Thursday, October 2, 2008

Authority and the Church P. II

Once again, for your delectation and delight, TJG's comments will be in red and mine will be in black.

"Any leadership function or role that one has presumed to fulfill if not based on a foundation that is rooted in the truth then can we give our approval?"

I think you may be missing some words in your question. I think I get the gist of it but I don't want to risk misinterpreting you; can you re-work the question so I can think about it, and offer an answer?

"But first let’s look at ways that Christian leaders function contrary to the word of God. The most obvious role that leaders depart from the scriptures is the prominent place of Christ amongst God’s people.

"They speak on the behalf of the Holy Spirit and stop the mouths of the saints by not allowing them to minister. This passive pew devotee is weakened not strengthen in his spiritual walk through his own inactivity and order of the meeting that both the leadership and the people (not all) have agreed to."

You know, I want to make it clear, my friend, that I'm asking these questions, and making these comments not because I want to fight, or discourage. I'm asking because I want to make sure that as Christians, whether we meet in homes, or in Church buildings, charity dominates our perspectives, not moralisms.

There are a brace of reasons why the traditional church would pooh-pooh the notion of house church, and visa versa. In the end, I really have to make the point that it doesn't matter. As Christians we are to embrace each other lovingly, and with humility. Enumerating wrongs is a matter for people of sounder judgment than me, and as long as we're able to "dwell together in unity" I'm under no obligation to crusade for one format being better than another.

Having said that, can we agree on the following (about leadership speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit): human agency is about God using people to speak/write His words? If so, then we know that that arrangement is always, and logically, an 'on behalf of' arrangement. The only way it can't be is if God speaks to us Himself. Even the Bible is an 'on the behalf of' arrangement: it's a text recording the inspired words of God, but it is not God Himself.

I agree with you though, that brandishing a position removed from the common aspect of the congregation, and dominating the time for sharing God's Word every week is reprobate. Interestingly, the Lutheran Church in the North Americas, up until about the late 1800's, used a very interactive sermon format: the pastor would preach, and the congregation was free to ask questions, and add Scriptural references, or information as they were led to. In that scenario (which I personally enjoy), the leader is funtioning in such a manner as to keep watch over the congregation's souls (Heb. 13:17). This is how the Catholic Church used to preach in their early days, too. St. Augustine was famous for it, in fact.

"The same spiritual reality in the Old Testament when the people asked for a king that he might go before them and fight their battles applies today. Those people rejected the headship of God to lead them directly, so it is today, men have their minister not the Holy Spirit to lead them directly together."

I may have talked past your point on the issue of a king the last time I wrote about it. I understand that you are suggesting the position of a pastor, bishop, what have you, in today's modern churches is simply a political figurehead, the guy that rules the roost. Unfortunately, I can't disagree with you on the current practice of ministers -- that they're political leaders towing a denominational line. In that sense, you are right that they are treated as if they are kings.

I'm not sure that I could simply make my brush strokes so wide from that admittance, however, that I could conclude "therefore all ministers in modern churches are just kings usurping the place of Christ in His congregations." Like I said previously, some of these men are God-fearing, sincere men who live to serve and teach; it's what makes their hearts beat. They do not consider themselves kings, nor do they act like them even when they are nominated to be one by a group of Christians who are unaware that they've got a wrong perspective on how a minister should minister. They're simply men who move within the body of Christ teaching, loving, and sharing; they are exemplars.

"This kind of listening fosters spiritual infants, since only a child must be feed and can not feed himself. The purpose of ministry is to mature the saints, edify the body of Christ and bring them to be the fullness in Christ. (Eph.4:11-14)"

I must disagree with you here, flat-out. First, there are many exemplars (saints) of the faith that have come out of the churches you are accusing of fostering 'spiritual infants'. In fact, they are too numerous to list here. Add to their numbers all the theologians, apologists, martyrs, wise ole grannies and grandpas, etc. You mix all those people together and you've got a good batch of people who've come through the 'spoon-feeding' church, and grown into people even you and I can look up to.

Second, the format of today's churches, granted, can and often does lead to a lack of substantial teaching, and discipleship. However, it is not the sole responsibility of the people around a believer to bring that person into the fulness of the faith; it is also that believer's responsibility. So if a person is not pursuing understanding outside the format of a given church, it is hardly the fault of the church that person is attending. Hence any believer can foster spiritual infancy if they wrecklessly, negligently, and needlessly stay in an infantile state.

"These leaders promote the clergy laity division which is a lie."

Please establish this argument from Scripture and history.

"These leaders nullify the functioning priesthood of the believer through their exclusiveness."

Recall that historically, it was the people who called for someone out of their midst to act in an exclusive role. People wanted to be led. People still want to be led. From that, it can be argued that the historic priesthood of believers nullified themselves. So now what?

"There is a tendency for these leaders to foster family ties and promote themselves (son,daughter,etc) through the financial benefits they receive."

This has always been the case. Nepotism is something that accompanies many organized peoples. It's next to unavoidable, really. Nevertheless, it does, you're right, set up a tangled web of preferential relationships rather than a wholistic, biblical qualification to leadership.

"They do not produce might men or valor. They take a name for themselves showing their carnality through dividing themselves from the rest of the body of Christ. (1 Cor.3: 1-3 )"

Again, the 'mighty men' and the 'valour' you write about: there are pages and pages of countless volumes of mighty men, and men and women of valour who have been swaddled, indoctrinated, and rasied in the churches you regard as sub-standard, or misleading, or whatever descriptor you want to place on them.

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