God gave legitimate authority to Adam and Eve in the creation mandate. They gained authority over their own lives, expressed as freedom. They gained authority over creation with responsibility to care for it.
Adam and Eve were free to use their authority as they pleased. They could hear God’s voice, so they could draw on his wisdom when they needed it. Adam and Eve would have to bear the consequences of all their decisions, but their authority was unconstrained.
This authority was not delegated authority, because God gave it without recourse. It was voluntary and permanent. God chose to give authority over the earth to mankind, and he chose to give it permanently. He would not take this authority back, even if it was abused. He would not take it back, even if when it was handed to the devil. One reason that Jesus had to come as a man was that authority on earth belongs to humans in perpetuity, so only a human could take it back. This was true, legitimate authority, not delegated authority.
God gave authority to Adam and Eve as individuals and together as a family. He did not give authority to any institutions. Organisations and institutions only have legitimate authority on earth, if it is has been surrendered to them by people and families. Human institutions and organisations cannot claim their authority is delegated from God, because he has already given all authority on earth to people and families. Kings and presidents cannot have permanent authority, because the people who granted authority to them can always take it back.
Monday, August 31, 2009
God gave legitimate authority to Adam and Eve in the creation mandate. They gained authority over their own lives, expressed as freedom. They gained authority over creation with responsibility to care for it.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Business is one of the few legitimate forms of authority on earth. A business does not need delegated authority from God because it receives authority from below. This authority comes when shareholders entrust their money to the business by buying shares, or by giving it control over money loaned to it. Employees give the business authority over their lives while they are at work by accepting employment.
This authority is voluntary because no one is forced to work for a business. No one is forced to buy its shares or loan money to any business. The authority of a business quite limited. It can control employees while they are at work, but has no authority over the rest of their lives. The share prospectus and loan agreements also place limits on the actions a business can take.
Business authority is temporary, because investors can sell their shares in the business, if they stop trusting it. Lenders can terminate their loans, when they fall due. Employees can resign from their employment, if they give the specified period of notice. The temporary authority over wealth and life that has been submitted to the business can be withdrawn at any time. If the business is liquidated, the authority that it exercised evaporates.
Business is a good place to exercise authority. Even in a hostile culture, the owners of an effective business will have significant authority. After learning to exercise authority in their family, Christians should go on to exercise authority in the business world. Business is a good place to learn about authority and how to exercise it.
God gave mankind two tasks.
The first task can be done by families; with help from the church, where people need converting. However families and the church can’t complete the task of managing the earth on their own. Families will need to pool some of their authority in businesses to handle some parts of this task. Significant aspects of managing the earth will be done by businesses.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Christian will sometimes voluntarily submit to political powers. Peter advised the Christians in Asia to submit to the Roman Empire for the sake of the gospel (1 Pet 2:12-13). Confrontation with Roman power would be pointless, because any resistance would be crushed in an instant. Christians should not get side tracked into a conflict they could not win. Peter was not legitimising Rome’s power, but urging Christians to get with sharing the gospel. Voluntary submission was a pragmatic strategy, not acknowledgment of delegated authority from God.
The gospel will slowly and surely change society from the bottom up, so Christians do not need to worry about human government. God will deal with it when he is ready. When his people have transformed society by the gospel and the Spirit, he will sweep the political powers away. That is what happened to Rome. The gospel worked away under the radar. The empire eventually collapsed under its own weight, but the church survived, grew stronger, and spread throughout the world.
The world uses force to overthrow evil political powers. This strategy always fails, because evil cannot be overcome by evil. A good kingdom cannot advance by military force and political power.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight… but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).Jesus does need force to advance the kingdom, because his Kingdom comes in a totally different way. His strategy is different and better.
Christians should ignore the political powers and get on with spreading the gospel. We should not try to re-capture existing political institutions (that do not work anyway), but should get on with creating alternative ones that do deliver peace and fullness of life. Christians should start creating real communities that can deliver just justice, safe defence and real welfare. We should be ready to serve the world with an alternative when God sweeps away the political powers.
The judges that emerge in local communities will have authority, but it comes from below. Wise people will be given authority to decide cases and impose restitution by the people in their communities that recognise their wisdom. This authority will be voluntary, limited and temporary. It will be voluntary, because people will choose a judge to hear their case. It will be limited, because the judge will only be given authority to deal with a particular case. Once the case decided and the restitution has been assessed and paid, the authority of the judge will vanish. If a judge starts making bad decisions, people will stop bring cases to them and their temporary authority will permanently disappear.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Romans 13 has been twisted to make the claim that God has delegated to human governments the authority to make laws and force people to obey them. The claim is made that God assigned this delegated authority to bring order to a sinful world, but this claim is not true. God has already given his laws to the world, so he has no reason to give human governments the authority to make laws. His law was given to maintain order in society (1 Tim 1:8-9), so there is no need for human political power to establish order.
