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Posts Tagged ‘Church Leadership’

Its The Remix Baby #17

1 Peter 5:1-3

5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd preach to the flock of  God that is among you, exercising oversight authority from the pulpit, not under compulsion with pay and benefits, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being  this is how you are to be examples to the flock. (ESV Study Bible, Evangelical Standard Version)

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Most of you who read here belong to a traditional church of some sort. I want to first say I am not against the “traditional” church, though I disagree with them on many critical issues, especially over the last 9 months. I guess I would also struggle with most of the house guys if they begin to isolate and insulate themselves from others in any divisive manner. I think in some sense many traditional churches, regardless of how hard they try, will begin to lose the family aspect of the New Covenant Community especially once they cross the line of around 100 members. Then once we throw in buildings, mortgages, pastor salaries,  employment positions (I wonder how much you would charge your child or brother, or mother or sister to serve them 8) ) the Church loses the motif clearly presented in scripture and begins to function sort of like an organization/corporation/entity versus a loving close knit family eager to love and serve one another for the greater good of that member! However, this is not an apologetic for the way to do church but an eager plea to pastors/elders/shepherds/bishops or any other name one will take as the leader(s) in the local church.

What do you mean by masquerade Lionel? Great question! Glad you asked! If you have ever had the experience of attending a masquerade ball you will know exactly what I mean. Everyone dresses up in ball room attire, and it is meant be a social and interactive gathering; however, there is one spin! You all have on masks, thus I really never get to see you for who you are. For example if someone were really good at disguising their voice they could easily become someone else, though you may know them quite well. Or to put it another way, you never really get to know me, because you never really see me for who I truly am. The mask keeps you at bay thus I have real chance at being found out, unless I take the mask off and expose myself.

I think for the most part this can describe many Churches and their is a weekly ball! Everyone comes with their masks on and they use them to keep you at bay. So we waste all of our time and give our money, and read our bibles and sit next to each other, sing the same songs, listen to the sermons, pray the same prayers, recite the same liturgy, shake hands, park in the same parking lot, exchange the same pleasantries, even serve one another by ushering, deaconing, pastoring, leading worship, being parking lot attendants and even keeping one another’s children in the day care, all the while never getting to know each other because the masks stay on.

Think about it, what if you were a child born into a family where everyone wore masks? At the wedding the bride and groom wore masks, at home they sleep with their masks on, they eat dinner with their masks on, have children and the children wear masks so the other brothers and sister don’t get to see them. We would label that family at best weird at worst lunatics! But it happens every Sunday and pastors are the big reason why! I know, I know, Lionel you are making sweeping and broad assumptions! But the truth is in a recent study it showed that 80% of pastors have no relationship with those in the church they pastor, another 10% have very little relationship (they are a little more hospitable, but the masks never come off) and the rest had some form of relationship but not where they would like to be.

Why you ask? It is simple! The pastor is considered the spiritual leader in the congregation. I was reading something and it said that the pastor should be careful not to fraternize too much, if so, they may risk their authority! What the heck  (I would prefer another word)!!!!  I wonder how that works? I wonder what America would look like if the husband said “I only will fraternize with my wife to produce children and to set our yearly budget”?! But in most local churches the only relationship the pastor has with those he pastors is when he is leading some type of discipleship class! Nothing on any meaningful level. Though he teaches and proclaims the necessity of community we find him lacking in his own life.

So what do I mean about the perpetuating of the masquerade? You are asking really good questions! If I am correct in this analysis my thesis will prove to be correct, if not then what follows fails. So, here we go. Relationships=Vulnerability! Or Relationships=Authenticity! Or Relationships=Knowing and being know! If I can’t know you I can’t have a relationship with you, from the true sense of the word. I may be around you, we may do a bunch of stuff, we may even get much benefit from one another but we don’t have a relationship. Because we don’t have a relationship our commitment to one anothers development stops where we can no longer benefit from one another. That is why CEO’s and Managers, and Athletes, and even what we label friendships today are like revolving doors.  Sine I can’t receive any real benefit from you I no longer need you. Because this is only about how you benefit my selfish desires then that will be the extent of our relationship. If that sounds like a family then it is the epitome of dysfunctional!!!!!

