Sunday, September 30, 2012

Christian Marriage (6) State Recognition

The family existed before the state, so human governments did not establish marriage. God established marriage and gave it as a gift to the world. Since marriage is an institution established by him, it should be based on his word, not on government policy. God established marriage before the state existed, so he alone has authority to definite the way it should function.

Human governments do not have authority over marriage. They cannot change something that God has established, so Christians should not allow them to define marriage for them. God has already defined marriage and human governments cannot change God’s word. Christian marriage should be based on God’s word and not on legislation established by a human government. Christians do not the state to define marriage for them.

Only God can create a marriage. When two people commit to marriage, he makes them one. The state cannot marry people, because it does not have the ability to join people together and make them one.

In a world dominated by the state, we should not be surprised that people want their relationships “recognised” by the state. People who reject God usually choose to be slaves of another god, so we should not be surprised that secular people choose to be slaves of the state. If the people of the world want the secular state to bless their relationships, that is their business, but God’s standard is not changed.

From the point of the state, a covenant marriage will appear to be a de facto relationship. Since the state has no control over it covenant marriage, it would not recognise its existence. That would not matter much, as modern governments have plenty of laws for dealing with de facto relationships.

Some Christians may want their marriage recognised by the legal system. There is no reason why they could have a second marriage within the civil system. This is what happens in some European countries. Church and civil weddings are distinct events. On the other hand, some Christians may prefer to remain separate from the world system. If the state refused to acknowledge their marriage and treats them as if they were in a de facto relationship, they would take it as a badge of honour.

The people of the world may want the state to bless their relationships, but we do not need to join them. Christians have the blessing of God on their marriage, so they have no need for the recognition of the state. Recognition by the state is nothing compared to the blessing of God.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Christian Marriage (5) Simplicity

If Christians take back marriage, most of the paraphernalia of the modern marriage ceremony that make it so expensive will be redundant. There will be no need for cars, suits, wedding dresses, groomsmen, bridesmaids and wedding receptions. Wedding vows should be made in the presence of God during a meeting of the church that the couple will participate in.

Isaac and Rebekah are an example of how simple a wedding ceremony can be. Abraham had sent a servant to look for a wife for his son. The servant was led by God to Rebekah. She had demonstrated the character that a good wife would need. When the servant returned with Rebekah, Isaac accepted his commitment and took her into his family tent.

Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel… she took her veil and covered herself. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her (Gen 24:64).
This was all it took for them to be married in the eyes of God.

Healing Testimony

This video is a cut from a testimony by a missionary called Mike Chandler about his life in Africa. His wife received an amazing healing from malaria. He discovered that some sickness is an attack of the enemy to disrupt our service of Jesus.

video
I have a complete chapter on this topic in my book Healing. Pleading with God to heal us is a waste of time when the sickness is a direct attack from the enemy. This is the cause of more sickness than most Christians realise.

One of the keys to healing is that we deal with the enemies attacks by resisting them. We resist the enemy in the same way that Jesus resisted the devil when he was tempted, by declaring the truth from the word of God.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Declaring the truth in the power of the Spirit defeats the direct attacks of the enemy.

More at Healing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Christian Marriage (4) Inheritance

When a Christian couple commit to marriage, they are bringing together the inheritance that they have received from their own families and joining it together to establish a new in inheritance and heritage by establishing a family. This inheritance is not just material wealth. More important will be the inheritance of character, wisdom and calling.

The couple are not just starting a family, but establishing a new legacy that will be carried by their descendants. When Jacob passed on his blessing, he did not just giving a blessing to each son and daughter. He looked down through several generations to see the large family groups that we be part of his inheritance (Genesis 49). A Christian couple should look at their future descendants in the same way. They are creating a long-term family heritage that can be part of the Kingdom of God. They should train their children to appreciate, protect and develop their calling.