Paul did not tell the Romans that God has delegated authority to the state. He was simply telling them to take their legal disputes to the excellent judges that will emerge in every community.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he claimed all authority for himself.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt 28:18).This authority is total and comprehensive, so no one can have authority on earth unless Jesus has delegated it to them. He did not delegate authority for making laws to human governments. He did not give kings, prime ministers, politicians and parliaments the authority to enforce their ordinances and regulations.
All human political powers are imposters and cheats who have usurped authority that belongs to Jesus. They are deceivers and power-seekers seizing control of people that God wants to be free. God will never force people to be good, so he will never give political powers the authority to force people to be good. Claims that God has delegated authority to the state are a fraudulent attempt to legitimise stolen authority.
A political institution can only exercise authority, if people have delegated their authority to it. If that authority has not been freely delegated by everyone under its control, it has been stolen. People have become so accustomed to stolen authority that they have forgotten what they have lost.
Democracy is dangerous deception, because it pretends to be delegated authority. Politicians talk about “social contract”, as if everyone has delegated absolute authority over their lives to the political realm, but they never ask what authority has been delegated to then. Democratic leaders decide what their authority will be, and once they have taken it, they never give it back. They will pass authority to a different political party after an election, but they will never give it back to the people from which it was stolen. Democracy is illegitimate and deceptive, because it pretends that stolen authority has been freely given.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
In the religious form of the doctrine of delegated authority, church leaders claim to have authority over their church. They believe that God has given them delegated authority to care for his church. This gives pastors and elders enormous power. They can made decisions about what the Church must believe. It gives them authority to tell people in the church how to behave and what they should do with their money. Tithing is a claim to delegated authority over a tenth of every church member’s income. Some pastors claim veto authority over career decisions.
The delegated authority of church leaders is a fraud. The only authority that Jesus gave to his disciples was authority to cast out demons and authority to heal the sick (Luke 9:1). Most leaders are not that enthusiastic about this authority. They seem to be more enthusiastic about a delegated authority that he did not give. Jesus did not say to his disciples or apostles, “I am giving you authority over my church”. The claim to delegated authority distorts the truth.
Elders do have authority over newer disciples, but it is not delegated authority The authority of elders comes from below, from new disciples who submit to them. A new Christian finds more a mature Christian and asks them to teach them how to be a better Christian. They ask an elder to watch over them and give them a warning, if they do something stupid. They invite the elder to resist the enemy on their behalf, of they come under spiritual attack.
When a Christian submits to an elder, they limit their freedom of thought and action, and give authority to the elder. Authority from submission is voluntary and temporary. It is voluntary, because the elder cannot demand it. The disciple gives it freely. The authority is temporary, because the disciple can take the authority back at any time. If the elder loses the plot, or the disciple does not like the elder’s advice, they can withdraw the submission. When the submission is withdrawn, the authority of the elder disappears. Once they have grown a bit, the disciple can tell the elder that they want to stand on their own. The disciple can withdraw the submission, even when they are going astray.
The elder does not have authority to force the disciple to submit, if the disciple has withdrawn submission. The authority of elders is not an authority delegated by God, but come through voluntary submission. When submission is withdrawn, the elder’s authority evaporates.
The idea that God has delegated authority to pastors is dangerous, because it keeps disciples locked in immaturity. The more serious danger is that it allows church leaders to control members of their church. This is very harmful.
The doctrine of delegated authority destroys voluntary submission by making it compulsory. It turns voluntary authority that is safe into imposed authority that is dangerous. Unfortunately, the claim that it comes from above is a distortion of the word of God. It is a fake delegated authority.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
According to the dictionaries, delegated authority has the following meanings:
delegated authority is an authority obtained from another that has authority authority does not naturally exist.When a person with authority assigns some of their authority to another, that person has delegated authority. It is real authority, but it is authority that they do not have in their own right. They only hold the authority because someone has given it to them. If that person withdraws the authority, the person with delegated is powerless.
empowering someone else to act for you.
assignment to others of the authority for particular functions and decisions
authority assigned to another.
The centurion had delegated authority. He was just an ordinary man, but the Roman empire had given him absolute authority over a hundred men, and authority over an area of Judea where Jesus travelled. This delegated authority gave him the right to make people do things. He could have forced Jesus to carry his pack for a couple of miles, if the had chosen to do that.
Bureaucracies hold delegated authority. They are staffed by ordinary people who would not normally be seen as impressive. They can force people to obey regulations and pay taxes, because they have authority delegated by laws passed by the parliament.
Delegated authority is usually limited to a specific sphere of control. The delegation usually includes a definition of the scope of the authority that is being assigned.
Christians have developed a doctrine of delegated authority that has done a great deal of harm. The idea is that God has delegated authority to various people and institutions that function in modern society. People are expected to obey these authorities, because their authority has been delegated by God. The doctrine of delegated authority is a fraud, because it claims authority that has never been given by God.