So pastors by not allowing those whom they shepherd to see failure,  to give insight to their lives, to not let them see you lose it with the kids, argue with your wife, to not allow them to see that no, you don’t have all the answers (unlike our good brother Hannegraf), to not allow them to see you struggle and to keep your distance both relationally, and from even opening your life for accountability and constructive criticism on this journey, or in other words, to make it seem like you have arrived (though Paul says I “press”), is to force the congregation you are responsible for shepherding to also relate in the same way. The brokenness, the struggles, the burdens, the late nights, the fear of unanswered prayer, and the real wrestle with Jesus and all He is, is what your congregation needs to see.  You really do set the tone, especially today in the world where our pastors are second only to celebrities.

Its funny (as in odd) to me that a pastor wakes up one day and just walks away from it all. I have actually seen this praised by those in the House Church as burn out is the mark of one “really seeing the light”. However if this catches his congregation by surprise there is some intrinsically wrong. That wrong is that this pastor has perpetrated the Game Show Host shepherdship that plagues many churches today. Again and that is why in many of churches, husbands and wives smile every Sunday and sing the songs, and hold hands and rub each other back and next week they have different apartments. This is why a parent has to surprise the congregation with the news that their son is in rehab, that they are about to lose their home, that they are separating because the husband has been caught too many times with pornography, or that they are embarrassed because their oldest daughter just moved in with her lesbian lover!

Sunday after Sunday we listen to nice sermons and sing Christ Centered songs and we are dying at alarming rates. People are leaving their fellowships, they hate one another, they are looking for the first reason to leave and that is because the Church is not a loving family struggling through life together but a Masquerade where all the masks are smiling faces and pretty clothes.

I close with this. If you are a pastor or aspiring to be a pastor I have some words of wisdom. Your congregation needs to know you and you need to know them. If you find yourself more comfortable at a “shepherd’s” conference around other church leaders than those whom should be your family that is a problem. If you feel more comfortable with the church leadership than you do with the new disciple that is a problem. If you would rather hide your life behind your sermons, pulpit and authority versus spend your life loving, serving and being held accountable by the newest of Christian, then that is a problem. You may be a really good bible teacher, you may know theology really well, you may even be a good leader from the world’s perspective (many church leaders today) but you are not a shepherd. You are only contributing to a problem that seems to make Christianity a thing to do on Sunday or a set of beliefs to regurgitate but not be lived. You are inviting people to the masquerade and they will only continue to dress up and wear the mask and community will be more elusive as ever.

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This is not a post to minimize or degrade the work of a Pastor. At all! But it is a genuine post about things I wrestle with. Especially as of lately (6 months or so maybe 9 months). As I struggle through what it means to be a Christian, how I am to live as a Christian and how I am to live and serve with others who are Christian, I usually end up with more questions than answers. Most of those questions is due to what I was taught to believe and why I should believe it. One of those questions that keep coming up is leadership within Christianity. Notice I didn’t say local church. Paul was an Apostle in Galatia just as he was an Apostle in Ephesus. So again I am trying to blend what happened in scripture to what happens today. So I have drafted some questions, or thoughts, ramblings, and such. If you are a pastor, was a pastor or desire to be a pastor I would love to hear from you.

1. What makes you a pastor?

2. Why should I submit to you as a pastor?

3. Are you just a pastor in the church you are in or in other churches also? If so how?

4. As a pastor what is your job?

5. Why did you decide to become a pastor?

I ask those questions genuinely. Here is why. Today there are many people who call themselves pastors and they use the bible as their defense. The problem is they don’t become Pastors (I use that interchangeably with Elders because that is the norm today) the way the bible sets up pastors. In 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul goes and tells Timothy and Titus to select elders to lead those congregations. They were actually commissioned by Paul. Who commissions such a task today? I guess I am asking who appointed the person who appointed you and can you trace back to those Timothy and Titus selected? If not then why should you be a pastor?

