“You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight Eisenhower link
"A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise him. But of a good leader who talks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” – Lao-Tau link
Leaders are way up here. link
I was sitting in a church that I no longer attend. The speaker was a clone like many young, inexperienced men who are attempting to be "in spiritual charge" these days. He had the shaved head and attempted to dress like a hipster (fail), and exhibited an air that he was just a bit more with it than the people he was addressing. (He obviously wasn't.) The topic, of course, was submission and authority and his presentation was white bread Calvinista – all of his thinking emanating from the usual celebrity pastor sources without giving them credit.
As usual, I was thinking about the other potential churches in the area, planning my rapidly approaching departure, when I noticed something. He was discussing the typical yawner-*different roles but equal in worth." He mentioned the role of pastor and the role of the rest of the church. He kept repeating the phrase "equal in worth" but his hands illustrated a different reality. As he said, "the pastor", his right hand went up to the level of his shoulder. As he said "the members," his left hand was down at the level of his waist. I started to giggle and whispered to my husband, "We are so outta here!"
I am currently at the end of my vacation with my immediate family. Since everyone is here and able to pitch in, I have had some time to think and realized that I have overlooked a significant problem in the entire church membership conundrum.
The Incessant Insistence in Dividing *Ordinary* Members from Church Leadership
Four posts helped me to realize that this runs far deeper than the difference between those who go to elder meetings and those who do toddler Sunday school. In fact, it is so deep that I am not even sure that these writers understand what they seem to be implying.
Tim Challies: Who's on first?
The first was a post by Tim Challies No Man Left Behind.
As Christians, we are charged with caring for one another—the shepherds first and every church member after them. It brings all manner of joy, comfort and security when we affirm, and when we insist, that we will not leave even one person behind. We will guard them, we will guide them, we will pursue them, we will pray for them, we will love them, we will pursue them to the very end. No man will be left behind.
Even if I am charitable and assume he means that the "shepherds" are the ones who should first demonstrate caring behavior, why in the world does he need to make the function of love and caring in the church as a first/then proposition? Who are the shepherds? This usually means elders and pastors in church lingo. This leaves out a whole bunch of people, most notably women who cannot serve in those roles as well as men who are either overlooked or do not have the time to spend their evenings and weekends determining who has *authority*.
Jared Wilson: More bullies in the church membership? Women are causing trouble as well.
The next comment, which was even more troubling, came from Jared Wilson who wrote Is Your Pastor Happy to See You? This is one of a few posts that I have read recently over at The Gospel Coalition website which seems to point to an underlying dissatisfaction with the *flock*. This particular calling out of the church membership is even more dangerous.
Yes, there are some bad pastors out there. There are some authoritarian, domineering leaders out there. Too many, in fact. Some pastors are indeed bullies. These guys need to be held accountable and in many cases removed from their position of authority, as the biblical qualifications for the pastoral office forbid the quarrelsome, short-tempered, domineering man any part in church leadership (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 1 Peter 5:1-4). (I have written about the necessity of pastoral gentleness numerous times, perhaps most notably here.)
But can I be honest? In my entire life in the church, despite some negative experiences with a few pastors, I’ve encountered way more bullies in the pews than in the pulpits. There are just as many pastors victimized by graceless congregants as vice versa.
I have a pastor friend who said he once dared to preach on Hebrews 13:17, and he had no sooner read the verse at the start of his message — hadn’t even started preaching yet! — and a woman stood up and shouted, “We’re Baptist. We don’t submit to anybody!”
You may not be Baptist, but you do need to submit to your church leaders. The Bible says so. Argue with it, if you want, but know that you are arguing with God.
This post by Wilson has a number of flaws, not the least of which is anecdotal reporting. Wilson has limited experience in the pulpit, having served in a small church in Vermont for some years and then transitioning to a job as Director of Content Strategy(?) at Midwestern Seminary. Somehow, this means he knows that the majority of bullies sit in the pews.
He also provided us with a *real* story, minus any documentation, about some woman (of course it had to be a woman since they must always submissive) who disrupted a church service over some Bible verse. Seriously? If the Deebs were presented with such an anecdote, we would interview the pastor, then ask to speak to others who were present. We would then ask to speak to the women who was being accused. Was the service being recorded? What do we know about what happened? Was that pastor involved in heavy handed leadership? Did he decide to move the church from one doctrinal stance to another and not inform the congregation? Did this even happen?
But back to the subject at hand. Wilson is now in a *them vs us" mode and that, friends, is dangerous because it could slant all further reports in favor of the vast majority of incredible leaders to be admired.
Isn't there mutual submission so shouldn't it be a "we are all in this together" paradigm?
Of course not. Tim Challies prevents reasonable people from going down this road in Mutual Submission.
Wherever else the verb “submit” occurs in the New Testament, regardless of its form, it implies an ordered relationship in which one party is “over” and another “under.” And since the same understanding of “submit” fits well in Ephesians 5:21 and it’s context, there is no warrant to go beyond its usual semantic range and interpret it otherwise.CShouldn't church members point out injustice
Jared Wilson: Church members should let injustice go.
