the weblog of Alan Knox

The Church or the Organization?

Posted by on Mar 30, 2007 in elders, missional, office | 110 comments

The Church or the Organization?

In my previous post, “What does a bishop oversee?“, I suggested that elders/pastors/bishops should focus on the church – that is, the people – instead of any organization formed around or by the church. This was my concluding paragraph:

But, what difference does it make? Why does it matter whether our pastors/elders “oversee” an organization or “are concerned about” the people of God. Well, for me, it makes all the difference in the world. As an elder, I want to know what God requires of me. Does God require me to run the church like a well-oiled machine? Or does He expect me to “look after” and “be concerned about” those believers around me? I believer God’s focus is people… and so, our focus should be people as well. If my focus is on people, I will respond differently than if my focus was on an organization. My priorities will be different if my focus is on people instead of an organization. My time, resources, and effort will be spent differently if my focus is on people instead of an organization.

In the great discussion that followed in the comments, there were some questions about organizations and the church. David Rogers, from “Love Each Stone“, made the following statement:

I agree that a “bishop” should focus more on “overseeing” people than an organization. However, I think we would be hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization.

I do not quote David to point out a disagreement. In fact, I believe that we are probably very close on this issue. Instead, I want to use this statement as a starting point in to further discuss the difference between focusing on people (the church) and focusing on the organization.

First, I do not believe that it is wrong or evil for the church to organize itself for particular purposes. I think we see this in Scripture. For example, as Paul was travelling around the Roman Empire, he travelled with several people. I’m sure there was some type of organization involved. We know that Paul made tents at times in order to provide for himself and his travelling companions (Acts 20:34-35). One person working to provide for himself and others demonstrates some type of organization.

So, organization is not wrong or evil in and of itself. My good friend Theron from “Sharing in the Life” (Who is finally blogging again!), has a great post on organization called “The Role of Organization in a Body of Believers“.

Though we might agree that organizations are not bad, and may even serve a good purpose at times, this does not mean that we will be “hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization”. Unfortunately, in today’s “Church Growth” literature, we find just this: a focus on the organization at the expense of the people involved. Here is one example:

Mark Driscoll is an interesting figure. He is at times accepted and at times excepted by emerging/missional believers. Some praise him and the Mars Hill Church which he started in Seattle, WA. Others claim that he is not truly “emerging” but more accurately reflects “evangelicalism” or the seeker church movement. Similarly, some evangelicals say that Driscoll is emerging, while others (like the Southern Baptist Convention, which appears to be wooing him and his Acts 29 Network) welcome him as a fellow evanglical. In other words, Driscoll somehow represents both the emerging and the evangelical flavors of Christianity – loved by some in both camps and hated by some in both camps.

In his 2006 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, Driscoll describes the phenomenal growth of Mars Hill Church. In one chapter, he explores some of the decisions that he had to make in order for Mars Hill Church to grow from 350 people to 1000 people:

We had to quickly reorganize all of our systems and staff. Our administrative pastor, Eric, left, which we all recognized was God’s call on him. And our worship leader was a great guy and great musician but was unable to coordinate the multiple bands in the three locations, so we let him go. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made because he was a very godly man who had worked very hard and would have been fine if the church had not gotten so crazy so quickly, and he and his very sweet wife were both close personal friends of mine. But I needed a worship pastor who could lead multiple bands, coordinate multiple services in multiple locations, and train multiple worship pastors while keeping up with a church that was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going. [135]

Now, just in case you think that Driscoll may have made the decision to let his close personal friend go because of his concern for other people, please continue reading:

A very wise friend who is a successful business entrepreneur, Jon Phelps, shared an insight with me around this time that was very clarifying. He said that in any growing organization, there are three kinds of people, and only two of them have any long-term future with a growing organization. First, there are people on the rise who demonstrate an uncanny ability to grow with the organization and become vital leaders. Second, there are people who attach themselves to the people on the rise as valuable assistants who rise by being attached to someone on the rise. Third, there are people who neither rise nor attach to anyone who is rising, and they cannot keep up with the growing demands of the organization. These people fall behind, and the organization can either allow their inability to slow down the whole team or release them and move forward without them. This is difficult to do because they are often good people who have been partly responsible for the success of the organization. But the needs of the organizational mission, not an individual in the organization, must continually remain the priority if there is to be continued success. [135]

From what I have read, none of the people who commented would agree with Driscoll’s approach. However, I also do not think that Driscoll is alone in his priorities. There are many who say that the organization should be placed above the people involved.

What Driscoll describes is the exact opposite of my position. The pastors/elders/bishops must focus on the people before the organization. However, we should all admit, even if we do not go to the extreme that Driscoll went to, it is much easier to put the organization above the people. But, according to Scripture, the people should always come first.

Our desire should be to grow the people (edify the body), not to grow the organization – and this includes those “stubborn” people that God has placed in our path. In fact, our purpose should be the growth of the whole body, not just 2/3 of the body. When people begin to be sacrificed in order to further the “organizational mission”, then the organization has the wrong mission. And, when pastors/elders/bishops begin focusing on the organization instead of the people, then they are not acting as the pastors/elders/bishops that Scripture describes.


