The church becomes ugly when it is led as Church Ltd with a CEO leader and executive board. Its worse when that ‘CEO’ has autocratic authority (assumed or organisationally given) and when s/he leads from that place. It is mechanical, worldly, institutional, legalistic and open to a million abuses. More than that, the whole concept underestimates the value of the body of Christ.
In the New Testament, leadership roles were ones which emerged from the body and were more passive than directive. If you take the role of ‘elder’ it literally meant one who had spiritual maturity and these were affirmed publically in local expressions of the church as it became obvious that they were actually elders! These people didn’t lead the church, although some would teach, but they kept a ‘fatherly’ eye over, gave a mature role model to the rest of the family (like all good parents should do). They’d pray with their eyes open, watch for the wolves, deal with spiritual issues. But their role was to encourage faith, growth, discipleship and act as spiritual fathers in the church. They didn’t control the church, decide on behalf of the church, coerce the church, or claim to provide ‘covering’ where nothing could happen without their approval. For the advent of that kind of role, we have to look at the deviation that happened during Christendom.
Viola points out that ‘the term elder refers to their character. The term overseer refers to their function. And the term shepherd refers to their gifting.’ Yet, we in today’s church, almost without exception, have elders as a public role and office, a rank, a post, a poisition. The modern day invention of ‘presbyter’ or ‘pastor’ barely little resemblence to the biblical pattern.
Occupational hazard. Awkward.
The body of Christ is a family where each contributes to the whole and the mission and work of church was in the hands of the whole body under the sole headship of Jesus who directed its members through the Holy Spirit. The body existed to ‘one another’ one another.
1. If you have an executive leadership in any way, you create a business. If you have spiritual fathers and mothers, you have a family.
2. If you have an executive leader, regardless of how good an elder s/he is, you will always relegate the other ministry roles in their God-given mandate to build up the body. If the elder is charged with the pastoral role in the main, and you then create leadership out of that, you have an organisating limping along on one leg.
3. Finally, if you have an executive leadership, you disenfranchise the body from the charge to engage in the ministry of ‘one another’ – mission and ministry as a corporate responsibility.
I worry that the problem is to much engrained in our Christendom psyche to really change. I wonder if we can shirk this ‘gentile style’ off and fulfil the desire of Jesus that would enable him to say ‘not so with you.’
If you have Church Ltd, you have church limited.