The doctrine of delegated authority has a religious form and a political form.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Imposed Authority has no place in the Kingdom of God. God is totally committed to Voluntary Authority, so he will not use his power to force people to obey his will. Coercion and control have no place in his Kingdom. Jesus condemned rulers who impose authority from above. They “lord it over” their people and use force to get their will done.
The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them (Matt 20:25).They maintain their position using domination and coercion. Their kingdoms are based on Imposed Authority.
The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors (Luke 22:25).They call themselves benefactors, but they control their kingdoms by force.
The Kingdom of God is different from any other kingdom. It grows as people freely submit to those that love and serve them.
But you are not to be like that Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves (Luke 22:26).People gain authority in the Kingdom of God by serving those they lead.
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Matt 20:26).A servant cannot force the person they are serving to do things they do not want to do. A servant cannot control the one they are serving. A servant cannot use force or coercion to get their will done.
The Kingdom of God is based on Voluntary Authority. God wants people to obey him, because they love him. He will not force people to do his will. Using Imposed Authority to advance the Kingdom of God undermines it. The Kingdom comes when people freely submit to God. Authority in the kingdom of God comes through service.
The Church failed to understand the gospel and has yielded time and again to the temptation of Imposed Authority. When the church forms an alliance with political rulers to advance the kingdom, it always fails, because servant love and political power do not mix. A kingdom of love is not established by Imposed Authority.
The Kingdom of God advances as the gospel is proclaimed in the power of the Spirit. When people accept the gospel and surrender to Jesus, they give him authority over their lives. The Kingdom is built on a foundation of Voluntary Authority.
Christians must never use political coercion to do God’s will. Jesus does not want his people "lording it over" the rest of society. Those who use coercion to advance the kingdom are actually serving the devil, the master of Imposed Authority.
The devil uses Imposed Authority. The world uses Imposed Authority. God totally committed to Voluntary Authority. Imposed Authority has no place in the Kingdom of God.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Imposed Authority uses force and coercion. It is usually enforced with physical power. The greater the physical power, the greater the authority that can be imposed. Caesar Augustus gained his authority when he had won a war. His military victories gave him authority to impose his will on the entire Roman Empire. The centurion could impose his authority because the physical power of Rome was behind him. Any soldier who disobeyed him would be severely punished.
The devil uses Imposes Authority. He forces those who belong to him to obey his will. He uses his spiritual power to maintain his control.
Strangely enough, the devil’s authority began as Voluntary Authority. He gained his authority on earth when Adam and Eve submitted to him. They freely submitted to him, because they expected to benefit from his promises. When they submitted to the devil, he immediately twisted his promise and changed it into Imposed Authority. Adam and Eve freely submitted, but they became slaves to sin and . They lost the ability to opt out, because he can impose his authority.
The devil continues to look for Voluntary Authority to steal. He is still deceiving people into submitting to him. Once he gains authority in their lives, he immediately distorts it and transforms it into Imposed Authority.
The modern state uses Imposed Authority. When Parliaments and congresses pass laws, all citizens must obey, even if they do not like them. Ministers and bureaucrats can issue regulations and citizens must comply with them, even if they will be disadvantaged.
The state is backed by a large army and police force. If people rebel against the authority of the state power, military and police power can be used against them. There is no escape from the state, as people who refuse to recognise its authority can be forced to yield.
Democracy does not change the nature of political authority. The political leaders of democratic systems usually claim there is a social contract between them and the people governed, but this is just to give an illusion of Voluntary Authority. The reality is that voters give their political leaders a blank cheque. They cannot opt out, so they are not free. All political power is Imposed Authority backed by military and police force.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Voluntary Authority develops when a person freely chooses to submit to another. People gain Voluntary Authority when others freely submit to them. This is why submission is important in the scriptures. When a group of people freely submit to a good person for a worthy purpose, they create Voluntary Authority that did not previously exist.
Voluntary Authority is controlled by the person who submits. They specify the scope and term of the authority they are surrendering. The paradox is that we can submit to authority while continuing to be free. Although under authority, we can step out from under it at any time, because we submitted freely. Those who submi lose nothing in prestige or dignity, because they retain their freedom.
Voluntary Authority is fragile and can easily be destroyed. If the person exercising Voluntary Authority is controlling, or being oppressive, it turns into Imposed Authority.
Those given Voluntary Authority must continue to provide sufficient benefit to preserve the loyalty of those submitting to them. Employers must pay wages to their employees. Judges must make wise decisions, or people will stop submitting cases to them. If the expected benefits are not forthcoming, submission may be withdrawn.
The best way to attract Voluntary Authority is to demonstrate love. The disciples gladly submitted to Jesus, because they knew he loved them. Love and freedom meet perfectly in Voluntary Authority, so it flows to good leaders.
