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Friday, July 20, 2012

The Myth of Church Leadership (2)

I must confess that for many years I myself propagated the myth of church leadership! Actually, there are many myths (in bold type below) which are associated with “church leadership”.

I highly regarded the separate class of the “clergy” which was appointed and “ordained” to lead the “laity”.  I attended and graduated from Bible school where I was trained in “homiletics” (which I was falsely informed was “the art of sermon preparation and delivery”). I served as a “pastoral intern” in preparation for “entering the ministry”. I was “ordained” a “clergyman” and given the highly respected title of “Reverend”. Not long after that I was “installed” as “the pastor” of a mission church in the West Indies. Here I was elevated to an elite place of ministry (“the pulpit”) above other believers and appointed to teach in a Bible school which was established to train other “church leaders” for “the ministry”!

But even then (the late 1970’s) the Lord was beginning to shake my concepts of “church leadership”:

- I began to be troubled every time I stood in the pulpit to lead (i.e. monopolize a “service”). I became deeply burdened realizing that the very fact that I was the appointed speaker meant that every other believer was virtually muzzled! They could not function (in stirring one another up to love and good works and exhorting one another) as God intends when His people assemble together! (Hebrews 10:24,25)

-I eventually realized that instead of a church hiring one “pastor” from outside the congregation to commence his ministry among them, God had designed an assembly of His people to be cared for by a plurality of elders/overseers/shepherds who were raised up within that gathering,  well known by them and recognized by the saints by the work that those men were already doing! (Acts 14:23, 20:28, I Timothy 3 and Titus1)

But for many years I still firmly believed that such elders/overseers/shepherds (of which I was regarded as one) were to be the leaders of the church, were to be appointed to be the primary speakers as well as to appoint or invite others to lead the saints by giving pulpit ministry.

I also believed that there were certain “church leaders”, “full-time Christian workers” or  “translocal servants”  such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers who were to be paid or “supported financially”. But scripture never teaches any these things!

But I am just now beginning to realize that the practice of all of the above ideas (in bold type) denies many truths stated plainly in scripture. They deny…
- the priesthood of every believer (I Peter 2:5-10),
- the giftedness of every believer for ministry (I Peter 4:10,11; Romans 12:3-13; I Cor.12:7-27),
- the leadership of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer (Ps.23,2,3; 25:5; 27:11; 139:24; Isaiah 40:11; 48:17; 55:4; John 10:3; Romans 2:4; 8:14; Rev.7:17)
- the promise of divine provision for the needs of every believer who purposes not to hoard, save or stockpile for their own future but who rather gives generously to meet the needs of others as he/she is able. This provision is promised regardless of one’s gifting or function in the Body! (Phil.4:19 with 4:13-16; Acts 2:45; 4:35; and II Cor.8:11-15)

But perhaps even more, these myths about “church leadership” deny the facts that every believer from the youngest to the oldest, whether male or female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile, literate or illiterate…

-has all of the Father, all of the Son and all of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them (John 14:16-23)  Therefore the impression, often given, that “church leaders” are nearer to God than the rest of us is simply not true!

-hears the voice of God  (John 5:24; 8:47 & 18:37) has the anointing of God and is taught of God. (John 6:45; I Thess.4:9; I John 2:27)   Therefore the impression, often given, that “church leaders” hear from God for the rest of us is simply not true!

But most important of all, these many myths about church leadership entrusted into the hands of mortal men or women deny many vital truths concerning the relationship of every believer with their crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ! These myths are practical denials of the following facts…

-Every believer has one mediator between God and themselves and one mediator of the New Covenant- the man Christ Jesus!  (I Tim.2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) Therefore the impressions , often given, that we cannot meet with God, hear from God or speak with God apart from certain church leaders are simply not true!

-Every believer has just one Master and ought not to regard any other or submit to any other as “Master”, “Rabbi”, or “Father” nor to anyone who wishes to hold a place of preeminence or control over them. Those who are truly great among God’s people are happy simply to be “brothers” and “servants”!  In Matthew 23:2-12 the Lord Jesus warns us of those who desire titles, control, preeminence and power over others.
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

-Every believer has just one Lord and ought not to give allegiance to any other. To do so is to deny the Lord Jesus and to bring division into His Body. 
Hear Paul’s reproof in I Cor.1:11-13 and his plea in Ephesians 4:1-6:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”

 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

-The Body of Christ has only one head! Therefore no one else has any right or authority to direct, to rule, to take charge over the lives or ministries of other saints or to hold others accountable to one’s self!  In Colossians 1:18 Paul declares the headship of Christ
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

In Romans 14:12 he reminds us that our accountability is to God and not to men!
“So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

In the next couple of posts, I hope to set forth the dangers and detrimental effects which follow when ever mortal men lead God’s people, the great blessings which accrue when God leads and how we can adjust our own minds and hearts to become followers of the Lord Jesus rather than aspiring to be leaders of others.

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