Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Contrast Within Pastoral Leadership Part 2

In continuing with the contrast of pastoral leadership, allow me to quickly recap the inspiration for these posts and the first three points I looked at in part one of this series. If you would like to read the first part, you can do so here.

I recently received a list of seven points explaining why the Christian Church does not need a senior pastor. While I agree with each point, I also saw a need to point out why they do not apply across the board. Painting with a broad brush is useful when seeking to point out a problem, but having done this many times I understand also that doing so can cause unintended repercussions. Knowing the author of this list would certainly not intend to cause division within a local body headed by a genuine servant-leader under the direction of the Lord, I am in this series seeking to list each point, give examples, and show exceptions to what are fast becoming generally true observations within the Western Church.

The points already mentioned are as follows:

1. Power Tends to Corrupt.

2. The senior CEO Pastor role just propagates the outdated power of the denomination / institution.

3. Holy Spirit instruction and direction trumps ALL other forms of authority.

Now continuing from the list...

4. Horizontal fellowship trumps butts in the pews and facing forward to our “King” Pastor.

The struggle for spiritual relevance and significance is usually not a people problem but a system problem. The answers aren't always going to be found in and from existing human leadership – but those who actually can hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit. Even the smallest child who can speak – [and] has the potential of speaking the words of the Holy Spirit. If only the 'leaders' are speaking during the fellowship time – it is guaranteed that MOST of what the Holy Spirit was saying during that time is missed. The answer is to create a space of fellowship for the Holy Spirit to speak through whatever means He sees fit!
I have been present in local bodies wherein a child spoke words of great encouragement and also of great conviction. The idea of a child speaking may seem foreign to some, but I harken back to the words of the Apostle Paul when writing to Timothy: "Let no one look down on you because of your age." There should certainly be something in place to a child from running wild through service, but much of that discipline ought to be instilled at home through the attention of loving and godly parents.
I personally see nothing wrong in requiring a child to speak first to their parent(s) before being allowed to speak so that the adult in authority over them may discern the accuracy of what the child believes to be from the Lord. However, we should not be so demanding as to reprimand a child for speaking in the moment if that word is indeed prompted by the Holy Spirit. A reprimand is in order if their speech is not in line with the Word of God, but in this way they are being taught in the assembly what the voice of the Lord sounds like, as opposed to their own minds creating something they believe to be profound.

In much the same way, any adult ought to be able to speak up when the Holy Spirit prompts such speech. No pastor is ever justified in shushing an adult if the word they give is backed by Scripture and prompted by the Holy Spirit. However, a good pastor will also take time after the service to take aside an adult who was in error and reprimand them privately, in humility and love. Anything else is a violation of the pastoral role, unless the word spoken was so grave in its error that correction must be given immediately.
An example of this last statement: There was a time when a woman in my church spoke up, stating matter-of-factly that the End Times, the final Antichrist, and the tribulation, could all be staved off or avoided entirely if the Body of Christ joined in prayer against it. Due to the gravity of the statement, correction was needed immediately; yet even in correcting the error of what had been spoken, those who held the woman accountable did so with love and humility. In this instance, it was clear that they did not wish to embarrass or shame her, but rather show why the statement was in error. This is immediate correction of a false statement done right.

So how can one know if one's church is quenching the Holy Spirit, and thus dead in many respects?

If one's church would be disrupted by a single "amen" during the preaching of the word, it may be dead.

If one's leadership refuses to acknowledge and pray for a need if it disrupts the order of service, one's church may be dead.

If one can set one's watch by where one is in service, one's church may be dead.

The pattern herein should be clear at this time.

5. We need humble spiritual leaders/elders, not power hungry rulers/CEO Senior Pastors.

Do I think the role of pastor is not needed? No. I think it is a gift to the Body – but it is not a dictatorial/authoritative model role –but one as a fellow sheep who always points you to the true Shepherd/Jesus, and always is looking out for your best interests and looks to give His love to you on every occasion. Think of it as not a 'leadership' role but as a personal assistant who is there to make sure you have everything you need. That perspective is HIGHLY different that how it is currently viewed and used. Think Jesus washing his disciple's feet. Actually Paul lists 4/5 gifting roles in the Body that are there TO SERVE, not to rule. The actual scriptural role of a 'pastor'/shepherd is greatly different than what we see in the American Church currently. ...Leadership by example will always be healthier than leading by authoritarian rule. The former allows for the blossoming of the human spirit under freedom. The latter blocks the flourishing of the human spirit under rule of tyranny. Real leaders don’t need followers. They don’t even need power. They lead by prestigious example and slip out of the strangleholds of power like a snake shedding its skin.

Humility is the callsign of a genuine leader of any sort, but is especially important for those within the pastoral office. As is mentioned in the above quote, Christ modeled this in stark contrast to the stereotypical pastor of today by washing the feet of His disciples.

There are genuine servant-leaders out there. They often go unseen because it is not the limelight they seek, but rather the Light of the World shining into whatever life they are able to impact. I am blessed to say that I have personally known a few of these men and women, and they are truly led by the Holy Spirit. (To those who were just now horrified that I would include women as I am speaking about pastoral leadership: That is another topic for another day.)

The fact of the matter is that leading from the "authoritarian role" as stated above is generally a poor model to pattern pastoral leadership after; not only because Christ did not do so, but also because we can see the ill effects of this kind of leadership all around us. Corporations fail, federal governments grow corrupt, and organizations of all kinds implode due to placing a great deal of the steering power (authority) in a single individual. "A true leader is one who leads by example," is a quote that most have heard at least once in their lives, and it is based upon Scripture. So if that sort of leadership is based upon Scripture, then what sort of defense can pastors that lead by intimidation, fear, or authority offer?