My family used to be good at caring for sheep. This is why my family is no longer living in Scotland, as enclosure reduced the opportunities for caring for sheep. I do not know if my ancestors were good at teaching sheep, but current generations seem to be skilled at analysing information to see the big picture. As a family is a skill that we need to develop, with each generation being better at this role than the previous way.

The Christian couple may receive some financial support from their parents. The worldly approach is to enjoy the parent’s wealth when they die. The Christian approach is to preserve and perpetuate the family inheritance and heritage. Parents may pass some of their capital to their children, while they are living and able, to encourage and train them in the family calling. A capital inheritance should not be seen as a boost of income to pay off debt. It should be used to advance the family calling and heritage, and advance the kingdom of God.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christian Marriage (3)

The state has taken over marriage and turned it into a pale shadow of its former self. That is not a problem for Christians, because marriage is a covenant between two people based on the standards of God. It can function without government legislation, as marriage law has very little impact on the quality of a marriage. Most married people have never read the Marriage Act, but that does not matter, because marriage is a relationship and not a legal entity. The law is only becomes relevant when a marriage breaks down.

Christians should take marriage back and reshape it according to God’s word. Instead of looking to the state to legislate marriage, Churches should develop marriage contracts or covenants that reflect the word of God. Christian lawyers could develop a standard marriage agreement to be used by churches to make marriages independent of the state. This contract should be given a different name so that everyone is clear that it is a Christian institution and not a creation of the state.

This new marriage covenant should clearly define the rights and responsibilities of husbands and wives according to God’s word (1 Cor 7; Eph 5:22-33). It should also define the responsibilities of parents to children. The impact on property rights should also be specified. The new contract should also specify the conditions for divorce and provide a process for disputes to be resolved using Christian elders.

  1. Christian marriage is a covenant relationship, not just a contract between two people. The vows declare to each other are also a vow to a God. They are not just committing each other, they are committing to God.

  2. The covenant vows are also a declaration in front of the church that is recognising and recording the covenant marriage. The elders of the church are also committing to support the couple and help them growing a strong relationship, so that they can serve God in unity.

  3. A marriage occurs when a man and a woman promise before God to love each other with an unconditional love. God responds to this commitment by making the two people one. Their sexual relationship is a consummation of God joining them together. This why the marriage service often speaks of a man and woman being "joined by God".

  4. The couple making a marriage vow will be agreeing to live together, or recognising that they have been living together. They are committing to sacrificial love (agape), in which they put each other’s needs before their own.. They are promising to submit to each other so they can become one (Eph 5:21). They are agreeing to give up their personal benefits for the sake of the unity as a couple.

  5. Churches should develop a new method for recording covenant marriages. A few Christians with technical skills could serve the by the churches by setting up an electronic database for recording marriages. This would provide a record of all marriages between Christians. No one would have to use this of course. Christians would not need to make their marriage public information, if they do not want it in the public domain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christian Marriage (2) Slow Slide

Marriage is a gift from God, so in the past, marriage was organised by the church. People went to the church to get married. All weddings were recorded in a marriage registers that were kept in every church. These registers were the only record of a marriage. A couple wanting a divorce had to get it approved by the church controlling the register in which their marriage was recorded.

The church began handing over this role over to the State a long time ago. The first step was letting the state take responsibility for the record keeping. Unfortunately, when the state gained control of marriage records, it also obtained the right to define marriage, and God was soon squeezed out. When no-fault divorce was introduced, Christians became uneasy. Now same-sex marriage is being proposed, they are getting upset. We should not be surprised, as this last change is just one more in a long series of changes that have been made since the church handed marriage over the state. If you give away something that you treasure, you should not be surprised when it gets wrecked.

When a society rejects Christian faith, a slide away from Christian marriage is inevitable because civil marriage is defined by government legislation and not by God’s standards. In a secular society, the law often slips behind public opinion, but it eventually catches up. Christians failed to hold back the rapid change in sexual practices during the sixties and seventies, so we are unlikely to prevent the changes in legislation that make those change in behaviour legal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Christian Marriage (1)

A bill to legitimise same-sex marriage has passed a first vote in the New Zealand. Christians seem to be leading the opposition to same-sex marriage, just as they led the opposition to civil unions. However, Christians are only ten to twenty percent of the New Zealand population, so this is probably a lost cause. In a secular society with a democratic political system, Christians have only a very limited ability to influence the Parliament.

