Holy Joe

2 Weeks of Pagan Christianity

Chapter 5 opens with the wicked title “The Pastor: Obstacle to Every-Member Functioning.” In spite of the incendiary nature of the title, the information in this chapter is important in understanding the history and roots of the clergy/laity divide.

“The pastor is the dominating focal point, mainstay, and centerpiece of the contemporary church. He is the embodiment of Protestant Christianity.”

In order to read this chapter without blood pressure medication, I would suggest that you interpret the term pastor being deconstructed in the book specifically to mean the role of the pastor as a person divinely appointed to mediate between God and the people.

Not every person who serves the body as a pastor functions under this elevated perception of their role. Therefore while reading this chapter it is important to distinguish between the role of pastor as mediator and the term pastor referring to specific individuals who serve as pastors.

Again, I will provide a brief overview that cannot do justice to the detailed history contained in this chapter. The book contains much more information about the shift from priest to pastor, the history of ordination, and the changes that occurred with the Reformation.

The chapter starts appropriately with a description of mankind’s “fallen quest for a human mediator, clamoring for a king rather than living under God’s direct headship.”

In the early church, leaders were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather than by a title or an office. They were not set above the rest of the flock. They were those who served among them.

Since that time, the church has derived its pattern for organization from the societies in which it has been placed – despite our Lord’s warning that He was initiating a new society with a unique character.

Ignatius elevated one of the elders in each church above all the others, calling him the bishop. In Ignatius’s mind, the bishop was the remedy for dispelling false doctrine and establishing church unity. He was seen as the spokesperson and head of the congregation and the one who controlled all church activities.

By the third century, every church had its own bishop. The clergy/laity gap widened to the point of no return. Clergymen were the trained leaders of the church – the guardians of orthodoxy – the rulers and teachers of the people. They possessed gifts and graces not available to the laity – second-class, untrained Christians.

By the fourth century human hierarchy and “official ministry” institutionalized the church of Jesus Christ and hardened the arteries of the once living, breathing ekklesia of God. By the fifth century, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from Christian practice. Access to God was now controlled by the clergy caste.

The clergy had the prestige of church office bearers, the privileges of a favored class, and the power of a wealthy elite. They had become an isolated class with a separate civil status and way of life. Being a church officer had become a career. Ordination created a special caste of Christian and restricted ministry to a few believers. This led to the profoundly mistaken idea that there are sacred professions (a call to ministry) and ordinary professions.

While the Reformers opposed the pope and his religious hierarchy, they still held to the belief that “ministry” was an institution that was closeted among the few who were “called” and “ordained.” Luther held to the idea that those who preach needed to be specially trained. The Reformers believed that the pastor possessed divine power and authority. He did not speak in his own name, but in the name of God.

It was the ordained minister’s duty to convey God’s revelation to His people. The minister was viewed by the church as the “man of God” – the mediator between God and His people to communicate the divine will.

Negative impact of the clergy/laity distinction:

  • Divides the believing community into first- and second-class Christians.
  • Privileges the ministry of one man instead of many members functioning.
  • Perpetuates the idea of a professional priesthood instead of the priesthood of all believers.
  • Supplants the centrality of Christ’s headship among His people.
  • Places unfair demands on one person instead of one-anothering by the entire body.
  • Creates a political role that isolates the leader from relationships.

Almost a year ago in my post Senior Pastor, we had a great discussion in the comments about this topic, with insightful comments from Cindy, Robbymac, John Smulo, and others. Definitely worth taking the time to read. What I said at that time still reflects my feelings on this topic:

Contextually, I think that Americans still want some type of public gathering, although that could be changing. In that case, it would be nice to be able to pay someone to take on a full-time role role of administrating and catalyzing such a gathering.

Where I would make a distinction is about the role of the full-time person. In order to not revert to the clergy mentality, I believe that it should be clear that ministry is the shared responsibility of the congregation.

I don’t believe that one person should be responsible for the equipping of the body, but rather that you will find those equipping gifts among the body. The same is true with discipling, teaching, and mentoring. None of these things should be taken on solely by the leader.

Even if this is clear in your heart as the leader, as long as there is a full-time pastor, it will be an uphill battle to prevent passivity among the congregation regarding who is responsible for ministry.

Anyway, as I struggle through my own thoughts on the role of a pastor, I want to be careful to not disrespect in any way the vision that God has put in someone else’s heart. My struggles are with particular issues concerning how we have seen this role function, not with the legitimacy of the calling of the men and women who serve well within this role.

Do you think that challenging the clerical understanding of the pastor role is valid or necessary? If so, do you believe there is a redemptive way to view this role and avoid the clergy mentality in both the leader and the church members?

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41 thoughts on “Holy Joe

  1. Grace:
    I share your concerns about the concentration of power and responsibility in one person or one role in a church. However, something in your summary of the chapter stands out to me. When Ignatius elevated single members of a community to the role of bishop it was to prevent the dispensation of false doctrine. Frankly, I have to admit that this prospect still looms large as a possibility that can damage a community. If Paul’s struggles for doctrine and unity in the infant church are any example, there were some real issues in this and certainly there still are. But it doesn’t have to come down to a choice between concentrated, hierarchical power structures and preservation of doctrine. The key to reconstruction may be the size of churches. There seems to be a critical mass that occurs when it becomes easier for the clergy/laity distinction to become more marked. At this point the laity seems to become content to be consumers and spectators and the clergy seem inclined (maybe sometimes forced) to be leaders more than servants.

  2. Grace,

    Thanks, again, for the wonderful way you serve the Body of Christ through your blog!

    I really do believe that this issue is very important and must be properly and lovingly deconstructed so that the priesthood of the believers can be reconstructed and the Body of Christ can actually function.

