Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Is Christ actually the "head of the body"? Or is that really a metaphor about authority delegated to apostles, elders, and ministers?

There is a minor discussion going on among some church leaders regarding what is a "biblical" leadership scheme.

Some seem to feel the bible teaches a basically top-down heirarchical organization, wherein a key principle is Heb 13:17 "Yield to your leaders and submit to them. They keep watch over you as men who must give account (jrb)." It is based on benevolent but binding authority, and leaders are the mediators of God's will for the church.

Others seem to feel that the New Testament teaches a bottom-up organism. A key here would be Eph 4:16, "From (Christ) the whole body, fit and held together by every bond, from the proper working of every part, grows and builds itself by love (jrb)."

The world has plenty of examples of organizations based on power relationships. The whole world is, right? Well, is it possible to have organizations based on just submitted LOVE RELATIONSHIPS, under the direct authority of Christ Jesus?


scott said...

I've written too many posts here lately to be the first one to comment, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Of course it's possible to have organizations based on love relationships. It's only our (unwarranted) fears of "anarchy" that drive us to create too much of a top-down power structure within Christ's church. For some reason, we don't trust other people. Too many of us see ourselves as having knowledge and gifts that the common layperson doesn't have, as if perhaps God's will has been made known to US, yet not to the average Sunday-morning pew-sitter.

The problem with putting too much structural emphasis on Hebrews 13:17 is twofold: #1, who are the leaders giving account to? And #2, who chooses the leaders?

We don't have Jesus or the apostles around anymore to hand-select leaders. So what happens in 21st century churches when you have the leaders choosing the leaders? How do we know they are choosing the RIGHT leaders? Do we just inherently trust them, no matter what? If we are going to compare it to a business organization or a political system, then we could ask this: Do we have the appropriate checks and balances in place?

I believe God's church can have organic structure. Structure isn't evil. But as you wrote, the world has plenty of organizations based on power relationships. Do we really want to be THAT much like the world?

Anonymous said...

I think my question to the world is..."how's that working for you?"
It could be that not only is it biblical but the reason for a lack of power relationships has to do with the fact it works.
On the other hand...I am not against a totalitarian regime with me at the helm. That would solve things.

Macca said...

I'll take #1 in a perfect world, but that doesn't happen successfully very often.

Jesus named his apostolic posse, and we felt free to mess it up by trying every form of church government since.

Joe B said...

I wonder whether we err right when we begin to think in terms of "church governance"? Jesus didn't freak out when he heard of a stranger out ministering in his name, and he told the apostles not to, either. He didn't say, "Hey, what do we know about this guy?? We don't want him giving us a bad name." (Mk 9:37-40)

If the "love model" of organization doesn't work beyond a certain scale, shouldn't we function on a scale appropriate to the biblical model? Or are some things just too important to entrust to "faith working in love"?[Gal 5:6]

Big Doofus said...

The church is more of an "organism" than an "organization". Organisms rely on all of the parts. However, these parts can also go crazy-nuts on you and screw everything up. That just goes with the territory. However, we KNOW that our faith is to be lived out in fellowship which takes its form as the church. We may be redeemed people, but we can and do still sin. It's messy.

Some would say that we no longer have apostles today.

As for the leaders, I don't think they should be "elected". Scripture teaches us that if we really desire this office "it is a fine work he desires to do." That person should be examined by other people and then put into the position if appropriate.

But it's still messy.

Robbie said...
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Robbie said...
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Robbie said...

We can't look at a biblical model and include the words, "laity" or "lay-person" because they aren't in the bible, and the only time "clergy" is ever mentioned in the Bible it is referring to the body as a whole. I just did a presentation on church leadership, and the focus text was Ephesians 4:11-16. Take a look at that and there we see that the Head of the Church is Christ and the body is held together by every supporting ligament, or "lay-person" that is a part of Christ's body. That is a simple way of changing our vocabulary that would make people realize that the people of the Church are the one's that make up the body and those people are all who are under Christ's authority.
It seems as though we always say that Christ is the head, but then don't truly go by that. Christ is the living head of the body that we, every believer, are supposed to be making up. No one else is the head of the Church. There will definitely be people who are gifted in ways of leadership, and these gifts need to be utilized, but we all are still under the head of Christ.
A church never belongs to a preacher or staff people. As a young Youth Minister, the last thing I want Christ to ask me when I am standing before Him is, "What did you do to my Church?"

Joe, sorry I just repeated the same Scripture you used in your original post. I was just trying to explain what I had studied.

Joe B said...

Scripture is gooood, Robbie!

Good comments. I thought it was interesting the word translated "joints" or "ligaments" has a primary meaning of bonding or adhesion. It is bonding that builds up the body, and therefore it is built up "in love". So love is the essence that holds together the substance.

"In him all things hold together"

I think this is the tip of a profound iceberg of truth, and that love is the most understated and least unerstood doctrines in the whole bible.