Grids

As believers, there are a series of grids which we interpret Scripture through. These grids inevitably determine the expression of our faith. There are fancy words for many of these grids, like ecclesiology, missiology, proctology, etc., but they essentially are our understanding and beliefs concerning the different aspects of kingdom life.

Some believers have the same grid that they were taught from the beginning of their faith walk. In their eyes, their grid is normal, true, and right. Other believers, for various reasons, have had their grids challenged. They have had to go through the process of “seeing their seeing.” I’m not talking about the essentials of Christian doctrine, but other aspects of church life.

In rejecting the grid we have traditionally known, there is a process of coming to terms with a grid that makes sense, that fits our understanding of Scripture and the nature of God. This is not a case of throwing babies out with bathwater, but rather a process of sifting through the things that we’ve assumed and reconciling them with what we are learning.

I don’t have a bee in my bonnet over authority and hierarchy issues. However, in challenging what I previously believed, I had to discover if there was hierarchy in kingdom relationships, and if so, to what extent. In the end, the question I always ask myself is “How does this fit with my understanding of God and the nature of His kingdom?”

The authority structure that I was taught basically involved a leader and a board of elders who were called by God to govern the people of that assembly. Being in the charismatic stream there was also a covering of 5-fold ministers to whom the church leaders were submitted. The leaders take very seriously their presumed responsibility to rule and govern the people, and the people take very seriously their submission to these authorities.

After much thought and study, I have come to the conclusion that this system of hierarchy is damaging both to the people and to the leaders because it causes people to attempt to fulfill roles they were never called to and to miss out on the kind of relationships that God intended.

When we attempt to live in a role of rulership over our brother, we have put ourselves in a position that God never intended. While we may be sincere in doing so, it is ultimately damaging to ourselves and the other person. We presume an authority in their lives that is not ours. This system also causes the followers to sometimes abdicate areas of responsibility and become passive recipients, making unfair demands of the leader.

Not only that, hierarchy is damaging to relationships because it removes the beauty of mutual submission and service which God intends for our relationships. To define our church relationships through the lens of mutuality rather than by government and hierarchy would make a huge impact in our understanding of body life and community. What if we learned to image the nature of the trinity in our relationships with one another?

Instead we have imitated the world’s structures of positional power and actually claimed that they are God’s way. Whether we refer to the Israelites desire for a king or the formation of clergy and papacy in church governments, we see throughout history the establishment of mediators between God and men. While the Father has allowed this mediation, He has not required it. His intention was to have fellowship with man unhindered by mediators.

The world loves its hierarchies and power structures, but it isn’t supposed to be that way among us. The kingdom is to be a radical overthrowing of the hierarchical structures that have been instituted to mediate relationships. Now, there is to be one head of the church, and that head is Jesus. Our relationship with the Father should no longer be hindered by mediation. Our relationships with one another are to be relationships of mutual submission, serving, and preferring one another. This underlying message seems obvious in the New Testament.

So that is the grid of “hierarchaeology” that I currently view other aspects of church life through, especially issues of leadership, which I hope to address in a future post.

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12 thoughts on “Grids

  1. Grace,

    I like that name. I have a 7 year old daughter named Grace :)

    In the last portion of your post you refer a couple of times to “mediation”. Can you give me some examples of what that looks like in the average protestant church?

  2. What if we learned to image the nature of the trinity in our relationships with one another?

    What’s interesting is watching how some even use “the nature of the trinity” to support human hierarchy.

    Great post, Grace! Thanks for taking the time to deal with this subject in such a (ahem) gracious way ;) These last few posts have definitely resonated with where I’m at on this issue, too.

    “How does this fit with my understanding of God and the nature of His kingdom?”

    This is, indeed, the question we should frequently ask ourselves. This goes along with recent thoughts that I’ve been having about asking ourselves “How does this fit in with what Jesus revealed of the Father?” Same idea.

  3. shannon,
    I’m not sure I have any idea what the “average protestant church” is, but actually there is probably less of a tendency to mediate in denominational churches than what I’ve seen in charismatic churches.

