denying that there is one church is also wrong. The only good reason for Jesus’ church having separate local churches in the Bible was for geographical reasons. Anyway, the evil of controlling one another continues unabated even in our local churches. It is about attitude change as much as structure. The wrong structures existed in the Catholic Church because of the wrong view of leadership. The problem of pre-eminence starts in the heart.

Rob

Leadership, Real Church

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

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

Leadership, Real Church

Rank or Respect

These are my comments taken from LinkedIn XPastor Group in answer to “How much control should the Senior Pastor have? Other than God, should the pastor be answerable to anyone?”

Personally, I believe that single pastor and pastor/board leadership cannot be justified biblically and I’m afraid that the longer we persist with this paradigm the longer we maintain its limitations and its poor results. On the other hand, mutual submission across the entire body, with multiple eldership can clearly be seen in the New Testament. The word that was proclaimed and lived by was the authority. The idea that some elders had authority over others and even that some elders had more than others is easily, but mistakenly read into the passages because of our paradigm. We mustn’t confuse function or role for rank.

This was Jesus’ heart for His people: “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.

I believe that if we look carefully at Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:25-27, we see that He 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 period. 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.

In Romans 12:8 (and elsewhere) the word “leads” or “rules” is translated. This however, has some possibilities of meaning and also application. Often a hierarchical interpretation of “leads” or “rules” is how many read it because that’s the paradigm they’re used to. However, the word used for “leads” or “rules”(Gk. proistēmi) as used here can also mean – to be a protector or guardian; to give aid; to care for, give attention to.

If we had never experienced church governance that was top down then the word “leads” would be fine as it wouldn’t be misunderstood as ruling over. I believe the passage should read something like, “He who guides and protects let him do so with zeal.” The word “rules” could be fine too if “is an example” or “is a measuring standard” is understood. We cannot be sure of the translators’ intentions, whether they were caught in an unbiblical paradigm, or whether the meanings they afforded to “leads” or “rules” were without rank. I somehow doubt it’s the latter. What these words mean to us is what’s important. In the light of Jesus’ ban on His people ruling over one another, I believe we can only have one conclusion.

Also, some translations use the word “over” when “among” is more appropriate when speaking of leaders in Heb 13:17. Also, the word “Obey” here doesn’t imply unquestioned obedience, but rather “allow yourselves to be persuaded”. Submission is a requirement of everybody, summed up in, “submitting to one another”. A pleasant yielding attitude was what was encouraged, and in this case particularly toward the leaders among them, whose aim was to help them.

The word “leader” is used throughout the New Testament, but these people were servants of God and of those they served. They were without rank; however their character, lifestyle and the anointing of Jesus evidenced their calling and drew respect. Jesus and His word was everyone’s authority.

Leadership in the church does exist, but it is so utterly other than the world’s form that it’s called servanthood. Someone has said that “leadership is influence” and there is more than one way to influence someone in a direction other than using rank. For example, it’s God’s gentleness that leads us to repentance. We don’t need rank!

For more on leadership see https://realchurchlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/shepherds-of-the-flock/

Blessings, Rob

Shorter answer to “How much control should the Senior Pastor have? Other than God, should the pastor be answerable to anyone?” –

There shouldn’t be a Senior Pastor. No one should have any control through rank, but rather influence through respect. Everyone in the body is answerable to the word and one another. Like a prophet in the OT could only speak God’s word, but not enforce it, so too we can proclaim it, but we cannot enforce it. Nor can a leadership group. In fact consensus is the only way to govern in the church. Even disciplining someone is the whole church’s responsibility in the light of God’s word.

Elders who are without rank and among the flock, not over them, influence through respect. Any rank is the same spirit as the Papal system.

Rob

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).

Leadership, Real Church

Servant Leadership – a Misnomer

“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

Leadership, Organic Church, Real Church

Dilemmas Believers Face inside the Institutionalized Church

Institutional Church

One of the dilemmas that believers face inside the institutionalized Church is that they are often not taught how to hear from God and how to be active in their faith. When they are taught these fundamental spiritual basics, they are often limited in their expression of this dynamic.

