Tag Archive: rank


COMPLEMENTARIANISM – A FORM OF PATRIARCHY

Complementarianism is a belief that limits the roles of a wife to those that won’t infringe on her husband as head ‘over’ her. As such, Complementarianism is a form of patriarchy, but, unlike full-blown Patriarchy, which has women subject to men in every area of society, this version is restricted to how it effects the spousal relationship. The basis for this belief is their interpretation of Biblical passages like Eph 5:23, 1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. (Click on the references for an Egalitarian/Mutualist view of these passages).

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

In a nutshell, Complementarian wives cannot take on any leadership roles in society where they are ‘over’ their husbands. And so, fueled by a common misconception that church leadership roles are hierarchical, despite Jesus commanding to the contrary (Matt 20:25-27), Complementarians restrict women in church roles too, in order to prevent them from violating their concept of male headship in the home. In fact, when it comes to church leadership, Complementarians are especially quick to implement this practice, believing that Paul was addressing the possible violation of this spousal headship structure in passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35.

HEAD – AUTHORITY OR SOURCE?

What is clear is that this belief hinges on the principle of hierarchical headship in the home. However, even though Ephesians 5:23 certainly does speak of the husband as head (Gk. kephale) of the wife, the biblical era meaning of ‘head’ (Gk. kephale) means source and not rank headship. Also, to note, is that the text says that ‘the husband is the head of (not over) the wife, even as Christ is the head of (not over) the church, which also fits with that era’s use of ‘head’ as source and not authority.

But, someone might ask, what of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that 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 also to be understood as “source” or “origin”, without the idea of rank, and carrying  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.”

MUTUAL SUBMISSION

Furthermore, Eph 5:21 says ‘submitting yourselves one to another’, which clarifies that the male headship spoken of in Eph 5:23 must be understood within the context of mutual submission and not rank leadership, even if men had this kind of authority through state legislation or culturally. In fact, the term ‘submit’ in Eph 5:22 is not in the Greek, which clearly shows that wives were being directed to the same ‘submitting…one to another’ of Eph 5:21, and not another.

Even in the unlikely event that ‘head’ did mean rank headship in this passage, it should be seen as being descriptive of a husband in New Testament society, who automatically acquired legal authority over his household by virtue of his gender, but as prescriptive of how he ought to behave, given his position, for the sake of his wife and not primarily his own. Understood this way, Paul was being prescriptive within the confines of Roman society’s boundaries, just as he was with slave owners and slaves.

NO CHURCH HIERARCHY

Ironically, neither the meaning of source or rank for ‘head’ would preclude a wife from becoming an elder or pastor in a church and thereby interfere with the supposed spousal rank ‘headship’ principle, because there is no hierarchy in the Church where anyone is ranked ‘over’ another, except Jesus as Lord. That said, it is evident that the passages on Jesus being ‘head of’ His body also have to do with Him being the source rather than being about rank leadership, though it is clear from other contexts that He has this too.

SUBMIT TO HUSBAND

Also ironic is that if one takes a Mutualist (Egalitarian) or Complementarian view here and considers the likely scenario where a husband agrees or allows (depending on the view) his wife to be a pastor, elder, governor, or the country’s president, either by mutual consensus or authority over (again, depending on the view), then the outcome would be that she may, for Eph 5:23 says that it is to her husband that she is supposed to submit. And so, no church or any other man has the authority to stop her.

COMPLEX, BEYOND BELIEF

The Complementarian narrative centers around subordinate roles of a wife in relation to her husband, but the exact parameters for women in general, and each woman in particular, appears to be subject to the discretion and influence of male church leaders who claim Biblical authority for their exclusively male role and their varying interpretations. Furthermore, the application of their belief becomes so tricky, given their various interpretations, that it is hard to imagine that God would have given us something so difficult to pin down. Not to mention that the complexity of applying their belief increases and varies even more when we step out of the spousal relationship and consider leadership for single women or widows that don’t fall under these headship passages.

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Acts of the ApostlesThe term apostle is used throughout Scripture, but is it a role that is still found in the church today? To explore this possibility, let’s consider what the Scriptures have to say.

The Twelve

Generally we associate the term apostle with the twelve disciples that Jesus called apostles during His earthly ministry, see Luke 6:13. These men were with Jesus from the early days of His ministry witnessing all that He taught and did. As representatives, they were sent out during and after Jesus’ earthly ministry to testify of Him and His kingdom in word and power.