110 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    This is another interesting post. I think a large part of the issue and problem that you’re addressing here is the size of a local congregation. If you’re going to have a vibrant, progressive, growing church (people-wise), then you’re going to have growing pains, and you’ll have to make changes to staff in order to let the congregation grow. Right now, my church (you can check out the new website at http://www.faithchurchok.com/) has about 120 members (including kids and nursery), but its been prophecied we’ll expand and grow to at least 1500. If this is to come to past, then there must be a lot of changes, including how we handle personnel issues.

    Now, I do NOT think that it really is a choice between the people and the organization that serves them (and in which they also serve). I do not believe its a black/white choice like that. Instead, I believe what must be the highest priority is God’s vision for the local congregation, which has been given to the senior pastor (for lack of a better term) as a sacred entrustment. It is that vision that must be ABOVE BOTH the organization and the people. So, for me, the pecking order would be the vision first, then the people, and lastly the organization itself. We just have to be obedient to the call of God as leaders, and do what God’s shown us, even if people’s toes get stepped on. I’m just being honest — God and His vision for the organization must be paramount, even above the people, because ONLY if we OBEY GOD can we BEST serve the people with excellence. Amen?

    I agree with you that our main purpose should be edifying the people, and the body, and ALL of it (not just two-thirds). But one cannot do this with excellence if we do not OBEY GOD and what He has shown us in terms of the vision for the local congregation. Like I’ve been saying — the people and the organization are two sides of the same coin. If we truly edify the people, then the church WILL GROW — but HOW do we edify the people? By advancing God’s vision for the local church, and making that paramount.

    Lastly, while agree that when pastors, elders, and bishops begin to focus on the organization and not the people, then they are in the wrong, I strongly DISAGREE that if people are sacrificed, then the organization somehow automatically has the wrong mission.

    As a case in point, I personally am aware of two ministries (one church and one national ministry) that has cut back some of its staff in the past few weeks. Both made these sacrifices because of financial issues. However, I do not think these lay-offs are tied to a wrong organizational mission or vision, as you suggest.

    Finally — and yes, this is my last close for this particular post — I think it is selfish to put people above the vision that God has given the organization. We should be God-centered, not people-centered. We cannot please people all the time, and we best serve people when we OBEY God and the vision that HE, the Lord of the universe, has given us for the local body.

    What are your thoughts about all of this – ???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  2. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    Thanks for this post. You give some practical illustrations to help me understand what you are getting at. I’m fairly confident that my basic convictions are very compatible with yours on these issues. However, for the sake of discussion, what you say brings up a few more questions and issues…

    1. I think I agree with Jonathan that this has implications regarding the size of the congregation. The type and amount of “organization” needed in a “mega-church” is, almost by definition, different from a small church.

    I think it was Peter Wagner, if I am not mistaken, who first talked about “Senior Pastors” of “mega-churches” being more “ranchers” than “pastors.”

    2. This brings me to another question. Is the role of spiritual “rancher” understood in this way, a legitimate spiritual ministry? There appear to be individuals gifted in this manner. But is this more a natural gifting or is it a God-given spiritual gifting?

    3. I think there are also implications for the church “structure” or church “model.” It seems like the type of things you are calling for more naturally happen in a “house church” or “simple church” setting. “Church” as we have known it for the past couple of centuries seems, by its very nature, to get in the way of some of these things at times. You have to “oil the machinery” or else it “bogs down.”

    Is it possible in a “cell church model” to have the best of both worlds (quality pastoral care for individuals along with an organizational structure geared for growth)?

    4. How does the “Purpose-Driven Church” concept advocated by Rick Warren fit into all of this? Provided the basic purposes of church (worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions) are being successfully achieved, does the actual structure or model used in achieving them become of secondary relevance? Or are their church “structures” and “models” that are, in and of themselves, more biblical than others?

    We could throw in here what implications this has for the entire “church growth movement” as well.

    There you go, Alan. I’ve given you material for about 5 or 6 new posts here. :^)

  3. 3-30-2007

    Just realized that in the comment about Peter Wagner, I should have said “being more ‘ranchers’ than ‘shepherds.'” In Spanish, the word “pastor” can be translated either “pastor” or “shepherd.” As a result, I sometimes forget the connection is not necessarily always automatic for wveryone.

  4. 3-30-2007

    This is a good post, Alan.

    First I just wanted to address the thought in the comments re: small churches and large churches. We have served in both small (less than 150) and mega churhes. Our experience was the same – priority of the organization over the people, ultimately. Yes, in the smaller church it wasn’t quite so obvious, but in the end it was still there. Speaking of the churches that we have served in, they were all vastly different, yet they were the same. Different leadership, different vision, different goals, different sizes … same structure, same priorities, same problems. And we have friends in ministry in various places around the country, in various settings and it’s the same with their churches too.