TWW presented Wilson's point of view on this matter in Jared Wilson at The Gospel Coalition: Shut Up About Injustice and Let. It. Go The following is an excerpt from that post.
Recently, Jared Wilson left his pastorate in a smallish church in Vermont, to become the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary. He is now one of the leaders. He wasted no time in going after social media. Maybe it's a requirement for promotion? In an article promoted by TGC Why Not Rather Be Cheated Wilson sounds the alarm. Seemingly condemning anger, he states that good Christians should instead pursue the fruits of the spirit emphasizing gentleness, peace and self control. How nice. That child sex abuse stuff can be pretty darn yucky, can't it?
It seems he accuses those of us who do get mad about the abused of only doing it for our own personal reputation and influence. Can you imagine? We get to stick our necks out to defend the little guy and we are doing this because it helps our reputation? Good night!! That dog don't hunt.
When we become eager to enact God’s wrath through personal vengeance, it’s often because we distrust God’s ability to deal with injustice Himself. Or we distrust Him to do it in a way that satisfies us. When we lash out, fight back, take up zealous causes, angrily pontificate, feud on Facebook, tsk-tsk on Twitter, and berate on blogs, aren’t we, in essence, saying God needs us to set people straight? All too often what we’re really protecting isn’t God’s honor, but our reputation or influence.
In fact, Wilson seems to suggest that he wants us to shut up and wait until Jesus comes back.
The reality is that whatever wrath remains to dispense after the satisfaction of the cross will be dispensed by Jesus Himself upon His return.
Only Jesus should do this, not us.
But He does this, not us
So, stop being a pain in the butt of the church.
And honestly, that’s what some of us really need to do right now: Let. It. Go.
- It took a century for the church to reject racial segregation. Maybe we should have Let. It. Go.
- Reports on child sex abuse on the part of evangelical churches and leaders have sky rocketed. Let. It. Go.
- Some churches impose unjust discipline on their members. Don't warn other people. Let. It. Go.
- Some pastors are making enormous amounts of money and will not tell their contributors what they make. Let. It. Go.
- Some pastors revel in "taking over churches" and calling the ones that were made to leave "wicked and unregenerate." Don't defend those who were rejected. Let. It. Go.
Wilson said something curious.
aren’t we, in essence, saying God needs us to set people straight?
However, doesn't God use us to spread the Gospel, to bring food and medical care to the poor, plant churches, etc. He doesn't need us to do this, does he? Why don't we all just sit back at home, wait for God to work it and Let. It. Go? He could do it all Himself, right? (What are they teaching in seminaries these days?)
Segregation is the latest *thing* which separates the gospel leaders from the ungospelly sheep.
Here are some examples:
- Wayne Grudem's 8 Rules for Gospel Women
- Women cannot read the Bible or pray out loud at the front of the church
- Grace to You: The elders are the focal point of the church.
- Grace to You: Elders are not subject to any higher earthly authority outside of the local assembly
- Mark Dever passes out authority
- Kevin DeYoung: Only ordained pastors and ordained elders should administer the sacraments
Who's in charge and what does than mean, anyway?
The real problem appears to be the incessant need by the NeoCalvinists to prove who is in charge without defining what *in charge* actually means.
Let me point out the problems.
1. Important Doctrine: I do not have to obey the appointed authority when it comes to doctrine.
Let's say I join a church in which I agree with the doctrine as it stands. The new pastor comes and begins to implement hard line Calvinista stuff like women cannot read the Bible behind the pulpit. I then leave the church, after telling them that I don't do Piper. Where is their authority over me in this instance?
The only time that I see the church having any say on this issue is if I say I no longer believe in the essentials of Christ's death and resurrection. Then they have the right to tell me that I no longer can be a member of their church. Why would I want to anyway?
Also, many verses have varying interpretations depending on what theologian one reads. Who tells me which of the well vetted theologians I must read?
2. Secondary doctrine
I am an evolutionary creationist. If I find that my pastor is into Ken Ham and is pushing it on all levels, I have the perfect right to leave the church and find one more willing to allow me my secondary point of view. He cannot use his authority to force me to believe in a young earth, etc. So where is his authority except to enforce it on those in the church who agree or who don't care? This is *being in charge?*
It is also important to realize that most women who believe in an expanded role for women in the church for years have sat in churches that preach it differently. The pastor can preach *with authority*, but the listener is under no obligation to do more than be polite during the service.
3. The rights of conscience of the believer
Todd Wilhelm was confronted by an untenable situation when it came to his conscience. His 9 Marks church in Dubai was pushing books by CJ Mahaney. Todd believed and supported the victims of the sex scandal that rocked the ministry. He was told that the church leadership (aka the Magisterium) would not stop advocating that members read those books. So, he quit. Sounds right to most normal people. But it wasn't for the holders of the keys over there in Dubai.
