Friday, August 31, 2012

Church Governance (24)

New Testament churches are led by elders.

Elders as apostles
Some elders are apostles. The apostle John saw himself as an elder (2 John 1; 3 John 1). The apostle Peter also called himself an elder (1 Pet 1:1; 5:1).

Elders are prophets
Some elders are prophets. Judas and elders were elders in the church in Jerusalem, they were also prophets.

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers (Acts 15:22,32).
One of the elders who prayed for Timothy was quite likely a prophet.
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).
There were prophets among the elders of the church in Antioch.
In the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul (Acts 13:1)
Elders as pastor-teachers
Most elders will be pastors-teachers. There were teachers among the elders at Antioch. Paul referred to elders who work at teaching.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is... teaching (1 Tim 5:17).
He also said that elders must be able to teach.
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1 Tim 3:2).
Peter described elders who are also pastors (shepherds).
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. (1 Pet 1:1,2).
Paul challenged the elders at Ephesus to shepherd the church of God.
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).
Elders as evangelists
Some elders are evangelists. Paul spoke about elders who specialise in preaching.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is
... (1 Tim 5:17).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Church Governance (23)

The most obvious way to understand the role of the ascension gifts is to read what the scriptures say they are given for. Their purpose is fully described in the following verses:

to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:12-15).
The tasks described in this passage are:
  • Equipping the saints for service
  • Building up the body of Christ
  • Establishing unity
  • Imparting knowledge of Jesus
  • Helping Christians to become mature
  • Binding the body together
  • Speaking the truth in love
  • Growing up into Jesus.
This is all grass roots stuff that all mature Christians should be expected to do. There is nothing special about these tasks. They are all things that the elders of a church would normally do. This explains the place of the gifts described in Eph 4:11. They are different types of people who operate in a different way when undertaking the eldership role of overseeing and strengthening the body of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Church Governance (22)

The giftings described in Ephesians 4 are observable in the business world. A business will often be started by one person with boldness and zeal, but to keep going long term it needs four different types of leadership. The business founder (apostle) will be keen to more on to breaking into new markets and launching new products. “Don’t worry about the details we will sort that out later”. They need an accountant/legal type (prophet) to sort out the details and keep them from crossing boundaries. To grow rapidly, they will need someone to do the marketing/sales (evangelist). They also need someone to do the HR/people management stuff that the business founder cannot be bothered about.

The problem in the business world is that the Christian concept of loving one another is not natural. Accordingly, one of the giftings will tend to dominate the others. Unbalanced leadership is a common cause of business failure.

Some workplaces have used the DISC profile for personal development stuff. It puts people into four categories. There are other versions using dog breeds, etc, that are similar. I have always been intrigued by they way these categories parallel the ascension gifts.

  • Dominance/lion/apostle - loves making decisions and wants to get things done.
  • Influence/otter/evangelist - makes lots of noise and loves working with other.
  • Steadiness/Labrador/pastor - works with people and keeps the ship steady.
  • Conscientious/beaver/prophet - wants stuff to be right. They get the details sorted out.
These are categories illustrate diversity of giftings and show how a leadership team needs to be well balanced.

I have also observed that some secular organisations are better than Churches at harnessing the creative energies that emerge when these very different personalities work together in a team. They have made very effective use of the ascension giftings. Churches tend to put one person in charge, and everyone has to dance to his tune. Real growth comes when very different leaders can work together, because they have committed to love each other.

These gifts can often be seen amongst children. Some children watch over other children naturally. Some are gifted to be apostolic. They love going out to new things. Some children are passionate about fairness. Others really enjoy meeting new children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Church Governance (21)

Gifts for the World
Many Christians just read over Eph 4:8, assuming that these verses are one of Paul’s funny allusions that do not matter. However, he put these words there for a reason, so understanding them will help us to understand his teaching. Eph 4:8 is a quote from Psalm 68:12, which describes the arrival of a new king after a decisive victory.