God is love, so he uses Voluntary Authority. He created all things and everything belongs to him, so he is entitled to impose his authority on the world. Despite his enormous power, God opted for Voluntary Authority. When he had finished the universe, he immediately created mankind and gave authority over the earth to them. He surrendered his authority to those who live on earth. Because he has perfect wisdom, mankind should submit to him, but they are free to reject his authority.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Authority has two sources:
Imposed authority is enforced from above. The soldier obeyed the centurion, because he knew that he would be punished if he disobeyed. The centurion had the coercive power of the Roman Empire behind him. Imposed authority exists when a person with authority has the power to enforce their will. That power may be legal power, as in the case of the centurion. It may be the power of a gun, or simply be bigger fists.
Voluntary authority comes through submission from below, as people freely submit to it. When we take up employment, we submit to the authority of our employer in return for a wage or salary. This is a free exchange. The employer gains voluntary authority in return for income. When we submit a legal issue to a judge to get a wise decision and the judge gains voluntary authority. A leader emerges when people freely agree to follow.
Friday, August 21, 2009
To understand the Kingdom of God, we need to understand the meaning of authority. Authority is the power or ability to control another person and make them do things that they might not want to do. Various dictionaries specify the following meanings for the word authority.
the power to enforce laws, exact obedience and command.Authority is the right to decide, command, control and enforce obedience.
the power to command and control others
a right to command or to act
the right to control, command, or determine.
the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions.
The New Testament centurion understood the nature of authority. He said to Jesus,
For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it (Luke 7:8).He was a man under authority. That meant he could be sent anywhere that the Roman system decided he should go. He also had authority over the soldiers under his command. They had to do anything he commanded them to do. His authority gave him the right to enforce obedience. He could make his soldiers do things that they had not chosen to do. This is the nature of authority.
In modern democracies, the parliament or congress has the ability to pass laws that people under their jurisdiction must obey, even if they do not like them. Ministers and bureaucrats can issue regulations and citizens must comply with them, even if they will be disadvantaged.
Three other types of authority are important for understanding the Kingdom of God. These are:
They will be explained further in the next few posts.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I have just finished reading The Devil You Know by Robert Bauer. He is not a trendy liberal, but and ex CIA agent who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, so he has to be taken seriously. Iran is now the most powerful nation in the Middle East. It has already won the struggle for dominance and is on the verge of becoming a superpower. Iran does not need nuclear weapons. While America has been bogged down in pointless adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has already achieved dominance in much of the Middle East using much more subtle methods. They understand the methods of asymmetrical warfare and have used them effectively.
He makes several interesting points.
Iran is now the most powerful nation in the Middle East. It has already won the struggle for dominance and is on the verge of becoming a superpower.
Iran does not need nuclear weapons. While America has been bogged down in pointless adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has already achieved dominance in much of the Middle East using much more subtle methods. They understand the methods of asymmetrical warfare and have used them effectively.
Sunni Islam has several nihilistic streams that are happy to employ mindless violence, even if they destroy themselves in the process. They will lash out in quite random ways. In contrast, the Shiite clerical establishment that holds sway in Iran are much more deliberate in they way that they fight. Iran can be ruthless in the use of violence, but in a much more calculated way to achieve particular purposes.
America has backed the wrong horse in the Middle East. They have allied with Saudi Arabia, the weakest and most unstable country in the Middle East. The US has supplied the Saudis with billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weapons. When the immoral and corrupt Saudi princes get their deserts, these weapons will be turned against American interests.
Iran will soon control the Holy Places of Islam at Mecca and Medina that are currently controlled by the Saudis.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A hierarchical structure is dangerous, because it concentrates power in the hands of a few people at the top. In a biblical Church the decision making process will be decentralised. No one person will hold much power, so if a leader falls into sin, damage will be limited.
A problem with hierarchical structures is that they allow churches to continue after the Holy Spirit has departed. A dead church can continue for many years, because it is perpetuated by the institution. On the other hand, an autonomous House Church that grieves the Holy Spirit will quickly die, because it does not have institutional support. If it was dependent on the Holy Spirit, it will collapse without Him, limiting the amount of damage done.
A serious sin of the western church has been transplanting its divisions and denominations into Africa, Asia and Latin America, where they do not mean anything. The concept of an Anglican Church (Church of England) in Africa should be seen as bizarre, but this kind of thing is so common, it has become acceptable.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A pastor can only provide protection that is as good as his own. Modern Christians do not realise that the pastors/leaders they trust are extremely vulnerable to spiritual attack themselves, so they cannot provide strong protection.
Having one person as leader of a church is spiritually dangerous. Spiritual authority and protection comes through submission to authority. If one man leads a church, all the church members submit to him. This gives the pastor/leader tremendous authority, but leaves vulnerable to satanic attack and deception. In most situations where Christian groups have gone haywire, they were led by one person.
True protection comes when a group of elders all submit to each other. Each elder is accountable to the others and protected by his submission. The members of the Church are then protected by submitting to their elders.