The next two questions are why should I submit to you? Or better yet why shouldn’t you submit to me? Is it more bible knowledge? Today in 99.9% of Reformed or Bible circles that is the answer. Seminary separates the haves from the have nots or the leaders from the nonleaders. But the question again is why should I or anyone else submit to you? And what if we decide not to? I am not against seminary as I think it enlightens many towards the great doctrines of God. The next question is what if a Pastor from another church comes in to your church? Do you submit to him? If not why? Should I submit to an elder from another congregation that isn’t associated with mine? Isn’t an Elder in the Church of God in Christ an elder in the Baptist church since we are one “universal” Church?

4. The next question is what is your job as a Pastor? Is it what the church that pays you draw up as a job description? What do you do that makes you a pastor or better yet is what you do make you a pastor or is it your “position” or “office’ that make you do what you do? Would you do what you do if it were not in your job description or if you weren’t paid to do it? By the way why should you get paid? What is it that you do, that other Christians should do and if nothing why aren’t they paid for it? Shouldn’t we pay Sunday School teachers and other Christians who visit sick Christians and study their bible and pray for the church and teach other Christians? What exactly do you do or don’t do for that matter that makes you a pastor?

5. Finally what makes you a pastor? Did someone tell you that? Was it some warm and fuzzy feeling that made you say “I want to get paid to be a Christian”? Did someone in school convince you of this? Was it someone at your church that convinced you that you should do this “professionally” and go to school to validate it? Did people come to you and say “hey we want you to be our leader”? Did you take the initiative in becoming a pastor? Did your church nominate you due to your work of service there? Or did a group of elders like the amount of information you had and suggested you take the next step? Why do you do what you do? Would you do it all for free (like Jesus LOL).

Again these are genuine questions as I discern God’s call on my life. I don’t know if I should be a pastor or if I shouldn’t. I have been told I should go to seminary in one group of churches because of my passion in other churches (Charismatic circle) I took Jesus and holiness seriously (I was quite the legalist and still can be, got to put that dude under the cross) so they would prophesy over me and say I will be a preacher one day. I guess we all come to this crossroads and wanted to know from you: when, where, why and how!

I guess I see no real reason to “become” a pastor officially but I see many reasons to pastor functionally. I see no real reason to do this professionally when I can do this function while holding a normal job, thus having more opportunities to pastor more people. I see no special calling other than a gifting to shepherd but this again seems more functional to me. Other than the great burden of serving others like Jesus: washing their feet, healing them, feeding them, protecting them even at the cost of one’s own life, and a “desire” (as Paul writes) to do such a thing, I don’t understand why anyone would want this task.

So pastor! What makes you a pastor really if it is Jesus is it revocable? Is Jesus an Indian (excuse the word) giver? I anticipate your responses.

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Today leadership is in the forefront of the discussion on ecclesiology. Mostly the fact of “submitting” to such leadership. The verse that is typically used is found in Hebrews, particularly verse 17. Here it is:

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I have posted a couple of posts about this. But reading it again I think there is something that I missed. The subject is “your leaders”. You see today, we have men who call themselves leaders. This leads to a genuine question. Exactly how is leadership established in the local church, and who MUST a Christian submit to and obey? I think this is where it gets muddy. So I am going to write what I think and I would love the interaction of others who have wrestled with this.

Exactly who does other believers have to submit to and on what basis should they submit. What constitutes a leader? How do I know if this person is really a leader and I should be submitting to them? What if I don’t want to submit to them? When should I not submit to them? Am I free to ignore them? Would I be in sin if I don’t submit to someone who I don’t believe I should submit to? These are serious questions and questions I don’t know if we ever really consider.

What if a person tells me I should submit to them? What do I do? What litmus test should I take them through to ensure they really are God’s leaders? Seminary? Calling? Affirmation from other leaders (this seems to be the case of Paul’s assistants and fellow co-workers)? Mere position? Many people call themselves leaders? That leadership is established many ways. Lets look back at the verses leading up to verse 17:

Heb 13:1;7

13:1 Let brotherly love continue

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Paul (??) is writing this Church about brotherly love. The first imperative is to “let brotherly love continue”. Next he goes to a personal application of what this brotherly love would look like. One is “remembering” those who spoke the word to them. If my assumption is right, to “speak” the word may have put their lives in danger. Given the fact that the reason this letter was written was to encourage wavering ethnic Jews from running back to the Old Covenant because of severe persecution. This is why Paul reminds them that Christ went outside of the camp and bore shame and they were to also go outside.