The church then *out of concern for his very soul* claimed that if he did not immediately join another church, he was still under their
thumb loving concern and care and was added to the infamous 9 Marks 'care list'. (Cue dark music). Todd, who is a dedicated Christian (and was being vetted for leadership in the church), decided to take his time and carefully weigh his options which, for most thoughtful Christians, is a Biblical stance. It took the authorities months to remove his impending "you are in trouble and we are embarrassing you in front of the whole church" status.
By the way, I asked Jonathan Leeman to consider doing a case study on this incident so that we could all learn about the limits and problems of authority. Todd Wilhelm was willing to sign away his rights to confidentiality in this matter. Needless to say, Leeman declined….
I like a glass of wine (I am currently enjoying the blends of the 14 Hands label with my family). The pastor who is not an imbiber cannot force me to abstain, although I would never join such a church. So what authority does he have on the matter? He only has authority over those who agree with him on the matter. So, is that really authority?
What if I find out that my church mishandled a pedophile situation? What if they disagree and claim I am gossiping and slandering? What if I know that I am not? I can quit that church. I can also tell them to leave me alone and not pursue me to another church or we might involve earthly authorities. Am I obligated to sit in that church, knowing without a doubt that a pastor is not telling the truth but that, in the end, he is protected and there is nothing I can do about it? What authority does he have over my conscience?
Authority driven churches have a problem. They have precious little authority over me that I can see. I can pick and choose a church that I respect. I can leave a church that goes in a direction with which I disagree. I can decide whether or not the teaching is in accordance with various theologians. Where, folks, is their authority over me?
What does acquiescing to the leaders in a church really mean?
Here are a few examples:
1. As some of you know, Pete Briscoe of Bent Tree Bible Church was my pastor. I truly respected him, especially since he was open to reasoned critique. In other words, he actually listened to me as a woman.
He asked me to teach an adult Sunday school class (yes, it was co-ed). I felt unprepared; yet I knew the subject matter. I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad that I did. I would continue to teach until I left for Raleigh. It changed the way I thought about the role of women in the church.
2. One time, the church was overwhelmed with Christmas presents donated for children whose parents were in prison. Even though we were terribly busy, my husband and I drove for 45 minutes in Dallas traffic to spend a couple of hours wrapping presents. We wanted to help our church in their chosen missions even though I am the worst wrapper you have ever met. I do bags!
3. I listened carefully as Pete Briscoe, Joanne Hummel and others taught. I took notes and even discussed their messages with others. However, I never stopped checking out Scripture and thinking about what was said. Occasionally, I even thought differently about certain verses. To this day, I remember a number of examples that Pete, Joanne and others used when they taught us about difficult topics like sin and perseverance.
4. We signed up to lead a small group. As time went on, there was a need for more leaders for such groups. In spite of loving our group, we did what was asked of us. We figured out a way to get another couple in our group to lead and then we split the group so others could join. Again, we tried to be of help to our church. We didn't see this as a way to obey leadership in a wooden manner. Instead, we saw the problem and agreed to help. BTBF leaders had the uncanny ability to help us help the church without manipulating us.
5. Then, there came the time when I couldn't do what Pete Briscoe asked me to do. He asked me to head up the building campaign. I knew the church had a problem because the fire department would no longer allow so many people in the building, and the small lot we occupied did not allow for more building.
But, I hate to raise money. I see the need for it and support it, but I have a thing about never wanting people to think I am talking to them so they will give money. So, after thinking long and hard about it, I said "No". It was hard for me, but it was also the right thing to do. Pete did not try to convince me. The church found others to raise the funds so that they could construct their building on new land, and I am so happy for them!
At BTBF, it was truly "We are all in this together." There was no "them" as in "them leaders".
Leading by example, not by wooden mandate
During my years at BTBF, as well as at a few other churches:
- I never heard a sermon on "authority" except for the authority of God and Scripture.
- I never heard a sermon on one-way submission.
- I never heard a sermon outlining what women cannot do.
- I never saw the pastors as celebrities, but I felt a profound respect and love for them.
- I was encouraged to study the Bible, the church fathers, systematic theology, etc.
- I never saw these churches supporting the prosperity gospel or any other weirdness.
- I was never told I was a lesser Christian if I didn't believe a certain secondary doctrine.
Sadly, a leader I knew left one of these churches. Apparently forgetting these lessons we had all learned, he participated in the disciplining of Karen Hinckley at The Village Church. It's a small world after all… I reached out to try and understand how this change could have happened, but he refused to explain.
I am forced to make an educated guess. He left a church that did not stress the Calvinista penchant for authority and the love of gender rules. He traded it for male only leadership that stressed a wooden adherence to rules that easily forgave the male abuser, abused the female victim and blithely informed each and every one of the 6,000+ *intimately involved* church members. He role modeled for me the great danger involved in substituting agape love and freedom for division and authority.
Tune in on Monday when I plan to demonstrate further divisions being promulgated by the rule givers.
In it together with Jesus at the core link