    Unfortunately, it is a difficult process for all involved. I believe that humans tend to gravitate toward what M. Scott Peck called the twin idols of ease and comfort.

    The following will, by necessity, be full of generalizations and is not intended to be representative of any individuals or groups. It does, however, represent over 40 years of experience and observations (from just about every angle!)…so bear with me, please.

    It is also important to remember that there are those who embrace this clergy/laity divide as mandated by God and others who have just not given it a second thought.

    For the pastors who see themselves as divinely appointed mediators, it is, frankly, easier for them to be in control than to struggle with the sacrificial living of mutual submission and accountability. Of having to be accountable for what they say and teach. And it is more comfortable for them to bear the burden of being “the man of God” than it is to live in the chaos of life with the rest of the brethren and sistren.

    These individuals are encouraged in their ideas by their congregants, who embrace the idolatry of ease and comfort from the opposite end: it is much easier to follow than to lead and it is much more comfortable to consume than to produce.

    There is another group, however, that is an important part of this: the associate pastors. Some of them buy into this system because they see themselves someday as getting to be that senior pastor.

    Other associated buy in because they want to be specialists in their area without needing to submit to the other associates, much less other members of the congregation.

    This all leads to a terrible attitude of condescension among the pastoral staff. I was, frankly, shocked to witness this during my time as an associate pastor (there were nine of us). Each time some new program or class or other was discussed, it was always important for one of the pastors to be “in charge.” Why? Because the laity “couldn’t be trusted to do it properly.” Used to just fry my bacon….

    But the “laity” were out there feeding the perception by bemoaning the fact that they were not qualified to lead or teach…we need our pastors!

    You can tell I’m still in detox, can’t you? I’ve been “out” almost three years, but I was in for 42, you know?

    When we expect that the Holy Spirit will gift the local Body of Christ with the five-fold equipping ministries (Eph 4:11), we can count on it happening…as long as there are those who are willing to burn those twin idols, ease and comfort, and live as if Jesus Is Lord actually means something.

    It will be messy, yes. It will be chaotic from time to time. It will be costly, absolutely. But the communitas that emerges when the Body of Christ functions as intended will be glorious to behold and powerful in partnership with God and his mission.

    Wow…sorry for the length! But this one gets my juices flowing. ;^)

  3. RS,

    ANY clergy/laity distinction strikes me as “too marked”.

    If doctrinal purity is the issue, then Ignatius’ tactic was in reality an utter failure. Heresy didn’t stop, perhaps it actually accelerated, and, to top it off, one forceful heretical Bishop could (and did) wield powerful influence over hundreds, and possibly thousands, of communicants. Ignatius’ innovation (which, by the way, wasn’t immediately or universally accepted by Christians of the period–some had the presence of mind to see what the ramifications and unintended consequences would be) was the “nose under the tent” for the voracious expansion of a professional elitism which we are still struggling with/over today…and I’m sure it was all “well meant”. (See chapt. 19 of FF Bruce’s The Spreading Flame)

    Ignatius’ “innovation” (“Do nothing without your Bishop!”) was a big step toward creating the class of Christian known as “passive”.

    It is revealing how the apostle Paul in his letters, especially the Corinthian letters, never puts the responsibility for “fixing the problems” at the feet of the bishops/elders/shepherds/pastors of the Corinthian church, rather, it is the whole church who are held responsible for the “fixing things”. Paul’s struggles for unity and doctrinal purity in the infant church were dealt with in a much different way than how subsequent church “leadership” dealt with it. Stricking dis-similarity.

    Tom

  4. The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

    I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

    Well, it could be that those whose gifting is preaching and/or teaching worthy of double honor then? Not someone that is simply expressing their gifts in a community setting?

    Honor here seems directly related to wages. As in monetary remuneration?

    Elders used here seems to refer to a family term of endearment, honor & respect? Someone operating in a capacity as shepherd or overseer?

    I do appreciate the manner which the list is made. If we go back to Paul’s writings to the Corinithians & Ephesians he starts off with, apostles & prophets, then preachers and/or teachers. These are the ones singled out that direct the affairs of the church. No mention of any other of the other capacities God has appointed.

    I would be less inclined to consider the preacher/teacher appointment worthy of double honor. Heck, I think I would choose apostle, prophet, those with gifts of healing or even miracle workers. Not those that simply preach the gospel or teach right doctrine. Why single them out?

    Early on the giving of material goods as well as money to the local fellowship an established practice. Someone had to identify priorities for using such finances to meet the needs of widow & orphan & the destitute to make sure the spiritual elders were freed from the requirements of having to labor outside the dynamics of the local church. Such a point is made by none other than Paul himself who chose to be self-sufficient & not a monetary burden on any of the churches he founded.

    What an example Paul was.

    Back to preachers & teachers: wasn’t freeing them up the purpose of establishing deacons in the first place? Didn’t the 12 Apostles make such a distinction early in the book of Acts? They decided it would not be right for them to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. So they chose seven men from amongst the faithful to turn over the care of the widows & orphans & the poor so they could give their attention to prayer & the ministry of the word?

    I think they even laid hands on them…

    Maybe my idea of what was happening at that point muddied by my indoctrination into the institutional church & its accumulated traditions that have stifled the true release of every member’s gifting. But somehow Paul doubles up the honor accolades with scant regard to the peerless, tier-less, flat model arrangement that keeps such prominence at a minimum. What was it then that Paul is outlining for us?

  5. I don’t get this, “In the early church, leaders were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather than by a title or an office. They were not set above the rest of the flock. They were those who served among them.”