When Christians are a minority in their culture, they have to be careful to get their strategy. A few things can be done.

  1. There is a place for being prophetic. Some Christians with a prophetic calling should get involved the public opposition in an effort to expose the risks and dangers that arise from the change I the law. However, they should be careful not to become too strident, because a public campaign to change a law can easily become a turn off for a gospel. They should understand that their efforts will almost certainly fail, and be willing to lose gracefully, if that is the outcome.

    Those who oppose the law change should be careful about the way that they present their message. In the last twenty years, Christians have led a number of political campaigns opposing social change. In every case, they lost the battle. Worse still, the message heard by the people of the world is that Christians want to take away their freedom and impose Christian morality on them. They assume that Christians want to use political power to impose Christianity on people who do not like it. This is the message that is usually heard, when Christians get publicly involved social issues, but it is totally opposite to the gospel.
  2. When Christians are a minority in a secular society, the best way to change the situation is to preach the gospel and change the numbers. As the number of Christians increases, the Kingdom of God should spread through society and slowly change it from within.
  3. The most practical solution to this problem would be for Christians to reclaim marriage. We may have to re-package and re-brand it to achieve this result. The best way to take back marriage back would to be create an alternative for Christians that aligns with God’s standards. We would probably need to give it a different name. For clarity, I will call it covenant marriage to distinguish it from legal marriage. However, it does not matter to much what the name is provided it is clear that we are speaking about something totally different from the legal marriage legislated by the state.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Give us a King

I have not read the book called Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic by Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule. According to reviews, Posner summarises the book in the following word.

The Madisonian system of separation of powers has eroded beyond recognition and been replaced with a system of executive primacy (which others have called the “imperial presidency”) in which Congress and the courts play only a marginal role. Most scholars who have recognized this development have called for a return to the Madisonian system, but we believe that the rise of the executive has resulted from a recognition among political elites that only a powerful executive can address the economic and security challenges of modern times.
Most people want government to foster security and prosperity and the administrative state best serves those ends because it became evident to people that they benefit from having most policy being made at the federal level … making them willing to give up that kind of fine-grain choice in return for the benefits that you get from having a very powerful government and a very powerful president.
This seems to be a good description of the American system, but the idea is as old as Samuel. He understood that when people stop trusting in God, they are willing to give up freedom and pay punishing taxes in return for security and prosperity. Posner and Vermeule’s theory is a modern form of the cry to Samuel.
Appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have (1 Sam 8:5).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Israel Slogans

Christians tend to take their understanding of the status of Israel from a few simple verses that are often used as slogans.

I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you (Gen 12:2-3).
Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye (Zech 2:8).
These verses are important, because the express God’s long term attitude to Israel. His love for his chosen people will never end. He has a long-term purpose to bless his people and bless the world through them.

However, these verses do not tell us much about what is going on with Israel in a particular season. To understand that, we have to go to the covenants, because the destiny of Israel is determined by the covenant that God made with it, not by slogans. Because the people of Israel have mostly rejected Jesus, they are still living under the old covenant. It is a good covenant, with wonderful blessings, but it sets a very high standard, that is almost impossible to fulfil, without the fullness of the Spirit. This means that Israel is usually stuck on the wrong side of its covenant under its curses.

The slogan verses do not proscribe God’s attitude to any particular government of Israel. In the Old Testament, God pronounced judgement against many of the political and religious leaders of Israel, because of his promise to bless his people. The fact that Israel is the apple of his eye does not mean that he approves every action of every government of Israel. When the governments of Israel does not fulfil their covenant, they will experience judgment, but that does not change God’s intention to bless his people.

