Faith & Encouragement

We’re all adults here…

January 10, 2009

So, in line with my last post about organic fellowship….

Someone please, biblically, experientially,  using interpretive dance… I don’t care.  Just defend the position that the role of one man up front, talking endlessly on a variety of subjects while the Body corporate sits quietly in their pew drinking it all in.

Explain and defend the “spiritual authority” of elders and pastors, as we have named them and why the Body is told to submit to them at a higher level than we are to submit to one another.

Example:   The pastor rebukes the women in the congregation for dressing too sexy during the summer months and tells the men they should pray more and he’s taking risks and loving us enough to hold us accountable while the mom/dad/friend/sister/brother who says the same thing is judging you and not loving you….  I don’t make this stuff up.  True story.   Less than 3 months ago.

I know pretty much where I stand on this….  Do you?  Disagree?  Tell me why.

I guess I’m pickin’ for a fight.

  • Boysmom

    Yeah, I’ve never been able to figure that one out, either.

  • Well, that wasn’t much of a fight! 😛

  • I agree, but then, I am a known troublemaker. I have already been rebuked by the session and removed from the rolls. It was a close vote saving me from excommunication.

    So perhaps you don’t want me on your side on this.

  • Sorry, no fight from me either. I couldn’t agree more..

  • Sycophants. All of you. 😛

  • aw

    Ahem. Me me me me me Ahem. (With right hand extended and left hand on hip, AW starts her dance)

    I’m. A little tea pot. Short and Stout. Here is my handle, here is my spout. When I get all Steamed up – Hear me SHOUT. Tilt me over and Pour ME out. 🙂

    (waiting for applause – it was a wonderful dance)

    The body teaches me to love the unloveable. Pastors teach me that man is HU-man. Church teaches me that the only perfect leader is Christ. The Body shows me where I lack patience and love. The Word tells me to be submissive – but not ignorant. Back yard bbq’s are wonderful for a gathering of friends, dear and near, like minded.

    The greatest mentorships I have had have been found in the Body. The greatest friendships I’ve made have been found from corporate gatherings. The hardest rejection has come from some of the same people. Some of the MOST difficult rejection has come from the back yard BBQ people. The Church shows me where I lack. and reminds me that I am human too. And- when I’m full of myself – its usually when I get upset – and spit out. Thats when the Lord Pours Me Out of Me. and I realize – the Corporate Church is needed.

    What no more applause?

  • I worship in a Presbyterian Church. The model that is the structure of authority is not Pastoral authority but the authority of elders who are elected by the congregation. And our elders only serve three years and then have to skedaddle off the board for at least a year. Plus we have 15, five of whom rotate off each year, so that makes the concentration of power more difficult to accomplish.

    The model of the guy up front is not necessarily a bad one; in churches like mine where ordination is a long and challenging process and where a seminary education is involved, presumably (not always, I fully recognize that) the pastor has spent more time and research wrestling with the Scriptures and so may have things to teach the rest of us who have logged considerably fewer hours in that pursuit. This does not mean that the pastor has the final say, as Presbyterians believe that G-d speaks to the conscience of the believer. Again, not always perfect, but that’s the set-up. Just because a person has studied Scripture, it doesn’t mean that their interpretation is the right one.

    The pastor is accountable to the elders; the elders are accountable to the congregation who elects them.

    Any situation where power is concentrated on one person or a few people who hold power indefinitely and who are not accountable to anyone but themselves is clearly a path towards trouble, as your experience has shown.

    We have had to deal with a pastor who was not doing his job; that falls to the Personnel Committee who are mostly elders (and who also rotate off every three years). But they have the power to reprimand the pastor, and in one case in our church, to ask him to resign. But it is a power that is used carefully and with the supervision of the remainder of the board of elders.

    It is a good structure; not perfect, as people are not perfect. But it is a structure that distributes power and creates accountability.

  • Jason


    To me, the problem with any model which includes one “man up front,” creates an automatic split between the laity and the leadership. When a group of people sit and listen to one person, it creates an environment of passivity and a lack of involvement by the congregation and elevates the pastor/teacher. Personally, sitting in a building for two hours, listening to a worship team and then a preacher, is not fellowship. There’s no interaction, no ability to ask questions, no ability to comment, no ability to challenge, no ability to exercise my gifts. The leadership leads the service, while the congregation sits and takes it all in.

    We have erroneously believed for centuries now that just because someone can preach, that automatically qualifies them to be a pastor. Being a pastor is a spiritual gift, and one that includes shepherding, compassion, and care of others. It does not mean that person preaches. All you have to do is look at the history of the church, and it’s clear that our traditions of how we do church, leadership, buildings, etc., are all derived from Paganism – the Roman and Greek cultures. I personally believe that the church culture focuses so much on pastors/teachers/elders that the rest of the gifts within the body are often ignored.

    There is nothing in the Scriptures – anywhere! – that supports this kind of model. The early Christians did not meet in buildings, and they didn’t have a “pastor.” They were all seen as priests. Yes, there were elders. But these men were appointed due to their knowledge, age, and life experience. Their job was basically to help raise up the younger believers, by mentoring them, and helping them see their own gifts. The leadership style (elders & pastor) that we know of today, was non-existent in the early church. An elder or leader in the early church was never seen as one who was “above” or had a “special” calling. Someone who is a teacher, prophet or elder by nature, holds no more importance in the body than the meek woman who loves to cook and show hospitality to others. Human nature loves to give more credence to certain gifts – God doesn’t.

