Thursday, June 16, 2005

Church Structure

Nowhere in the NT do prophets lead the church. To be sure, there is a gift of prophecy, and elders may have it, but this gift is not a requirement for "bishops" and so I would dispute the idea that a "pastor" as we know it is, by definition, a "prophet."
Rather, I would say a "pastor" in the true Biblical sense is a "teacher," and has that gift. See Eph 4:11. Not only that, but the requirements of a "bishop" include, "apt to teach". This signifies that pastors _must_ by definition be teachers, that all teachers are in fact pastors, and the _some_ of these pastor/teachers assume the office of bishop/elder/presbyter. The idea of pastor/teacher indicates that a teacher is primarily a discipler.
I would say that the pastor/teacher individual is the type that best fits for an bishop/elder/what have you. You most certainly _don't_ want a pure prophet there, IMO. Elders need to pastor/teach and so nurture the flock. A prophet will just as easily flog the flock- which is probably needful at times, but not coming from the shepherds.
Again, this is yet _another_ reason why elders/bishops are primarily pastor/teachers and not prophets. The elders/bishops are called "under shepherds," which again fits in well with the pastor/teacher gift & ministry.
Now, elders and other pastor/teachers may have some partial gift of prophecy as a second or occasional gifting, but this is always subservient to the pastoring function, and works as an assist and not a driver of their ministry.
We as Christians today are the same as Israel under Samuel... "give us a king." The impulse to set up additional authority between or in addition to God and His Word displays a lack of faith and is a shirking of our personal responsibility before the Lord. God let the Israelites distance themselves at Mt. Sinai when they declined to speak with God themselves and requested Moses as an intermediator. God let the same thing happen again when they requested a king. But we are now priests and kings before Him and any others we have are those of our own evil making.

I was thinking about this last night and today. Leadership is not the same thing as control. Here's a quote I like:
A leader is best when people barely know he exists. Not so good when people obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the people will say, "We did it ourselves." -- Lao Tzu
The people of Israel committed the pragmatic fallacy when they looked at Saul's sons and said, give us a king. Not only was it going against God, but it was 3 generations later that a _king's_ son dealt irresponsibly with Israel and split the nation. The Bible is littered with stories of the demise of various ruling parties, be they elders or monarchs. BTW, the judges had a better track record than the kings of Israel & Judah.
The question is not what works; the question is what God said. This is the view of faith.
The political leadership structure of Israel, as outlined in the Bible, is moot for us today as Christians. You will observe that the remaining leadership structure, the Levitical priesthood, is no longer applicable either. More than no longer applicable, the NT is clear that such a construct has no place in the church.

The church in the wilderness? Certainly you all are familiar with the
term ekklesia, which means called out assembly. Yes the people of Israel
were a called out assembly but that does not make them a type of the church. Ekklesia was a broad term.
The Bible does not explcitly mandate or prohibit any particular form of church structure, and that individual assemblies are free to implement the structure they need, which structure is primarily determined by the distribution of spiritual gifts. While it is true that the early NT church was equal elder rule, this setup is never commanded. To be sure, every structure has its strengths and weaknesses.
It is my observation that the church through the centuries has modeled the prevailing cultural models of leadership in structuring their churches. Today we have churches with CEO-style pastors.
So I don't intend to argue that a particular church leadership structure is mandated from Scripture. I am arguing against the current structure being exclusively right, and against the idea that modifications to mitigate negative aspects of the present leadership model are not necessary.
This assumes that there are negative aspects to be corrected, which I think you all will agree with, to a certain degree.
The basic question then, is not whether our church structure is out of line with some perfect ideal structure, but whether it is structured so that the spiritual gifts are being properly distributed and people are, in the main, being ministered to fully. If so, our problems only require minor corrections; if not, then we must determine _what_ and _who_ is in the way of the natural distribution of gifts and ministry.
The idea of pastoral authority is a tangent to this. Without yet discussing the particulars of pastoral authority, suffice it to say that pastoral authority should never interfere with the proper distribution of gifts and ministry. A true pastor does seek to handle influences detrimental to people's spiritual condition. He may exhort in the case of someone who is hurting themselves, or he may take some sort of other practical action of others are being hurt.
Keep in mind that the enforcement of the church constitution and by-laws is decided by those in leadership positions, who are recognized as pastors. Now if someone doesn't give, maybe there will be a message preached, but even though the C&BL call for loss of membership after a certain period of time, in reality little practical action _will_ be taken, since others aren't being harmed. I don't know the stories and I probably don't want to know them, but is there really a problem with people being asked to leave who are not hurting others, or openly teaching contrary to church stands?
Do we really have a problem, then? The possibility of abuse of authority is not enough to go on. If there is some situation where authority is being abused then three people who know first hand what is going on need to go before the offending pastor and seek reconciliation.

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