Inspired to Rant

For as long as I’ve been blogging, I have had very few rude comments. However, the profiles of rude comments are similar. They are typically on an older post, and, big surprise, they are usually anonymous or link back to a page that is unavailable. Somehow anonymity allows commenters to believe that they can set aside basic courtesy.

So here is the latest which was left in response to my leadership articles. The leadership articles are linked on the *Recommended* page of this blog.

My response to the comment is in green.

“Tyler” says:

I have a problem with the statement: “I don’t believe in positional authority within the body of Christ.”

So far so good. I don’t have a problem with well-stated disagreement or differences of opinion. I am quite solidly committed to my beliefs on this particular topic. I didn’t arrive at them lightly.

To quote my article, ” Understanding the equality of our relationship as brothers in the body of Christ is essential in understanding spiritual leadership.”

That’s not scripture.

You know I’m going to say it –

“You know how the kings of the nations show their power to the people. Important leaders use their power over the people. It must not be that way with you.” — Matthew 20:25-26 (NLV)

Eph 4:11-12 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Apparently this is his argument for positional authority. These are gifts within the body, not positions of authority. In scripture, they are not referred to as offices or titles. They are gifts meant to be stewarded to empower and serve the body.

If you feel gifted in any of these areas, serve the body. If others recognize these giftings in you, keep serving the body. As soon as you attempt to wrap your identity around the gift or attempt to command others out of that gift, you are headed down a wrong path.

Here’s a quick tip. If you want to know how to identify a false apostle, he is often the guy using “Apostle” in front of his name as a title.

Quit whining.

Pffftttt!

Submit to your pastor

I respect the guy at our church who goes by the title “senior pastor,” but he doesn’t pastor me. He doesn’t really know me (not whining) and with a congregation of 1,000, he can’t be expected to know everyone.  I understand that he needs to spend his limited time with people who are organizationally a priority.

To be honest, even if we had a relationship, I don’t believe in one-sided submission. I have several mutually submissive relationships in my life that I draw on for wisdom, guidance, and accountability.

Most people don’t understand or believe that relationships with pastors, apostles, elders, and mentors can be mutually submissive. Should we honor, respect, and receive from the gifts of others? Absolutely! However, let’s realize that even (or perhaps especially) the least among us has something to contribute.

and prove yourself worthy of being a worthy.

I’m guessing perhaps he meant “prove yourself worthy of being a leader.”

Nope, I don’t have anything to prove, and people who believe they are worthy of being a leader scare me.

Go start a church of your own,

I don’t think so. :)

and then you may learn why there has to be somebody in change,

or perhaps somebody in charge, although I prefer the idea of somebody in change. I agree that organizational leadership can sometimes be helpful to serving and maintaining the life of a group. However, people who need to be in charge scare me too.

and why there are those who aren’t given leadership.

I agree that not everyone is suited for leadership. In fact, many of the people unsuited for leadership carry titles of positonal authority, yet they have no understanding of humility or serving but are instead focused on their own importance.

REALITY!

Perhaps we need a better reality. This would be a good place for a recent quote by Andrew Jones describing a different reality of church that is more organic than organizational:

“They start small and grow [emerge] in an organic fashion without transfer growth and certainly not with a chunk of people handed over from another church to kick-start them. These churches don’t have pastors or paid leaders and they generally don’t own buildings but sometimes they do rent space for communal gatherings, or residential communities, or art-space, or business enterprise, but not necessarily a ‘worship service’. These groups are usually local, small, integrated in the community [missional], and not always visible to the public as an official group or organization. Their goal is not to attract people to an event but rather to penetrate the community with the love of God and embody the gospel as well as communicate it.”

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47 thoughts on “Inspired to Rant

  1. As rants go, this one is actually a well-written, articulate, reasonable and gracious rebuttal. It started as a rant, but quickly turned into an informative piece on biblical leadership (contrary to Justin’s unbiblical view).

    And you didn’t cuss.

    You are my ranting hero!

  2. Thanks Mike,
    Great post at your site too. Many of the thoughts are interrelated to the gender post.

    Robby,
    Deleting the cuss words is part of my editing process. ;)

  3. Pretty funny stuff.

    How some people go from point A to point Z without explaining the logical steps in between is pretty amazing at times.

    But always, it comes down to…I’m right because I say so.

  4. David,
    LOL! Yes, submit! Because in this little domain, my “kingdom,” I rule the world….evil laugh

    Just kidding, really!!

  5. In New Zealand, one Pastor, already calling himself an Apostle, decided to take on the title of Bishop. It made the papers. The church is infamous for authoritarian abuse. Funny stuff.

    Oh, and to GROW, they went around the country BUYING, yes, with cash, small churches, an renamed them all to his denomination. Suddenly the Bishop had followers everywhere.

    No exaggeration whatsoever….

  6. Thanks, Grace. This post inspired me to read your Leadership Series articles. So cool because you put words to a vision of body life that has been in my heart for the past few years. And you added much depth and greater understanding to it as well. Thanks! I so appreciate you as a member of the body… and your service in the body :) I am richer for it!