When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to people (Eph 4:8)
Everyone gives him gifts, even those who are his enemies. Paul gives this passage a twist. The normal practice is to give gifts to a new king, but when Jesus ascended, as king, he gave gifts the people of the world. The gift Jesus gave to the world are the people that he raised with him. These are not the usual courtiers of a king, who would come and control them on the King’s behalf. They are given to serve the world by becoming part of a body that will bring the life of Jesus to the world.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Church Governance (20)

Teaching has Changed
The desire to see teaching as a separate gift also arises from a false understanding of what the New Testament means by "teaching". We mostly think of teaching as a transfer of information and skills. Modern teaching is usually a process whereby an expert passes on information to a group of students. They are quite free to ignore what is taught.

For the early Christians teaching was something quite different. They saw it as an activity involving personal direction and an exercise of authority. It took place within a relationship where the teacher had authority over the student. A student would submit himself to a teacher, whose lifestyle he admired. His aim would be to learn the way of life, and the truths which underlay it. So a teacher did not just give his views. He laid out what he expected the student to believe, and the way he expected him to live. So teaching in the New Testament was more like what we call "discipling". It included the formation of character.

We can see this in the way that Jesus taught his twelve disciples. He did not just impart information to them. By living in close proximity with them for three years, he developed a strong relationship with them. They submitted to Jesus and carried out all his instructions. He had complete authority over them. In this way he formed their lives into a likeness of his own. And throughout the New Testament, teaching takes place within a similar pastoral relationship.

In Eph 4, "pastor and teacher" is one gifting. Every elder who teaches should be pastoring, and every elder who pastors should be teaching (1 Timothy 3:2).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Church Governance (19)

I get grumpy when Christian who take the New Testament seriously speak of “fivefold ministries”. This language twists the plain teaching of the scriptures to support our modern governance structures. Firstly, there is no suggestion in Eph 4:7-12 that these are ministries. Paul speaks of gifts. I have discussed this in previous posts.

However, the thing that really makes me grumpy is the number five. Even in English, it clear that there are only four gifts not five, as is often assumed.

Ephesians 4:11 is very clear on this one. It has definite structure using the phrase “men de” in Greek, or “some to be” in English.

some to be apostles
some to be prophets
some to be evangelists
some to be pastors and teachers.
If Paul considered there were five giftings, he would have written:
some to be pastors
and some to be teachers.
Because Paul did not write this, we have to assume that pastor and teacher is a single gifting, which means that Jesus only gave four giftings.

Anyone who can read can see that Paul carefully stated that there are four giftings, but the church has consistently ignored this. The reason is that the teaching about the scriptures is controlled by people who want to be teachers. The problem is that people who function as teachers have vested interest in raising the status of what they do. They like the idea of have "teaching" specified as a separate gifting in this very important passage.

The group with the greatest vested interest in this are those who want to be teachers.

Paul is fairly clear that teaching by itself is dangerous. The reason is that knowledge puffs up.
We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1).
This is a serious problem with the so-called teaching ministry. Teaching just imparts knowledge, and knowledge puffs up. I know that many Christians have had their lives changed by listening to good teaching. However, I am sure that many more just listen and think to themselves that what they had read or heard was good. But then do nothing with it. I suspect that good teaching may have puffed up more Christians than it actually built up. That is what happens with knowledge is imparted apart from love. Teaching must be accompanied with pastoring, so that love can prevent knowledge from puffing up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Church Governance (18)

Ephesian 4 is not at treatise on church governance, it is a an explanation of how a church can function without a formal system of governance. Good things happen when people with diversity of gifting submit to each other for the love of Jesus.

These gifting are about as different as things can get. They do not fit together naturally. They have different agendas and different ways of doing so things, so there will always be tension between them.