Israel had a wonderful covenant, but they have mostly rejected the one sent the Spirit who would enable them to fulfil it. Without a covenant with Jesus, the covenant with Moses is valid, but deficient, because it is almost impossible to fulfil. When Israel believes in Jesus, they will be able to fulfil their covenant by faith and receive all its promised blessings. This is why the whole world should be looking for the event that Paul called the “Fullness of Israel”. When Israel enters into both the fullness of both covenants, enormous blessings will flow to the world, as the promise to Abraham is fullfilled. I explain how this will happen in my book Times and Seasons.

The slogan verses quoted above explain why we can be confident that the fullness of Israel will eventually come. They are not a guarantee about what will happen in the seasons before that time comes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coming for a Look

Leon Edward Panetta who is the current United States Secretary of Defence has arrived in New Zealand for a visit.

I am reminded of 2 Kings 20:12-18. I hope he has not been shown to much stuff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Holy Spirit

The front matter of my latest book has the following warning.

This book is full of principles, but on their own, principles achieve nothing. Principles cannot heal the sick. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit heal the sick, so he is what we need. The only value of the principles outlined in this book is that they may help Christian elders who are walking in the Spirit to understand what he is doing and know how to cooperate with him as he advances the Kingdom of God and rings glory to Jesus.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rock of Offence

Several years ago a friend with prophetic insight challenged me to speak to the rock of offence i Christchurch. I did not have a clue what this meant, despite searching the scriptures over several years. However, it all became clear when I heard a message by Bill Johnson about John the Baptist. I began to understand the problem of disappointment and offence.

Many Christians have sought healing for a long time without success. In some churches, these disappointed people have been prayed for over and over again, but nothing has happened. Most have a deep sense of disappointment and have given up all hope of being healed. Some have been hurt by accusations of lack of faith. This enormous backlog of hurt and disappointment with God has never been sorted.

When disappointment is frequent and unresolved, the disappointed people get offended at God. Offence produces unbelief, which shuts out the power of the Spirit. I now believe that offence at God is a major obstacle to the release of healing in the church.




This book is my attempt to speak to Rock of Offence in Christchurch.

New Zealand readers can obtain the book here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Corporations

The Corporation is only one method for organising for business. Limited liability laws have given the corporate model of organisation a huge advantage that has allowed it to dominate all others.

When limited liability laws disappear, we will need to find new and better ways for organising business. Cooperatives, trusts, and even contracting networks will become much more important. Christians should be at the forefront of this activity, because we should be experts on freedom and relationships.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Economic and Military Power

The Chinese economy will soon be as big as the US economy. To make matters worse, America has a huge debt problem, much of it owed to China.

As the US becomes a second rate economic power, so it will no longer be able to use economic power to control the world. China is far more effective at using economic power to gain influence throughout the world.

This leaves the US dependent on military power to control the world. As the economic strength of the United States continues to decline, it will most likely become more aggressive in efforts to control the world using military force.

The implications are explained in this book.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bank Regulation

A common view is that banks were not sufficiently regulated. The fact that contradicts this is that most banks were more highly capitalised and more liquid than the regulations required.

Jeffery Friedman and Wladimir Kraus argue in their book called Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation that regulations intended to minimise risk actually encouraged perverse behaviour. By holding assets that regulators deemed to be safe, they could free up capital to fund the expansion of their operations.

A bank that bought bonds issued by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac could reduce its capital requirements by 60 percent, because these were deemed by regulators to be safe. The regulations created an incentive to securitise loans through these agencies, because it expanded its lending capacity. Time proved that regulators were wrong about the safety of these government-sponsored institutions.

This is an example of government regulation increasing instability by trying to make the situation better.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bankers Bonuses

The conventional wisdom is that a major cause of the GFC was the large bonuses paid to bankers that created incentives for short-term profit taking. Many economists and politicians argue that bonuses need to be brought under control to reduce the risks to the banking system.