  7. Nice ‘fisking’ Grace,

    Positional leadership in the church is the dumbest way to lead and will be the downfall of any ministry. Of course I take it you were referring to the term ‘positional leadership’ as defined by management theory, and not simply people fulfilling an available ‘position’.

    When the previous youth pastor I volunteered under forgot I was a volunteer, I forgave him and laboured on. When he started using methods out of the Joseph Stalin book of management theory, I got out of there.

  8. Thank you Jonathan and Jeff.

    Israel,
    I know of a few bishops also. In our circles, all of the prophets “graduated” to being apostles. Buying congregations? That’s an interesting church growth strategy.

    Sarah,
    Thank you for your link today. I’m glad that you enjoyed the leadership articles. I wrestled with those ideas for several years prior to writing the articles, struggling to break free from what I had been taught concerning authority and leadership.

  9. Bob,
    Great article you linked. I enjoyed your thoughts about influence born out of loving relationship. In my mind, the word influence has more potential to signify serving whereas the word authority seems to have an underlying sense of ruling and control.

    Alex,
    Yes, by positional leadership I refer to those who presume they have authority based solely on their position within the organization.

    I could really relate to your second paragraph. Prior to leaving our CLB, my husband and I left numerous leadership meetings asking each other, “Wasn’t this a voluntary role?” We were confused by the fact that the Hitleresque leader was a close personal friend who had morphed when he assumed his title of apostle.

    Tom,
    LOL! Fortunately I have the gift of interpretation. :)

  10. As always, your thoughts are, well, thought provoking. I like being provoked. :-)

    I would raise the question as to whether “leader” is even an appropriate concept among followers of Jesus. Are any of us intended to “lead”, or are we to exercise the gifts given to us by the Spirit in order to encourage and build one another up to the image of Christ as well as draw others to Jesus?

    It has occurred to me that between the institutional imposition of the lay/clergy divide with clergy being the “leaders” and the business models of an institutional hierarchy (CEO) to the idea of “servant leadership”, we may have been influenced to read this idea into Scripture instead of its actually being there. (Is “servant leader” a contradiction in terms? Can one “serve” and “lead”? The idea of servant leadership actually comes from John K. Greenleaf a longtime IBM executive.)

    Only in very recent years have I come to believe that that it may be possible to live among followers of Jesus with no “leaders” but only people expressing their gifts in unity. When this is working at its best it is stunningly amazing because it is the Holy Spirit that leads, and who can do it better? However, I will readily acknowledge leaving our old way of thinking and acting behind is not easy.

    Just some food for further thinking…..

  11. Grace, Thanks again for another great post. You and your readers made my jumbled thoughts lucid. I’m thinking similar thoughts but they just don’t seem very organized lately. As Traveller noted, its difficult to think in new ways when we have been so indoctrinated. My mind seems enmeshed in an old paradigm and the threads that tangle me up are invisible until something triggers a reaction.

    For some time I have been pondering a leaderless church but I can’t get my mind wrapped around that concept. 45 years of dysfunctional (though well meaning) church experience leaves me yearning for a Holy Spirit led church experience, but as a dog returns to its vomit…..

    So where does one go from here? Do each of us go off an start our own leaderless churches? I can imagine if I did that it would be infused with my own dysfunction. Do we simply function as covert agents of change within existing bodies? Do we gather like minded souls together for corporate navel gazing? What is God showing us in the midst of all this?

  12. I was going to leave a rude comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to be anonymous (just kidding!) :)

    I do have a question though. Is a ‘leaderless church’ the answer, or is it continuing to seek a better understanding of what the church is (and even church leadership)? Isn’t the Bible full of terrible “leaders” who served valuable purposes?

  13. I think all churches should be “leaderless” in the human perspective. Jesus should be the leader, the pastor should be standing next to each person in order to help them over obstacles, occasionally point them in the right direction, and give them a little push when needed. When a church member receives a vision of their own from God, the pastor needs to do all he can to help them get to where they need to be.

    That is how I see church. The leader isn’t the leader, but a servant. The congregation is made up of more servants, who serve one another. The whole thing works amazingly well when it is structured this way, using the example of Jesus.

    The biggest problem is we are breeding bible colleges full of CEO’s rather than shepherds. Nothing will change until that does.

  14. A quick glance through the epistles will tell you that there was a structure of leadership in the early church and it was encouraged by Paul.

    I don’t find Travellers remarks helpful because we’re basically talking semantics- it’s all the same thing, and a body of people needs leaders- but it needs good, gifted leaders- not those that come from a position but from an appointment of God (God chooses those who are weak to shame the proud).

    Look at Paul, he spoke with authority yet most forget he could not even write very well (if we are to believe certain interpretations), one evening he even talked a young man to death- literally.

    Paul was not a great motivational speaker, neither was he a successful leader! But what he did know was his own weaknesses, that the church belonged to God and he learned that the authoritarian approach did not work (compare Acts to Titus).

  15. I didn’t find Travellers remarks helpful either, especially since it was Robert K. Greenleaf, long time leader at AT&T, whose foundational work on servant-leadership that was so influential! And I agree that this whole issue of leadership is about influence for building up the Body rather than power over those in the Body.