Elders with different giftings and different personalities do not get on together easily. Diversity of gifting could easily cause disunity in the church, which would deny the unity of God and undermine the unity of the church. However, Paul had already given the solution to this problem at the beginning of the chapter.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:2).
This talk about humility and gentleness is very different from the usual approach that turns the ascension gifts for a privileged few who control the church. Paul is explain how elders and Christians with different personalities can achieve unity, if they remain humble and gently, and put love ahead of their personal preferences about the way things should be done.

Because the elders are committed to unity with each other, despite their different styles and giftings, they are able to teach the rest of the flock in their care to live in unity, despite their differences and their diversity. This is the goal of the church.

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God… From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Eph 4:13,16).

When elders with different giftings do their part while bound together by love, the flock in their care grows to unity in Jesus. Despite this divisive diversity of their giftings, a church can be one, not because one person is in control, but by laying down their preferred way of working for the same of unit.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Church Governance (17)

When reading Ephesians 4, it is really important to follow Paul’s line of thought right through. The chapter begins with a challenge to be humble and gentle and to love one another. Pauls follows this with teaching about unity. The message of Ephesians 4:3-6): is that there is one God, one Father, one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one body, and one of nearly everything else.

Most readers assume that Paul goes on to a different topic in Eph 4:7 and starts a new teaching about governance and leadership. This is not correct. His teaching about gifts is a natural consequence of his teaching about unity. Because there is one God, one Lord, and one of everything else, you would expect that there would be one leader, but that is the one exception. There is one church with numerous leaders. A church needs more than one leader, because one person does not have all the gifts that are needed to represent Jesus.

The ascension transformed the leadership of the church. Paul had already described the ascension in Ephesians 2. When Jesus ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to earth, but this is not the gift that Paul is speaking of to the Ephesians. An important consequence of his ascension was that he opened up the way for most people to step into a leadership role. If he had remained on earth, he would have been the one leader of the church. Everything would have been directed to him. By going away and not appointing a successor, he made it possible for many people to become leaders.

He did not look for the most Christ like of his disciples on earth and leave him to control the church, because he knew that none of his disciples was up to the task. Jesus was a perfect prophet, a perfect apostle, a perfect evangelist and a perfect pastor-teacher. No other human could fulfil all those roles, so Jesus chose to have a group of elders to care for each local church. One would be a prophet. Another would be an evangelist. A couple might be pastor-teachers. One or two might have potential to be sent out as an apostle. None of these people could fully represent Jesus, but together they could. Jesus knew that no human would be capable of being his successor, so he gave people with different giftings to care for the church together. It took a team of elders with balanced giftings to care for a body of people in the way that Jesus had cared for his disciples.

When Jesus ascended, he took with him all who would believe in him and set them free from captivity (Eph 4:8). Those who rose with him are seated with him at the right hand of the Father’s authority. All Christians ascended with Jesus, so Paul is writing about all Christians, not just a select few, who gain governance roles. They are not under any earthly human authority. Jesus did not leave one person or a special group of people to control and manage the church. He released from captivity people with a huge diversity of personalities and gifting, but bound together by love.

Healing: Insights for Christian Elders

After a lot of time spent editing, coding and checking, I have just published a new book called “Healing: Insights for Christian Elders. This book is quite challenging, so I am not expecting huge demand. Most of the church is probably not ready for it yet.

However, I am equally certain that the time will come when the church will be ready for it. I am getting it out there now while I have time, because when the church is ready for it, I will probably be to busy to be fiddling with Kindle formats and book layouts.

The front matter of the book has the following warning.

This book is for the future, so the Holy Spirit may not yet have prepared you to receive the message that it contains. If the approach disturbs you, please lay the book aside and wait until the time is right.
On the other hand, if you want to understand God’s best method for evangelism and weapon against evil, you should read this book.

Paperback and Kindle versions are now available on Amazon.

I will have a cheaper option for New Zealand readers sometime in September.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Church Governance (16)

Paul is talking about gifts, so he does not call them ministries. A gift is not a role, even if it is something that someone in a role can use.