Protection comes through submission to people close enough to see the first signs of deception or sin. For most pastor/leaders, this will not come from within their church. Their people look up to them, so most pastor/leaders have no one close enough to see their frailties and bold enough to challenge them before they make a serious mistake. Many people will disagree with a pastor/leader’s decisions, but very few will challenge a pastor/leader’s hidden sins. Those who do challenge have usually lost their credibility. There are very few people who can speak the truth to their pastor/leader in a pure spirit.
Some pastor/leaders attempt to establish spiritual protection by linking with other pastors, either in their own denomination or in the same city. This is good, but it does not provide full protection. Their commitment to their people means that they will not be able to get really close to another pastor/leader. The other pastors will not be close enough to see if any spiritual vulnerability is coming to the surface. To get an early warning of something going wrong, a person must see the pastor/leader when he is relaxed with his guard down. There are very few pastor/leaders who are secure enough, to allow a fellow pastor or church leader close enough to see into their soul.
Labels: Spiritual Protection
Monday, August 17, 2009
Spiritual protection is a critical issue for the church.
In the modern world, too many Christians are being defeated because they are standing alone (even while being part of a church). Soldiers fighting alone are easily defeated, because the enemy is able to pick them off one at time. In contrast, when soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder with shields in place, they can withstand a powerful attack. Christians must stand together with others to achieve victory. This level of protection does not come automatically from being part of a church, but by being in close fellowship with other Christians. They will need to know us well enough to see how we are being attacked and love us enough to stand with us. We will need to trust them enough to be willing to submit to them. This will happen best in radical lifestyle churches, where Christians live close to each other and can meet together daily.
A pastor/leader cannot provide spiritual protection for several hundred people. The reason is that most spiritual attacks come through deception that leads to sin. The best protection for Christians against these deceptions is friends who know us well enough to see our weaknesses, and love us enough to challenge us when we give in to them. Generally, a pastor/leader will not know individual Christians well enough to notice their vulnerabilities. Most people can easily fool their pastor.
Labels: Spiritual Protection
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The modern church is almost always led by a pastor. Sometimes there may be a couple of assistant pastors, supported by several elders. Sometimes there are several pastors with a senior pastor. The pattern varies from place to place, but almost always a church is led by a single pastor/leader. The problem with this model of leadership is that it cannot be supported from the scriptures. The modern pastor/leader simply just does not exist in the New Testament. Jesus left twelve apostles behind on earth. He did not appoint one of them to be a pastor/leader of the church. If he had intended to have one single pastor as leader of each church, he would have appointed one person as pastor of the Jerusalem church. A serious problem with pastor/leader model is fitting in the ascension ministries of Eph 4:11. Everyone believes that God is restoring apostles, evangelists and prophets to the church, but this is difficult in churches that are controlled by pastor/leaders. One person leadership is the norm in the world and is used by Satan, but the Trinity is a shared leadership. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are submitted to each other and rule the world in unity. Shared leadership is difficult to achieve, but is the model that the church should follow. To manifest the full glory of the Trinity, the church should have shared leadership. The prophet Samuel warned the children of Israel not to appoint a king to rule over them (1 Samuel 8). Wanting one man to rule was an expression of distrust in God. The same spirit manifests in the desire to have one man leading a church. The professional leadership model belongs to the Old Testament, where ministry was limited to a priestly class. One of the fundamental ideas of the New Testament is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. This means that every believer has access to God and can exercise a ministry for Him. The professional leadership model places the Christian leader under a tremendous pressure to perform that can leave them feeling very insecure. This insecurity is often manifested in a need to control everything that is happening in the church. The ensuing rigidity hampers the growth of the church. The result is a vicious circle in which pressure to perform feeds insecurity, that leads to control, that impairs performance.
New Testament churches are not led by pastors, but by elders. The apostles always appointed elders (plural) in the churches they had established.
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust (Acts 14:23).Nowhere in the New Testament is one person appointed as the leader of a church. A "pastor" is never appointed to lead a church. They were always led by a group of elders, never by a pastor.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17).
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you (1 Tim 4:14).
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 (Titus 1:5).
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).
The word translated as pastor in the New Testament is the Greek word for shepherd. It is mostly used as a verb, describing the work (pastoring) of elders.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church….. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:17,28).The phrase “Be shepherds” is a verb in the Greek. Pastoring is something that elders do. It is not the title of a church leader.
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve (1 Pet 5:1-3).
Most people will be surprised to learn that (except for real shepherds and reference to Jesus as the Great Shepherd) the word "pastor" is only used as a noun once in the New Testament. The one instance is in Ephesians 4:11, but this passage cannot be used to justify the modern pastor/leader as it describes a completely different model. The pastor-teacher is one gift among four others and their role is not leading and managing, but serving.
Apart from being unsupported by scriptures, there are several other problems with the pastor/leader model.
