Article # four: Leadership
Larry Jones: When a Christian hears the word “leader” he ought not to think of a man, a group of men, church staff, a pastor, an elder, or denominational officers. He ought to think of Jesus Christ. (The Way It Is)
Church leadership has been turned into a complicated issue. Let’s look at Hebrews 13:7: Remember those who rule over you. A denominational line of reason: Hebrews 13:7 proves a) there are rulers, obviously us, and b) we are to be obeyed. Ahem! A few questions: Who defines who these leaders are? Suppose one disagrees with what the ‘ruler’ teaches/preaches/dictates?
Example: Ruler/Pastor Whoever insists you address him as Pastor Whoever. You know there is no Bible precedent, and you feel strongly such a dictate is an insult to Christ, your true pastor. Should you obey? (No!) Would obeying such a decree be disobedient to Christ? (Yes!) Should you feel free to tell others of your decision to place the word over traditional thought? (Certainly!)
There is an assumption (by the author of Hebrews) that the leader will only speak the truths of God. Submitting to those truths is submitting to the Lord. And it is assumed the reader would never knowingly obey an invalid word. We are responsible to the Lord Jesus to make a judgment to obey or ignore an elder/leader.
Let’s look again at Hebrews 13:7, this time the NIV: Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith.
Remember your leaders….. Support them. Who spoke the word of God to you….. A leader speaks the word of God. A leader is whosoever, whoever speaks the word of God. That’s what true “leaders” do. It is the Word you are obeying, i.e., the Lord, and not man. One becomes a leader by speaking the word of God (as the Holy Spirit so directs). Do not “remember” those who do not speak the word of God. Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith….. Do they love Jesus? Do they reverence His words? Are their lives exemplary? If yes, imitate their lives of commitment and faithfulness, obey as they obey, serve as they serve.
Do not be confused; you have one leader only. Jesus said so. “One is your Teacher (Leader), the Christ.” (Mat. 23:9) Leaders are under-leaders, leaders under Christ, those Christ leads through, teaches through. ‘Behind’ the canvass is an artist to be appreciated. ‘Behind’ the leader is a Leader to be honored.
A sister in the Lord admonishes the group to practice humility by considering others better than oneself. You know serving others has never been your strength. Should you obey even though this sister has no official position? (Yes!) Would ‘obeying’ her be obeying “your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you”? (Yes!) Would ignoring her words be disobedience to Christ? (Certainly!)
Let’s look at elders. An elder is one who has been a christian longer than most, and hopefully more established in the ways of the Lord. This makes him/her more accountable, just as older brothers and sisters in a family are more accountable than the younger.
There are elders who are good guys and elders who are bad guys. A true and faithful elder will always point to our Elder Brother, and cause obedience and focus to be to Him. An unfaithful elder will usurp the governorship of the Holy Spirit, and draw disciples unto himself. It undoubtedly was elders who led the church of Galatia astray, turning them from Christ to the law of Moses. Paul did not praise the Galatians for obeying “those who rule over” them, but scolded them severely.
In a marriage, the husband is the head of the wife under Christ. He has been given a position, an office. No such office has been given to elders in the church. In a family, mom and dad have been given a place of authority. Again, no such authority has been placed upon an elder (or pastor, prophet, teacher, etc.) An elder could be compared to an elder sibling. Considering him to be more than a sibling creates major problems.
A most important question to be decided by a house church is: WHO RULES? Who rules? is a crucial question. You must get it right – from the beginning. Christ rules via the Holy Spirit via whoever the Spirit should choose on any given occasion. As Christ rules the individual through the individual, he likewise rules the group through the group. Yes, He probably would choose to speak through/teach through/direct through the elder brothers and sisters more than the younger. If He truly is Lord of the house church, all will bow to His prerogatives, and none should be assuming.
Elders, because they are more influential, have the capacity to do much good. And harm. The young in Christ will not be followed and therefore can’t do much injury. But elders have the potential to lead astray, to draw disciples unto themselves, to pass on their idols, to use the group to fulfill their religious ambitions. A faithful elder will protect the lordship of Christ and the governorship of the Holy Spirit. He will never presume an authority he does not have.
In my opinion….. a healthy house church looks something like this: The group rules itself by consensus. (By consensus the group determines the will of the Lord Jesus – who is quite involved in the affairs of the group.) No one has an official capacity over another. A ROTATING coordinator may be selected as a practical means of determining the will of the group. The onus is upon all to make the house church a success. All bear the responsibility. Hopefully there will be one or more elders in the group who will give oversight. Giving oversight is being alert to warn the group when the group is going astray. (Going astray is becoming fixed on something or someone other than Jesus.) Elders are to influence by word and example; since most of what we learn is non-verbal, leading by example is a logical Bible decree.
You may find it interesting to know that the words elder and elders are not mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Why? Obviously elders were not recognized by Paul as possessing authority. What else can one conclude? Again, what else can one conclude? And did you know those two words, elder and elders, are likewise absent from his two instructional letters to the Corinthians? Nor can they be found in Paul’s scolding letter to the Galatians. Nor in his letters to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. The point is…..
Perhaps the role of the elder has been overplayed in house churches.
But Paul did have much to say about “one another” ministry. And his letters indicate he had a rule-by-consensus mentality. Notice his letters were addressed to the entire church. If you were affiliated with one of those churches you would have been equally responsible with all others to judge Paul’s comments and instructions. Still not convinced? Read again the words of Christ Himself to the seven churches (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3) always directed to the entire church.
C h a l l e n g e : A house church, like a marriage and a family, is an impossibility without Christ. You know, however, all things are possible with God. Look to God.
P r a y e r : Father, most of us have at least some fear of man. I acknowledge publicly a fear of man. Please deliver us all. Redeem us from this curse. And Father, bless this article! In His name! (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)