    One thing that we have seen is a person being thought of as an asset or liability (even in a small setting) rather than as a person. And that based on their involvement, their talents, their “gifts” (I use that term lightly in this sense) … anything quantifiable that can be measured … they are seen as either an asset or a liability to the church. They may even have strong personal relationships with the leaders, but in the end the question is are they “good” for the church (the congregation, the organization, the institution – use whatever word you will, they all mean the same thing in this discussion).

    What you quoted from Mark Driscoll is very telling. And, unfortnately, may be more of the reality than we think it is. He had a good man on staff, a close friend, but he had to let him go because he was not good for the church. In whose eyes? I’m afraid our present-day church structures have more to do with American culture and corporations than they have to do with the New Testament.

  5. 3-30-2007

    I would love to comment more on this, but I have to get ready for a long day at work, so I can’t.

    I do want to say, however, that not only do I not agree with Driscoll’s approach (esp. regarding the worship leader dismissal), but I find it sickening.

    I try very hard not to speak too harshly about what others are doing, but I cannot hide my feelings on this one. That, to me, is 180 degrees out of phase with the heart of Jesus for His church.

    I will resist the urge to say anything more about that.

  6. 3-30-2007

    I also would like to post a comment/question, but have to go help at my son’s school. I’ll be back later…..

    Ditto what Steve said…

    Blessings!
    Paige

  7. 3-30-2007

    I would have to disagree with Jonathan. I think it is definitely a choice between people and the organization, and unfortunately in a day where efficiency and excellence are the buzzwords, organization often wins out over people. Unless I am mistaken, Jesus never told us to grow churches. In fact, He said that He would be the one building His church. Instead, He told us to make disciples. Making disciples takes love and time and energy. It’s not efficient to love people and help them grow, and I feel that this fact often leads us to sacrifice people for numbers and “church” growth, whether we consciously admit it or not.

  8. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    I write this post with a heavy heart and holding back the tears while my math students take their quiz.

    I ask myself what is God’s vision?

    I look at Christ and see the disciples telling Him that there were crowds around Him, but He instead wanted to talk to the one. I see that when the disciples thought that there was no way they could take care of all the people, He had compassion on all of them and fed them and taught them. I see God in the flesh being about serving, calling people to himself, but not for what they could do for Him or for His cause, but because He loved them. I see Him calling one whom He knew was going to betray Him, and loving and teaching Him until the end.

    God’s vision is not going to contradict the example of God Himself and I pray my life never will either.

  9. 3-30-2007

    I only have a few minutes also.

    Love this…

    “When people begin to be sacrificed in order to further the “organizational mission”, then the organization has the wrong mission. And, when pastors/elders/bishops begin focusing on the organization instead of the people, then they are not acting as the pastors/elders/bishops that Scripture describes.”

    It seems I find myself frequently not agreeing with Mr. Driscoll. That’s all I’ll say about that!

    I would say that God’s vision is people and that any “vision” that needs to sacrifice people in order to be accomplished doesn’t come from Him. It is a mistake to attach His name to our grandiose plans if they don’t line up with His heart and purpose.

    And as Drew said, making disciples is not necessarily efficient, nor does it always have the appearance of success.

  10. 3-30-2007

    Jonathon in response to your last post; while I understand where you are coming from, I would pose the following questions in regard to your comments to Alan:

    1) Where in scripture (NT) do you find a mandate for … ‘a vibrant, progressive, growing church’? Unless you mean the ‘living stones’ which comprise the Church. I thought our mandate was to make disciples i.e. to assist them in their goal of becoming more like Jesus.

    2) With all due respect it is not YOUR Church but the Lords! Therefore I would ask: Is it really the Lord’s goal that His Church, increase from 120 members (including kids and nursery) to at least 1500? Why … at least? And before you respond with: the prophet said so … I would ask again: are YOU personally convinced that this is what the Lord has spoken of … unequivocally to you.

    3) You state that … “the highest priority is God’s vision for the local congregation, which has been given to the senior pastor (for lack of a better term) as a sacred entrustment”. Can you support this by (NT) scripture/s – especially given that the term Senior Pastor does not exist there?

    4) You state that: “It is that vision that must be ABOVE BOTH the organization and the people”. NO! Primacy of place in HIS Church is reserved for the Lord alone.

    5) Now this really concerns me … “We just have to be obedient to the call of God as leaders, and do what God’s shown us, even if people’s toes get stepped on”. Didn’t Jesus say something about NOT lording it over people and something about serving them?

    6) I can’t let this statement go unchallenged: “God and His vision for the organization must be paramount, even above the people, because ONLY if we OBEY GOD can we BEST serve the people with excellence. Amen”? NO, no a thousand times, NO! Firstly Jesus said He would build His Church – the Ekklesia – the ‘called out ones’. HE is all about building people NOT an organisation and so should we be!