A large modern church, with lots of staff and a number of programs will need a leader/manger to lead, inspire and co-ordinate. However, we should be honest and call them what they are: leader/managers. One person cannot be a shepherd to hundreds or thousands of people, so they should not take the title pastor.
Jesus left twelve apostles behind on earth. He did not appoint one of them to be a pastor/leader of the church. If he had intended to have one single pastor as leader of each church, he would have appointed one person as pastor of the Jerusalem church.
A serious problem with pastor/leader model is fitting in the ascension ministries of Eph 4:11. Everyone believes that God is restoring apostles, evangelists and prophets to the church, but this is difficult in churches that are controlled by pastor/leaders.
One person leadership is the norm in the world and is used by Satan, but the Trinity is a shared leadership. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are submitted to each other and rule the world in unity. Shared leadership is difficult to achieve, but is the model that the church should follow. To manifest the full glory of the Trinity, the church should have shared leadership.
The prophet Samuel warned the children of Israel not to appoint a king to rule over them (1 Samuel 8). Wanting one man to rule was an expression of distrust in God. The same spirit manifests in the desire to have one man leading a church.
The professional leadership model belongs to the Old Testament, where ministry was limited to a priestly class. One of the fundamental ideas of the New Testament is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. This means that every believer has access to God and can exercise a ministry for Him.
The professional leadership model places the Christian leader under a tremendous pressure to perform that can leave them feeling very insecure. This insecurity is often manifested in a need to control everything that is happening in the church. The ensuing rigidity hampers the growth of the church. The result is a vicious circle in which pressure to perform feeds insecurity, that leads to control, that impairs performance.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
When Jesus broke the bread and shared it, he said, “This is my body given for you”. He was not saying that the bread had become his body, but prophesying what would happen in the next three days. His statement was a prophecy that his body would be broken for the disciples to give them life. He was saying that he loved them enough to suffer and die for them. The broken bread was a symbol of his unconditional love for us. When we break bread we should be making a similar declaration and prophecy. We should be expressing a similar commitment to our brothers and sisters: “You are more important to me than my comfort.” Eating with them is an expression of our willingness to pour out our lives for them, in the same way that Jesus did for us.
The same applies to Jesus statement: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”. He is not talking about wine turning into blood. He was proclaiming a new covenant that he would establish with all Christians by dying on the cross. When we take the cup, we are not drinking Jesus blood. We are declaring that we are part of the covenant that he established. We are also declaring the same covenant with the brothers and sisters eating a meal with us. We are saying that we will sweat blood for them. We are committing to dying, if necessary, for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is why the Lord supper is also called a “Love Feast” (Jude 12). Eating the Lord’s Supper is a covenant commitment of unconditional love to the other members of the Church.
Labels: Lords Supper
Friday, August 14, 2009
The modern church over-emphasises preaching. Most pastors spend an hour each Sunday preaching to the church. A great deal of energy is put into this weekly event. In the modern world, this is misdirected energy. There is no indication in the New Testament that preaching is a core part of the pastor’s role.
Many years ago, the pastor was often the only person in a church who could read. He taught them the truths of the Bible. Most Christians can read, so this need no longer exists. There is an abundance of excellent teaching in books and on television, radio, audio tape and the internet. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on the church, so there is no need for an intermediary between God and his people. The Holy Spirit has promised to teach us all things (1 John 2:27, John 16:13-15).
Since the Reformation, the high point of the worship service has been a message preached by the pastor leader. However, in the modern world, preaching should not be an important part of worship. Abundant access to books, tapes, videos, television and the internet makes regular preaching to the church much less important.
Church members should not be preached at. Instead they should be quietly exhorted and taught. They will be eager to receive God’s word, so there is no need for the rhetoric and flamboyance of preaching.
In the New Testament, preaching was mostly used as a means of evangelism. It was directed towards outsiders to persuade them to repent and believe. The proper place for preaching is the market place, the highways and byways, or any other place where people meet. People who have a desire to preach should be taken out of their pulpits and sent out into the world where preaching belongs.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Apostles should not be expected to plant several Churches at the same time. This will wear out the apostles and disappoint the sending Church. It is better to establish one Church properly, before going on to another.
However, if a large number of people become Christians all at once, they may have to establish several Churches. This appears to have happened at Antioch. A great number of people were spontaneously brought to the Lord, so Barnabas was sent to sort things out. He went and found Saul to assist with discipling all the new Christians (Acts 11:22-26). This was not a normal situation. The problem arose because key apostles remained in Jerusalem, rather than going with the Holy Spirit to Antioch, where he was at work. If the apostles had gone to Antioch with the Holy Spirit, rather than leaving the opportunity to a few persecuted Christians, the problem would not have arisen.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The modern church tends to send out people who are quite immature or inexperienced. They go to Bible College, which is an unreal (but very supportive) experience. Then they are sent, usually alone, to start a new church. Sending an inexperienced couple out alone from a hothouse environment to start a new church is a cruel torture.
