I began to wonder as I looked around my church if I was in an episode of Upstairs/Downstairs? Is there a servant class and an upper class. There are the ministers and then the lowly people who can only speak a certain way to the leaders etc. We went one day when our pastor was sick to visit and one person exclaimed in wonder and awe of his position, “how do I encourage my pastor”. I bristled at this ( not visibly) but I thought “the same way you would anyone else who was sick”. Somehow we’ve got it twisted that a Pastor is someone other just a man or woman who are kept by God like we are by the same Spirit.
A reader of this blog reminded me of another essential reason abusiveness happens in our American churches, and that is an incorrect church structure. The church is supposed to be comprised of many members who make up the body of Christ. I Corinthians 12 gives us a picture of God’s church and the balance that’s supposed to happen in the body. This is the opposite of pastoral authoritarianism. I think incorrect church structure is a breeding ground for corrupt leadership. Whenever we fail to follow scripture in any area, we’ll suffer some negative consequences. If the Pastor constitutes all the decisions and all of the leadership, then that is not the scriptural definition of the body of Christ.
According to scripture, this was the church structure:
Jesus said in Matthew 20:
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV)
The servant mentality is something you don’t often see among today’s church leadership. I think it’s a result of us as Christians falling into an attitude of “whose in charge.” It’s easier for us to have God in the form of a person than the God we can’t see. I mean I just think that’s so human of us to lean toward the tangible. So we’ve given high authority and power to human beings. Because of this adoration we have for people that teach and preach the Word of God, I’ve known many Pastors who expect to be treated special because they are treated with such high honor. Not that we should ignore a leader and can’t show them appreciation, but many leaders have come to expect to be served rather than serve. As a result, some leaders simply become full of themselves and have viewed themselves as “in charge” How sad.
Church Structure 101
Ephesians 4 states:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (NIV)
This shows a plurality of ministry that would be used to perfect the church, not just one person. Even in the book of Acts, the focus was on what God did during the early days of the church and gifts used to bring people to Christ rather than on the individual apostles. When the Bible lists these ministries in Ephesians, this is not done in a ranking fashion, he is talking about the method used to build the church. Note that he starts the list in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28 with apostles and prophets. This is because they were used first in the building of the church. It’s like a contractor saying “this is how I built this apartment building. First, I poured the concrete for the foundation.” ( Sorry you construction people if I messed up here, but you get the idea).
Ephesians 2: 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord
I certainly don’t know about all Pastors, but in our church culture in America, there seems to be more focus on the personality and charisma of individual leaders than the work of the entire body of Christ in most congregations. People adore their pastors, and if you ask most people there are pastors whose teachings they follow, and churches are known by their pastors. Not that love for a leader is wrong, but I think in many ways we’ve lost sight of the balance God created in the body of Christ. It would be great if we looked again at what the body of Christ should look like.
Read this and it’s as plain as day:
I Corinthians 12: 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.