    No matter how much power even a board of elders has over a pastor, it still creates a situation where church members look to one person to teach, guide, mentor, lift-up, etc. As long as there is a one-man, CEO model in the church, the burden of church life will always fall onto that one man. No wonder there are so many problems in the church. No man or woman was ever meant to carry such a weight by him/herself.

    I’d also ask how the following can happen in a church service, where only the “active” role is being played out by the leadership:

    1 Corinthians 14:26-33

    26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
    29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

    I’ve never seen this in all my life attending church. Participation by the congregation is minimal at best. Some might argue that we should meet in small groups for a more intimate experience. But let’s face it, small groups attached to a church still function the same. There’s usually a leader who sets the tone and keeps the meeting functioning. Even though there is more room to comment or share, people rarely function in their God-given gifts. Honestly, what would happen in a home group where the book of James is being studied and a person with a prophetic gifts stands up and says God has given me a message to share? What if someone else had an amazingly difficult or joyous experience during the week that when shared would encourage all those attending? What if someone else wanted to sing worship songs for 20 minutes, or pray for 45 minutes? Chances are, that person would be chastised or looked at as being disruptive. That kind of “behavior” wouldn’t be tolerated in most church or small groups. We get so caught up in our traditions and routines that we allow very little room for the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives.

    You said:

    “It is a good structure; not perfect, as people are not perfect. But it is a structure that distributes power and creates accountability.”

    I have to respectfully disagree. This cannot be supported biblically (I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that it’s not found anywhere in the Bible). Our power and accountability should come from Christ, the head of the church. If we as believers spent more time humbling ourselves, submitting one to another, encouraging each other, teaching each other, serving, loving, caring…accountability will automatically fall into place. And we wouldn’t have to worry about a power struggle.

    The most gratifying, life-changing, and spiritually enlightening moments for me in my walk with Christ, have come from intimate moments with my wife and kids; conversations with friends, and serving God’s Kingdom outside of the context of a church building.

    I’m not saying it’s all bad…that’s where I got saved. I learned a lot by attending church, and owe a debt of gratitude to several men I consider life mentors. But the learning and growing came during moments and times when the church service was over.

  • Here are my two cents for that they are worth anymore…

    The Man Up Front model probably became the norm as less and less people could read their Scriptures. The fact that they continued to be written in a dead language certainly did not help the laity. As this model was perpetuated for several centuries, and people being fairly conservative when it comes to how things are done, no on has ever thought to challenge it.

    From an organizational standpoint, it is hard to see how it would be done differently. If everyone was on a Round Table model there would be a tendency to get of course and there would still be someone who dominates the meetings based upon their personality or their passion. There is also the issue of the Popcorn teaching that is so prevalent in the Church. The Jews read the same Scriptures on the same week of every year so that would lend itself to some structure of the discussion, but Popcorn teaching means that an awful lot of ground would never get covered (not to say it does anyways!)

    Then we could explore the Mega Churches and I think it is patently obvious that they could never function as anything but a man-up-front. Moreover such churches are often built upon the personality of that man and so require his/her presence up front.

    My additional two cents I offer for free, I found em crushed on a railroad track so take it for what its worth. My point is that the Biblical admonition to keep the women quiet would be necessary. A single person speaking for a family would be almost a requirement to keep such meetings orderly and productive. Not to say that a woman shouldn’t be able to whisper to her husband a question or point but to avoid confusion it needs to be limited. And I am glad this isn’t a feminist blog cuz that last statement would get me eaten alive if it were.

  • Jason


    I recently read a book, Pagan Christianity, which provides hundreds of citations for historical and factual reference about church history.

    According to the research of George Barna and Frank Viola, the “man up front” model was created by Constantine, a Roman Emperor, not because people couldn’t understand the scriptures. Constantine was the one responsible for giving the church credence, and authority; and he made Christianity acceptable to the populous. He’s also the one who created the role of Bishop (i.e. pastor). He had Bishop’s become paid leaders and gave them political authority, and gave the church tax exempt status. It’s all there…it’s not my opinion.

    As for the organizational issue, that’s all we’ve ever known in church circles. Human culture and tradition always wants to look for a leader, which is in error. We should look to God, and not man for leadership. Personally, to appoint someone to lead takes away from everyone else to be involved. The focus is always on that one person, rather than allowing the body to function fluidly. Leaders/elders are important. As I said earlier, they were appointed in the early church because they were men of great character, with knowledge and wisdom. In an sort of church, there should always be men and women like this, who can help to teach and correct unbiblical teaching.

    Again, thanks to the Pagan cultures, even the order of services was created out of rituals from Roman and Greek life. We think church or fellowship includes something that is orderly, with an agenda and timeline. There should always be someone to lead and keep everyone on track. We as Christians have been so programmed to think this way that anytime we get together for “fellowship” it always has to be dictated by a formula. Where’s the room for the Holy Spirit to lead and direct?