Given the fact that these leaders had served them even in the face of death wouldn’t it be expected that they would follow their service and not make ministering to them difficult. They had proven that they were worth following not by mere position and not by being in authority, but by risking their very lives to preach the Gospel to them. Many had lost homes and jobs, but instead of shrinking away they were empowered by the Spirit to preach the word even as death stared them in the face.

Any man who risks his life, loses his job, home and maybe even his family, to bring me the good news is worthy of being followed. This had to be extremely difficult. This had to be heart-breaking, discouraging, even demoralizing so then Paul says:

Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Why make ministering any more difficult than it was? I think one way of making it difficult was that they were begining to question them about Jesus’ ministry and the validity of the Gospel. They started to question if Jesus was really enough, which Paul explains quite clearly from Chapters 1-10. Many of these leaders had seen the gathering shrink (Heb 10:25) due to this questioning and persecution. So Paul admonishes them not to forsake the gathering (this isn’t church membership and tithing folks). They were probably hearing “if Jesus isn’t sufficient then why should we meet”.

So in closing, this is the type of example that is to be followed. These men stared death in the face and is spite of losing it all they continued to preach the wonderful sufficiency of the Lord Jesus. So this is relational, example like, servant leadership. Not men who have went to school and have been transplanted. Not men who have been accepted by a theological party, but men on their own initiative who would minister the Gospel regardless of the risk, most likely for FREE not at a salary package, not if you could only offer them enough money, not for gain! Those who had come to know Jesus were questioning them and began to make ministry hard for them. They may had begun to reconsider theri faith (this is why there are so many warnings in this book, warnings about falling away) so Paul encourages them by rebuking the Church and telling them to go outside the camp where Jesus bears the shame of sin! Not the safety of the Old Covenant that was powerless, obsolete and left void by God. To turn back meant nothing, to turn back was to be like Israel in Numbers 14, to turn back was to turn away from the very God that they say they wanted. No turning away wasn’t the option and these leaders most likely fought with them and reasoned with them and labored among them to show them the truth of Jesus Christ and the recipients of this letter had begun to ignore them.

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Here is how Peter exhorts the Elders in 1 Peter 5:

not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock

I wonder where he got that from maybe someone who was dear to him said this:

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you.

In the ESV I don’t why they translate the word differently it is the same word “katakyrieuō” which means “to bring under one’s power, to subject one’s self, to subdue, master”.  Peter repeats the exact phrase that Jesus told him back when He was talking about the greatness, servant, Kingdom stuff.

So the question is this. As leaders, how are we to get people to do what we think they should be doing? I guess this could be a two-fold discussion not that I am writing this. The first being how do we get people to obey God, the other is how do we get people to submit to our ideas? Wow, this could be a scary discussion. I guess I now have a third question. Should we expect people to submit to our ideas and if so which ideas? If anyone is up for that discussion, we can open up a floodgate of opinions on that I believe.

Anyway, back to the original program. Calvin who constructed this LEADERSHIP acrostic (I just added my flavor to it) loves pictures and illustrations. I believe he was on the money on this one (he usually is on 99% of the stuff). As we read this one chapter letter/book we are mesmerized by Paul’s writing style. He spends the first few verses encouraging and even praising Philemon for his work in the ministry, he then, with great agility, cuts to the left and says “accordingly… I could command you”. I wonder what Philemon is thinking when he reads this sentence.  I bet his smile, turn into a deep curiosity of what he could be commanded to do. Then Paul says “however I appeal to you”. It is funny that Paul uses the word love three times in 8 verses, not to mention words like joy, comfort and refreshment to open Philemon’s heart. This type of communication can only come from a seasoned leader who is full of wisdom I suppose.