    7) You then said: “I agree with you that our main purpose should be edifying the people, and the body, and ALL of it (not just two-thirds)” … again we are not to edify, but rather to equip. This is not mere semantics, in some circles to ‘edify’ simply means to ‘give them what they want’! Although I don’t believe that is what you mean here. The role of leaders in the Lord’s Church is to equip the ‘priesthood of all believers’ (the people) for the work of the ministry – they are the Ministers!

    8) I sometimes fear that we have placed far too much emphasis on the Church and far too little on the Kingdom. This seems to have resulted in multiplied ‘kings’ reigning over their own little kingdoms at the expense of the unity of Christ’s Kingdom expressed through the agency of the Church which is itself ruled by the only true King – Jesus Christ!

    Jonathon, I mean no offence in any of the above and look forward to your response particularly since you asked: “What are your thoughts about all of this – “???

  11. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan,

    I’m speechless. I’m not going to comment further… I think others here have expressed my feelings well.

    -Alan

  12. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    Before I respond to others’ posts, I want to respond to you… when I refer to a “local church” or something to that effect, what I mean is the local congregation, which is an organization. When I refer to THE church, I usually am referring to the universal body of believers, and thus, the people.

    David,

    I don’t think I understand the role of “rancher,” could you provide a more complete definition of that – ???

    Drew,

    So, you do not believe that the vision of the local congregation should be paramount – ???

    To clarify, I never said we should be about “building congregations.” Instead, I believe the people will best be served when God’s vision for the local body is being fulfilled, so the vision must be first, in order to serve the people the best.

    Grace,

    I believe that God’s vision is different for each local congregation, in terms of local goals and objectivs. Some congregations have different emphases, as well, which flow from the vision God has given the local congregation’s leadership.

    John Purcell,

    I’ll answer each of your questions in turn:

    (1) I never said there is a mandate for “vibrant, progressie, growing local congregation.” All I said if that is going to be a goal — to have a local congregation that can be described that way, as a vibrant, progressive, growing local body, then there will have to be changes in the organizational format that allow the organization to GROW. I agree that the mandate is to make disciples, but it takes the organization of the local congregation to do that. I believe this is why Paul refers to the “flock of God” in Acts 20.

    (2) When I was referring to my own local congregation, I was just referring to the one that I belong to as a member. I’m not a pastor. And I do not claim pastoral ownership of “my church.” Of course I acknowledge that God owns the local congregation where He has planted me. Now, as to your other question, concerning the increase of the congregation, YES, I do believe that God has given my pastor a goal of increasing us to 1500. Before I address WHY this is a goal for us, and HOW that happened to get that way, I believe that if you are a member of a local congregation, then one of your responsibilities is to be in agreement with, an support whatever vision God has given your pastor for the local congregation. In this case, part of “raising up a victorious and powerful church (here I refer to the body of Christ universally),” is for my particular local congregation to increase from 120 to 1500. Clearly, this does not happen overnight. What did happen is that God gave my pastor’s pastor (our apostle) a dream… and in this dream my pastor’s pastor was sitting in my pastor’s house, talking with my pastor, and while they were confirming details of the Sunday services the next day, my pastor told his pastor that the local body had increased to 1500 people. After my pastor’s pastor had this dream, he called my pastor and told him — and I heard about it first at Monday night prayer later that day. So, John, that’s why I agree with this.

    (3) Before I address the vision part of your question here, I’ll address the “senior pastor” part. I know the term “senior pastor” is NOT in the NT. That is why in my original comment, I said in parentheses “for lack of a better term.” What I mean is the chief elder of the local congregation. In Ephesus, for example, that person was Timothy. So, that’s what I mean here. Now, as for the other part — Acts 20:24 and 28, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the MINISTRY THAT I RECEIVED FROM THE LORD JESUS (this is the sacred entrustment), to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God… Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that He purchased with His own blood.” I believe that the vision for each local congregation is basically the same as the “ministry received from the Lord Jesus Christ,” that God speaks to pastors of local congregations, and gives them specific instructions for each one. There are general instructions, set forth in the NT, but in terms of application, the Holy Spirit must reveal to the local congregation’s leadership how to APPLY the Word of God to their specific congregation. This is why different congregations have different visions and emphases.

    (4) So you would place God above BOTH the people AND the organization – ???

    (5) I never said leaders of a congregation should lord over people. John, please don’t put words into my mouth. However, obedience to the call of God needs to be paramount in ANY Christian’s life, whether they are a leader, a pastor, or just a lay member. If God tells you to do something, then to not do it is disobedience. Amen? However, sometimes in order to be obedient, people’s toes might be stepped on. What I am saying here is we cannnot be afraid to offend people. We must be bold, and if that offends people, the Bible says the gospel is an offense. That’s my point here, it has nothing to do with lording over people, which is wrong.

    (6) John, again you’re putting words in my mouth and inferring concepts from what I’m saying here. Even you agree that God should be paramount. Like I said here, “God and His vision should be paramount.” Jesus DID say He would build His Church. I never said anything to the contrary of that. I do believe that Jesus uses laborers, however, to do the work of the ministry, and to build His Church. In other words, I believe the Body of Christ is God’s primary instrument in accomplishing God’s purposes, including “building His Church.”