    Personally, I can no longer accept the model of that responsibility falling on one person. That should be done by the entire body. If Christ is the head of our meetings, and we ask him to direct us, don’t you think the gifts of the spirit will move among the people? Don’t you think unscriptural teaching will be corrected? (No group of believers should consist of young Christians; there should always been Godly men and women who know and understand God’s word.)

    I’ll also address the last statement, which I believe to be a very archaic and unbiblical. You have to take Paul’s writing in the context of why and to whom it was written. Paul is addressing a group of believers in Corinth – mostly Gentile. These are people that have grown up in a very worldly, sexually-dominated culture. Paul is addressing the conduct of believers here, because neither men or women were acting in a way that represented God in Spirit and in truth. For men or women to act in a way that’s unbecoming to God, would pervert and distort the truth.

    The word “silence” in the text is translated from the Greek ‘hesuchia’ which denotes quietness. It does not necessitate complete silence, but rather is indicative of a spirit of meekness and tranquillity (see use in Acts 22:2 & 2 Thesssalonians 3:12). The woman is called upon to be submissive in the public facets of spiritual service. Lest we forget that men are called to do the same. Shouldn’t those also be character traits of elders?

    If you read in Acts, Aquilla and Priscilla, husband and wife, both went out together to “teach” and “preach” the word of God. How is it that on one hand Paul would say that everyone should function in their gifts, and then tell women to be quite? If that’s the case, a woman wouldn’t have the right to participate in any kind of meeting, which to me is B.S. If my wife’s participation in the body of Christ is limited to my authority of will, then we might as well go back to the time before women could even vote. Priscilla and her husband had a reputation of being faithful believers. They were both sent out to plant churches and encourage believers. I’d guess (and it’s just my guess) that one of Priscilla’s duties was to help other women understand how a Godly woman should function in all aspects of church and community life.

    By saying that a woman should not speak in church – which is funny since the early Christians never met in a “church” or building, but in homes – contradicts so much of the New Testament. Women played extremely active roles in preaching and spreading the good news.

  • Jason

    Also…we read scriptures like that in the context that people WENT to church. That’s not the case. Early Christians did not meet in buildings on a weekly basis, have worship, listen to a sermon, a closing prayer and then went home. They met and lived in community in each other’s homes. They ate meals together, prayed, took care of the poor and widows. They didn’t spend their time organizing a show every Sunday.

    To say a woman should be “silent” in church is also incorrect in this context. There was no “church” for a woman to be quite in. That’s why I believe that the translation means a woman’s spirit and attitude should be one of meekness and tranquility.

  • a woman’s spirit and attitude should be one of meekness and tranquility

    So, every woman should look like me? How gratifying.

  • farmer Tom

    I think the man up front is a Biblical pattern. What does the term pastor/bishop mean?

    an overseer, a shepherd, I’m not making it up check for yourself I Timothy 3 and Ephesians 4,

    now it is impossible for a shepherd to do his job without sheep, some lead, others are lead,

    Now the real question is, how does this shepherd lead,

    a good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep, right

    Happy New Year Heidi

  • farmer Tom

    BTW the Timothy passage says something about the office of the bishop,

    office connotes the idea of a position of authority, again, I didn’t make it up, check for yourself.

    I know this passage is offensive to many, but it also relates to your question,

    Hbr 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.

    He’s not talking about government here, rather those who are spiritual leaders,

    I know, as a Christian/libertarian I chaff at the idea of anybody having authority over me, but, it’s in the Book, I’d best pay attention.

  • I am no longer in a ministry leadership position (as of a few years ago) because I had “issues” with the (mis)-use of pastoral authority, so I may be no help here.

    It seems to me that many in Christian leadership are not immune to the corrupting nature of power. There is genuine spiritual authority, but I have noted that not all who claim spiritual authority possess it in the way they claim to, and the moment that authority lapses into spiritual abuse, it ceases to have real authority.

    The issue of submission to spiritual authority is a CHOICE. We may fail to gain the full blessings that come with submission to true spiritual authority if we choose to remove ourselves, but the authority is NEVER compulsory.

    And finally the Lord is very patient, very forbearing, longsuffering and kind in leading us back into right relationship with His authority when we have been harmed by false authority.

  • This discussion reminds me of what I saw at the opening of the 75th Legislative Session in Salem yesterday.

    Jesus Christ is my only answer. He is my authority, He’s my rock and He is the head of the church. I have spiritual authorities who help guide me but I don’t find them in a building I find them in life.

    I wish life could be as organized as we think it should but it’s not. The fact is life is messy and I thank God that He is there to guide me. When I keep in contact with Him and lay my life down to His will, not the will of man, I do just fine.

    We are the church. God is the authority. Do we need others? Yes. But every time I attempt to “Organize” others or try to come up with some formula to the father, it fails.

  • In Salem they too Organize and come up with leaders who stand in front. They act as though these are decisions made in front of the public and for the public good. But it’s really done behind closed doors and it’s all about the party, not the people.

    I sometimes wonder if that’s not what the organized institutional church has become. All about the club not about the message of Christ or the people.

    Just to clarify I think organization is important but when it forgets it’s original intent (which many have) I think you start coming up with mini-kingdoms of man and the only kingdom I care to serve in is the Kingdom of God.

  • I can’t leave this alone.

    Heidi, here are a few thoughts from “Streams in the Desert” and Oswald Chambers that might help you.

