Friday, 7 June 2013

Submission and accountability

I meet regularly with a group of believers in the surrounding area, we always share a meal together and our meetings are open participatory, which means that the Holy Spirit is free to speak through anyone. I am free to bring a message or a song and the same goes for everyone else. The lack of having a central figure standing on the platform leading us is often criticized by others. They assume that us saying "Christ is our head" is a cop out and we are often accused of being rebellious to leadership and authority which makes us more prone to falling into error.

I would like to address those concerns here and also share what I believe the bible has to say regarding submission and accountability.

Mathew 23:1-12 says

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,  greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Teacher, Teacher.’  But you, do not be called ‘Teacher’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brothers.  Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called Leaders; for One is your Leader, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Strongs dictionary actually defines "Teacher" in the above as "an official title of honour". I find it fascinating how churches have looked for a loop hole in scripture and said, "Ok so we cannot be called Father, let's adjust that to Reverend or Pastor". Don't get me wrong, I certainly recognize the giftings of men that can shepherd and teach within the flock. But we do not read of Apostle Paul, Pastor Peter and Bishop John in the bible, because these were not terms used as titles separating them from their brothers. Jesus said that we are all brothers. We still recognize elders amongst us, but simply as bothers who are further along than the rest, and they are given the respect that they deserve. They do not get to wear a special hat that says that they are of a higher caste than the least of us.

Verse 12 in Mathew 23 is profound and reveals the heart of true leadership. A person who truly seeks to lead us deeper into Christ will be a servant to those he cares for. I always think its strange how the grace preachers emphasis our sonship with God and how Jesus called us "friend", while the more fundamentalist groups deny this and say "no no, we are slaves!" I have no problem using either term, even interchangeably, because true love is not self serving but seeks to serve others. Paul was likewise comfortable using both terms. Jesus himself demonstrated the servant heart to his followers.

1 Peter 5:3 is a telling verse as well as it is the only instance that I am aware of where the word "clergy" appears in the bible., although it gets translated as "heritage" or "inheritance" in most cases. The elders whom Peter is addressing or commanded not to lord over Gods clergy but lead by example. So the only time we see clergy in the bible it is speaking not of the elders, but of the entire assembly! So yes, I think scripture is clear that we are all priests within the body (Rev 1:6). Jesus told us that the gentiles like to exercise lordship and authority over one another, and that it should not be so amongst his followers (Mat 10:42).

So then what does this mean for the church without "super priests"? I believe 1 Peter 5:5 has the answer.

"Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble."

For me it's clear that the entire church must be willing to submit to every other member. Me under your feet and you under mine. With special attention given to the wisdom of elders, simply because they exhibited more maturity than others. But even they are subject to the least of us. This provides wonderful protection for the local church, egos are not nurtured and doctrines are judged not by the elite, but by all. The institutional umbrella or pyramid model has not proved any more successful in safeguarding the flock from error. And worse yet, when it does go bad, it can lead millions into deception. What the Pope or Calvin or (insert leaders name here) says goes and becomes the "truth" for all under them.

We are not exempt from error ourselves, but I believe setting biblical principles in place does give us a better chance of being "sound", and if we do err, at least it is one local assembly and not one entire denomination that falls into some amount of bondage. While ultimately, we are accountable to God, we are to confess our faults one to another in overcoming them. If people think we are lone rangers or not submissive. They have missed the heart of the true fellowship that we pursue.

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