OK, back to the future of church organization, with Joseph Foreman:
I have exhausted your patience I’m sure but I am about to start a positive statement of Ecclesiology along the lines of “If we can’t sue the congregation, and if we can’t preside over their law suits and charges, if we can’t try the heretics . . . what is an elder to do?”
First I want to summarize a simple a negative fact in the form of a universal that is easily disproven statement if there is a counter example:
Nowhere in the NT are elders or their “office” empowered to use legal procedure or be the judges in trials to maintain order, doctrine, or purity in the congregation. Elders are not Priestly mediators or Judge adjudicators in the Old Testament empowerment of their office and function.
Yes they are to maintain order and lead.
No they are not to use the tools of the flesh as judge, litigant, and organizational inclusion and exclusion to force others to accept their word or leadership or decisions.
Yes they must lead, must make decisions, must persuade others.
No they may not institutionally force the binding on earth or heaven that their decision might represent.
Or to be more precise, their office is no more priest and judge than the general office of any Christian. Even the least of these. In fact “the least of these” the “little ones” are the model for the Apostles and elders, not the other way around. STOP read that again. Force your mind to wrap around it and use it as the standard, not current practice.
A difficult model to even imagine.
Yes, the Church has been around for 2000 years, but hasn’t even begun to uphold some of the most basic principles Jesus laid down.
Our failure definitely include the failure to recognize the Law of God as authoritative: but there’s a lot more to it than that! As Foreman could point out, how many church leaders are real servants, with just the power that a good servant has?
Can we construct a book of Church order that does not subvert the Order of the Lord Jesus Christ who as the Apostles were first to tell us was in need of many adjustments.
“No Lord, Crucifixion is not for you that is not the path of victory for you or us.”
“If a man can’t divorce his wife at whim, how is it possible to have marriage work at all? It is better not to marry.”
“Let’s call down Fire on these Samaritans who rejected you Lord?”
“NO Lord, our question is not who gets to be the least of these our question is which of us gets to be the greatest, who rules at your right hand?” (no that’s not a quote. Yes that is precisely how they “understood” Jesus on many occasions.)
And in this general vein of well-meaning discipleship, as soon as the Organized Church could, it established the Elder as Overseer, gave him all the titles of the roman civil governors, and in the reformation made the elders a committee but retained every power Jesus said, “It is not to be so among you.”
Ours is a very consistent Biblical tradition stemming from Scripture itself, particularly the ones I just quoted paraphrased and referred to above.
But Jesus explicitly says, “It is not to be so among you. The one who rules has the power to rule that a servant has.” Not a serving attitude but the power of a servant is the key here. If Jesus was Patton he would have told the Apostles, “I’m not asking you to kill the other dumb son of a bitch, I’m asking you to die for him.” And that dying is to permeate our organizational structure
Not an attitude that is easy for me to accept.
No, not at all.
The Elder-as-Judge and the Elder-as-Priest is such a bedrock of our understanding of leadership in the Church that I don’t expect anyone to really be able to think reflectively or calmly on the idea that Jesus and Paul take specific aim at this creature and take him out however useful he might have been before Christ established his kingdom. That model literally touches everything an elder and therefore the Church does and forces a massive reallocation of time effort and focus if we have been dead wrong for 2000 years now. And to Quote Jefferson, “should not be altered for light or transient reasons.”
The Elder/Bishop/Pastor/Shepherd/Overseer/Ruler is the focus of ministry in all churches. Strong empowered leadership of the natural gifted elite is the bedrock of human social order. Decision making empowered with the right to enforce that decision whether others like it or not is the indispensable tool of any executive. I am not saying this negatively but it is a simple fact and if you think about it, it makes good sense: do you really want the guy who stutters preaching for half an hour, do you want the wait staffer who can’t figure out how to fold a napkin running the banquet? Do you really want Obama leading the Army? Really think about what the “Least Of These” could mean? WE don’t call it the Super Bowl each Winter, but the Toilet Bowl for the teams with the worst record?
If Jesus did not want it done this way then it is not enough to critique the current practice, any anarchist, antinomian and anti authoritarian can do that. This is not what Jesus was interested in.
Amen, and amen.
We need to address the positive structure of Biblical authority in the church and how it functions.
And this is where it gets a bit weird. I think that Hunter (Dang, I can’t even remember his name! and FB isn’t giving me any clues) is onto something in his boneless version of AHA’s principles of disorganization. No AHA isn’t a church, but it has some ideas of organization that have never really worked before. Might not work now, but is worth thinking through quite aside from the purpose of AHA because I think Jesus was planning for just such a time as this and a generation like the Millennials to get what he really wanted us to do to work in the organizational model that AHA is exploring.
I know, Weird. But so weird it just might work. I mean in reality I can’t believe Jesus thought it would work. But for once someone ought to try it Jesus way. We’ve given 2,000 years to try it every way we can think of.
I want to work through these issues as clearly as I can, thank you for this space to reflect in. Administrators, feel free to delete these and contact me if this is not the space. I have no blog I’ll just put it on my own page actually I do put it there but this is the place people come who are actually interested in this stuff. No hard feelings if am out of order here.
An end to power-worship starts not with toppling Secular or Islamic idols of power.
It starts with toppling Christian idols.
Especially those idols enshrined in the churches.
Keep an eye on what “the least of these” means:
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. — Matthew 25:40
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. — Matthew 25:45