Tag Archive: no rank


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

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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

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

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