    In a denominational church there may be a tendency to rely on the pastor/leader to be fed spiritually rather than to assume the responsibility for ones own spiritual growth.

    When leadership becomes more authoritarian there is often a presumption that the leader knows God’s will for a person’s life and is responsible for directing the direction of their life decisions.

    For example, even in a mentoring situation, it is possible that the mentor can “overdirect” the mentoree to the point of interfering in their growth and walk with the Lord.

    Does that help? We should always be pointing people toward pursuing their relationship with the Lord rather than enforcing their dependence on a leader.

    Steve,
    Thanks for your comments. I’ve only recently read some teaching about subordination within the trinity. Interesting.

    This has all just been foundation for trying to figure out my understanding of leadership and structures. The next question is always, “so then what?”

    I hope you’ll stick around and help me figure it out. :)

    Robby,
    At first I threw it in because it was silly. But I left it in to see if anyone would actually notice, and if they did, whether they would dare say anything.

    You win the prize!

    Now that you mention it, I think proctology is appropriate, the branch of ecclesiology dealing with the treatment of @$$#*!*$.
    I could teach a class if anyone is interested.

  4. What you say about grids is very interesting. It just impacts everything we do. Churches drill those grids into people’s heads before they can get to the Bible.

    We are taught theology before the Word of God, as an example.

  5. In your comment to Shannon you mention mentoring. Mentoring is one of the topics we will be talking about in this weeks “Men Behaving Badly” class. I will hopefully be posting about it later this week. I would be interested in your comments.

  6. I appreciate this post a lot, it really helps to understand your approach to a variety of topics, not just church leadership.

    One’s understanding of leadership & authority are pivotal ‘grids’ (lens/filters) that effect one’s understanding of every area of Christ’s body (the Church).

    I found some of your topic descriptors very familiar…and ironically, this topic was taught once again Sunday AM at our soon-to-be (June) CLB.

    One thing I have also noticed in my examination of authority is that both the leaders & people take their roles very seriously. This is what makes it so damaging and damnable but also so forgivable. As a rule most of the men who teach this stuff actually do believe that their doctine is correct and so they are being faithful to their convictions (even to the point it causes them to do ‘wrong’ in order to do ‘right’).
    I agree with your conclusions that have come as a result of these teaching and would add that even in Charismatic circles we’ve had enough time (decades) to test these doctrines and experience their results.

    Grace, I willingly volunteer a few titles for your course…
    “Proctology: The Church is full of it”
    “Proctology: One ply or Two?”
    “Proctology: Cleaning up after the Churches biggest @$$#*!*$ (that’s ‘assholes’ for those of you unfamiliar with christianese)”

    enjoying hope once again, KSG

  7. David,
    That is very true. Often times our understanding of what we learn in God’s Word is based on extra-biblical things that we’ve been taught along the way.

    inheritor,
    I’ll be watching for it.

    ksg,
    That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. I loved the first class title especially!

    Your comments about being faithful to their convictions were very interesting. The amount of deception that can occur at that point is really scary, especially considering “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

    I suppose my next post will be applying all of this to the concept of leadership, although I’m tempted to do a post on proctology. :)

  8. Once again, I have nothing to say other than that I am faithfully following this series…

    Keep mulling, Grace. This is good stuff.

  9. Grace,

    Thanks for the clarity. I’m a bit slow sometimes ;)

    Upon reading your reply, I would simply like to say, I completely agree with you. I have seen what you say happen before and it’s not pretty.

  10. molly and shannon,
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    I always wonder if a topic that I’m mulling over is of interest to anyone else.

  11. Grace,

    I’m catching up on the reading…

    My family was “left behind” by church leadership that thought they “owned” that body of Believer…and decided to disolve that congregation; told the sheep to go find another pasture.

    Since then we’ve been taking a hard look at the topic of “leadership” in the Body of Christ. Our “grid” has totally “re-gridded”, so to speak.

    Much of what you articulated in these post reminds me of some one else…Frank Viola, for instance. Any familiarity there, perchance?

    Tom

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