But, did the term apostle end with them?

Matthias

In Acts 1:15-26, Matthias is chosen to replace Judas, who was one of the twelve and who betrayed Jesus and then committed suicide.

Paul

Most of us,  without much thought, automatically associate Paul as an apostle. But, most of the evidence to Paul’s apostleship is by way of his own letters, where he calls himself an apostle, which alone could appear to be a dubious self-appointment.  However, Peter, one of the twelve, rather than take exception to Paul’s claim to apostleship, instead ratifies it when he called Paul’s letters “Scripture” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

Also, although Luke’s account in Acts doesn’t directly refer to Paul as an apostle, it clearly shows Paul to be one by the call on his life, through his teaching and by the miracles associated with him. In fact, it appears that Luke purposed to show in his narrative that Paul’s apostleship was just like that of Peter’s by intentionally choosing to reflect on the similar miracles that each did.

The term apostle didn’t end with the selection of Paul.

Here is a list of persons who are also called apostles in the Bible:

Barnabas – Acts 14:14

Andronicus and Junia – Rom. 16:7: – they were shown to be apostles depending on whether the text is to mean “among” or “to” the apostles

Timothy & Silas – see 1 Thess. 2:6 in context to 1:1

Epaphroditus – Phil.2:25 -“messenger” is the same word translated apostle elsewhere

Apollos – 1 Cor. 4:9

Evidence for Today?

The above list from Scripture shows a continued and broader use of the term apostle outside of the twelve. So, clearly, along with the unique apostleship of the twelve, Jesus chose others as apostles after His ascension.

This goes hand in hand with Eph. 4:11-12 where it mentions certain role players in the body of Christ, namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were given as gifts to the churches “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”

Can the list of names above, along with this scripture, be considered evidence for the role of apostle continuing to this day? Many, who are uncomfortable with persons being referred to as apostles in the church today, would have no problem with persons being referred to as an evangelist pastor, or teacher. But, for some reason, using the term “prophet” and “apostle” for someone today is considered anathema.  Why is this so?

Ignorance and Tradition

I believe that it’s because of ignorance and tradition that we sit with a narrow concept and use of the term apostle. And, also, out of ignorance and tradition we have incorrectly associated rank with this role and as such cannot imagine any regular person attaining the much elevated rank of apostle.

Now, although apostleship is a very significant role in the body of Christ that carries certain important responsibilities, it has no rank over anyone else in the body of Christ. The title or rather term apostle simply means “messenger” or “sent one” and as such describes a function or role in the Body of Christ.

Reverence and respect for an apostle should be no more than for anyone else in the body of Christ. Further reverence should be spared for the function and who the apostle is representing and not in a title of rank that we’ve created out of a title of function. This is hard for us to grasp, because in this world we typically associate rank with titles. However, Jesus taught his disciples differently, see my post, No Rank, Only Roles in the Body of Christ.

Jesus

It would be fitting to mention the most outstanding apostle, Jesus. Those preoccupied with the idea of rank might consider referring to Jesus as an apostle a demotion. Yet, in Heb. 3:1, He is called this, not as an inferior title, but rather as the description of His role as a messenger or sent one from heaven. However, unlike any other apostles, in this role Jesus does carry preeminence in rank and is certainly superior in its execution.

Today

I believe that to this day many have carried out the role of apostle, but have been referred to by other terms. Certainly, some have been among the leaders in missions. Yet, whether they have been known as such or not, the ministry of the apostle has lived on in Jesus’ Church to this day.

Look around in the body of Christ and perhaps you will notice an apostle or two among us. Don’t tell them though, as the false issue of rank associated with the role might make them giddy and fall :).

Rob

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

Church Leadership

Understanding, applying and getting to experience real New Testament Church Leadership is a huge challenge to the Church in this day and age. This is because we are so easily clouded by years of church traditions, tempted by the world’s form of leadership and are also often sadly unclear about the nature of New Testament church leadership.

If we are to do things God’s way then obviously the Biblical view is the one that we need clarity on. And, in order to get a sharper understanding of New Testament church leadership, we can ask various questions of the Biblical texts. But, for now, I would like to consider only two key questions because their answers reveal a stark contrast to typical Western churches and highlight where our main blockage exists.