Another dilemma is that members easily expect the church leadership to think for them, removing their own individual responsibility in their spiritual growth. Just as detrimental is when church authority lords it over its members by not allowing them to think for themselves.

We do need leadership in the form of elders who teach, preach, and pastor in each church and who come alongside, not hierarchical church leadership. The simple/organic Church movement embraces the Bible scriptures that teach that all believers are “priests” and does away with the top-down structure of the pope/pastor church.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood… that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9 ESV).

Incidentally, the idea that only the husband or father is the priest in the home is an Old Testament concept that undermines and inhibits the truth of the New Testament. All believers in a family are priests. Imagine the potential of that!

By Tina and 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

Kingdom Leadership: Leadership in the Body of Christ

Kingdom leadership exists where there is mutual submission and where no rank is given. Even if the truth is taught about the need for every member of the body to function, our leadership structures often give little or no place for their functioning. If any room is given, it is generally controlled by those in charge. Those who are given any area of authority in the running of affairs simply form part of the controlling body. Usually, there is a lot of give and take in decision making, etc., but in the end the main leader can generally have his way if he really wants to, or at least have a huge influence on the outcome of things.

This controlling effect varies from dormancy to extreme, but it is always there, because it is an automatic outcome of that type of worldly leadership structure and mindset that’s been embraced. Flesh produces flesh. It is a mindset that is not from Christ and therefore it isn’t supported by His Spirit. If certain buttons are pressed, then even the seemingly open minded are challenged to act appropriately and to be unbiased. For these leaders, control is always an option to exercise to some or other degree.

Does Jesus put His sheep into structures where men have such an influence on the outcomes? Too often the rebuff to this is that the ideal is a leader with a group of elders that are consulted. However, even then, the mere position of a leader (head pastor/ reverend/ bishop/ director) carries a weight in meetings that can be exerted to bring about his or her view being implemented, or at least a view that he or she is able to have a large influence on.

The chances of a church or any group going astray is more likely with a single head, even if he or she is surrounded by a group of elders. Error in the person’s thoughts, teaching and direction is protected by the person’s position. People fearing how to approach a higher ranked person often don’t. The outcome of being misunderstood or even simply not being given room is too painful for some. Or, when bold enough, the issue at stake needs to be weighed against the possibility of causing a rift and whether the case warrants it. Disagreement with the head causes a conflict that wouldn’t exist if the leader didn’t have that position of control.

So, does this structure support the flow where everybody can hear the voice of the Lord?

Power corrupts! When a person is given rank, he has more face to lose and more to protect. Even the best natured Christian leader will hurt the body of Christ sometime or another simply because he has submitted himself to this leadership style and one of its inevitabilities is control. I believe Jesus not only said that “it ought not to be so among you”, but He also gave a way in which we can function free from this.

Mutual submission to the only Head of the body means common answers take time, but this fosters group unity, mutual respect and ultimately an outcome that honors the Head and all the parts of His body. Until we have submitted to this, we run on worldly principles that cause division and a mastering over one another in the body of Christ.

There are many arguments against this and many apparent Biblical ones too. However, I hope that this truth will become more and more a part of the body of Christ to give room for the only Head to bless the body. “…when brothers dwell in unity… there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Psalm 133:1).

Expect Christian leadership as we have known it to disappear more and more, and the church to take on a different look. It might appear as innocuous as the early church did, but it is here that real life, light, love and Jesus’ authority will flow.

What then, do we do away with leadership? Yes and no. Yes, in the way it controls others or has structures that have the ability to control. No, in the need for mutual submission to one another’s gifting and the way in which the Head may want to lead through any one at any particular time. Eldership is needed, but this is to guide and encourage growth, not to direct and control it.

By Rob Morley