    I have a tough time seeing the mutual exclusivity in the early church between being set above the flock and serving among them. For one thing, what early church are they talking about? Is this limitted to NT authors only? While that itself is debateable, I have a really tough time reconciling historical writings from the early church with such an interpretation. I profer some quotes from early Christian leaders (mostly bishops), who seem to think that there is positional honor/authority. All of these lived within living memory of the apostles and most were their contemporaries/disciples.

    “Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ.” – Polycarp of Smyrna
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/polycarp-roberts.html

    “It is shameful, dearly beloved, yes, utterly shameful and unworthy of your conduct in Christ, that it should be reported that the very
    steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians, for the sake of one or two persons, maketh sedition against its presbyters…

    Ye therefore that laid the foundation of the sedition, submit yourselves unto the presbyters and receive chastisement unto repentance, bending the knees of your heart.”

    and if that wasn’t bad enough…
    “So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order.

    Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come.

    So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their firstfruits, when they had proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons unto them that should believe.” – Clement of Rome
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html

    The Shepherd of Hermas, when writing about a vision he had… “The tower which you see building is myself, the Church, who have appeared to you now and on the former occasion…
    I asked her, saying, “Lady, I should like to know what became of the stones, and what was meant by the various kinds of stones?”…
    (She said,) “Hear now with regard to the stones which are in the building. Those square white stones which fitted exactly into each other, are apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons, who have lived in godly purity, and have acted as bishops and teachers and deacons chastely and reverently to the elect of God. Some of them have fallen asleep, and some still remain alive. And they have always agreed with each other, and been at peace among themselves, and listened to each other. On account of this, they join exactly into the building of the tower.”
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd.html

    I’d quote Ignatius, but he seems to have already received quite a bit of press here (and extensive quotes on the subject would make this comment even longer than it already is). When reading what people have written about Pagan Christianity, it seems to me that Ignatius of Antioch gets blamed for ideas that existed before him and regarding which he was not alone among his peers. While he was the most prolific author of the time on the subject, he was not the only one. As I see it, if someone is going to take the position that positional authority is a perversion of Christianity as Christ taught it, then one is going to have to write off most of the Christian world, arguably before the last apostles had died and by 120 at the latest as having missed the boat on this subject. Not only that, but one has to try and pit other obscure writings as saying there is no positional authority against clear ones saying there is. Regarding that, I have to ask why such writings don’t specifically refute the claims made by Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp and company? I’ve found that for writings that seem to contradict them, there is usually a good explanation that makes peace between the two quotes (especially given the sparce nature of many extant writings).

    MB

  6. I profer [sic] some quotes from early Christian leaders (mostly bishops), who seem to think that there is positional honor/authority.

    Two thoughts come to mind.

    1. Can you say “conflict of interest”? ;)

    2. I’m not quite sure I understand why we would want to start with the second generation anyway in understanding what Jesus intended. Did Jesus not make it abundantly clear that a) there was to be no ruling over each other in positional prominence, and b) that we should not allow ourselves to be called by titles such as “father”, etc.?

    I would think we would want to start with the words of Jesus and interpret subsequent generations of interpretation in that light.

    Instead, it seems that Jesus’ words get pushed aside in favor of Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc.

    Even Peter said to shepherd the flock “among you”, not “below you” or “in submission to you”. There’s just way too much in the NT about Christ being the head, about submitting to one another (not one-way submission), etc.

    Furthermore, the leading that Paul and Peter both talked about was leading by example. Preaching is not ever equated with the gift of pastoring in the NT. In fact, if anything, preaching seemed to be part of the apostolic ministry, not the pastoral.

    No matter how you slice it, there are some serious issues to be reconciled with the modern position of “pastor”.

  7. Grace, this is looking like a great book, and I can’t wait to read it. Unfortunately its not out in the UK yet!

    I love the idea of the ‘priesthood of all believers’, and I think it is very important that the church do all it can to get back to that ideal. However, I’m not convinced that the right approach is to ditch the professional, at least not in all situations. It’s really easy when going through a period of (much needed) deconstruction to begin to think that structure itself is a bad thing. It isn’t; it is very necessary – without our skeletons, we’d be goo!

    It’s obvious that the Acts/early/prehistoric/biblical church (does that avoid or add confusion; sorry!) developed some need to instigate roles that were more than the average believer: these appeared to be deacons on the practical side, and elders on the spiritual (although that distinction is itself false – just look at Stephen!). So however much the apostles et al believed in the priesthood of all believers, they obviously saw real need for significant roles…

    Similarly today, isn’t there need to recognise those with significant expertise (and maybe even to pay those people for that expertise). We can’t expect every believer to have a theological education – yet there are times when the expertise such an education brings is a real advantage. Similarly in pastoral areas, how much damage has been done by people who don’t have proper counselling training or experience? Isn’t there a case for recognising people who have expertise in that area as well?

    The question I think is not one of whether or not there should be professionals of some form on occasion, but whether or not those professionals conduct themselves in such a way as to encourage or discourage the priesthood of all believers… It’s the whole
    Dorothy vs Wizard leadership question
    again!

  8. What great questions to think about, sounds like a very interesting book. We’ve been asking many similare questions about the role of leaders in the church as it fits in with a good understanding of the priesthood of all believers. Since we’re just starting a ‘church’ we’re being careful to hopefully not be viewed as anyone different or special but truly a part of the body, a body with ONE head who is JESUS, not any man.

  9. We really do have a difficult time distingushing function and service from position and authority. This is the precise point that Viola and Barna are attempting to make in chapter 5.

    Why, when we read from Paul the statement about “double honor” do we automatically think of a professional, expert, clergy class of individuals?