    First from me:

    This is your journey and only you and God can define it. We are taught to rely on others when in fact I think we listen too much to the opinions and idea’s of those around us and when we are listening to them, we can’t hear God.

    Streams in the Desert:

    Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgement absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you ever door but the right one. Blessed Spirit, I cast on Thee the entire responsibility of closing against my steps any and every course which is not of Go. Let me hear They voice behind me whenever I turn to the right or the left.

    Oswald Chambers:

    Are you in the dark just now in your circumstance, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will talk in the wrong mood: darkness is the time to listen. Don’t talk to other people about it: Don’t read books to find out the reason of the darkness, but listen and heed. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying.

    Heidi, I’m not saying don’t ask questions? You and I will always ask questions. That’s one of the things I really like about you. But I wonder that in moments when God wants to give us the answer Himself, whether we as people fail to wait on the Lord and in our quest for answers, interrupt our relationship with God, by seeking the answer from someone else?

    People will always fail us. I read the responses here and see all of our bias’. (especially my own). You are in a difficult place. Many of the things you have counted as foundational no longer hold your feet. You may have built your faith on a system rather than on the only one worth building anything on and that’s Jesus Christ.
    Heidi, Be still and know that He is God. It’s great to get other’s ideas (I’m not being critical because I do the same thing. I’m speaking these things to myself too) but it’s like asking you what I can do to make my wife happier. You can give me some great thoughts but it would be much better if I simply went to my wife and asked her. Problem there is I may get an answer I don’t like.
    I think we, as people, are like that with God. So, instead of going to the source, or waiting for His Spiritual Authority, which is the only authority I totally trust, I go fishing for the thoughts of man.

    I love watching the journey you are on and I think you are doing it quite well.

  • and for you critics, I’m not saying that we can have men or women who are in positions of spiritual authority in our lives. It is Biblical I know. But I find far more verses that remind me that the ultimate authority in my life is God.

  • That can should be can’t.

    I’m not saying we Can’t have….(sorry)

  • Jason

    How can the “man up front” model be justified when it never existed in the first place until Constantine? There is no mention of it in the Bible.

    Bishop comes from the Greek word episkopos (ἐπίσκοπος, from ἐπί “over” and σκοπός “seeing”) which can be translated overseer, superintendent, supervisor, the first, leader or foreman. From the word episkopos are derived the English words episcopacy, episcopate and episcopal. The system of church government by bishops is called episcopacy.

    The word Bishop is not biblical in its nature, and is completely derived from Pagan culture. This is my point. Constantine is the one responsible for setting up the office of Bishop/Pastor; not God, or the early Christians.

    Here’s something else to think about: Church leadership is based on the corporate/non-profit model. Each has a CEO/Leader, a board of directors, and then subcommittees, which provide direction to the board. Sound familiar? In many churches you’ll have the Pastor, Elders, and Deacons (with authority in that order), and then other church councils (committees) that oversee building issues/finance/missions, etc.

    Please tell me where this model exists in the Bible?

  • Jason,

    I don’t have a whole lot of time to address your comments at this time so here is the condensed version…

    The Church… A gathering of the believers is church. Not a building altho it is often where the meetings occur. You are focusing on the building as if that made a difference. If it was someones home or the local synagogue it makes little difference. The admonition by Paul was to that gathering.

    As to the building, just how do you think the Jews held their meetings? For one it was in the local synagogue. This building had to be paid for and kept up. Much like our modern churches. The Rabbi was the spiritual leader, tho not quite like a pastor is. He would have certainly have been held accountable, tho in more of a top down structure by the larger group of Rabbis. And since it was the Jews who occupied the synagogues these new followers of Christ had to meet in homes because their traditional meeting place was denied to them.

    How did Jesus teach? Didn’t He teach VERY large groups where He was the one speaking? Was that also of Constantine? Or is it possible that when someone with great spiritual authority has something to say the rest of the group stays quiet? It certainly happened with the prophets and priests, who by the way were very much the “man up front” that was also not of Constantine. In fact it was demanded by G-d.

    Oh, and my point about the laity not being able to read their Scriptures… It was true throughout the entirety of the middle ages. That fact has cemented the man up front model in our minds. Its not really a model I entirely agree with and I wasn’t really attempting to defend it.

  • You are the coolest group of Invisible Friends I’ve ever had! This conversation is making my brain really work.

    Not really feeling like the sharpest tool in the shed right now…

    But I’ll get back to ya!

  • Jason


    We agree on the point that the building should not be the focus. That’s my point – it usually is, because most believers equate church as meeting in a building.

    As for the Jews meeting in a building, this only become customary while they were held in captivity by the Babylonians. Synagogues were created by the Jews, since the Temple was destroyed. I’m not saying it was wrong, but there is no scriptural evidence that suggests God commanded the Jews to build or do church in Synagogues. This is a man-made point of contact, not a God made one. Good or bad, isn’t the point. You can’t use the synagogue as a reference point for how we do church today.

    Yes, Jesus spoke to large groups, but that was not the ultimate basis of his ministry. Much of his time was spent with his disciples and in conversations with individual people (i.e. the rich ruler, Samaritan woman, etc.) Jesus did not spend most of his time preaching in public. He spent most of it with his disciples, family, and others.