    (7) I agree with you that to “edify” is NOT to “give them what they want.” But I DO see a difference between “edify,” which is for ALL believers, and “equip,” which is for five-fold ministry. “Edifying” is building people, while “equipping” is training people, preparing them, and maturing them for ministry. Yes, EVERY believer is called to be a minister, as you exclaimed.

    (8) I don’t know how to respond to this. From the one of your post, I think (but I could be wrong) you have been somehow greatly offended by the Body of Christ, and perhaps by a local congregation and pastor as well. If that is the case, I apologize to you on behalf of Christ’s Body.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  13. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan,

    We are beginning from a fundamentally different understanding of the church. We also utilize a different hermeneutic in understanding Scripture.

    -Alan

  14. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    Would you care to please elaborate on what you mean by “a fundamentally different understanding of the church” and a “different hermeneutic” – ???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  15. 3-30-2007

    Jonathan, I will be brief in answering the question you addressed to me. No, I do not believe that “the vision of the local congregation” should be of first importance, because I don’t believe in such a thing, at least the way you describe it. I believe that God’s will is revealed in scripture and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, nowhere else. God does have a plan for all individuals and congregations, but it is not revealed. It is a part of His sovereign will and will most assuredly be accomplished. For the sake of brevity I will not go into the details of my arrival at this conclusion. Just know that I arrived here through much prayer and study, and while I know my position is not really the popular one, it is not without scholarly merit, and was in fact the predominant position among Christians until about 150 years ago.

  16. 3-30-2007

    Allan (and jonathan)
    For me, a non-SB baptist going to a SBC school, I don’t really go for the Call or the Vision. Can the vision be anything else other than Scripture and its teachings? Why not start and stop there unless we feel we have it down pat? the Call makes me really uncomfortable as well but I realize that can be a bit of a sacred cow. I think allan’s comment that the starting points are different is a bit understated.

  17. 3-30-2007

    Jonathon,

    I respect your sincerity, and appreciate your passion for the Church. Your loyalty to your Pastor is commendable; however, I must say that our views are poles apart on the issues you raised in your post.

    To address the various points raised, with due diligence, would be quite exhaustive; and amount to a huge digression. However, if you wish to contact me directly to discuss these things at length, then I’ll be happy to post my email address.

    Thankyou for clarifying your view … God bless!

    John

  18. 3-30-2007

    Alan, I don’t know if this really goes along with this all or not, but I’ll share it to get your thoughts.

    Some are expressing the idea that people vs. organization is a false dichotomy.

    Recently in a discussion with a good friend about these types of things, I had the following thought:

    When we think “organization”, there are potentially two different ideas at play. One is what I term “pragmatic organization”. This is for things like coming to decisions about when we will all gather, where we’ll gather, etc.

    In this kind of “pragmatic organization”, there is no need for the concept of “ruling” or “authority”.

    Then, there is what I call “theological organization”, or perhaps a better term would be “ecclesiastical organization”. It is this type of organization that I think many of us are reacting against when we say that people matter over and against the organization.

    The “ecclesiastical organization” is, in my opinion, largely extra-biblical (NT, that is), and is very much based on pre-Christ Jewish practices or pagan religious practices (does the name Constantine ring any bells)?

    Your thoughts? (Or you can defer, if you’d like, since it may be too much of a tangent for this discussion)

  19. 3-30-2007

    Drew,

    Well, then we probably have a fundamental disagreement. I think where I disagree with you is this statement, “God does have a plan for all individuals and congregations, but it is not revealed.” It is not that entire statement that I disagree with, but the second part. I do NOT believe that God’s plan for individuals and/or congregations is NOT revealed… it is NOT a mystery. We CAN KNOW the will and plan of God for our lives, and for our congregations, and cooperate with God to see it accomplished. I recently discussed this in my own blog, and I invite you to please visit http://worldoffaith.wordpress.com/ for more details in this area.

    tenjuices,

    I agree with you somewhat, that God has a “universal” (that’s my word) calling and plan for every Christian and every congregation that is set forth in the Scriptures. However, I believe that God has more specific plans that He reveals in prayer to the leadership (esp. the pastor) of the local congregation, in terms of how the congregation will practically apply the Scriptures and DO (or prove as in Rom. 12:2) the will of God for the specific local congregation. Clearly, not every congregation has the same emphasis, etc.

    John,

    Thanks for your repsonse. Please e-mail me at jbkrems@excite.com to discuss your points further… I’d like to hear from you.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  20. 3-30-2007

    Alan,

    I’m not often lost for something to say, but I’m grieved, in much the same way as Maël, by things that some Christians do (Driscoll), and the things some people understand (Jonathan). I don’t doubt their sincerity.

    The Body of Christ, the congregation or assembly (I don’t want to use the term church) Jesus is building, is for one purpose, to glorify the risen Lord Jesus Christ. My heart is so full I don’t trust myself to write further at this time.