If one's church demands absolute  and blind adherence to those in authority, it may be unbiblical.

If one's pastors demand the flock take their word in place of God's Word, it is unbiblical.

If one's church leadership is appointed by popularity and not by qualification, it may be unbiblical.

6. Bestowing the role of a Senior CEO Pastor leads to apathetic pew sitters and goats.

“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.”
~Stanley Milgram 
A community leading itself tends to be a proactive community. A community commanded by a leader atop a hierarchy tends to be an apathetic, politically and spiritually myopic, and civically inert / salt-lost-its-usefulness community. So it goes with the “Senior CEO Pastor” tossing dictates down an ill-conceived chain of command. We have an entire American Church playing the victim, caught-up in a viciously codependent chain of obedience.

 Contrary to popular opinion, the opposite of love is not hate, but rather apathy. Hate most often comes from love, whether genuine or twisted, and is directed at whatever is perceived as harmful to the object of that love. This is why God hates sin; why the Psalmist as able to say that he "hates with a holy hatred"; and why we can honestly say that there are things we hate. If one is allergic to gluten, for instance, it may not be uncommon to hear one give voice to their hatred of it; it is to be expected, as gluten for that person causes harm.

Apathy, in contrast, is bred through accepted, learned or forced codependence upon an individual or group of individuals. The example often used in political circles is the current condition of the United States, wherein a large percentage of people are entirely apathetic in the face of the coming election; they have grown so due to their codependence upon the federal government, and so long as it continues to give them what they believe they need, nothing really matters. The politicians meanwhile are dependent upon the citizens for their position and income, and thus the chain of  apathetic codependence is forged.
It is much the same in a poorly operating church: The people grow dependent upon their leader for spiritual guidance and direction, while the leadership are dependent upon the people for their continued authority, and in many cases, their income. None of those within the flock are interested in stepping forward as a leader, or as a servant; and the leadership have no interest in being a follower or of losing their (oftentimes) laborless income.

The image used for this section is exceptionally appropriate, as the quote on the left comes from a meme created using the transcript of a large and well-known church; led by a larger-than-life and well-known pastor; who misquoted Joel 2:25. Those within the flock seemingly accepted it as Gospel, and no one in the entire auditorium (at least, no one caught on camera) were looking at their Bibles: They were too busy looking at the celebrity pastor. Someone from that service created a meme from it, they were so moved; and yet, their apathy is on display for all their posterity. For as long as the recordings of this sermon exist, this terrible misquote will continue to lead astray those looking to this specific man for guidance. On the right is the actual text of Joel 2:25, and the egregious error of the pastor in question can be seen in full detail; yet so too can the pitiful and genuinely frightening apathy of his flock.

If no one in one's church opens a Bible at any time during service, one's church may be apathetic.

If the pastor does not quote Scripture accurately, or paraphrase properly, one's church may be apathetic.

If one simply doesn't care, just as no other member of one's church cares, one's church is apathetic.

7. A Senior CEO American Pastor role just isn't scriptural in NT theology.

Paul sets up an elder requirements for Timothy and Titus to follow, not a top-down Pastoral executive structure for the setting up of 'churches' or fellowships. The fellowships were community based and meeting from house-to-house. Sure there were evangelists, prophets, and apostles that would come through the towns and cities and speak/teach and fellowship with the groups. And as we read Paul's epistles and John's and Peter's we can get an idea of the style of each of them. They were all different – as we all are. But those apostles and other gifts to the Body came through to serve and equip NOT to be served.

Herein is the crux of the matter, though it may at first be a bit confusing.

A properly running church has a top-down structure only when one lays it out on paper. This is, in some ways, the result of the servant-leadership of the church operating as they should; but also because human nature requires an authority structure of some kind, even if it is solely for the purpose of rebellion. Thus, in a properly functioning church wherein the servant-leaders are regularly seen meeting the needs of the church body, they would be considered the highest point of that church on paper.
In actual practice, however, it looks much different. The pastor as a servant-leader does not guide by authority but rather by example. The elders, deacons, and any assistant pastors do the same in such a church, while the rest of the body benefits from their ministry. In turn, the individual members of the body are instructed, encouraged and strengthened to take on servant-leadership positions of their own; and in this way, the church grows.

In my own church, it is not uncommon for our pastoral leadership to tap a member of the congregation to give a message; share a devotion; help to lead worship; or a dozen other things usually expected to be done by the leadership of the church. A foreign concept in the eyes of many mega-churches today, yet very biblical and sound. By doing this, the pastors are fostering, encouraging and challenging the congregation to grow and move into the calling that God has placed upon their individual lives.

In truth, all other forms of leadership in a church are very much new age in their approach; while I understand the need for structure and leadership, this fact remains incontrovertible. Another term for this sort of structure is Nicolaitan, and in Revelation 2:6 and 15 Jesus Christ tells the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna that this is something He hates. The Body of Christ is not intended to be housed in a single building to which believers drive an hour to attend service; it is meant to be a living organism that spreads across the globe.

If one must get approval from one's pastor before opening a Bible study in one's home, one's church may be Nicolaitan.

If one must get approval from one's leadership to attend service at another church, one's church is Nicolaitan.

If one must get permission to speak the Gospel outside the four walls, one's church is Nicolaitan, and to reiterate, hated by God.

This concludes this series. As always, please feel free to share across social media, and comment below. May God bless you abundantly as you seek to do His will and continue in obedience to His Word.

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