    It’s important to notice that when Jesus spoke to large crowds, it was spontaneous and not planned. It wasn’t a weekly or bi-weekly event. Jesus spoke when people gathered. There was no agenda or “show” that was put on ahead of time to make it happen. Just because Jesus spoke to large crowds doesn’t give us the right to tell people that a biblical form of fellowship is sitting in a church listening to music and five-point sermon.

    In the Old Testament, God chose to use prophets to speak to his people. God specifically told Moses to set up courts and elders so he didn’t have to carry the entire burden and responsibility of community, civic, and religious life (which is another issue in itself). Prophets acted as the liason between God and the people, while the Priests took care of the temple, administered and made sacrifices for the people. You can’t correlate priests to today’s pastors – it’s not the same. And you can’t equate Prophets to today’s pastors, because the prophets of old weren’t the paid CEO’s of a church, and didn’t preach on a weekly basis. You are making a very generalized statement to support how church operates today.

    Paul said that we are all prophets, apostles, etc. All believers are called priests in God’s eyes. There is no more distinction between the people and the leadership as there was under Mosaic Law. Jesus was the temple, the sacrifice and the priest. We no longer have to sacrifice and make atonement for our sins, we are all priests, and we are also his temple (which is a picture of the “church” or body).

    And to your last point…the “man up front” model happened during a time when the people were very educated. That’s when the bishop/pastor form of church was created, not during the middle ages. And a lot of people didn’t understand scripture because over the centuries it continued to be communicated in Latin, which was a dying language. Many people didn’t speak Latin or read it. This changed during the Reformation period, which included Martin Luther, who helped make this change so that all people had access to the scriptures, not just the leadership.

  • Jason

    I think this discussion is great. We may not agree in the end, but I think anything that forces us to ask [why?] about our traditions and seek Christ more intimately, and not ourselves, is a good thing.

  • farmer Tom

    Bishop comes from the Greek word episkopos (ἐπίσκοπος, from ἐπί “over” and σκοπός “seeing”) which can be translated overseer, superintendent, supervisor, the first, leader or foreman

    Now maybe I’m the ignorant one here, but if one gives a definition then ignores the meaning, well,….overseer, superintendent, supervisor, the first, leader or foreman

    I gotta say that that sounds like up front guy to me!! Also, as I said before, a shepherd has to have sheep, just like a cowboy has to have cows.

    Paul said that we are all prophets, apostles,,

    ehh, not so much , notice the word some, as opposed to all, used quite frequently in this verse,

    Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;




    poi-mā’n (Key)

    Part of Speech

    masculine noun

    Root Word (Etymology)

    of uncertain affinity

    1) a herdsman, esp. a shepherd

    a) in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow

    2) metaph.

    a) the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church

    1) of the overseers of the Christian assemblies

    2) of kings and princes

    A shepherd in the Near East was responsible for watching out for enemies trying to attack the sheep, defending the sheep from attackers, healing the wounded and sick sheep, finding and saving lost or trapped sheep, loving them, and sharing their lives and to earn their trust.

    I personally could give a flying **** what the heck some asshat named Constantine did or said. Defend your position from Scripture, but make sure you aren’t using some book you read somewhere else to make your case. Long before Constantine was a gleam in his fathers eye the Church of Jesus Christ was already being lead by “some apostles, some evangelists, and some pastor teachers.”

    See what Peter wrote in I Peter 5

    1Pe 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
    1Pe 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    1Pe 5:3 Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
    1Pe 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
    1Pe 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

    Seems like Peter agreed with Paul here, someone was to shepherd over the flock, using Christ as their example,

    what a definition of oversee,oversight,

    from Webster’s,

    O”ver*sight`, n. 1. Watchful care; superintendence; general supervision.

    I’m thinking you are giving far too much credence to some book you read, and not enough study of the Word. The principle of a spiritual leader/leaders is very clear in the NT. I’m not arguing that some of them do not misuse their position, are novices with handling the Word of Truth, or that are simply Greedy of Filthy Lucre, but the position is Biblical. Deal!!

  • farmer Tom

    That last was a bit contentious, I apologize.

    Let me explain why.

    I have family, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, that have bought into this notion of a leaderless assembly,(they don’t like the term church). Everybody (usually only men) who is moved by the Spirit is free to stand up a give their thoughts from the Word.

    And the results I have seen are abysmal. They have groups of spiritual babies, who are not grounded in the Word, tossed about by every whim of doctrine, sort of like a rudderless ship. Their children wander away from the faith, not having been trained by serious teachers of the Word, to defend for themselves the principles of Scripture, since so often the word given in their meetings is not well presented or studied. Many who stand to speak say the same things over and over, each week speaking the same idea with a new phrase thrown in to add “weight”. There is no deep exegetical study of the Word, rather a love fest of feelings, sprinkled with a passage of Scripture to make it spiritual.

    This is not a defense of the current mega churches with their “star” preachers. Rather a critique of the mistaken idea that a group of sinners saved by grace can meet together in a home, public building or a cemetery and effectively (quoting Ephesians 4 again) do what Paul says is the purpose of the Church,

    11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

    14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

    15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

    16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

    Now why did God give some “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”

    for this purpose,

    “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”

    I do not see how it is possible to argue from Scripture that God envisioned a headless body, some person or persons must have a position of spiritual headship, with out that you have utter confusion.

