Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elders

Believers who have been hurt by the religious system have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to leadership in the church. Because many of us have been hurt by abusive and controlling leaders, the tendency is to get into a ditch on the other side of the road and to say that all leadership is under the Old Covenant and the need for human leaders ended under the New Covenant.

I think this teaching is as false as the system of leadership promoted by the institutional church. I really believe God intended for his church to have leaders. As I was thinking about this a while ago, I decided to put some thoughts down but I never posted them. I was trying to decide if I should post them when I read Bino’s latest post. I thought what he said went along well with what I had written so I decided to post what I had written and incorporate a few new thoughts.

In the institutional church, leadership is provided by a pastor with the assistance of a board of elders. In that type of system, it’s easy to determine who are the leaders . . . they’re the ones with the title.

However, this wasn’t the method used by the early church. According to Frank Viola, “The Christians themselves led the church under Christ’s direct headship. Leaders were organic, untitled, and were recognized by their service and spiritual maturity rather than by a title or office.” (Pagan Christianity, page 110)

In any group of believers, over time, it’ll become obvious who the elders are. They’re the ones who are serving and encouraging the others. They’re the ones that the other members go to for advice and encouragement. True elders don’t need a title and they don’t go around saying that they’re elders. They just live it without a lot of fanfare.

Eldership was never meant to be a position filled by a congregational election. Elders were supposed to develop as the members of the church grew in relationship. In this healthy, loving environment, elders would just naturally begin to function as elders.

The institutional church with its emphasis on titles and positions actually hinders the raising up of elders. In these systems, the work of ministry is done by those who have the position of pastor or elder. People are encouraged to go to the one with the title even if that person lacks wisdom and maturity. The true elder, the one who is mature and has wisdom, is often overlooked.

As the church leaves the building, I’m seeing elders begin to function in some of the online groups I’m involved with. As relationships grow, the elders in the group become apparent as they humbly move out to serve the others. This is the normal and healthy way the church is supposed to function. Led by this type of organic leadership, members will mature and the church will move forward as Christ intended.

In his comments, Bino posted a more complete list of the characteristics of a true leader. For those who don’t normally read comments, I’ll post his list here since I think the points he makes are very good and worth noting. He said,

"In my mind, a true leader:

-will serve people rather than control or manipulate
-will trust the Holy Spirit in each believer to do the leading and living.
-encourage people to question, challenge and debate various spiritual issues, doctrines etc
-do not force their opinion on others.
-give people freedom to make their own decisions as they are lead by Holy Spirit.
-tolerate diversity.
-promotes transparency and authenticity.
-admits his fleshly imperfection, weakness etc.
-willing to do more listening than preaching.
-will be humble, and have an attitude of a servant of God.
-do not act like they have a special hot line with God.
-believes that God has no partiality.
-encourages total freedom in Christ, teaches freedom from any kind of law.
-will not have an attitude of "I am in charge".
-accepts and loves people as they are, not as they should be.
-will not be a behavior modification therapist, rather point people to their righteous identity in Christ because of what Jesus did."

To read his complete post, follow this link.

7 comments:

Leonard said...

Poor fellow, Punchy's Papa has become an Old man too, and the guy hasn't even breezed by his 40th year yet.

Aida said...

Thanks for the explanation, Leonard.

Leonard said...

tee hee...

lionwoman said...

Great post Aida! I consider you an elder in my life. I find myself naturally looking to you for advice and encouragement, but you never 'lord' over me or make me feel like you have a special hotline to God and I don't. The 'elders' in the church were often hard to approach. Thank you for this clarification.

Aida said...

Thanks, Amy. You are very sweet to say that. I consider you a great friend and I'm thankful that God has brought us together.

Bino M. said...

Leonard - Stop spreading rumors! I just celebrated the 10th anniversary of my 24th b'day. I am still young :)

Leonard said...

Aida calls em Elders, I call em old men ,,, except if its a female, then I just call em for advise...