Jeffery Friedman and Wladimir Kraus argue against this view in their book called Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation. They argue that most incentive compensation was paid in equity-based bonuses. These bonuses generally had a vesting period of three to five years, meaning the time horizon of the recipient was constantly moving out as they accumulated equity. By the end of the boom, few individuals had a larger stake in the banks than their own employees. In the aftermath, many bankers lost more than they had earned during the boom. This casts doubt on the idea that bankers knowingly took short-term risk to boost their bonuses.

This confirms the understanding I have gleaned from the biographies of several leading bankers. My impression is that they totally misjudged the risks they were taking on. They did not knowingly take on short-term risk to boost their bonuses. They thought that they had their risks under control. They unwisely went into profit opportunities that they mistakenly assumed were risk free.

The problem was banker foolishness, not deliberate risk taking.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Blue Moon Prophets (2)

Understanding the times is important, but not enough. God needs prophets who can explain to God’s people what they should be doing.

When a people or nation have forgotten God and are letting evil take hold in their midst to bring them to their senses. He can only do that if a remnant has prepared for the shaking by building strong relationships with each other. When the world system is shaken, they will be able to support each other through the troubled times. Because they do not depend on to world system for their peace and security, they will be able to minister to the rest of the world from a position of strength.

One reason that the Kingdom is losing ground in many western countries is that Christians have failed to prepare. God has had to hold back judgement in many places, because his people are so wrapped up in the world system, that any serious shaking would destroy them along with the world. Unfortunately, this has allowed evil to get a much stronger hold in many situations.

When evil penetrates deeper into society, the shaking needed to dislodge it has to be much more severe. Because Christians have been unwilling to pay the price of preparing for shaking, God will eventually have to bring even more severe judgment to break evil in the western world.

Complacency due to desire for comfort during pivotal seasons leads to even greater disturbance. Amos described this problem in a prophecy against complacency.

You put off the day of disaster
and bring near a reign of terror (Amos 6:3).
When complacent Christians fail to prepare for the season the prophets are announcing, they put off disaster, but bring terror closer. If prophets warn of disaster, but do not tell their people how to prepare, they are setting them up for terror.

See preparing for Social Collapse.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Blue Moon Prophets

At the end of the month, several prophets and leaders gathered for a Blue Moon Conference in Franklin TN. I do not get to attend this type of conference, because I live on the other side of the world, so I do not know how effective the meeting was in hearing and delivering God’s word.

Many of these prophetic leaders have been saying that America is moving into a time of many disasters. They have been saying that 2012 is the pivotal year in this shift. I am not sure, if they are right, but something important seems to be missing from their message. There is no sign that American Christians know how to prepare for this season.

The men of Issachar are a good model for the prophetic.

From Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron 12:32).
They understood the times in which they were living. More important, they understood what the people should do to prepare for the times that were coming.

Understanding the times we are living in is really important, but if that is all the prophets know, it is not enough.

If 2012 is a year of transition, the God people need to know what they should be doing to prepare.

If the change will be as dramatic as the Blue Moon Prophets are saying, many existing supports will fall away. Social and political structures would collapse and the economy would nosedive. Churches that depend on expensive programmes and professional ministers would struggle to survive. For many people, life could become a battle for survival.

I hope that the Blue Moon prophets did not just talk about impending doom. I hope that they are working out what God’s people need to do prepare.
  • Building strongly relationships with people they trust.
  • Learning to share and support each other.
  • Putting effective spiritual protection in place.
  • Preparing to rescue and restore people who are broken and lost.
Prophets who understand the times should do tell people what they should be doing to prepare. If they don’t, they are just creating fear, which does not help anyone. In fact, if prophets do not know what the people should do, I would have to question whether they understand the times in which they are living.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Spring in Chistchurch

Spring has arrived in Christchurch.

This is the rhododendron that we brought with us when we moved to a different house in July. It seems to be very happy in its new place.

This camellia that came with it is beginning to flower too. I will have to keep the water up to them when it gets dry in the summer, but the move has been successful.