Nor are these spiritual gifts. The word used for gift in Eph 4 (
doma) is not the same as the word used for spiritual gifts (xarismata) used in 1 Cor 12. Spiritual gifts are the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian, which goes beyond what they can naturally do. In Ephesians 4, Paul is not talking about gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to people when they need some extra power.

Gifts can only come from two sources. They can be given by the Holy Spirit as he wills, or they can be innate within a person's character and personality. The spiritual gifts are the former, the ascension gifts are the latter.

The ascension gifts are people. Paul is talking about people who are given as gifts to the church. These people are the gifts. The different personalities of the elders of a church combine together to strengthen it. This suggests that these gifts are innate personality traits with which people are born.

  • Some people are born seeing things in black and white (prophetic). If this is ability is developed they can become prophetic. If their gifting is not developed appropriately, they can become grumpy old men.

  • Some people are born with this urge to push the boundaries and break new ground. They love staring new things, but once the project is up and running, they quickly get bored and start looking for a new challenge. Many of these people become entrepreneurs. A few of these people become apostles in the church.

  • Some are born with a compassionate heart and an ability to care for people. When they see strife, they try to bring peace. When they see people hurting, they naturally reach out to touch them. A person with this gifting can become a very effective pastor-teacher.

  • Some people are born with the gift of relating to new people in all situations. They are animated when they are with new people. They love to have a crowd gathering around them. Many of these people get into sales and marketing or mass media. When these people come to faith in Jesus they are natural evangelists.

Life experience and the work of the Spirit may extenuate these giftings, but it is hard to see how this can happen, if the gifting is not already there. These personality types have to be anointed by the Spirit and shaped by him to manifest his fruit, but it is hard to move into a relevant role, if you do not have the appropriate personality.

The ascension gifts are not spiritual powers that are given to people (like the gifts in 1 Cor 12). The ascension gifts are the people that God gives to each church. Each church needs all each of these types of people to grow to maturity.

The church is not just for a certain type of person. The commitment to love allows totally different types of people to belong to the same body and work together for its good.

Apostles like to start new things and go new places. They are not so good at dealing with people problems. If people change quickly and get going, they are fine. However, apostles get frustrated with people who need a lot of time to get back on track, because they are already wanting to move on to the next new thing. That is why they need to be working with pastors, who love this people stuff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Church Governance (15)

If forget about modern practice, and start from scratch in looking at Eph 4:11 there is no reason to think that Paul is describing a higher office or special role. He is very clear that he is talking about gifts, not offices or ministries, or church governance.

To each (ekasos) one of us, grace (caris) has been given (edoqh, didwmi),
according to the measure (
metron) of Christ’s gift (dwrea).(Eph 4:7).
The gifts are for everyone.
To each one of us... (Eph 4:8).
There is a gifting for each one of us. They are for all people, not just an elite, and not just for leadership.
He gave gifts to people (Eph 4:8).
This verse tends to be ignored. Most interpreters assume that these gifts are just for a few special people in a leadership role, but that is not what the passage says. Paul is clear that these gifts are for all sorts of ordinary people.
He gave (edwken, didwmi) gifts (domata, doma) to men” (Eph 4:8).
The gifts in Eph 4:7,8 and Eph 4:11 must be the same.
He gave (didwmi) some to be …… (Eph 4:11).
The ascension gifts are given for everyone.

Paul say that “grace was given to each of us as measured by Christ's gift”, and then quotes a verse saying He gave gifts to (all) men. Surely, the gifts given to each of us must be the gifts described in verse 11. If they are not, we cannot call them ascension gifts. Therefore, these gifts cannot be limited to a few people; they must be diffused widely.

The men de construction used in verse 11 suggests that the list is exhaustive, ie “some to be this”, “some to be something else” and the “rest to be that”. This suggests that everyone should have one of these gifts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Church Governance (14)

Christians should stop using the word “ministry, as it has now totally changed its meaning from when it was first used.

