Tag Archive: preeminence


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

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

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

Is it really such a problem that we are so divided over differences of opinion? Well, yes and no! Let me explain. When a group shows a lack of consideration or any hint of inflexibility to the idea of members holding differing views then there is a problem. Whether it’s a study on the Amish, or any denomination, church or a sweet little home group, where there is inflexibility, there are problems, all be they hidden.

Defaulting to Control and Conformity

Strangely, we gravitate to control and conformity of thought, finding security in it, rather than recognizing the threat that environments with enforced views have on liberty and healthy grow. And, in this bubble-like environment, we become threatened by those who bring different views. Yet, it’s a God given liberty to individually discover and hold different views as long as it’s in an honest pursuit of Biblical truth in relationship with God. Denying a person that is wrong! True growth and genuine unity is based on love, not enforced ideas.

Developing Unity: Embracing Messy People

While we should affirm that the Bible is the only sure expression on which to base doctrine, we should nevertheless allow for messiness in interpretation to be a part of normal growth. And, rather than shun, or try and control those with various views, we should expect this to be a normal process of the development in peoples’ understanding. Paul seems content to allow for differences in thought as a part of growth when he writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Php. 3:14-16).

The potential disunity created by various views can be overcome if we give room for each to hold onto his or her convictions. For example, the practice of the Christening of infants with confirmation and the practice of believer’s baptism need not be divisive. Must we really go to separate buildings and worship apart from one another because we differ on issues like this? Let each do according to how they best understand God’s word and let God who fellowships with us all be blessed by seeing us lovingly fellowship despite our various opinions.

The Sin of Preeminence

Fervent opposition to the culture of guru following and any form of hierarchy and control is essential to avoid being led by some whacko (brother) or narcissistic leadership. And, I propose that it is easier to have unity with diversity under one roof if a decentralized, non-hierarchical, organic model is followed, where the Bible is the foundation for truth, and where room is given for individuals to have and share varied opinions and persuasions in the light of God’s word.

If we fellowship based on commonality of thinking then we will always be divided and will continue to divide. Unity based on control does not foster the loving fellowship that is founded solely on our brotherhood in Christ. Only in the cases of serious discipline, because of ongoing unrepented sin, should someone be kept from fellowship.

This sin can be when elders try to rule and over the church. This seems to be the sin that gets unnoticed because of our default to hierarchical control. See my posts Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 6 and No Rank, only Roles in the Body of Christ for more on this sin.

In my next post I’ll share more on this hope.

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 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

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

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

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