    I think it is more important to think of the issue is one where we are to be a group of all leaders, who each lead according to the gifts of the Spirit. That makes us a group of all followers, too, as we follow the Spirit as it leads us through each other. This is about mutual submission, which I appreciate Grace mentioning!

    Awesome job, Grace! I concur: you rock! I, too, “submit” to you, sister ;^)

  16. GRACE,
    Thanks for the excellent example of gracious leadership in responding to the dissenter’s comments. You model the richness of brothers and sisters mutually bringing their best to the community for the sake of being a living expression of Jesus.
    PS I like your new digs!

  17. traveller,
    I believe the word leader comes with so much baggage that it is usually more of a hindrance than a help.

    My problem with the phrase servant leadership is that it often still carries the underlying presumption that one has authority over their brother. Because it is now cloaked in nicer language people become unwilling to challenge the remaining existence of rulership and subordination.

    I honestly believe that if we could separate our understanding of spiritual leadership from organizational structure, existing systems and structures could enjoy the unity of open expression of gifts led by the Holy Spirit, while still benefiting from a structure that serves and facilitates this expression.

    David,
    It is difficult to imagine a different way of functioning together and more difficult still to implement those ideas. The tendency to default to what we have known is strong and as you said, we each bring our own dysfunction to the experience.

    I don’t have answers for your questions. We have to each search out those answers for our own personal journey. Personally, I have found myself free to enjoy relationships in a variety of church structures without the obligation to submit myself to a specific leader as my designated spiritual authority.

  18. Lori,
    I can’t remember where I put that head covering! I’ve got your new link in my blogreader and will hopefully get it added to my blogroll soon.

    dan,
    This is a bit of a continuation from my thoughts at your blog. We do need to continue to seek understanding of what the church is and how leaders should function.

    As much as I feel that wrong understanding of leadership has been harmful to the members, I believe even more strongly that our misunderstanding of leadership has been especially damaging for those who attempt to fill the role of pastor in churches.

    I alluded to passivity of members on your blog. In addition to that there are the unrealistic expectations of the members and expectations that pastors put on themselves concerning their responsibility for the organization and the spiritual well-being of every member.

    My belief is that we should function much more mutually, sharing those responsibilities rather than hiring one individual expected to do it all. Not that there can’t be an important position for someone to serve in facilitating the group, but as I said our inherited understanding of that role is distorted.

  19. Heather,
    Well said. There are many people who truly believe that CEO-type leadership is desirable in a church leader.

    Alex,
    I don’t see the leadership structures you refer to in the epistles or that God appoints leaders (new testament). However, I think that God provides gifts within the body for the purpose of encouraging and serving one another. Good point about serving out of our weakness rather than assuming an authoritarian position.

    Peggy
    While servant leadership is an influential concept in business leadership, it doesn’t translate directly to church leadership. I can understand traveller’s hesitation with the term because, in my experience, the use of the word by church leaders has not reflected a new understanding of kingdom values in serving, but instead was just another version of traditional leading.

    Ultimately, we agree that we must follow the leading of the Spirit. I hope you are feeling better soon.

    Thanks John! Blessings to you and Julie this holiday season. I hope you get to see some of the kids.

  20. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. 2Cor 13:10

    For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1Thes 4:2

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 1Tim 2:12

    These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Titus 2:15

    Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb 13:17

    For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 1Cor 14:33-35

    Not to beat the proverbial dead horse of authority & leaders & gender to death one more time, but simply put, what do we do with these scriptures & any others that address these same issues?

    I am all for the voluntary synergy of a team working together to further the kingdom, but are we remiss considering such an arrangement the Church? I agree there would be no need for positional authority or the need to exercise church disciple or maintain purity of doctrine etc. if you simply get together as a group of like-minded saints pursuing common goals. But if Jesus is the Head of the Church & He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers, are these simply roles or functions with no authority?

    Apostles with no authority? Teachers with no authority? Simply a cacophony of giftings with differing methods of service ?

    No setting apart through the laying on of hands? No recognition of the Holy Spirit’s choosing? No councils to set protocol or clear up misunderstandings or address doctrinal errors?

    No one then can tell me what to do or what to believe or practice or teach or how to behave?

    I hold no allegiance to any denomination or specific leader or authority figure. And I can claim to be part of the church with no regular Sunday attendance much as Wayne Jacobsen defines. I suppose I could be more friend than congregant. In friendships there is no positional jostling for power or authority. Friendships purely voluntary & mutually invested in. Certainly there is influence & encouragement & enjoyment experienced. Yes, suggestions can be offered, concerns raised & assistance given, but being a friend does not have any hint of lording it over the other. Same as marriage. Mutual submission, love & sacrifice hard enough to work out in that least common denominator relationship. How much more so in a group dynamic?

  21. Joseph, one of the issues is that when the Bible was translated to English there was great concern over the fact that ordinary people would be able to actually read the scriptures for themselves and as a result be able to interpret God’s word for themselves. This scared both the ecclesiastical and government authorities in England. It is the reason that people such as William Tyndale were burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. Indeed, one young English ploughboy was burned alive (Tyndale had been strangled prior to being burned out of respect for his scholarly career prior to translating the Bible unlawfully) at the stake for having in his possession a scrap of paper with the Lord’s prayer on it in English.