    Tom

  10. volkmar1108, it does seem to be difficult to make these distinctions.

    Grace, in reading your comments I cannot help but interpret your comment concerning how to read pastor as “role of the pastor as a person divinely appointed to mediate between God and the people” for purposes of chapter 5 as still suggesting that a pastor is a role or positon whether in an institutional church or not. Many pastors in that have positions or roles would readily admit that do not see their role as mediation between God and humans.

    In contrast, in my view, pastor is a gift of the Holy Spirit that does not require any role, position or institution to function among the ekklesia. It is no different than the other gifts in that regard. They are all important and work together to edify the body of Christ.

  11. (From a different “T”, not Tom),

    I really like your opening suggestion here, as well as the ‘negative impact’ statements. Even for people who strongly believe in the clerty/laity divide and in the ‘senior pastor’ model, etc, the ‘negative impacts’ are worth serious long-term thought. Here are a few related thoughts:

    – Codependency. One thing that both the RC and Protestant churches have in common is codependency between clergy & laity. Regardless of how much PC may lack tact, we should all consider the ways we are codependent in our church relationships, and what we can do to eliminate this tendency.

    – There are (biblically faithful) alternatives for group solidarity and pastoring work. Pastors can equip without ‘power over’. They can equip from ‘underneath’ if you will. The congregation can (slowly) become the ones jointly responsible for disallowing truely heretical behavior within and affirming truth when spoken and acted upon (see Matthew 18, for example). Groups can give proper respect both to experience and proven character as well as the spontaneously prophetic from mere babes.

    – The goal of maturity in all. Few parents train their children the way the church ‘trains’ disciples of Jesus. Most kids want to do what the parents do (with as little instruction as possible before the ‘doing’). Similarly, most parents want the kids to do things themselves, asap. Our goal as parents is to train & empower ourselves out of that role. We want to assist these people (who do not belong to us) to become our equals (or even better than us) as soon as they can. This is the primary metaphor (even qualification) of church ‘leadership’ in the scriptures–parenting. Is maturity what we’re pursuing? If so, we need to really think about our methods.

    I’m glad PC is raising these issues, even if they don’t do it in spectacularly graceful fashon.

  12. Tom,

    LOL, indeed…I can only hope that my days as a burnt sacrifice were a pleasing aroma to God and some were drawn by that compelling “fragrance” toward Christ!

  13. Why, when we read from Paul the statement about “double honor” do we automatically think of a professional, expert, clergy class of individuals?

    Great question. I’m not sure that money is automatically in view in that passage. Paul basically sets up two analogies to make his point about honor:

    1. Ox deserves to eat the grain while treading
    2. A workman deserves to receive pay for his work

    In the same manner, reasons Paul, an elder is worthy of honor. Grain and wages are part of the analogy. No one seems to be arguing that pastors should be fed grain! ;)

    Why is it, too, that people want to argue from this passage that a pastor should be paid, but they never offer to pay the other elders in the congregation?

  14. The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

    Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

    Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

    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.

    Could be I’ve shared these verses before, but it seems there was a definite role or oversight implied that is translated in the NIV as a leader by appointment. Those “over you in the Lord.” Who “admonish you.” Who “work hard among you.” One such directive: “obey your leaders & submit to their authority.”

    Then Steve brought up an interesting consideration (apologies for the topic whiplash. I’m just trying to keep my postings more succinct ;) ):

    2. I’m not quite sure I understand why we would want to start with the second generation anyway in understanding what Jesus intended. Did Jesus not make it abundantly clear that a) there was to be no ruling over each other in positional prominence, and b) that we should not allow ourselves to be called by titles such as “father”, etc.?

    From my brief look into early church history it appears there was already a well developed sense of what Communion meant & how it was to be celebrated. Seems there was even a well-developed Mariology early on that even I was surprised to learn about. And these are developments occurring during the lifetimes of the Twelve or their immediate successors.

    Something must have been patterned for the quickly spreading church. I think both oral tradition as well as written instruction the manner which inter-church communication was done. Mostly oral recounting which would put the greater accountability on those that “preached & taught” vs. those that simply read. But my point here is the consideration that indeed even the First Century Church adopted what are now considered questionable practices.

    Is it the contention of Viola & Barna that The Church needed reformation from the second apostolic generation onward? It was in need of emerging thought & deconstruction soon after its inception? It simply built the next foundational layer out of wood or hay or stubble & duplicated this building code violation through each succeeding generation?

  15. This is a question for Joseph and others who think that honoring elders (1 Tim 5:17) “seems directly related to wages”.

    Honor widows who are truly widows. (1 Tim 5:3 – 14 verses before the previous one)

    What is your salary structure for widows?

    Thanks,

    -Alan

  16. What is your salary structure for widows?

    A widow’s mite? :)

    Well if we are referring to the directive Paul gives in the 5th chapter of his first epistle to Timothy, he goes into rather lengthy detail about the church not being burdened with unqualified widows. Seems the church had a list of those qualified to be provided for. In fact, that entire chapter outlines such qualifications for church support. So I assume those elders actually doing the work of oversight worth double that of a widow. Assuming of course an elder was raising a family & the widow was an individual being provided for.

    Could be only the apostolic function really had the privilege of being provided for. I think Steve mentioned this. From the Acts 6 account it seems the Jerusalem Apostles were freed up from waiting on tables to devote themselves to prayer & ministry of the word. I am not positive, but it does appear Peter, James & John never returned to the fishing industry while shepherding the flock. They were provided for, most likely just like Jesus was. I don’t know who the Jersualem church accountant was, but he would have set up a scale based no doubt on the direction of the Holy Spirit…

  17. Steve:

    Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.

    Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.

    Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. Deuteronomy & Leviticus

    Actually Paul’s reference to muzzling an ox or withholding wages not at all an analogy. Being the learned Jew that he was, he was simply pointing out what the Good Book said. It was a direct reference to paying what was due. I suppose if there was an oxcart used by the elders as they went from church to church, that ox was definitely paid in grain. The workman then worthy of his wages also. I think Paul uses this term in his epistle to Timothy.

    No stretch of the imagination or even the context of the scripture to consider those making it their life’s vocation to serve full-time as church ministers (positive sense) were to be provided for by the free-will gifts given to the church for the common good. Just like the Levitical priests were assigned their provisions through the offerings of the Hebrew populace. I think Paul has that idea in mind. The preachers & teachers worthy then of the double portion.

    Certainly my views not the clearest or most correct. But they are not far-fetched either. And I do not claim to have the concepts understood completely or how they are to be applied today. Could be divesting ourselves of a “paid clergy” one way to check the purity of motives for those that want to serve in such a capacity. And, well, God certainly can supply all the needs to those that are convinced they are appointed by God to do such a thing.

    Sorta like a return to amateur athletics. You know, just do it for the love of the Game. Being paid for it simply tarnishes the purity of one’s sacrificial approach to servant hood. Just not sure how long Jesus would have ministered though if people did not give food, lodging, money, transportation, etc. to His motley ministry team of disciples…

  18. Joseph,

    You make some good points in response to what I wrote.

    I would love to see a community function in such a way that the needs of those who did sacrifice their time and efforts in the work of the kingdom would be met, but not in the strict form of a fixed salary.

    On some other blogs (I think it was Alan Knox’s excellent blog) in the past, we have batted around the pros and cons (although honestly, I don’t remember there being any pros) of “indirect payment” — in other words, the system in place today is that people give money to the church, and that money is disbursed in the form of salaries to the staff.

    What if people actually gave the “honor” themselves directly to the one they chose to honor? Would this not fit the NT better?

  19. “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 NIV)

    I understand enough Greek and translation protocols to suspect this rendering. The Gk word that is translated “obey” in this location usually conveys the idea of confidence, persuasion, and trust. Its a convenient translation for beating the laity into place. The TNIV, however, broke with the traditions of men and correctly (in my not so humble opinion) translated “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority”

    Unfortunately however, the word “authority” is not in the Greek text but is supplied by the TNIV and other translations. I think it could be simply translated as: “have confidence in your leaders and submit to them.” Also, check out the Message version, its got great tone and I think Eugene is an incredibly better translator: ” Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel”

  20. Hey…good thoughts all…

    I will admit no great insight into the mind of Paul or any of the other New Testament writers, let alone those mentioned as leaders in the early church that left us no writings.

    Regarding the last comment about the NIV being a poor translation: if the addition of the concept “authority” was added but not in the original text does the “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account” part in the Greek?

    Small point really. No need to keep watch over anybody if you are simply dispensing peer counsel. In this sense such a leader not a shepherd but simply one that supplies suggestions to sheep? No real positional responsibility? Never having to give an account?

    But if they keep watch as men that must give an account, what does that imply?

  21. Steve: for the sake of economy, would it be better to simply give whatever support considered honorable directly to those that deserve a double portion?

    Certainly. I suppose there is no real need to create a not-for-profit entity that is labeled a church just to maintain an artificial need to keep finances separate & legal. Heck, give as the Lord prompts to whomever or wherever He directs.

    No need to create a formal salary structure or a clear financial record. I think giving cash or food or lodging or clothing to someone not a legal issue at all. And of course it is tax free. A win-win situation. I think there is a big difference between having our needs met vs. simply earning a living & maintaining a certain standard of living. Those that wish to be overseers & desire to devote their lives to the affairs of the church can be supported through the generosity of others.

    I think this really is more suitable to the single (unmarried) person though. Being married & wanting to raise a family puts additional pressure on financial needs that should not be the burden of a small group.

    So, let’s limit our participation to only part-time involvement & be tent makers like Paul was. His is the more sacrificial method. And one that eliminates both the guilt trip & the artificial standard of determining an appropriate salary.

    Maybe the trend toward eliminating the business model of church organization the first step just as the Jerusalem Apostles took. And then some critical mass is reached & another arrangement must be adapted to meet the challenges of more complex needs arising. I have no problem with letting the paid pastor positions simply phase out through attrition. And if there is no carrot dangled out there for some to consider as a potential career choice it would certainly force a leaner, more efficient fellowship arrangement. And why not see just how God could indeed supply needs through such a divine downsizing. It is possible such a model would be very satisfactory to those that agree to such an arrangement.

  22. You all have wonderful discussion and thoughts here.

    What to do with the salaried positions is quite perplexing especially when the majority of the local church membership is opting out. Not because of any keen interest in Ecclesia – just a dissatisfaction with the same old, same old.

    Do you sell the church property and fund the retirement of the pastoral staff? We’ve found that the pastoral office is a lot less endearing to people than the property, the building (and the worship team).

    Do you phase it (salaried positions) out through attrition like Joseph said, only knowing that the trend in the institution is people are hitting the exit ramps? Also knowing that if a vote were taken in 5 years from now – the retirement funds might be disappropriated (is that a word?)

    Wolf Simpson has a radical message on finances – but I mean radical – I can’t say it was revelatory to me at all – but it is a totally different perspective. Probably closer to a George Mueller or Charles Finney viewpoint.

    These are very tough decisions may churches are facing. The beloved church structure really is crumbling – but a lot of people don’t realize that.