So Paul appeals to Philemon for what? The words that follow must have hit like a ton of bricks dropped from a 200 story building. He says “my son Onesimus”. We get from the letter that Onesimus was a slave (yes a slave Chuck), of Philemon, how he became a slave is not important for this discussion and we can only speculate anyway. We also get that Onesimus ran away and most likely stole from Philemon (Paul promises Philemon that he would repay him) on the way out the door (these equate to a pretty bad beat down if not Capital Punishment under Roman Law). So Paul appeals to Philemon not to just forgive Onesimus (and not have him punished or killed) but to accept him as a brother in the Lord and a co-laborer with the Apostle.

Just think about it, Onesimus is sitting beside Paul as he is writing this letter and Paul tells Onesimus “you must go back and reconcile this issue”. Even if Onesimus has great confidence in Paul there has to be so level of fear that Philemon may “backslide”reject Paul’s appeal and have Onesimus punished. Think about the slaves who saw Onesimus knocking on the door. What about those who were eating dinner over Philemon’s home. What about the neighbors, who hear the rumors of Onesimus fleeing. This was risky and as dangerous as a mine field and Paul says “I appeal to you”, when he could have commanded such a thing.

So what does this say to us as leaders. As Peter and Jesus says “we are not to be lords over one another”. Our method of dealing with things should be to appeal. In our top heavy churches this could be hard to put in practice. Mostly when leadership wants something done they command it, unlike Paul. Verses such as Hebrews 13:17 are quoted. Some of our heavy handed and authoritarian brothers take it a bit further ( I was in a church like this). We were taught not to question and “lording it over” was an understatement. The picture of a biblical leader and the way we deal with differences is to “appeal”. Never to lord, never to manipulate (it is funny when something needs to be built or purchased the manipulation method that is used). As a matter of fact I believe the latter (manipulation) is the more common method today. When funds are low, bring up some verses to manipulate, when we want people to buy into the vision, we manipulate. I believe the lording over may be more of an extreme pentecostal method, but none the less neither method is the way biblical leaders are to get things done.

I would add this (but will not teach this in my local assembly). I believe this method of appeal is to be used to generate consensus on all decisions in the local body. I guess I would be considered a big congregationalist with this perspective. But I believe that consensus is the the biblical model on making decisions in the local church. Even with plurality of elders or with the senior pastor/deacon model, appealing is not necessary. Why? Because the people have no say in the day to day business of the church and even if they do the “board” has full veto power. I don’t agree with this one bit. Each member of the local body has 100% stake in every decision. It is funny that most of decisions that are made are never made by the church, it is made behind closed door and if you disagree you can either deal with it or find another church regardless of the sacrifices you made to see this local assembly flourish and that is sad to me. However that goes back to the every member church, which I believe to be rare to nonexistent today.

In closing lets appeal like our brother Paul. We are not be lords but fellow brothers, and our example (1 Peter 5) should be what allows our other brothers and sisters to willing submit themselves to us. If it is done with a lording over mentality I promise you your decision, regardless of how beneficial it is, is not of God, it is not Holy Spirit driven but man centered and worldly.

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In his book “A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile“. Jon Zens says this in reference to pastors and fellowship:

“Since pastors can’t usually find meaningful relationships among those closest to them, where do they turn? The ordained must leave their parish and attend gatherings of other ordained people. This accounts for the existence and proliferation of Ministerial Associations, Clergy Conferences, Clergy husband/wife retreats, and ministries to troubled church leaders. The clergy/laity divide creates a situation in which those on top can only find camaraderie with others in the same profession” (pg 36)

The fiber, backbone, driver, and engine of leadership is relationships. Take these words from Paul to the Thessalonicans:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

He then goes on a few verses later and says “like a father with his children”.  Let me say if we get this wrong we get everything about the leadership Jesus talks about wrong. Jesus slept, ate, prayed, traveled with His disciples, even to the point of washing their feet. But if the quote above by Jon Zens is correct we see something that is the polar opposite and it dominates our churches.