    Thus, when King James finally authorized a legal translation of the Bible to English there was great concern that it be translated in such a way as to preserve the authority of the Church of England and the Crown. This lead to a significant number of mistranslations of words that over stated the issue of authority to preserve power for these institutions and people. (An excellent recent book on this is “The Bible in English” by David Daniell.)

    One example, is the word “obey” in Hebrews 13, which does not mean obey in the Greek but be persuaded. This is not obedience which is the word hupakouo but akin to the idea of mutual submission expressed elsewhere.

    Another example is 1 Timothy 2:12 where the word translated “authority” is not the usual word for authority used in the New Testament. Indeed, this is the only place the word appears in the New Testament. There is a great deal of uncertainty as to its meaning. But it probably does not mean authority since Paul uses the usual Greek word exousia everywhere else when he wishes to convey authority as do the other New Testament writers. Always, by the way, with regard to secular or religious leaders of the Jews, not in regard to relations between followers of Jesus. Exousia is never used with regard to the relations between followers of Jesus. These are just a couple of examples of how mistranslations have occurred. This is one reason I believe that much of the thinking among followers of Jesus around the roles of women and the idea of authority actually are derived not from scripture but from the surrounding secular culture, both ancient and modern.

    Of course, it is important to not take verses out of context of the immediate passage and the entire Bible plus consider the cultural context at the time as to what the writer meant then in order to understand how it might be relevant today.

    There are different ways to interpret many passages so it is important to be generous with each other as we, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, attempt to learn from the Spirit what God intends by his word. We can certainly hold views about interpretations but hold them loosely in order to give the Holy Spirit room to teach us where we err. So, I appreciate being able to dialogue with you because it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to correct me if I am misunderstanding something. For as iron sharpens iron……

    A correction to my earlier comment: The originator of the “servant leadership” concept was not John Greenleaf but Robert Greenleaf. More can be learned about his thinking at http://www.greenleaf.org, which is the site for the Robert Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. To be clear, I am not endorsing his ideas for application in the ekklesia.

  22. traveller: Thanks for the continuing discussion.

    I am not a proponent of the position-with-clout model of church organization. I am unimpressed with the manner which title & position & authority is wielded by many that feel they need to operate from such an arrangement. If one needs to rely on the authority of a superior rank or position, like the military, to get subordinates to do what they are told, then I think such a setup to be unlike what Jesus intended.

    However, I do believe He did in fact ‘authorize’ & set aside men with the authority to establish church structure & divide doctrinal truth from error & order or carry out church discipline. The Apostle Paul the best example of this. My concern is the cessation of Apostolic position accompanied by supernatural power that verified the appointment. After the original 12 or 13 or 14 Apostles passed on, was there already in place the tradition of apostolic succession through the laying on of hands & a transfer of authority to continue as the Apostles did?

    I can understand that the original 12-14 super apostles as Paul refers to them were indeed foundational to the church. Everything else built upon them. Yet the continuing need to clarify & preserve right doctrine, discern truth from error, identify heresy, preserve apostolic traditions of faith & practice passed down from preceding elders, administering church discipline & confirming Holy Spirit directives just as necessary then as now.

    Church history being what it is one must assume then that the Catholic & Orthodox camps got it wrong. Then Protestant reformers made similar errors in defining what the Church is in faith & practice? I suppose we could have a group or community of people working with lower case letter functions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor & teacher, administrator, worker of miracles, etc., but then it is subject to the influence of every whim of its individual members. If no one needs to submit to human authority but every member encouraged to submit to the others, does the tail then wag the dog?

    Maybe Jesus does not have a high expectation for His Church. As an efficient extension of Himself that is. Maybe no real cohesion possible outside of a major overhaul by the Holy Spirit that brings the unity expected of a mature Bride. Everything else a gross distortion of His intent & purpose for the past 2,000 years? His Church. His Body. But only a loose confederation of those that do claim to serve the same Lord?

    Hmmm…

    Seems the loose definition of what it is that makes up the Church should simply be replaced by another term or concept? Heck, I consider myself emerging or emergent as the next guy, but the impreciseness of what being the Church consists of has me thinking what it is I am really a member of…

  23. …but then it is subject to the influence of every whim of its individual members. If no one needs to submit to human authority but every member encouraged to submit to the others, does the tail then wag the dog?

    There is one glaring omission from these assumptions — Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Let us not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the body of Christ as he wills.

    Every member is encouraged to submit to the others, yes. But every member is also encouraged to submit to Jesus.

    And that, my dear friend, makes all the difference!!

  24. But then we should have ‘seen’ it in operation since the Holy Spirit has had 2,000 years to get it right…

    Or at least get His intent & design & purpose & direction clearly taught or communicated to the various members of The Body.

    Divine coordination? Definitely a high & noble goal. But from where I am standing the Church’s track record far from the ideal we all have in mind. :)

    So, what is the biggest hurdle? Ego? Sinful humanity? Self-preservation? Fear? Misunderstanding? Division? Backbitting?