Firstly, besides Jesus being the head of the Church, does the Bible advocate any form of chain of command in church leadership? And, secondly, was church leadership singular or plural by nature? I will show evidence in the New Testament that leaders did not have the positions of hierarchy that people so often afford them and that church leadership was never singular. (Most of the following is a slightly expanded version of my post, Does the Bible Support the Position of a Senior Pastor?)

Let’s begin by considering Acts 15 where we have an account of a church council at work. This chapter is used by some to support the idea of hierarchical church leadership with a lead elder. In the account, Paul, Barnabas and some others were sent from Antioch “to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders” about an issue.  Notice that they did not go seeking James, a key leader in Jerusalem, or the apostles alone, but their aim was to see the plurality of apostles and elders in Jerusalem to resolve the issue.

From a quick reading of this chapter, it can appear to some that James is the main leader of the church in Jerusalem.  One reason is that after a lot of discussion at this significant council meeting, James made the final statements that gave direction to the issue at hand. Secondly, he did this with the words, “my judgment is…” which seem to suggest that he was calling the shots. However, is this enough evidence to conclude that James was the lead elder? Couldn’t it be argued that any of the apostles or elders could have had the final word giving direction? If so, we would be wrong to conclude that James was the lead elder on that basis alone.

Rather than be likened to a final verdict of a judge, James’ statements, that helped conclude the meeting,  should be viewed as the assessment and opinion of a seasoned and respected brother, elder and apostle.  Also, that it was the group as a whole that was led by the Spirit to the conclusion is seen in the following, “it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch…with the following letter, ‘From the apostles and the elders, your brothers (KJV reads and your brothers) to the gentile brothers… Greetings…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…”

Notice too, that the letter was not addressed from James, but from “The apostles and the elders, your brothers”. Also, it was not addressed to a church leader, but to “the brothers” of many churches. Brothers wrote to brothers. Granted, a strong argument for James’ leadership in the Jerusalem Church exists, but this would have been alongside other elders and it would have been without rank. It would have been in the context of Jesus’ teaching on leadership in Matthew 20:25-27 where he said things like “all ye are brethren” and “it shall not be so among you” when Jesus contrasted the world’s leadership with what theirs should be like. (For more on this see my post Servant Leadership – a Misnomer).

This James was prominent in the New Testament church, but that 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 single senior pastor. This is especially a problem if the text can be more comfortably viewed in a way that fits Paul’s specific instructions elsewhere and all of the other historical accounts in the New Testament.

For example, in 1Timothy 1:3 we see that Paul urged Timothy to remain behind in Ephesus in order to settle things in the church.  Timothy was not the pastor, nor lead pastor, but he was part of a church planting team. In this letter, Paul instructs Timothy on the appointment of multiple elders. Also, in Acts 14:23 we see the appointment of a plurality of elders with no sign of seniority given to any. It reads, “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.”

Notice too, that whenever Paul wrote to churches, the list of recipients were the elders and saints, with no mention of a senior leader. Had there been a lead elder, then surely he would have been listed ahead of the elders and saints in the list of recipients. Also, Elsewhere, Paul requests to meet with the elders of Ephesus and there is no mention of a senior leader.  This furthers the case that singular leadership didn’t exist in the New Testament. In fact, the appointment of a senior/lead pastor is never mentioned in the Bible. Respect for eldership, role and gifting, existed, but there was never superiority of rank.

While certain leaders like James and Peter are mentioned because of the key roles that they played, this honor is not to be equated to hierarchy. Nothing was done outside of the plurality of eldership and church consensus. The only leader with rank in the Church was and is Jesus.

For more on Church Leadership, see my posts:

Rank or Respect

Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 1

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

Servant Leadership – a Misnomer

Rob Morley

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

Everyone in the Church is answerable to the whole body in the light of God’s Word and no one should be above another.

Notice, Peter was questioned by the “circumcision party” for his involvement with the Gentiles. He was answerable to the whole body, even if those who questioned him were wayward. And it is precisely because he was accountable to the body, that the truth was revealed. He responded with his testimony which included the word of God.

Elsewhere, the Bereans were complimented by Paul on how they tested what they heard. They held him accountable to the Word of God.

Our testimony and the Word are sufficient in giving account. We don’t need rank to get our way. In fact, rank has only proved to be a frustration to God’s ways. At worst, it has become a place for those who have it to hide behind or a weapon to bully others with. At best, it is used by good hearted people who have good intentions, but it remains ready to be misused at any time.

We were all left in the secure hands of Our Savior and His infallible Word to whom all are accountable before one another.

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

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).

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

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