Let me tell you why this happens. Religious Education, Church Offices, Pulpits, Hierarchical Structures, and the professionalization of the “pastorate” contributes greatly to this if it is not 99% of the reason this exists. As long as I am a Shepherd over Sheep versus a Shepherdly Sheep this problem will never cease. As long as I am identified by titles (reverend, pastor, minister, elder, deacon or the wacky ones such as bishop, apostle, superintendent, prophet or the like) instead of relationships I will never be deemed “the mature among equals” but I will consistently perpetuate a chasm that never narrows.

As Paul meets with the Elders in Ephesus (Acts 20) and he tells them that he would never see them again, you get one clear picture. They loved this man. They hug and kiss him and then they weep. We will fire a pastor if he isn’t performing (bringing in revenue in the name of people). Paul uses two of the most intimate familial relationships to express his love to the whole church in Thessolonica. We can’t miss this. If your leadership is defined by a title, position or function instead of your relationship to people you are no different than the way the Gentiles functioned. 

Listen, Jesus goes as far as to say “who are my mother, brothers or sisters”. Read this quote from Jon Zens for me:

Secondly, in the “clergy system” Bible School/Seminary graduates are imported into churches. They enter the “pastoral search” routine by coming to a church, preaching their best sermon, going through an interview, receiving a “call” from the assembly, and then accepting this “call”. Such a method functionally bypasses the knowledge of a person gained through relationships in the body. It is important to realize that in the New Testament, leaders emerged from within a believing community. (pg 51)

This is well to common in our churches and passes by with little to no scrutiny. How would Timothy and Titus know who were the mature believers to select as elders? The people would have known and would have been following these people. Remember elders came post church plant not pre church plant. I think we read our 21st century mentality into much of this. Timothy and Titus was SENT to ordain Elders in churches that had people functioning as elders. Notice they didn’t go to “make” elders Timothy and Titus didn’t bring guys they knew to function as the leaders of those congregations they elected them from among the people. People who were already functioning at the level Paul had described in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. And these things would have been impossible without relationship.

The people in Ephesus and Crete would have had intimate details about their lives. They would have played with their kids, ate each others food, worked beside them, and served with them. They would have saw the good, bad and the ugly and would have been able to trust them as they both grew and functioned in their giftedness. They would have known that these men loved them and cared for them, because they would have already been doing it. Listen, we can functions as leaders in a “church” I can begin working on my seminary degree and immediately walk into a church and be appointed some type of intern “position”. I may do well, but we will never see the type of maturity, equipping, inter-dependency, sacrificial love, support, and mutual edification that Paul describes in the New Testament. The people will always function as laity and the pastors as clergy and we will fall short of the New Testament pattern that the Reformers fell short in. That is their ecclecisology. If we are to lead like, Christ, Paul, Peter and John, if we as older men and women will be able to use terms such as “as a father or mother” or “my beloved children” or “my dear children” then it will take relationships. Us opening our homes and our lives. Allowing those we lead to see us function as human beings not as “clerical robots” saying the right things at the right time. If our relationships are outside of the body that we are “called” to lead then all we become is CEO’s, Presidents, Offices and never brothers and sisters and that misses what the New Testament and our Master calls us to.

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Here is the verse:

3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task

The questions:

1. Is anyone “called” to the ministry as the phrase is commonly used?

2. Is there a difference between a pastor and an elder? (this will cause us to examine Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Peter 5 in concert).

3. Given what Paul writes for qualifications what exactly is the first prerequisite?

4. Why do we believe that “pastoring” is a “special” calling instead of an aspiration?

5. Finally does this effect our ecclesiology at all?

Derrick and Michael (MSAMU) have been talking quite a bit on this issue and I wanted to provide them a platform to express their ideas. I don’t know what you guys believe about Ephesians 4:11 but I have seen you both quote it quite a bit. To those who carry the title of pastor do you feel that you were called or that this was something you aspired to? Alan if you around I would love your take on this. I am sure you have written on it before. Lance and Joe you guys have been gracious and detailed in your perspective hopefully this will help us keep the conversation going.  Hutch you have been giving me fresh eyes on this so I know you have a bunch to add. This should be enjoyable. Now any takers?

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