The bright colours of polyanthus are very cheerful.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Church Governance (28)

The most important question about governance is not who is in control? A new world is coming. Will the leadership of your church be able to cope with everything that the future brings.

  • Could your governance model cope, if the church had a 90 percent cut in income.
  • Would your church survive, if the pastor was arrested by the government.
  • What would happen to your church, if the government locked the doors of the church building and you were unable to meet in it.
  • Could your church leadership cope, if 30,000 people came to faith in the area where lived.
The New Testament church demonstrated that it could cope with all these challenges.


Well. That is more than enough on a topic that does not really exist. This full series can be found here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Church Governance (28)

A common teaching is that the ascension ministries are travelling consultants.

However the tasks described in the previous posts are basic stuff like building relationships and helping new Christians to grow. That is why they had to be of good character and proved themselves in running their households. Surely, these tasks have to be done by local leadership.

A travelling consultant cannot be effective in helping Christians grow in the Lord. City-wide leaders cannot teach difficult people to work together. A visiting prophet cannot teach people to get their lives in order. Only an elder with a close relationship can do these tasks. Equipping the saints for service must be done by elders who are local.

The problem is that many Christian leaders have gone into a regional or itinerant ministry and need a biblical justification for it. Rather than taking the plain meaning of Paul's letter, the word is twisted to fit their ministry. They look at their ministries, and assume that Ephesians 4 describes it, but if they read the passage carefully, they would see that it does not describe their ministry. A justification for non-local ministry just does not exist in Ephesians 4.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Church Governance (27)

Elders should replicate their ministries in their disciples (i.e. produce clones of themselves). This is an extremely important principle. Every person who has developed in a ministry should be training up several people in that same ministry. In this way the ministries of the church will multiply. Multiplication of ministry is as important as multiplication of membership.

Potential evangelists will tend to be drawn to the evangelist. Potential prophets will be drawn to the prophet. Potential pastors will be drawn to the pastors. They will learn all that they can from them. Each elder in a church should be developing some people who have potential to develop into a similar ministry. They should be training someone to replace themselves, if they are called to leave. Jesus said that everyone who is fully trained is like his master (Luke 6:40).

One test of the quality of a church is what has happened to a person who became a Christian in the church three years earlier. Are they functioning in a ministry (Jesus disciples were)? If they are not, then the church is not functioning correctly. Is there a development path for the new Christian? Can they expect to be functioning in a ministry within three years? This should be normal. (People who come to Christianity with severe problems may take longer to grow to maturity, but they should be on the same path).

The ascension gifts are for equipping others. The best way to be equipped for a ministry is to learn off someone who is further on, as Elisha learnt his ministry by following Elijah. An elder is just someone who has been serving Jesus a little bit longer, so new Christians should attempt to start where they left off. Elders should desire to see those who follow them go further than they have.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Church Governance (26)

The elders of a church must have balanced giftings.

Each elder will have one of the ascension giftings and all of these ministries should be represented in the eldership of the Church. One of the elders will be a prophet. One will be an evangelist. Several will be pastor-teachers. Some will need the giftings to be sent out as Apostles. All these ministries must be functioning together in unity for a Church to grow to maturity and unity.

Every Church must have one elder who is willing to ask the tough questions and ensure that there is an emphasis on holiness (prophet). Every Church needs an elder who has a passion for the lost and a gifting for sharing the gospel (evangelist). A Church also needs elders who can help new Christians grow to maturity and ensure that all members remain united (pastor-teacher). Every church needs at least one elder who is outward looking and adventurous (apostle).

A Church without a prophet is like a body with only one leg. A Church without an evangelist is like body with one arm. A Church without several pastor-teachers is like a body with no heart. A church without an apostle will become inward looking. If any of these giftings are missing from a Church, it will be unbalanced.