    Speaking of attrition – I went to a Bob Jones (the Baptist guy) – fund raiser. The average age of the thousand or so people in attendance was somewhere between ancient and Neanderthal. I mean, I came out of there thinking that modern medicine is the only thing keeping much of the church movement alive in the United States. I felt like a kid again. I actually dreaded going to that thing, and had a great time. I had never been around so many old people – they were a blast !

    I don’t think people realize how desperate a state the American church is really in. We’re less than 10 years from being exactly in the same state as Europe (barring a medical miracle).

    We need Frank Viola’s and George Barna’s (and many others) to really shake this thing up. There’s a disaster pending the likes of which the church world has never seen. All we have to do to get there is hang on to the status quo.

  23. David wrote;
    “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 NIV)

    I understand enough Greek and translation protocols to suspect this rendering. The Gk word that is translated “obey” in this location usually conveys the idea of confidence, persuasion, and trust. Its a convenient translation for beating the laity into place. The TNIV, however, broke with the traditions of men and correctly (in my not so humble opinion) translated “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority”

    Unfortunately however, the word “authority” is not in the Greek text but is supplied by the TNIV and other translations. I think it could be simply translated as: “have confidence in your leaders and submit to them.” Also, check out the Message version, its got great tone and I think Eugene is an incredibly better translator: ” Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel”

    Exactly.

    I would render the word, “be willing to be persuaded”, but I also like your rendering and Peterson’s also…actually, I think yours is better than Peterson’s ;o)

    Tom

  24. Relative to the discussion about “wages/honor”…

    *Salaried positions create all sorts of problems–and those problems are addressed in great detail in PC.

    *One over-arching problem that salaried positions creates which is often not addessed (and I don’t recall if it was or wasn’t in the book) is that it removes the opportunity for Believers to “listen to the Spirit” and give goods/services/money/prayer “as led”.

    Tom

  25. Joseph ask;
    “Regarding the last comment about the NIV being a poor translation: if the addition of the concept “authority” was added but not in the original text does the “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account” part in the Greek?

    Small point really. No need to keep watch over anybody if you are simply dispensing peer counsel. In this sense such a leader not a shepherd but simply one that supplies suggestions to sheep? No real positional responsibility? Never having to give an account?

    But if they keep watch as men that must give an account, what does that imply?”

    Heb. 13:17 does not have with it a word that is translated “authority”. “Authority” has been inferred from the word “hēgeomai”, which in the NIV is translated “leaders” (in the KJV it is rendered by the phrase “rule over you”).

    “Hēgeomai” means, “to lead, to go before, to be a leader”. It could also be rendered “to command, to have command authority over”.

    If we go with the “command authority” meaning, then we’d accept that a leader has the authority to command and dictate.

    If we go with the the meaning of “lead” as “one who goes before”, then we get the idea of leadership by example, persuasion, instruction, exhortation, and “cajole-ation” (that’s my neologism for today). This meaning fits correctly with the use of “peitho”–“obey” in the NIV, first word of the verse–which is most accurately rendered as “allow yourself to be persuaded” or “listen to, comply with” or even “to trust, have confidence, be confident of”.

    In Eph. 6:1 Paul instructs children to “OBEY ( hupakouo) your parents…” hupakouo means to listen to and respond with obedience. In 6:5 slaves are told to “OBEY your masters…” same word–hupakouo–as in 6:1. Hupakouo is what fathers, slave owners, and military commanders expect of those “under” them.

    Again, many of our translations demonstrate a hierachial structural ecclesiological bias in translating.

    A leader in the Lord’s ekklesia/oikos is such because of demonstrated spiritual maturity conjoined with spiritual gifting combined with the fact that he/she is actually leading and the members of that ekklesia recognize it. “Position” or “office” has nothing to do with it…those are the very concepts that Jesus was proscribing in Matt. 20:25ff (and elsewhere).

    An overarching duty of leaders is to “watch out for our souls”. The term “episcopos” (bishop, overseer,) is an apt description of this function…”epi” – over; “scopos” – view, look…hence, an overseer is one who is on “look-out” duty. If that is my function in the Body of Christ, then I’m responsible for the way in which I fulfill that duty. Same idea as what James said about teachers in 3:1.

    I hope this has been accurate and helpful.

    Tom

  26. Joseph ask;

    “Is it the contention of Viola & Barna that The Church needed reformation from the second apostolic generation onward? It was in need of emerging thought & deconstruction soon after its inception? It simply built the next foundational layer out of wood or hay or stubble & duplicated this building code violation through each succeeding generation?”

    No, I don’t think I’ve noticed that contention.

    However, my personal observation is that a drift toward legalism is evident in the Didache.

    Tom

  27. Steve,

    You wrote regarding my quotes from 1st/2nd century bishops.

    “1. Can you say “conflict of interest”? ;)

    2. I’m not quite sure I understand why we would want to start with the second generation anyway in understanding what Jesus intended. Did Jesus not make it abundantly clear that a) there was to be no ruling over each other in positional prominence, and b) that we should not allow ourselves to be called by titles such as “father”, etc.?

    I would think we would want to start with the words of Jesus and interpret subsequent generations of interpretation in that light.”

    Responding to point 1: The people I quoted claim to be continuing what the apostles instituted… and it should give us pause to remember that (unlike us) they actually conversed with and knew them. They interpreted the Scriptures decidedly differently than many do today and claimed to be perpetuating the practice and teaching of the apostles. It could equally be argued that non-bishops today (especially those who don’t want to listen to any of them) have a similar conflict of interest in espousing the opposite view. Given that the vast majority of extant writings of early Christians were written by bishops, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we get their perspective. The only writings that directly contradict them on the subject of positional authority are considered to be heretical by all major branches of Christianity today (Gnostic gospels, etc.).