    “I am of Apollos!” Well then, God bless you my friend. “I am of Paul!” Be warm, be filled…be on your way. “I am of Jesus!” Yeah, sure…heard it before over there at the church across the street…

    If indeed Jesus is the Head & the Holy Spirit the Reminder & Teacher, where has the response to the One Voice been?

    Anyone?

    And then how do others accept such a claim?

    Jesus does not seem to be overly concerned with the broad range of theological perspectives that are the heritage of the Church. And I doubt that is going to change anytime soon…

    He may work within those differences, ignoring those lines of denominational/traditional doctrinal divides, but then what is it that makes up the Church?

    In my understanding, only One True Church was ever established. You may opt for the more nebulous mystical model, but ‘we’ are part of only one Body. Many members certainly, but only one Body. And if I am not an ear, I still hear the Head giving direction as it resonates through the gospel narratives. Problem is, that gall bladder next to me claims they hear the same Lord giving different orders. So they keep churning out bile while I am trying to determine just what my spiritual gifting/process is…

    Problem being: I am not a big fan of bile. Makes me ill. So I hitch a ride through the circulatory system to find another part of the Body to be part of…

    Sure Jesus & the Holy Spirit are the Big Kahuna’s in this equation. But what have they accomplished in 2,000 years? Seems the maturing process still messy & seemingly uncoordinated & frankly, tiresome. For some of us that is. We do not like the model or manner or process or organization or any of the terms used to point to the glaring problems we associate with Protestant evangelical Christian expression…

    Once you can identify all the members that have exceeded the 80% submission to Jesus maturity level, get them together to begin a renewed effort at addressing kingdom priorities. I will gladly participate! But then how is that to be determined? If my submission to Jesus contradicts your sacrosanct theology or doctrine, who wins?

    Seems too nebulous still. But I am still on the journey to discover where it is I am supposed to function & just what that will look like…

  25. Joseph, I’m not very eager to get into a “tit for tat” debate with you. However, I will say that your lengthy replies seem to boil down to just so much cynicism.

    I believe that there have always been those functioning in the life of the Spirit that manifests itself the way we’re talking about here. However, I don’t believe that has always been what has called itself “Christendom”.

    The fellowship in which I am an active participant does not have a place on the map (we meet from house to house). It does not have a name (we half-jokingly refer to ourselves as “family around the table”). It does not have a sign out front telling people to come. It does not have a bulletin or office church phone number or church bank account or church budget or membership roll.

    In other words, you probably would not even know it existed if I didn’t tell you about it. Yet it’s there, and if you were someone with whom I had contact in everyday life, it would affect our relationship in ways that you or I would never even know.

    Nebulous? To you, maybe. But that’s exactly the problem. We humans always want to be able to quantify things, place them in neat little boxes, and identify them in ways that make us secure.

    Not so with the kingdom of God. Jesus taught over and over how the kingdom permeated life. Yet he never set up a building and called it his “church”. He taught about how the kingdom changes everything about who we are and how we live our lives. Yet he never gave it a name and said “You are members of this particular church over here.”

    My advice to you? Stop striving. Stop trying to figure it all out, and just be. Pursue the Spirit of God, and endeavor to let Him control every aspect of your life. And seek to fellowship with others who are also pursuing the Spirit of God and endeavoring to let Him control every aspect of their lives.

    And watch what happens. We just walked in the door from our fellowship. Tonight, with no human being in charge, no agenda, no “definition”, we had the privilege to speak life into the heart of a woman who was there for the first time and who, by her own terms, feels “numb toward God”.

    As the Spirit led, with each member submitting to the others and not seeking to dominate or to control or to “lead”, words of life came forth from various individuals. And together as a whole, they breathed life into a dead spirit.

    I daresay it is all around you, but you are looking in the wrong place. And yes, I believe it has been there for 2,000 years. Quietly, unnoticed by those who would call themselves “leaders”, the Spirit of God has continued to work. Down through the ages, a thread of this work has continued to be woven.

    Does God work in the hearts of individuals in the midst of a more conventional “institutional church”? Yes, I believe it. But I do not believe it is logical to assume that those institutions are therefore legitimized by God.

    Where has the response been to the Voice of God for 2,000 years? Look in the places you would least expect to find it, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

  26. Joseph,
    What I do with those scriptures is interpret them first through Jesus’ words that we are not to rule over one another. Any interpretation that violates that command is a misinterpretation or mistranslation of the passage. As I previously said, Alan Knox has spent considerable time on his blog thoroughly going through the context and original greek of some of these passages.

    I believe we are remiss in not considering working together in relationships of mutual submission. I don’t think that believers have to be completely like-minded to function this way. The fivefold ministries are equipping gifts, not offices, positions or titles.

    Yes, a wonderful assortment of gifts intended for the service and building up of the body.

    No protocol or control except the conviction of the Holy Spirit to submit yourself to those you are in relationship with and to likewise love them, serve them, and prefer them above yourself.

    Certainly committing to true relationships requires more of us. Is that a bad thing? :)

    traveller,
    Thank you for adding the historical information concerning translation and the context for several of these scriptures.