The ascension gifting do not relate together naturally. This creates a problem, because people with different giftings and personalities often do not get on well together. Most leaders find it easier to work with people like themselves. The strength of balanced leadership comes through elders committing to work with people they would not normally get on with.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 outlines a set of attitudes enables people with different personalities and giftings to work together. Elders who love each other will be willing to submit to each other. This is the key to their unity. Submission is hard to people who seeking power and control. Submission is only possible for people who love each other. Love is not easy, but if elders cannot love one another, they cannot expect Church members to do so. Commitment to love at the top will spread love throughout the body.

The best example of this unity is the Trinity. The Father said about the Son, "Listen to him". However, Jesus said he could only do what he saw the Father doing. He also said it was better for him to go away, so that the Spirit could come, but when the Spirit came, he gave glory to Jesus. Each member of the Trinity has absolute freedom and authority to exercise their perfect ministry. Yet each one honours and submits to the others. No one is in control. The Trinity demonstrates how three persons bound together by love can work together shared leadership.

To manifest the full glory of the Trinity, the church must have shared and balanced leadership. A church will be strong, when it is lead by a team of pastors, prophets and evangelist who are one, just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. They will be united by submitting to each other. Their submission will be powered by love.

Balanced leadership requires elders with diverse gifting to submit to each other in love. When love and submission are absent, one person tends to take control and dominates the others, or the leadership is paralysed by mistrust, division and bickering.

Ephesians 4 is not a description of high level ministries or an organisational structure; it is a description of how elders with complementary, but conflicting gifts can work together to strengthen the body of Christ. Paul was not concerned about giving status to church leaders, but ensuring that every Church has a balanced eldership.

One person cannot be Jesus. It takes at least four elders with different giftings to fully represent Jesus and accomplish his ministry.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Church Governance (25)

The principle of plurality of leadership is basic to the New Testament. Each church should be led by a team of elders (Acts 14:23). The minimum number would be three or four. A Church will be led by a group of elders working together.

The elders would all agree to submit to each other. None of the elders will make an important decision without the concurrence of the others. They will each give the others permission to speak into their lives to provide correction. All important decisions for the church will require a consensus among the elders. This principle of plurality of eldership provides covering and protection for the church. There will not be one elder who stands above the others. Having one leader at the top is both dangerous and unbiblical.

An example of this structure is found in the Church of Antioch, one of the most successful Churches in the New Testament. Luke tells us that in Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen and Saul (Acts 13:1). That is, there were five elders who led the Church together. There is no suggestion that one of these elders was the overall leader.

According to Acts 14:22,23, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every place where there was a group of disciples. This was all that was needed to make a group of disciples into a Church. Nothing more was needed. They never appointed a single pastor to take charge.

The number of elders in a church will be limited by their ability to have strong relationships with each other. Even though they have different ministries, they must have strong relationships with each other. Maintaining these relationships will be almost impossible if there are more than about five leaders. (They will also be maintaining relationships with six or seven people whom they are discipling.) One person cannot relate in this way to more than about twelve people. Therefore if the number of elders increases to more than about five or six, the relationships between them will weaken and the covering will be broken and the strength will be lost. The chinks in the relationships will allow evil to get in.

Plurality of leadership has not been taken seriously by the church. It has long been normal in the church to have one person, usually a pastor, as leader. Even churches with elders will have a senior elder or pastor. The common cry in the church is "We need a pastor" or "We need a leader". However, this desire for one man to lead is a consequence of the fall. Sinful people have a tendency towards slavery and domination (1 Samuel 8:6-9), but those who have been redeemed should have the same mindset.

The best example of this leadership style is the Trinity. The Father said about the Son, "Listen to him". However, Jesus said he could only do what he saw the Father doing. He also said it was better for him to go away, so that the Spirit could come; but the Spirit, when he came, gave glory to Jesus. Each of the members of the Trinity have absolute freedom and authority to exercise their perfect ministry. Yet each one honours and submits to the others. No one is in control. They demonstrate perfectly how three persons bound together by love can work together in perfect unity.