    I think I will close with a suggestion that you read I Corinthians 12.

    Paul asks some rhetorical questions, I would add mine,….. Can all be the head? Can all be the shepherd?

  • You can’t use the synagogue as a reference point for how we do church today.

    My point was never more than a refutation of your statement “According to the research of George Barna and Frank Viola, the “man up front” model was created by Constantine” The institution of a meeting place and a man-up-front model may be made by humans, but it certainly predates Constantine. Further you wrote “it’s clear that our traditions of how we do church, leadership, buildings, etc., are all derived from Paganism” That is ignoring the Jewish roots of some of what we do. Now perhaps Barna and Viola didn’t bother to look back to Judaism but it is a grave mistake to ignore the Jewish roots of our faith especially considering that Jesus was a Torah observant Jew as were his earthly parents. Also as a Torah observant Jew Jesus would have avoided work and attended some sort of meeting on either Friday night or Saturday, or both.

    One further thing, If “We no longer have to sacrifice and make atonement for our sins, we are all priests, and we are also his temple” why will the temple be built? And why will sacrifices be made in there daily during the millennium reign of Christ? And why will those sacrifices be getting made by Priests and not the average-joe-priest?

  • Heidi,

    Thanks for the post! I should visit more often than I do. And I think you got the fight you had been looking for.

    To articulate my point a bit better and not simply respond to others, I don’t believe that a church should be entirely centrally “controlled” if you will. But I am certainly wary of completely leaderless churches as it gets off course as I mentioned in my first post and as FT so beautifully illustrated for us. Of course much of that could be avoided by the use of a calendar like the Jews use where each week has a torah portion. Following such a schedule would keep the meetings at least somewhat on subject and not into the mushy lovey-dovey aspects of religion which lead into sin due to over-emphasis on grace. (Some groups don’t seem to have read “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”)

    Oh, and I think I may well be in your general area come Passover. At least I hope to be anyways. The court will let me know if I can move with my boy at the end of next month.

  • I will have to say that this has been an invigorating discussion. I had come over hear a number of times and wanted to rebut the idea of a leaderless congregation. I just never had the time to do so.Farmer Tom has done so, beautifully.

    Barna and Viola wrote this book from a presupposed position that the church as we know it today is not what was envisioned by the fathers of our faith. I would agree with that point, but like other reformers they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Rather than looking to scripture and seeing the hierarchy envisioned by our forefathers in the scriptures, they take their own ideas and pluck out the scriptures to fit their model. It is a very human thing to do, but is the wrong approach.

    The scriptures are the authority which we should look to and model our worship after, not Pagan Christianity.

  • I can tell I wrote that while I was tired. It is full of grammar and spelling errors.

  • Erik,

    I think Jesus did some of His finest teachings “one on one” not in a mega crowd.

    I find the definition of church to be “Two ore more gathered in His name”.

    Farmer Tom, you mention this:

    11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    When was the last time you saw all these gifts considered when a church body picks it’s leadership?

    Pastors, in my opinion, are not the people who should be leading the church. Protecting the flock, you bet they should that’s their gifting. You need all five gifts to create the five fold ministry. Perhaps that’s where we’ve gotten of track.

    I find many churches end up chasing the prophets out because no one likes a prophet. (Jeremiah, Isaiah) They aren’t the kind of guys you invite to a party.

  • Eaglewood,

    I think Jason is simply using a book, that researched the scriptures and other historical documents to bring us new information. It’s easy to discount it because you don’t agree with the outcome.

  • As I go back and read all the posts here I find this debate quite interesting and frustrating.

    I guess I just see spiritual authority as something much different than the guy or gal in charge. (Yes I believe women make great leaders)

    I find it interesting and a little disturbing that we have these mega churches with a pastor at the head and he/she is supposed to be my spiritual leader and guide me when he /she doesn’t even know me. How can a man/woman truly be the pastor of a flock, when he/she doesn’t know his sheep by name?

    I think there are many people who go to church, never connect, but assume since I’m here I’ve got the spiritual leadership qualification covered so I’m safe. That isn’t leadership at all. The pastor needs to know the sheep by name to be an effective spiritual leader. That’s scriptural and yet it’s not happening in many churches but we excuse it because it’s just the way it is.

    Here’s the thing for me. God shows each of us our path and what we need to do. He’s put several spiritual leaders in my life that know me and know when to tell me I’m in the wrong. I have a pastor in my life but he is not “up front” he’s by my side and knows every intimate detail of my twisted, screwed up life. He knows more than any “up front” pastor I’ve ever had.

    God doesn’t live in a box and neither should we. The scriptures are our guide but to think we understand them totally is arrogant. That’s why people do research (pagan christianity) to help us mine what’s in there. “Up front pastors” do it every Sunday and we don’t question it.

  • Jason


    We agree that overseers/leaders/shepherds are important and necessary within the body. Where we see differently is how they are positioned and their authority within the body.

    I do not agree that a shepherd/overseer should be in the form of “one man up front” model, and never will. I believe in a body of believers, there are many overseers, capable men and women who possess the spiritual gift of being a “pastor.” Being a pastor is not being the leader/CEO of a church. It’s a calling on one’s life to do, just as you pointed out…to protect, guide, teach, etc. Paul called us to submit one to another.