In the modern world, the word minister is used for the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence or Finance Minister. The United States calls them Secretaries (which dramatically changes the meaning of another word), but in the rest of the world they are called ministers. The word minister refers to a position of power.

A government minister exercised control through a ministry: the ministry of defence or the ministry of internal affairs. A ministry is a bureaucracy. I presume there was a time when political power pretended to be servants of the people, but those times are long gone.

When the word minister is used by the church, it refers to a paid professional or the CEO of a local church, which is not much better.

The modern words minister and ministry have no connection with the gifts listed in Ephesians 4. The word the King James Version translated as minister or ministry is “diakonos”, which is the Greek word for “servant”. It is used to describe an attendant, who runs errand for his master. This is the total opposite of the modern meaning of the word.

The English word minister comes from Latin word “minister” which means 'servant.' It derives from a Latin word meaning “minus” or “less”. It actually refers to a lowly position. We have lost that understanding of the word, so Christians can no longer use to describe roles in the church without creating confusion or justifying power and control.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Church Governance (13)

Christians submit to elders for oversight and protection. They do not submit control over their lives. Jesus has set us free, so we must not give any person control over our lives. We need to be free to follow Jesus, by obeying the Holy Spirit. However, because we are engaged in spiritual works, we submit to each other, so we can stand together against evil.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Church Governance (12)

The most important thing that elders do is submit to each other. They are often talented leaders, who do not find it easy to submit to others. They will often have very different personalities and giftings. Pastors do not find it easy to submit to prophets. Apostles do not enjoy submitting to people who are more settled.

Elders will not find it easy to submit to each other, but it is important that they do, for their own spiritual protection, and to provide an example for others. If they are not willing to submit to each other, they cannot expect other Christian to submit to their oversight.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Church Governance (11)

The Letter to Timothy lists the qualifications of an elder. The standard is high, but the reason is different from what we often think.

The common view is that elders must be of good character, because they control the church. Paul’s words are used as a checklist for deciding who is good enough to be given so much power. It is assumed that elders need to be of good character, because they have power and authority.

The opposite is true. Elders have no power and authority over the church. They need to be of good character, so that that younger Christians will freely submit to their oversight and welcome their advice on how to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Unless they have good character, people will not submit to elders them, no matter how long they have been Christians.

If apostles need to appoint elders, because they are moving on to something new, they should not look for people who tick the boxes on the character list. They should look for Christians that people in the church love, trust and submit to, because they are kind and wise, and authenticate what they are already doing by acknowledging that they are already acting as elders.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Church Governance (10)

Authority Organisation
Most business organisations are authority organisations. The Roman army was the epitome of an authority organisation. The centurion that came to Jesus understood this well. He could tell a soldier what to do and he would follow the instruction without question (Matt 8:8-9). He knew that if he disobeyed his commanding officer, he was dead.

In a business organisation, the directives of the CEO are followed without question. A few people may ignore the wishes of the CEO and do their own thing, but they will not last long in the business.

In an authority organisation, it is normal for the people to implement the directives of the CEO. He may delegate some decisions, but these will always be made within the policy boundaries that he has already established.

An authority organisation is very efficient at getting things done, because everyone in it is on the same page.

Relationship Organisation
The church is a relationship organisation. Members are commanded to love one another. They are required to submit to each other. The only authority comes from the outside, from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.

No member of the church has authority to tell others what to do. If elders want other people to do something, they must persuade them. For example, Paul wrote letters that gave advice to many people, but they were free to ignore it, and sometime did. He often suggested things that other leaders should do, but he did not have authority to make them do what he wanted. The people that Paul wrote to trusted him, because he had watched over them when they were young Christians. They respected his wisdom, so they took his words seriously. However, Paul never controlled anyone else in the church.

A relationship organisation finds it much harder to get things done, however that does not matter, as getting things done is not the primary objective, because loving one another has eternal significance.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Church Governance (9)

The concept of a CEO/Pastor does not exist in the New Testament. Funnily enough, the role of the pastor is missing as well.