  21. 3-30-2007

    Jonathon,
    It sounds almost catholic that the pastor or priest is somehow closer to God than the congregants of a church and he alone is capable of receiving the truth and communicating it to the laity. In that sense I disagree. I just don’t see how one gathering should be wholly different or committed to different ideals if we are one body in Christ
    ed
    ps – my friends call me TJ

  22. 3-30-2007

    TJ,

    Well, I guess your friends desire to MAXXimize your name (get it, TJ Maxx, the dept. store)… LOL… anyways… let me respond to your post.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I believe that a pastor is somehow closer to God than the congregants of a local congregation. I don’t think I ever have said that, or indicated that by what I’ve said. If that’s the idea you got from what I wrote, then I’m terribly sorry, because that is really incorrect.

    I do believe that my pastor does receive certain revelation from the Word of God that I as a member of the congregation NEED to hear. I would not say that he is closer to God than myself or any other member, but I would say he has a special and unique relationship that is (1) more mature than mine, and (2) is different than mine, because perhaps he has a DEEPER walk with God than I do, and because (3) my pastor is in five-fold ministry and at this point in my life, I’m not. By any of this I do NOT mean to infer that my pastor is CLOSER to God than I am, or anyone else. However, I do believe that he is more mature, and further along in his walk with God, and his relationship with God is different and unique, compared with mine. Does that make sense???

    I also believe that because he is the pastor/elder, then he has a special position before God to hear from God what the vision of our local congregation should be — and he ALSO bears a special responsibility to communicate and cast this vision from the pulpit, so that congregation will be able to catch it and run with it, according to Habbakuk 2.

    I don’t mean some Catholic concept that my pastor alone is capable of hearing the truth from God and communicating it to the laity. But I do believe my pastor has a special role to train and equip the saints to do the work of the ministry that they are called to do, according to Eph. 4:11, et seq.

    TJ, does that clairfy things, or do you still have questions???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  23. 3-30-2007

    Everyone,

    I’ve been away from the computer since early this afternoon. I appreciate the way that everyone has carried on this conversation. I believe that we all desire to seek God’s will and to understand his plan for the church. I hope that we will all continue to spur one another on towards love and good works through these posts and comments.

    -Alan

  24. 3-31-2007

    Jonathan,

    I’m sorry that I have not been able to comment further. It has been a very busy 24 hours or so for me. You asked me to elaborate on my statement that we have a fundamental difference in our understanding of the church and a different hermeneutic. Instead of elaborating, I’d suggest that you read through some of my blog posts under the label “definition”. Primarily, I did a series a few months back called “Defining the Church”.

    As for hermeneutics, let’s just say (for now) that I understand the presuppositions that I bring to the text, and I attempt to not let those presuppositions change the meaning of what the text actually says. Primarily, I do not believe that the “institutional church” is described in Scripture, so I have tried to read Scripture without the “institutional lens”.

    -Alan

  25. 3-31-2007

    I apologize for not responding to other comments sooner. I’ll try to reply briefly now.

    David,

    As always, you ask some great questions. First, I would say that yes, there are implications associated with what I am saying about focusing on people (the church) instead of the organization. Second, I think that you and I are approaching this from different directions, which probably explains why we often seem to disagree, then end up much closer once we discuss the issue further. I am not beginning with an outcome in view (i.e. “house church”, “simple church”, “megachurch”, “purpose driven church”). Instead, I believe that there are certain foundational issues that any church (and any “kind” of church) must take into consideration. One of those issues is how leaders regard themselves and other people, and whether they focus on people or the organization. I would suggest that if a certain structure causes or tempts a leader to focus on the organization instead of people, then there is something fundamentally wrong with that structure. I realize that many of the things that I talk about are not practical. However, if we find ourselves choosing practical over following Scripture, I think we are going to be in trouble. (By the way, I do not think this is what you are saying. I’m just following out my own train of thought here.)

    Heather,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I’ve also been part of small and large (>12,000 members) churches. I’ve noticed that in any size of church it is easy to slide into an organizational mindset.

    Steve,

    Driscoll’s view is 180 degrees from my view as well. I’m going to keep encouraging others to focus on people.

    Drew,

    I agree that “sacrificing people” is not the kind of “church growth” that God has in mind.

    Maël,

    My heart was broken as well. Knowing your heart for the church, I thought that would be your response as well.

    Grace,

    I find myself often disagreeing with Mark Driscoll as well.

    Ed of the tenjuices,

    Did you notice the reference to Habakkuk in a comment on another post?

    -Alan

  26. 3-31-2007

    John Purcell,

    I forgot to reply to your long comment… I thought you asked some very important questions. I hope that all of us take time to think through what you said and asked without jumping to the answers that we’ve always been told. I know that I’ve learned that when it comes to the church, what I’ve been told is not always the same as what Scripture says.

    -Alan

  27. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  28. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  29. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  30. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  31. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  32. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  33. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  34. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  35. 3-31-2007

    Well, Alan…
    You did unleash a tiger. Well-presented post with lots of potential for discussion. I really appreciate the many thoughtful comments, even when there is so much room for disagreement.