    I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and trust in it with all of my heart; however, one cannot look to the Bible alone for the context and historical events that took place when it was written. Say what you will, but ignoring the historical facts about Constantine and the Roman/Greek culture on Christianity and the church is undeniable. I haven’t just read one book, but several and have done my own independent research on the Greek culture.

    The problem with most Christian’s interpretation of the Scripture, is that we read it from an American mind-set. It’s imperative to understand it from the time and culture when it was written. It is a historical fact that the CEO model of a one-man show in a church, DID NOT EXIST in the early church and WAS created by the Roman culture. Deny history all you will, but the facts and facts.

  • “I think Jason is simply using a book, that researched the scriptures and other historical documents to bring us new information. It’s easy to discount it because you don’t agree with the outcome.”

    I want people to understand. I am not a fan of the “Man-up-front/CEO” model for the church. I especially dislike the MEGA church phenomenon. It is highly impersonal and cold. This post was somewhat in reference to Heidi’s previous post about the organic church and her desire to have some kind of free flowing “leaderless” type of fellowship. While this may be good relationally I am not sure it is the biblical model either. The Word is clear that there is a hierarchy of leadership. My whole point is that to find out what the true biblical model is you have to look to the source not some book written with an agenda. Because the authors are STONG proponents and leaders in the home church and emergent church movements I can see the agenda at play.

    Being one of the “ousted” prophets myself I do understand the desire to make wholesale changes because we simply disagree with the model or that we have been hurt by the institution as both Heidi and I have been. I am simply cautioning that change for the sake of change is not the answer. Do we need to revisit what a local church body is? I would say yes. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • Jason


    As far as Viola and Barna are concerned, yes they are proponents of the home church movement; however, I don’t believe they are par to of the Emergent community. I’ve read information on both men, so I was wondering where you saw that? Just curious because home church movements and “emergent” are very different.

    Also, I like what you said. Funny thing is, I still attend a regular, protestant, mainstream church. I’m not suggesting that anyone stop going to church, or leave their local congregation – not at all. I’m not even suggesting that being part of one is wrong. For me, the problem occurs when Christians promote that fact that a believer “must” be a part of a mainstream church or when pastors preach from the pulpit that church attendance is required. Church, defined here, as participation in a group that meets in a local church building, etc.

    Body life, and body participation is essential. Leaving a traditional church and then having no contact or fellowship on a consistent basis with other believers is dangerous and unbiblical. But teaching that the only way to have fellowship or accountability is attending a church and submitting yourself to a pastor is, in my opinion, wrong.

    Let’s face the facts. Even in a home church, where there is maybe 30-40 people (as was common in the early church) there is no way one man can shepherd, guide, protect, and teach all members effectively. We humans don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with that many people all at once. Now multiply that by 200 members or 500 or 1,000. I just don’t see how today’s pastors can truly be the overseers/shepherd’s that Tom is referring to. I’ve been a deacon, a fill-in preacher, and a children’s ministry coordinator. I’ve see and experienced ministry close-up.

    Dr. Paul Rosch, with the American Institute of Stress says the following:

    (1) ‘Doctors, lawyers and clergy have the most problems with drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide.’

    (2) Three out of four parish ministers (sample: 11,500) reported severe stress causing ‘anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation’.

    Why is pastoral ministry so stressful? The reasons may be as numerous and unique as there are pastors. However, recent research is unanimous in citing the following problem areas: the disparity between (somewhat idealistic) expectations and hard reality; lack of clearly defined boundaries – tasks are never done; workaholism (‘bed-at-the-church’ syndrome); the Peter Principle – feeling of incompetence in leading an army of volunteers; conflict in being a leader and servant at the same time (‘line-support contamination’); intangibility – how do I know I’m getting somewhere?; confusion of role identity with self image – pastors derive too much self-esteem from what they do; time management problems (yet pastors have more ‘discretionary time’ than any other professional group); paucity of ‘perks’; multiplicity of roles; inability to produce ‘win-win’ conflict resolutions; difficulty in managing interruptions; the ‘little adult’ syndrome (Dittes) – clergy are too serious, they have difficulty being spontaneous; preoccupation with ‘playing it safe’ to avoid enraging powerful parishioners; ‘administration overload’ – too much energy expended in areas of low reward; loneliness – the pastor is less likely to have a close friend than any other person in the community.

    According to his studies, 75% of pastors deal with these issues at some level or another. To me, it’s obvious that the CEO/Pastor-led church is the primary cause of this, along with a passive congregation that allows the pastor to carry such a burden. Can we really defend this as biblical?

    This is why I believe within a body of believers there are multiple people with “pastoring” skills that can carry the burden together, not alone. We have elevated the Pastor as if he has “special” or “unique” skills over everyone else. Being a pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist, encourager, giver of money, etc., are all equally important. To life one above another defies the concept Paul talks about in 1st and 2nd Corinthians of “unity within the body.”

  • Jason

    That last sentence should read…

    To “lift” one above another defies the concept Paul talks about in 1st and 2nd Corinthians of “unity within the body.”