    Responding to point 2. A) Scripture is a whole. It was also written in a specific cultural context and needs to be read in that light. I don’t think that it is wise to start with a 20th century interpretation of the words of Jesus and interpret everything that comes afterwards in light of that, especially since there are plenty of examples where Jesus and Paul contradict themselves according to the modern interpretation. To use your example of calling no man father, Paul and Jesus both use father to refer to earthly fathers (honor your father) and to refer to spiritual fathers. Paul (the arrogant arse) even referred to himself as the father of some folks. The idea of authority in Scripture isn’t simply straightforward one way or the other: it is nuanced. B) In using the 2nd century fathers, I’m not starting there and working back. However, did you really want to read 5 pages of text on the interpretation of Scripture. From my PoV, people today are often too immersed in their own particular Scriptural interpretation to see other people’s views. They often need a very good reason to question their presuppositions and assumptions regarding Scriptural interpretation. I think the following fact is a very good reason.

    *** Most of the writings that we have of people who knew the apostles directly contradict the Scriptural interpretation being promulgated by Pagan Christianity and none of the early church fathers explicitly embraces the interpretation of the authors of Pagan Christianity or rebuts the views of Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, etc. ***

    MB

  28. volkmar1108 ,

    How can you say that Barna and Viola don’t think the church needed reformation by the early 2nd century when (as I quoted above) people were claiming positional authority even before the apostles had died (e.g., Clement) and it seemed to be the common practice of the Church by the early 100’s (e.g., Polycarp and Ignatius, Shepherd of Hermas)? If there is no such thing as positional authority among Christians, then you can’t point to any time after the apostles died when the church wasn’t in need of major reform in this area. I’d go further and say that Scripture itself promotes the idea of positional authority. Two examples of this. 1) Jesus says that the apostles are to obey the Jewish leaders because of their position, even though they aren’t to imitate them becuase they are total hypocrites. 2) the apostles wrote to a bunch of Christians in Antioch to settle a dispute. The claimed authority as leaders to settle a dispute a) between people they didn’t know or have a relationship with b) who lived in a city they had never been to c) in a society that was lacking the communication and mobility we take for granted today.

    Even if folks in this thread won’t agree that Scripture promotes the idea of positional leadership, my hope is that they can concede that the PG position is darn near the mormon position of a great apostosy, because nobody before the modern era seems to agree with the Scriptural interpretation regarding positional authority being espoused by Pagan Christianity.

    MB

  29. Mammasboy,

    (Feel free to call me Tom.)

    You wrote;
    How can you say that Barna and Viola don’t think the church needed reformation by the early 2nd century when (as I quoted above) people were claiming positional authority even before the apostles had died (e.g., Clement) and it seemed to be the common practice of the Church by the early 100’s (e.g., Polycarp and Ignatius, Shepherd of Hermas)?

    I spoke amiss. A result of my decrepit short term memory. Sorry for fueling the confusion. I went back to the chapter and re-read, and, indeed Viola/Barna indicate that the first generation after the death of the apostles began diverging from the form/style/pattern of leadership which Jesus and the apostles inculcated. Here’s an excerpt from chapt. 5, beginning on page 109;

    The seeds of the contemporary pastor can even be detected in the New Testament era. Diotrephes, who “loved to have the preeminence” in the church, illegitimately took control of its affairs (3 Jn. 9-10). In addition, some scholars have suggested that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that Jesus condemns in Rev. 2:6 is a reference to the rise of an early clergy. [Interesting footnote citing F. W. Grant. “The Greek word nicolaitane means “conquering the people.” Nikos means “to conquer over” and laos means “the people”. Grant believes the Nicolaitans are those who make “laity” out of God’s people by raising up “clergy” to lord it over them.]

    Alongside humanity’s fallen quest for a human spiritual mediator is the obsession with the hierarchical form of leadership. All ancient cultures were hierarchical in their social structures to one degree or another. Regrettable, the postapostolic Christians adopted and adapted these structures into their church life as we shall see.

    Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership. That it had leaders is without dispute. But leadership was unofficial in the sense that there were no religious “offices” or sociological slots to fill. New Testament scholarship makes this abundantly clear.

    In this regard, the first-century churches were an oddity indeed. They were religious groups without priest, temple, or sacrifice. The Christians themselves led the church under Christ’s direct headship. Leaders were organic, untitled, and were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather than by a title or an office.

    …The vocabulary of the New Testament leadership allows no pyramidal structures. It is rather a language of horizontal relationships that includes exemplary action.

    If people (you mention Clement) were claiming “positional authority even before the apostles died”, then I suspect that a couple of things may be in play, 1. we may be mis-representing their actions and perspective, that is, we’re reading our understandings and practice back into their setting, or, 2. Clement et al were wrong. I have no question in my own mind that Ignatius was wrong, and the historical evidence indicates that many Christians of the period had the same mind.

    I don’t agree that your two examples of the scriptures supporting positional authority are correct or adequate. Luke’s narrative of the process at the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15ff) does not support the concept of positional authority. It certainly demonstrates leadership (and that on the part of more than just the apostles), but it does not support a pattern of positional authority. It is, though, an admirable demonstration of the whole church functioning to settle an issue by listening to the Spirit; “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

    I could understand folks accusing Viola and Barna of being “patternistic”, or “restorationistic”, or even naïve, but certainly not “darn near the mormon position of a great apostosy”. By the way, didn’t many of the Reformers cite the Papacy as indicative of “the great apostocy”?

    Have you read the book?