    Interesting that Tyndale was responsible for attempting to get the accurate information into the hands of the common person. Too bad that preservation of tradition and power won out.

    Joseph,
    I don’t share your opinions about authorized church structures or apostolic succession. Yes, I would say that there have been many errors in church practice through the years.

    I would not be so quick to underestimate the power or effectiveness of the church, built by Jesus and led by the Holy Spirit. We have invested way too much importance in the necessity of organizations and institutions.

    Steve,
    Well said! We find unity not only in our submission to one another, but also in our common submission to Jesus. It seems I read that somewhere. ;)

    Joseph,
    Yes, we, the people of God, are the church, His Body. We really don’t have to figure out the whole deal, just live out to the best of our abilities the little corner of kingdom life in which we find ourselves. Love God, love others, pretty simple really.

    Steve
    I’m glad you took the time to express yourself further here. You’ve offered some real nuggets of truth in these thoughts. I believe there is and probably always has been an element of authentic church life that occurs below the radar. As you said, this kind of work is often unnoticed and not considered credible in the realm of institutional church.

    Thanks also for sharing a specific example from your life. It is always encouraging to see how God works when we allow room for the Holy Spirit to direct our fellowship.

  27. Steve, I appreciate your description of those you journey with and how you are doing it. This reflects my current experience as well but you expressed it quite beautifully. Our “gathering” is not perfect but it is amazing to see how the Holy Spirit can work without an institution or an organization.

    Joseph, I believe you are on the same journey as the rest of us, just in a different place. I sense you are searching and commend you for doing so. May I encourage you to continue with an openess to the Holy Spirit’s guidance? As Grace has mentioned at times it would be great to sit around and visit about this over some coffee. Perhaps one day this will occur.

    It is always interesting to me that somehow we have the impression that an institution or its leaders will keep people from straying or from heresy. Certainly, individuals and small groups have erred but there is no doubt that the institution has as well and continues to do so. Much of modern evangelicalism has strayed greatly from Father’s intent. It is interesting to me that somehow we believe the Holy Spirit, God himself, cannot keep us on his path, but that fallible human beings and institutions can!

    One of the great benefits of postmodernism is that it does in fact deconstruct, including our Christian paradigms. Of course, one of the great weaknesses of postmodernism is that it offers nothing constructive as a replacement. But this opens a way for those following Jesus to show God’s Kingdom by the way they live their lives, individually and together.

    Living in a community with 55,000 university students I see a growing distance from the institution among these young adults but a growing desire to live in God’s Kingdom in ways that are drawing their generation to Father. They are not interested in programs or buildings or institutions. They understand almost intuitively that none of these are necessary, and may be a hindrance, to be followers of Jesus. It is refreshing and I rejoice to see God at work in such a magnificent way.

  28. Grace,

    How do you interpret the first council of Jerusalem in Acts 15? Was it a mutual submission of people in relationship with each other devoid of protocol and control, or a decision making process by people whom Jesus had entrusted with the care of the Church? I would assume that you think it was not the apostles making a ruling and expecting the rest of the believers around the world to submit to it, but I have a tough time seeing how that could be. Do you have time to explain your interpretation of the passage or point out another person’s explanation that you agree with?

    The Scriptures have never struck me as very straightforward regarding authority and position. On the one hand, Jesus gets all over the pharisees for telling the disciples not to pick grain on the Sabbath. On the other hand Jesus commands his disciples to obey them because of their position, but to avoid their hypocrisy. On the one had, the two apostles tell the Jewish authorities that they cannot obey them and stop preaching the gospel. On the other hand, Paul falls all over himself apologizing for calling the high priest a hypocrite for having him struck against the law, even though it was an accurate description, just because they guy was the high priest. On the one hand, Jesus tells his disciples not to call anyone father. On the other hand, Jesus calls Abraham father and Paul calls himself father. The list could go on for ages. Speaking for myself, I have a tough time saying one passage trumps all others and that all others that seem to contradict it are either misinterpretations or mistranslations. I guess I read the Bible in a more nuanced light than most.

    MB

  29. Great thoughts MB!! Maybe it is more about influence than authority.. maybe the first council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 had influence because of who they were rather than the positions they held? Maybe they just were loving leaders that people respected because of they way that they lived and loved?

  30. This discussion may be too good to “put to bed”…

    I think Joseph has some legit concerns. He wrote in his first post;

    “Not to beat the proverbial dead horse of authority & leaders & gender to death one more time, but simply put, what do we do with these scriptures & any others that address these same issues?…But if Jesus is the Head of the Church & He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers, are these simply roles or functions with no authority?

    Apostles with no authority? Teachers with no authority? Simply a cacophony of giftings with differing methods of service ?”

    Seeing as how “authority” seems to be the issue (and the Authority of Christ rarely seems to satisfy us), then I do think it is a good question to ask Joseph…

    Joseph, who were the “authorities” to whom Paul addressed his letters? This is a major point of absence-of-perspective.

    Karis,

    Tom

  31. Tom,
    The discussion about leadership is never really “put to bed” here on my blog. Feel free to continue this discussion, and expect more in the new year with my next post on leadership and some thoughts on the new Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna.

    Blessings to you.