  • Jason,
    We don’t disagree on what the problems are. As far as Barna and Viola. I will be honest I saw the emergent church reference from one of their more vociferous detractors. It is possible I got the comment out of context. While I believe you are not espousing dumping everything, my understanding is that is precisely what the authors of “Pagan Christianity” are saying we should do. That in of itself is part of the emergent church movement that says we have to throw out old traditions and discover our own based upon our interpretation of the scriptures.

    My concern had to do with that and Heidi’s “Organic What” post. In that post she describes her ideal “fellowship” scenario. On the surface it sounds pleasant, but I can see the potential for chaos that could ensue from that as well, due to a lack of real leadership. It would not be a healthy way to organize a local church as in the end no real needs would be met.

  • I have to correct my misspelled e-mail addy. it keeps losing my gravitar.

  • Eaglewood, Me too.

    I didn’t get thrown out my wife and I left, only after hearing God say leave. I used to look back but now am at total peace with His decision.

    I agree we shouldn’t throw anything out. I think the whole point of the book was to say, “Hey, all of it is not bad but don’t hang your hat on it either”. I was talking with a man this morning at the gym who is investigating the Torah and the Law. He believes we still live under the law. We had a great conversation and I think it’s a great time as believers to be open to listening to God and to others. As soon as we start to think we have this nailed down God will show us something else.

  • farmer Tom

    Jason, There are so many different things which you are saying that I don’t know where to start.

    So lets start on some things we agree upon.

    Now multiply that by 200 members or 500 or 1,000. I just don’t see how today’s pastors can truly be the overseers/shepherd’s that Tom is referring to.

    First, I am not suggesting that I think the mega church model is a good idea. I personally believe that the mega-church idea is foolishness. It is an attempt by those that desire power, money and face time to be the “hero” to large numbers of people. I personally attend a local church comprised of about 60 people. I have been chosen by those people to be in a position of leadership. My local church and the mega-church you describe are so far apart in structure and philosophy as to be polar opposites.

    I live fairly close to Minneapolis/St.Paul. John Piper has a huge church and following, in that city. I would never go to that church. Do I think John Piper is evil, no. I do think that a lot of shallow, lazy people who desire to be entertained go to his church. For them church is about John Piper and what he says. Not about serving the Lord.

    But, you are rejecting the mega-church model, by attacking the leadership model of that church rather than the lazy ass people who what entertainment on Sunday morning.

    There is clearly a structure in how to run the local church, given in Acts, Ephesians, I Timothy, Titus and I Peter at a very minimum. Rather than attack the people at fault, you are attacking the Biblical pattern.

    Now, since we are having real trouble communicating our thoughts here, maybe a definition of terms would be helpful.

    Tell me,

    What is a church?

    What is an apostle?

    What is a pastor?

    What is an evangelist?

    What is a prophet?

    Way up above, you quoted I Corinthians 14, now I wonder, how does that passage fit in with the ones I quoted to you??? I Peter 5 and Ephesians 4, BTW will you publicly acknowledge that you were wrong when you said that?

    Paul said that we are all prophets, apostles,,

    So since Scripture does not contradict itself, can you reconcile I Corinthians 14 and Ephesians 4??

    Is it possible that your definition of the CEO model is a corrupted vision, that in fact the shepherd may well be the pastor(opps same world) teacher?? That you are confusing a worldly business model with what the local church was supposed to do?

    See you have taken a book written by two guys in this century, and in my opinion allowed them to twist your understanding of Scripture to fit into their mold.

    You have acknowledged that there is a Biblical role called pastor, what is his function? And if you suggest that a woman can be a pastor I will slap you! That is a feminist lie. Pastor/shepherd is a masculine term, and Christ is the pattern. The Good Shepherd!! And Jesus Christ is not female.

    In your opinion, what is the structural organization of a body of believers? Is it a shepherdless flock? Is it a rudderless ship? What are the roles for the different members of the body? How does a Biblical church function, and not your ideas, but give Scripture.

    I get the distinct impression, that you should find a Plymouth Brethren Assembly and start fellowshipping there, but understand, your
    silly suggestions that women can have roles as preachers or leaders will not be appreciated, and they meet in buildings.

    I have one more, but I’ll save it for later.

  • Jason


    It’s useless going forward with this discussion. It’s worn itself out. Trust me, I’m not afraid of debate. I could go on for weeks about this, but what’s the point?

    You and I will never see eye-to-eye. If I said the sky was blue, you’d say it was red. At this point, it’s turning into an argument.

    I’m not here to convince you to do anything differently. You have your journey, I have mine. I’ll listen to God and do what he tells me. You do the same.

    Sometimes unity among believers is agreeing to disagree. We are at that point.

  • Jason,

    Honestly, I think this last thread you wrote is by far the best. (Not that I don’t agree with what you said throughout the discussion because I do but we are on the same journey) But that short paragraph I just read made me smile. You are truly a wise man. God uses visions and blinders on his people. You just realized the difference and that’s an amazing thing to see. Sometimes I think we get to a point where we just want to prove our point and show that we are right. When you get to a section of your journey where you realize there are few people really listening and you can keep walking the path despite that fact, that’s when you truly identify with Jesus Christ. Remember, few agreed with Him either. Few were willing to step out of their religious pattern and follow. We can’t prove what God is showing us. We can only be still and know that He is God.