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Ordination, Offices, Function and Authority (2)

But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
-Matthew 20:25-28

In churches there are structures of governance.  If you walk into a church meeting, you might ask, "who is in charge?"  And when someone writes, speaks, prays, counsels or does music; somebody might ask, "by what authority?", or, "who authorized you?"

Some people make these questions more important or a bigger deal.  You mention an author that you read and people might ask who they are or where they are from and what group they are attached to.  And it gets difficult to describe the affiliations or make-up of someone's pedigree, because their are thousands of streams or tribes in the body of Christ.

My friends and I were starting a home group once and a man who was a friend and tried out the group, was very concerned that none of us who were co-leading had ordination papers or were pastors on a payroll or something.  I knew a pastor who's regional overseer was concerned about groups that were meeting outside the walls of the church property and that this pastor was beginning to dress more casually, when meeting with the church.  And I saw a person's article in an online magazine, who was wearing the priestly collar, in which they were questioning another person's authority to teach or lead in blog posts or through speaking and writing, outside of some sanctioned arena of influence.

All of these stories get me thinking about this topic of ordination, offices, function and authority.  The church 'authorities' questioned Jesus about, "who authorized you?' (Mark 11:27-8).  Seems like the same thing still goes on today.  And although people are ordained in the high to the low churches and we have big Christian publishing houses and medium and small; in all these mechanisms or spheres of authority, we have faulty people.

I'm saying that we assume that because a person is ordained with a group, or has a book contract or record contract with a publisher or label, that they 'must be ok'.  And if they 'go bad', they will be dealt with or disciplined by that organization.  But scandal is always a part of institutional power, perhaps because power outside of God or power that is not from and through God is corrupt power.

One of the words that authoritarians use is, 'laity'.  They refer to we who are not in the clergy class as being 'lay people'.  The problem is that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy in the NT.

We are actually all clergy and laity.  A huge variety of gifts are in us all and many of those gifts have leadership attributes or abilities that we may function in for the benefit of others.  The leadership structure in the kingdom is flat, with one person at the top, who is Christ.

Every time you want to argue that there is clergy and they are the ones over others, in charge, the authorities, the bosses or whatever title you want to employ; you must check yourself with Jesus words from Matthew 20.  No dominating exercising of power over other people.  Rather, you get to serve and be a slave; and servants or slaves are not in any way 'over' others, but under them, lifting them up and beside them, holding them up and guiding them and protecting them.

Most every church has officers.  Officers are those who are appointed, ordained, chosen or commissioned to be 'in charge' of some task or duty.  This includes the treasurer, the person who makes the coffee and provides or coordinates the food, the person in charge of child care and men on the board of elders who make decisions about a church's facilities, properties, corporate vision or partnerships (to name a few of the things elders might do).

In the NT, we see the church being led by a plurality of elders.  Even the Apostles that Jesus left behind exercised a plurality of leadership.  Circle back and re-read Matthew 20.  In my life, I have witnessed a popular form of church governance that has perhaps waned a bit in recent years; that is patterned not after the plurality of elders model, but after Moses.

God can call a church or guide a church to have a 'Moses type' leadership structure.  And I believe that God does, but it is a special calling and is the exception and not the rule, nor the pattern expressed in the pages of the NT.  Churches that began with a dynamic leader called to be a 'Moses type' autocrat, must either reproduce Joshua's who are still autocratic,  but maybe, maybe less so; or be transformed into more of what we see in the NT.

What is silly and even ugly is when a dynamic one-of-a-kind leader gets copied by the next gen of leaders who are actors or caricatures of the original person.  And we end up making a norm out of an exceptional person.

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