Most English translations mislead with the use the noun pastor. The word pastor is actually a transliteration of the Latin word for shepherd. The role of a professional pastor is modern concept so the Greek language did not have a word for it. That does not matter, because the New Testament concept is shepherding, as in a shepherd caring for a flock of sheep (in a traditional way, not with a four-wheeler motor bike and sheep dogs).

Apart from references to Jesus, the word for shepherd is only used once as a noun, and that is Eph 4:11, where it refers to a gift and not a role. When not referring to Jesus, the word shepherd is used as a verb, ie as an action word, not a naming word. And the subject of the sentences that use shepherd as a verb is the elders (eg 1 Peter 5:1-2). Therefore, shepherding is an activity that elders do, it is not a separate role in the church.

The New Testament does refer to a “head shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4), but that is clearly a reference to Jesus. The prefix often translated as head or chief, just means the fisrt in order of rank, so it could be validly translated as Senior Shepherd. So, those who call themselves Senior Pastor are dangerously close to claiming a title that belong to Jesus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Church Governance (8)

Elders exercise oversight.

This is an important role, because the enemy is always prowling around looking for someone to devour. False teachers and deceivers will try to lead Christians astray.

Oversight is not control, so elder exercise oversight in two ways.

  1. They should always pray for those whom the Holy Spirit has placed in their care. They can join together to stand against the spiritual forces that are attacking the flock.

  2. If Christians have chosen to submit to them, they can also give advice, but they will know that their advice can be ignored, They will not demand to be obeyed or respected. Good elders give advice in a way that does not make people depend on them Their goal will to be teach believers to listen to the Holy Spirit and receive his advice. They may sometimes challenge behaviour or attitudes, but they will need to be care careful they are worried about the same thing as that the Holy Spirit is worried about. Otherwise, they will be warning about the wrong things.

The elder’s role is mostly praying. When they get the opportunity to go beyond that because a person has submitted to them, they are limited in what they can do, because they are not seeking control, and because they do not want to create dependence. They are always pointing to Jesus, and pushing people to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey his voice to follow Jesus.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Church Governance (7)

Elder, pastor (shepherd) and overseer (often transliterated as episcopal and misleadingly translated as bishop) are not separate roles. In the following two passages, Peter and Paul mixed them all up together.

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them… 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).
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ…, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness (1 Pet 5:1-2).
Elders care for people like a shepherd. They exercise oversight over Christians to protect them from evil. These different expressions are all part of the same role.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Church Governance (6)

A body is not controlled from the centre.

  • The brain does not tell the heart to beat. It keeps on beating, even when the brain is senile. The brain cannot stop the heart from beating.
  • The skin replaces itself when it needs to be replaced. It does not wait for instruction from the brain.
  • The blood produces antibodies when an infection is present.
  • When I sit the wrong way and cut off the blood circulation to my leg, it will not function, even though my brain decides to stand up.
If all the part of the body waited for the brain to them what to do, the body would be dysfunctional. The body functions better when all the part of the body do what they were created to do. This also applies to the body of Christ.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Church Governance (5)

The only statement made about governance in the New Testament is that Jesus is Lord of Lords and head of the church. He has authority over the church. There is no record of him delegating it to anyone else. God expects those who belong to Jesus to obey him.

Jesus words are clear.

If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15).
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me (John 14:21).
These verses raise an important question. How does Jesus exercise this authority. He gives the answer in a verse that is sandwiched between the two just quoted.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17).
The gift of the Spirit makes it possible for the church to obey Jesus.

The Holy Spirit knows God’s will, so he can tell us what Jesus wants us to do. We do Jesus will by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit. We do not need another authority or intermediary to tell us what to do.

Jesus has not given the Holy Spirit authority over the church. He can only tell us Jesus will, and leave it to us to decide if we will we obey it. He can speak to us, but he cannot make us obey his words.