Modern church planting puts a lot of effort into starting a public worship service. In fact when people talk about planting a new church, they really mean starting a new worship service. However, public worship is not essential for a Church to function, so it will not be given a high priority by the apostles. They would mainly concentrate on meeting with new Christians for discipleship and developing local leadership. A public worship service would not be started until the local leaders are able to lead it.
A key priority for many church planters is finding a place to meet. In fact one of the first goals of a new church is to buy or build a church building. This is a mistake as it distracts from the more important goal of establishing elders and sending out apostles.
Our lack of understanding of the apostolic process is demonstrated by the fact that we talk about church planting. However the New Testament expression is “sending apostles”. Sending apostles should be a normal part of the life of a Church, not something exceptional.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The main advantage of apostolic Church growth is the opportunities provided for leadership to develop. This will not happen if the pastor is at the centre of things. If he is good at what he does, the church will get very large, but most people will want to stay close to him, even when they are mature. They will not want to leave and start something new, because they are committed and comfortable where they are.
If the pastor does most of the ministering, potential pastors will not be able fulfil their calling in their church (some may be content being a youth pastor). Even if the church is very large, only a few key people will be involved in ministry, so most of the church members must remain dependent on their pastor and receive ministry from him.
The modern pastor says it is tough at the centre (harder than being sent out). He is correct, but his task is usually hard because he is surrounded by bored, purposeless, proud, critical or lazy Christians. His church is often full of people who have remained as spiritual infants, because the structure of the church did not allow them to grow into eldership ministries.
When a person with leadership potential has no opportunity to exercise their gifts, they stop growing and start to stagnate or become a nuisance. If potential pastors are frustrated, they tend to become critical. They will see hurt people not being healed. They will gather these to themselves, as is natural for a pastor. If care is not taken this can lead to disunity and a split (the Absalom phenomenon). Sometimes the person with leadership potential becomes so frustrated that they rebel against the pastor. Many new churches have been started by men who became frustrated, when they were unable to fully exercise the calling on their life. While their new church is often successful, they tend to take their rebellion into the new church with them.
Many potential pastors remain loyal to their pastor and serve him faithfully. However a deep sense of disappointment remains in their heart because they have not been able to exercise a fulfilling ministry. From the perspective of the church this is a terrible waste of potential.
In the apostolic model described here, there is always a challenge because people are moving out, and others have to rise up to take their place. There is a constant demand for new leadership. Thus any believer with leadership potential can very quickly rise to be a pastor-teacher and many can become an apostle.
Monday, August 10, 2009
A modern church tends to be based on an effective set of programs. Programs are useful if they provide people with life skills that they need, but programs do not make a church. They do not join the body together, so that it builds itself in love (Eph 4:14-16). People can come from all over the city to attend a program. Most will not know each other very well. While they are on the program, they will get to know each other better. Those with a strong relationship before they joined the program will find their relationship is strengthened. A few others may establish relationships, but most will just drift apart when the program has finished.
Discipleship has generally been replaced by a series of development programs. Instead of focusing on discipling new Christians and building relationships, elders have tended to be distracted by programs. If new Christians were discipled correctly, they should not need to participate in programs.
This post and my the next few are scraps that did not make it into my book.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
I have just read the Skeptical Economist by Jonathan Aldred. This book promised to be good, but the delivery was disappointing.
The subtitle of the book is "Revealing the Ethics Inside Economics. Aldred’s aim is to expose the hidden ethical assumptions that are smuggled into modern economics. This is a noble goal. The claim that economics can be a value free science is a sham.
The problem is that the liberal humanistic values held by Aldred prove to be a fairly dry well from which to draw a replacement. Aldred is right in saying that sound economic thinking must have a solid moral base, but that basis can only be provided by a sound moral system. Christians are best placed to find the clear moral thinking that economics urgently needs.
See Normative Economics.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
A wise general attacks where the enemy is weak. A better tactic for the advance of the kingdom could be to identify the areas where the people of the world are vulnerable and resist there. A number of problems are making people really uneasy; violence, economic crisis, loneliness, sickness are just a few. If Christians can demonstrate effective solutions to these problem, the people of the world will be drawn to these solutions.
For more on this topic see Poltical Tactics and Strategy.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Forming alliances with fellow travellers may not the best tactic. Christians are often tempted to align with a conservative party. Conservatives do resist the next liberal thing, but at the same time they make previous liberal innovations mainstream. While they are in power, they stop innovation, but only for a time. Conservative parties only slow change, they never roll it back.
Christians can sometimes win a victory by taking up an issue where the liberal party has gone too far, and made a change that most people oppose. Christians will get support if they lead the charge against the change. The problem with this approach is that these issues are usually peripheral to the kingdom of God, so people get a misleading view of who we are. Even if we had won the battle, we might have lost the war, if people got a distorted view of the Kingdom of God. This tactic is unwise, as a victory at the operational level, may be a defeat at the strategic level.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Attempting to prevent the world system from expanding into areas that it wants to go may not be the best good objective. A wise general does not attack the enemy at the point where they are strongest. That tactic would generally lead to defeat. Likewise, a wise general does not let the enemy decide the battle tactics, as that will often lead to defeat. The world is confident and expanding rapidly. We can expose what they are doing and speak against it, but we should understand that we probably cannot prevent the expansion.