    If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?

    Organizations are just the frame. People are the masterpiece, and any vision that focuses only on the frame is an insult to the artist.
    Kat

  36. 3-31-2007

    Kat,

    I want to repeat what you said, in case anyone missed it the first time:

    “If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    Jesus died for people–the slow, the lame, the disorganized, the 2nd-stringer’s, the purposeless. They will all be there at His Heavenly feast. Who gives anyone the right to turn them away from the table here on earth?”

    Who gives anyone the right… who indeed.

    -Alan

  37. 3-31-2007

    Kat,

    I completely agree with you that any vision that focuses solely on the frame of the organization, and not on the people, is an insult to THE Artist (God). That’s why I said the vision should be above the organization, and ultimately paramount, so that the people can best be served.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  38. 4-1-2007

    Jonathan,

    I finally located the Wagner quote on “ranchers” and “shepherds.” He is actually referencing Lyle Schaller.

    In “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow” (pp. 162-63), Wagner says the following:

    “Lyle Schaller likens skillful pastors of growing churches to ‘ranchers’ rather than ‘shepherds.’ Ranchers make sure that their different flocks and herds get the attention they need, and they get others to do it. They take little personal interest in the problems of the individual sheep. Pastors who prefer the shepherd model will have to content themselves with small churches, and this may well be God’s will for them. In them, their role of leadership will suffice without a special gift. On the other hand those who can fit into the rancher model have much greater possibilities for growth. They are likely to have the gift of leadership. God loves both shepherds and ranchers.”

    As I said in my comment above, I agree with you that this discussion has a lot of implications regarding church size, and the church growth movement in general.

    Wagner’s chapter in this book on “The Pastor and his Gift-Mix” actually have a lot of interesting things to say that I think relate to the discussion at hand.

    Another interesting rabbit to chase would be the “church health” movement, associated with Christian Schwartz’s “Natural Church Development.” The idea being that church’s that are truly “healthy” (and there are a number of specific factors given to measure this) will also by nature grow numerically.

  39. 4-1-2007

    Jonathan,

    You began this comment stream with this statement: “I strongly DISAGREE that if people are sacrificed, then the organization somehow automatically has the wrong mission.” I know that you have stated that you think people should be more important than the organization, but I’m still having a hard time seeing how the statement I quoted shows that people are more important than the organization. If an organization grows by sacrificing people, then the organization is the focus, not the people. Scripture teaches us to focus on people.

    -Alan

  40. 4-1-2007

    David,

    You quoted Wagner as saying: “Lyle Schaller likens skillful pastors of growing churches to ‘ranchers’ rather than ‘shepherds.’ Ranchers make sure that their different flocks and herds get the attention they need, and they get others to do it. They take little personal interest in the problems of the individual sheep. Pastors who prefer the shepherd model will have to content themselves with small churches, and this may well be God’s will for them.”

    I understand that this is not your statement. But, the purpose of my previous post (“What does a bishop oversee”) was to show that elders are to “oversee” people. How does this (which I think is from Scripture) correlate with the “rancher” model? Or, do we find the rancher model somewhere else in Scripture? Or, do we find the rancher model in the corporate world?

    -Alan

  41. 4-2-2007

    David,

    I think you will find my own pastor to be a “golden middle” between the “extremes” (for lack of a better word) of “ranchers” and “shepherds.” Maybe he is “neither.”

    Alan,

    That original statement really dealt with what I believe is a logical non sequitur statement that you originally made in the original post. You originally stated, “When people begin to be sacrificed in order to further the ‘organizational mission,’ then the organization has the wrong mission.” To me, this is a logical non sequitur. I do not believe that just because there are staff lay offs (like there recently were at New Life Church in Colorado Springs) so that the organization can be in financial good standing (otherwise there would be a deficit and financial dire straits), that such lay-offs reflect a wrong organizational mission. The staff sacrifices had nothing to do with the mission of the organization — it had to do with finances, so that the church can be financially healthy. So, the kind of statement you’re making is a logical non sequitur… the cause and effect are not properly joined together.

    I think the other area where we disagree, Alan, is that I believe you create a false dichotomy between the people and the organization. I do not believe we should be “either/or” in this area. To me, good church leaders are “both/and” people where the vision of the organization that God has given is paramount, then the people, and then the structure of the organization, which should change and develop as the local body grows, and that to me is a natural process… the bigger you get (for better or worse) the more staff you need to tend to the flock. Only by putting God’s vision for the local body first can church leaders effectively minister to the people. But the functional, pragmatic structure and organization — that’s all secondary and tertiary to the people, because they need to have their needs met, whatever those needs are. Otherwise, we’re not doing our job… amen?