We give the Holy Spirit authority, when we chose to obey his voice, but we can withdraw that submission at any time by choosing to ignore his leading. That removes his authority.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Church Governance (4)

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he said that all authority had been to him (Matt 28:18). Jesus never delegated authority over members the church to elders or apostle. The only authority that he gave to elders and apostles was authority over sickness and demonic powers. He gave them authority to heal the sick and cast out demons (Luke 9:1). He did not give them authority to control Christians or tell them what they must do.

Leaders of the modern church seem to be absorbed with authority over the church. I wish that they showed the same zeal for authority over sickness and demonic powers.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Church Governance (3)

In the world, authority comes from top, being delegated down through the hierarchy. The people in a business organisation exercise the authority that has been delegated to them by a manager, whose authority has been delegated from the CEO. Staff are accountable to the CEO, through their manager. Accountability and authority go together.

In the church authority comes from the bottom, when people freely submit to more mature Christians that they love and trust. They submit to elders for their spiritual protection. Christian elders are given authority by the people who submit to them. They gain authority through character and gifting, not from position and appointment. If the elder loses the plot, the people who have feely submitted to them are free to withdraw their submission. When that happens, the elder loses their authority.

This is why submission is more important than authority in the New Testament. Voluntary submission creates authority, so without submission there is not authority.

On the other hand, Christian elders are accountable to God for the people he has entrusted to them. Elders will have to give account on the judgment day for their oversight of the people who have freely submitted to them.

This is totally different from the business world. God has made Christian elders accountable, without giving them authority. They have to earn their authority by demonstrating wisdom and love, before they can exercise it. If they become harsh and controlling, their authority will quickly disappear.

In the world, authority and accountability go together. One comes with the other. In the church, leaders have accountability without authority. That really raises the bar.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Church Governance (2)

Governance and authority are a big deal in modern churches, yet the New Testament is strangely silent on these issues. The concept of governance is not mentioned at all. Most references to authority relate to worldly governments (Acts 26:12: Rom 13:3) and to demonic powers Eph 6:12; Col 2:15; 1 Pet 3:22). References to the authority of church leaders are missing.

The business world has a fairly standard model of governance and mangement. A board of directors provides governance and oversight. It makes strategic decisions and appoints the CEO, who is usually becomes a member of the board.

Under the CEO, there will be several divisional managers or vice presidents. The divisional managers will have operational managers reporting to them. The number of management levels varies with the size of the organisation. The CEO is tasked with the management of the business.

In the business model, the CEO has authority delegated by the board and is accountable to the board. The various managers have authority delegated down to them and are accountable to the CEO through the manager in the hierarchy above them. Authority and accountability go together and come from the same source.

Most modern churches, just copy this model, but change the names to hide the similarities. The CEO is usually called the senior pastor or apostle. The Board of directors is often referred to as a board of elders, leaders committee or oversight team. The divisional managers and operational managers are given religious names, but their status is much the same, even if they have different roles. Their authority and accountability is delegated by the senior pastor.

We need to understand that this is the world’s governance model. If a church is going to operate a series of large programmes, with a big budget and professional and/or trained staff, it probably has to adopt this model. However, it should not pretend that this is a biblical model.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Church Governance (1)

Eph 4:9-16 is an important passage about leadership in the church. Christians have tended to apply it to three different situations.

1. Management
Modern churches will often have a large paid staff. Someone will have to take responsibility for managing this team of people and organising their activities. This chief executive role is usually taken by the pastor. Eph 4 has nothing to do with this rule, because the church in Ephesus that Paul was writing to did not have a full-time professional staff.

2. Governance
Modern church control some very large and expensive assets. The governance of these assets will be important.

3. Growing the Body of Christ
Ephesians 4 explains how a body of people is built up and grows into the fullness of Christ. It is about people being joined and linked together through strong relationships. It is about the body being strong as each part does what God has equipped it to do.

The ascensions gifts have nothing to do with staff management or church governance. Applying them in that context produces confusion.

The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers can only find their fulfilment in a body of believers that is bound together by love.