  32. Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.

    If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

    For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
    ~The Apostle Paul

    volkmar1108: I will assume there must have been the need for very real authoritative apostolic position & the-buck-stops-here final word Paul exercised throughout all the churches he established. He had to address false teaching. Had to exercise church discipline. Had to confront & expose heresy. He was none too easy on those that contradicted the purity of the gospel message he was promoting. Or engaging in immoral behavior. But then, that is the rub…

    We tend to make a critical distinction between Paul’s apostolic efforts to the Gentiles compared to the Jewish audience Jesus addressed. And then we wish to make very careful distinctions between what Jesus modeled vs. what Paul put into practice. Paul of course, not viewed as being universally binding in church organization. Some of Paul’s rules better appreciated by being culturally limiting; they were never meant to be the blueprint for all churches everywhere & for every generation.

    Paul, of course, not infallible or sinless or omniscient. Surely appointed by Jesus if you accept the Damascus road account, but not authoritative for all church expression throughout the ages.

    I must confess my attraction to the gospel trumps epistle viewpoint of church organization. Since Paul wrote most of the New Testament & in great detail lays out church structure & organization vs. Jesus’ scant mention of The Church & how it was to function, I can see how one would want to refer to the lack of detail in the gospels to minimize anything unseemly outlined in the epistles.

    Why should any viewpoint or translation or interpretation presented here be considered valid then? No one claims or wishes to appeal to anything or anyone in authority to divide truth from error. Why even think what is being presented here worthy of consideration then? I may simply consider such a viewpoint personal opinion anyway, not the truth of the gospel as Jesus intended. Too whom or to what can they make an appeal?

    If there is no accurate measure & no one to say Paul’s original arrangement similar to what is being promulgated here, then why listen to these voices?

    By their own admission the 2 apostolic traditions are simply dismissed as wrong. All ecclesiastical hierarchy artificial. All supposed authority & position an aberration. But then what is to replace such things?

    Well, nothing really. Each man or woman for themselves. Unless it contradicts the lord-over-another clause. You cannot teach truth, but simply suggest meaning & interpretation. Cannot identify error because it is not how Jesus said we are to treat one another. Gets a bit hazy when the left hand is doing something the right hand considers wrong or simply promoting a false gospel.

    But who or what makes that distinction? Again, we are left with no one person able to make that call. Seems it was needed in the earliest establishment of church protocol by the original Apostles, but not today. Why?

    I certainly have some strong opinions about how the church should be run, but I will not claim any special power or position or understanding making my viewpoints the standard all others are to be compared to. And yet I also elect not to accept or recognize or submit to anyone else claiming title or position or power to state what I should or should not consider theologically sacrosanct.

    So, what I think it boils down to is this: is there a group of people that think like I do & are compatible to me in most ways? A group I feel comfortable enough with to join in some cooperative effort at what we collectively agree to be the priorities of the kingdom? If so, our cooperation is the fruit of being mutually submitted to one another & our effectiveness for the kingdom to be measured how?

    In theory it appears to be workable. Less convoluted with the concerns of doctrinal purity & clear scriptural interpretation. No traditions to perform. No positions to acknowledge. Nobody saying what I do or what I say is unChristian or theologically incorrect. Eventually the group reaches stasis. All naysayers eventually will leave. And only those that are in tune will choose to mutually submit & cooperate. Keep the group small. Minimize conflict. Minimize administrative complexity. I like it. I do. I am just not convinced yet of its divine origin. Is it what Jesus really intended?

  33. Caveat: Let me be clear about my unease with attitudes of many people in the Emergent Church. I am understandably cautious about how some in the EC think they have divine privilege to circumvent thousands of years of accepted, tested, & cherished belief systems in order to clear up how the church got it wrong or sell some books. I don’t like that some of the movers-and-shakers within the EC think they are above reproof & correction & can dismiss wise, learned men & women of God at least as spiritually mature than they. How then do we assign a trustworthy factor to any “new” claims of correct exegesis? Who does get to say what is wrong or what is right?

    It may be a lot easier to state black & white doctrines than communicating mystery, love & the workings of the Holy Spirit. But are there some things that are “black and/or white” when it comes to doctrine? Some things that are indeed foundational? With enough wiggle room in the accepted grey areas to allow rational discussion?

    What then constitutes acceptable orthodox teaching that is to be promulgated? Is what is being promoted here just another brand of snake oil? How is one to trust or compare or measure? Is there any need to?

    But my questioning also addresses this: is such a slimmed down flat-line organization chart model thee one true Church arrangement Jesus intended? And why does it seem Paul had a different idea in mind? How did Paul exercise his apostolic authority? Can we expect the same today? If not, why not?