We need to be careful about the perceptions created by our tactics. Losing a lot of small operational fights can translate into a serious tactical defeat. We have lost every fight for the last twenty years, so we are not taken seriously. We now have the reputation of a losing team and hold the wooden spoon.
We have lost our last twenty operations fighting against the symptoms of social change, but we have missed the causes of the radical change in the shape of society. The social change that concerns us has more deep-seated causes, which we have not resisted. We have been fighting losing battles, while a more important war has been lost. Sometimes a tactical retreat may make more sense than a drawn out series of operational defeats.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
The Kingdom of God is losing ground in most western countries, as the kingdom of the world presses against us.
Some suggest that the solution is a new political party to do battle on this issue. We should be very careful. Single issue parties usually get side tracked and then sidelined.
We should be preparing for the next battle, not refighting the ones we have previously lost. What is the next key issue?
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
We are in the middle of a cultural war,
but most people do not realise what is happening.
The Great Unwashed do not have a clue
about God or the meaning of life.
They just get on with it
working to “earn a buck”
and trying to have a good time.
They do not think
or care about the great issues of life.
They just follow wherever they are led by the cultural elite
that controls the media and shapes the nation.
The real struggle is between the cultural elite,
the clever people and the church.
It should be challenging the secular elite
and shaping the culture,
but instead its members are being sucked out
by the prevailing hostile culture.
The church is in danger of being engulfed
by the world around it.
The clever people are winning the cultural war.
Monday, August 03, 2009
The people who already occupied the land when the people with a new culture arrive have fewer options. Resistance Capitulation Conversion Migrate
The initial response to a large migration was usually resistance. The British Empire met resistance wherever it went, but the resistance failed in the face of superior force.
Most peoples facing large scale migrations from colonising nations eventually capitulated. They had no choice, but to make the best of a bad situation.
Some peoples do acknowledge that the colonises cultures is superior and adopt for themselves. In India, many Ghurkhas attempted to become more English than their English masters.
When faced by a migration of a hostile culture, migrating out to another are is an option. When British settlement of Capetown increased significantly, the original Dutch settlers felt they were losing their culture. The joined the Great Trek into the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
A nation needs a strong unified culture to be viable. When two opposing cultures are present, the nation will tend to fall a part. This is a serious issue for migrant to a new land. Dominance Reservations Ethnic Cleansing Capitulation Conversion Covenant
When a people with a strong culture migrate into an area already occupied by people with a different culture, the migrating people have five options, if they want their culture to shape the society in their new homeland.
During the 19th Century, the most common approach was to dominate the people occupying the land using military force. The British uses this method in all their colonies. The military dominance of British Empire spread English culture throughout the world. The first American settlers used same method to deal with the Red Indians.
If the native people persist in rejecting the new culture, they can be pushed into reservations on the sidelines of society. Plentiful alcohol can be used to keep them quiet. American governments used reservations to shut down the culture of the natives who resisted the settler advance. This method was also used by the Afrikaners in South Africa. Until apartheid collapsed, most of the natives were pushed into reservations called Bantustans.
A more extreme solution is for the arriving culture to wipe out the people already in the land. This has been the norm through most of history. When the Roman Empire collapsed the people of Europe were defeated and destroyed again and again by peoples migrating from East.
If the migrating people are few in number they will have no choice but to accept the culture of the people already occupying the land. For example, refugees arriving in a western country may try to persevere in their religion and culture, but because they arrive in a position of weakness, they are usually swamped by the host culture. If they do not give in, their children generally will.
The people migrating may persuade the occupiers that their culture is superior and the latter may agree to convert to the culture that has just arrived. This is what Christian apostles do. They move into a new village and stay there until some people in that village see the benefits of the gospel and freely convert to Christianity. The gospel can transform the culture of a nation. When English missionaries came to New Zealand the Maori were very receptive to a more peaceful culture. Many Maori converted, but when the land wars betrayed their trust, they rejected the warrior Christian religion.
New Zealand is the only colony where the British did not use military force to dominate the local culture. Here they made a covenant called the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori leaders agreeing that they could preserve their culture, provided they accepted the British presence. This approach worked for a while, but once the settlers became desperate for land, they switched to the dominance method. The urban migration of Maori in the 1950s and 1960s brought the covenant back to light and it is now being honoured more fully. We now have an interesting strange situation where the trappings of Maori culture function within a western culture.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Creating a village in a city is easy. It does not need a building, nor a set of laws, but relationships. A group of people who are committed to each other can draw in the other people in their community. They can build the relationships that turn a street into a village.