    Tom

  30. Regarding the great apostasy, that the Mormons believe in, I think following summary fairly well captures what I was after in the comparison: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that not long after Christ was crucified and resurrected, the teachings of His church were changed and the authority to act in His name was lost.”
    While Barna and Viola would never claim that the priesthood was lost when the apostles died or that all authority to act in his name was lost, they certainly claim that revelation was lost and that fundamental doctrinal concepts like ecclesiology and communal worship became extremely distorted very early on, even becoming antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

    For instance, Justin Martyr documents that by 150 at the latest, Christians had developed an order of worship for Sundays that included preaching by the guy presiding over the service.

    I’ve quoted numerous early church fathers who knew the apostles personally and believed in positional authority. I’ve yet to read a quote from an early church father refuting that idea, so it seems to be common from a very early date.

    So, at least regarding preaching, clergy and an order of worship, there seems to have been a fundamental disconnect between what the early Christians believed and what Viola/Barna are teaching. This disconnect began before the apostles had all died and became rapidly worse. Moreover, this loss of truth has ruled the day until only very recently, since not even the reformers got it right on these subjects.

    Sounds similar the the Mormon concept of the great apostasy to me. Of course, Barna and Viola don’t go as far as the Mormons, but it does strike me as very similar, which is all I ever claimed.

    Honestly, I don’t have money to buy the book right now, so I’m waiting for it to come out in the library and reading about it on blogs for now. It seems to have created quite a bang, even before being widely distributed.

    MB

  31. Tom,

    Oops, I meant to address the above to you.

    Also, I forgot to reference where I found the definition of apostasy that I was going by.
    http://lds-musings.blogspot.com/2006/03/great-apostasy.html
    I know its not an authoritative source, but it sounds like what the Mormon missionaries have told me it was.

    Also, please, note that I’m not saying that just because it sounds like what the LDS church says, therefore it is wrong. I can’t emphasize that enough.

    Lastly, I found this quote out of the book from you last comment fascinating. “Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership. That it had leaders is without dispute. But leadership was unofficial in the sense that there were no religious “offices” or sociological slots to fill. New Testament scholarship makes this abundantly clear.”

    Given that you have the book (and I don’t), would you mind quoting for me what they say about Acts 1:18-26. I honestly can’t imagine what they will say about the this passage, given that”there were no religious “offices” or sociological slots to fill” and Peter said regarding Judas Iscariot’s death, “`His office let another take.'”

    MB

  32. MB inquires;

    Given that you have the book (and I don’t), would you mind quoting for me what they say about Acts 1:18-26. I honestly can’t imagine what they will say about the this passage, given that”there were no religious “offices” or sociological slots to fill” and Peter said regarding Judas Iscariot’s death, “`His office let another take.’”

    MB,

    When I have an opportunity I’ll look-see if there’s any specific comment by the writers of PC regarding Acts 1:18-26. In the mean time I’ll express my own perspective.

    Some translation use the word “office” in vs. 20–which is a quote from Ps. 109. “Office” is a possible interpretation of the word “episkope”, a noun used to describe the one who functions in “oversight”. The word is also used in Lk. 19:44 as a noun to describe God’s “inspection” (visitation) upon the Temple and Jewish nation, and a similar usage in I Pet. 2:12.

    The older, traditional translations often interpolate the word “office” when episcope is present. Recent translations tend to avoid that, though not consistentantly. For instance, the NIV translates the Acts passage;

    ‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and,
    ” ‘May another take his place of leadership.’

    A similar institutional/positional translational bias occurs in I Tim. 3:1. KJV reads;

    This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

    Notice how the NIV translates;

    Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.

    The main difference that I see between the two translational paradigms is that the KJV puts the emphasis on the POSITIONAL aspect whereas the NIV emphasises the FUNCTION. The NIV is more correct in that emphasis.

    It is not suprising why the KJ translators interpolated the way that they did…the were working for the King of England who was the Head of the Church of England…position was everything.

    Tom

  33. Tom,

    I appreciate your response. While I don’t doubt that there is an aspect of function involved and that it is important, I think it is a mistake to say there the appointment has nothing to do with position/office. I think that is the biggest mistake being made by Viola/Barna. They have created a false dichotomy by making the concepts of function/office out to be mutually exclusive, as when they say, “Leaders were organic, untitled, and were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather than by a title or an office.”

    If they were truly untitled, then why does Scripture refer to them by titles like apostles and elders? Why not simply refer to the leaders of the NT church as believers? When I read Scripture, I read read actual titles being applied to people who served in functional positions.

    Regarding the appointment of Matthias, why was there a need to appoint anyone to replace Judas, if there were no such things as “offices” or “sociological slots to fill?” Why was there a felt need to have another apostle? Since the apostles came up with TWO people who could fill the slot based on qualifications and the esteem/respect of the current apostles, why not recognize both of them? Why the urge to limit the appointment to one person and make it clear who the real apostle was to the exclusion of the other person? The apostles were so unclear about who the one and only replacement should be that they drew straws to decide. Was this a mistake or misinterpretation of Scripture on the part of Peter and the rest of the apostles? Why not appoint both or leave the number at 11? Why was an appointment necessary in the first place, if there is no such thing as official leadership.

    What really makes me wonder most about the scholarship of Barna/Viola’s view of the absence of positions in the NT church is that they are so dismissive of other people’s ideas. They actually say regarding their idea that all NT leadership was unofficial that, “New Testament scholarship makes this abundantly clear.” What scholars are they talking about? Most serious scholars, I can assure you, would disagree with their view that there were no offices or sociological positions in the early church. While many scholars regard the positions as evolving and changing, the overwhelming majority of scholarship (both secular and Christian) favors the idea that there were sociological slots to fill in the early church (e.g., deacon).

    MB

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