    I do appreciate the dialogue. This whole thing is messy, especially when truth is involved. And no, I am not going to make the claim that the ‘leaderless-genderless-authorityless’ model is wack. I am just not sure how such a model can be promoted without an appeal to truth, implied authority, leaders pointing the way or teaching it as gospel…

  34. KansasBob,

    Good thoughts. Made me go back and read Acts 15, which is always a good sign. :-)

    While I think there is an aspect of influence, I don’t think it can fully explain what is going on. There are four primary reasons for this.
    1) The people who gathered to discuss this consisted of the apostles and elders. It wasn’t just everybody who loved Jesus, but people who held specific positions within the church.
    2) They were writing to folks in Antioch, primarily, who did not know them personally. Thus, I would not expect that their life would have any more influence to those Jews raising a ruckus, than the Jewish converts in Jerusalem who thought circumcision to be necessary. It was not a very mobile society. At that point, I even wonder if the apostles had spent much time outside of Israel preaching and I doubt there were established relationships with the people they were writing to.
    3) They began the letter with the words, “The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings.” If this letter was all we had, I don’t know that we could even say who wrote it. It is a rather anonymous letter, and it thus seems to me that they are writing not as individuals, but as people holding a specific title.
    4) If there is no basis for authority based on position, then couldn’t this matter have been handled internally at Antioch, instead of appealing to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem?

    Rebutting the above points.
    1) Couldn’t Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silus have made this appeal, based on their explanation of the lives of the apostles?
    2) The argument was obviously beyond settling locally. That’s why an outside appeal was made. 3) The local crowd could have known the apostles and elders already and specifically appealed to them because of that.

    My own conclusion. The folks delivering the letter could have made such an appeal, but Scripture doesn’t record that, and I doubt that would be very effective, if personal influence was the basis of the appeal. Also, it seems that the appeal was made the to the apostles and elders generally instead of to specific people who may have had some esteem in Antioch already, then it was based on position and not personal influence. Also, it seems that this dispute was arising because Paul and Barnabas were breaking new territory in preaching to the gentiles and we have no record of other apostles beating them there to establish a relationship with the folks in Antioch.

    Good thoughts though, KansasBob. I do think that there would be an aspect of what you are talking about. I always appreciate a comment that makes me go back and read the Scripture and reevaluate things in light of something I hadn’t thought of. As always, if you see something I’ve missed, please, point it out. I do enjoy reading the perspective of other folks. even if we come to different conclusions, I always learn from thoughtful responses.

    I hope you don’t mind the bulleted comment. I’m an engineer, and its just the way I think. I hope it doesn’t come off to lecturish, ’cause that’s not how its meant.

    MB

  35. Hey guys, I’m just too tired to do your comments justice tonight. In fact, I’m not sure I can do them justice with my eyes wide open.

    MB, I had to smile at your comment about being lecturish. I tend to think that way also and have to work at adding soft edges to my writing.

    Keep the conversation going. I’ll jump in next time I can.

  36. Grace: I’m not really adding anything new to your blog here. After reading back through some of the more active discussions on your site I can see that I’m mostly accomplishing a rehash of a rehash of a rehash… :)

    You know the argumentation from both sides of the conversation. And yes, you have continued to be gracious, welcoming & patient…

    I don’t have any new perspectives or concerns to address. I have contemplated much of the same things that have been promoted here as well as the the questions I happened to have brought up (again). I too wish there was some concrete certainty I could point to or hope for regarding a more accurate reflection of what The Church should be like in faith (doctrine) & practice (tradition).

    Certainly the shift toward minimizing or even eliminating chaff from the wheat of church relational dynamics is to be commended. I sure want to see all abusive, dysfunctional church relationships fixed. If that means it takes healing, or being cast out, or corrected, or modeled better, I’m all for it. Yet it is the essence of what Jesus intended for The Church that causes me to wonder why the Holy Spirit is not doing radical conviction, teaching, illumination, revelation & direction changing in the current Church expressions on a grander scale. Being fringe or small or discreet or quiet or simply relationally relevant does not automatically qualify as a divine paradigm shift of church expression. No more so than say the longevity & membership numbers of the Roman Catholic Church do.

    But I know you know that. So I will bid adieu on this one topic & maybe jump in on others if I think there is something I can add.

    Thanks.

  37. mamasboy,
    Regarding Acts 15, pretty much the same as Kansasbob, I see the council as the believers getting together to figure things out. It included those who were already looked up to for their leadership and influence. From what I can tell, it was a meeting of the believers and the conclusions were passed along to the believers in Antioch.

    Also, I believe that many of the words of both Jesus and Paul about submitting to authorities had to do with getting along with cultural authorities of that time (household, religious, and civic authorities). I don’t believe that they were prescriptive of the believers relationships with one another.

    Joseph,
    I wouldn’t really say that Paul laid out church structure and organization, although the epistles certainly contain more descriptive content of how the early church functioned. I believe that we replace hierarchy and position with the headship of Jesus and mutual submission. This kind of submission is pretty much the opposite of everyone for themselves. I don’t think that loving one another in this way precludes teaching or pointing out false teaching.

    To be honest, I don’t think the solution is to find “The One True Model,” but instead to faithfully be the church to the best of our understanding in the time and place we are in. I do believe the Holy Spirit is leading and directing some of the changes we see in traditional church, house church, and emerging church. Perhaps in our willingness to listen to one another, we will hear His voice.

    Thanks for your participation in the discussion. I’m sure that when we discuss Pagan Christianity there will be plenty of issues to hash over. I appreciate your always-considerate tone in spite of whether we agree or not.

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