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  42. 4-2-2007

    I feel constantly behind right now. Great followup to the last post (to which I was also late). I will again come at this from my background, which includes 10 years on the inside of huge corporations (Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods). Based on those experiences, I believe it is impossible to truly focus on the best interests of both organization and people at the same time. They are often inherently at odds. And, I will agree with those who have spoken against what Driscoll has written. I have never read Driscoll, but after reading those excerpts I am amazed at the number of friends who have recommended him to me in the past. Of course, given the fact that I think we are all too often blinded to the reality of how much our culture has overtaken biblical concepts in our lives, I suppose what Driscoll has written shouldn’t surprise me.

    Heather makes a good point. Neither big nor small church does this well because we are human and it is much easier to be organizationally minded than people minded because our natural selves avoid intimacy and community. But, I also think that it is easier to see God’s purpose for a church where the numbers are not so huge that individuals have no relationships whatsoever with one another.

    Not sure if any of that made sense, but you get what you pay for. :) And, even as I write some of it I start questioning myself.

  43. 4-2-2007

    Jonathan,

    Yes, I understand that we disagree about the distinction between the people and the organization. I stand by my statement that there is a distinction. Because you do not see a distinction, you think my statement is a non sequitur. Since I see a distinction, the statement is not a non sequitur.

    Hiring/firing is a function of an organization, not a church.

    -Alan

  44. 4-2-2007

    Bryan,

    What you said made a lot of sense. Not only is the church and organization distinct, but any “size” church can develop an organizational mentality.

    -Alan

  45. 4-2-2007

    Johnathan,
    Are you a paid staff member at your church? I’m just trying to figure out where you’re coming from on this.

    Laying off people so that the church, institution or business can be financially sound comes down to viewing people as either liabilities or assets rather than seeing them as people… This is, at best, an unbiblical view of people and their value.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  46. 4-2-2007

    Jonathan-
    I will comment one last time as I am not sure anyone is still on this dead horse. In response…
    1-If a pastor’s walk is more mature, deeper, he is in ministry (as opposed to out of), how is he not closer to God than you? But this is an aside. As for he being in 5 or 4 (prefered) fold ministry, would that not make for a clergy/laity divide because us non-pastors are then not in ministry? This all is close to the catholic view. I teach, therefore, am I capable of catching and casting the vision? Am I in the 5fold ministry?

    2 Hab.2 is not about a pastor casting the vision that we congregants may run with it. Hab was to write the vision and make it clear so that a herald might run and keep running (Be refreshed by it?). Why? Because the vision was for an appointed time or season (see Gen 1 מועד)that doesn’t fail and we wait no matter how long. Why? For He who is coming comes (He comes!) and will not tarry or be late. The just man lives in his faith of this vision and the proud falls. The vision is God going out to save His people with the Anointed One (משיח), Jesus Christ (Hab 3:13). That is the vision which we all share in as believers which pastors/teachers and evangelists and apostles proclaim, not a tenfold increase in the roll of the church, imho. I don’t think you will agree but thats my reading of things. Good dialogue but I think the fruit has withered from it. TJ

  47. 4-2-2007

    Alan,

    You are correct in that I am not necessarily defending the “rancher” model. I still do insist, however, that this seems to be related, in some way, as far as I can see, to the question of church size. I concede that small churches can fall into the organization-first mindset as well. But, once a church comes to a certain size, in my opinion, it becomes inevitable to adopt a different leadership model.

    Biblically, I see more of a model of city-church and house-church functioning side by side, and interdependently. Modern-day “mega-churches” share some of the characteristics of both, but, at the same time, do not fit into the characteristics of either one, as I see it.

    Due to 2,000 years of church history, though, I think we would make a mistake to be overly idealistic, demanding an immediate return a model exactly equal to the NT-time model. Also, if we completely renounced modern-day congregations due to their lack of 100% conformity with NT patterns, I think we would, at the same time, be going against Jesus’ desire for the unity of His Body.

    Although I am definitely open to further teaching and insight on these matters, my preferred line of thinking and practice in these areas at this time is to patiently seek to introduce reform little by little into church life, at all times “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

  48. 4-2-2007

    Brandon,

    I don’t think Jonathan is in a paid staff position, but he can correct me if I’m wrong.

    Ed,

    I enjoyed talking with you about the Habakkuk “vision” Saturday evening. I think the way that the author of Hebrews interprets the “vision” in Heb 10:36-37 is probably a good way to understand it.

    David,

    I do not think the NT shows a certain model. However, I do think the NT teaches us what it means to be the church. If our model requires that we live/act/relate differently that the NT teaches we should, then I think the model should change. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to too many people who are content saying, “Yes, the NT teaches that, but that’s not practical today”. Why do we do this for teachings about the church, but not about repentance, salvation, etc.?

    -Alan

  49. 4-2-2007

    Brandon,

    No, I’m not a paid staff member at my church. But because I am involved in ministry, I am considered in “leadership,” which we define as anyone serving in any capacity that has influence on the congregation as a whole. Thus, “leadership” at my church would include ushers/greeters, children’s church workers, nursery workers, members of the praise and worship team, etc. Essentially, leadership = broader/expanded role of helps ministry.

    I disagree that laying off people automatically means you view them as assets and liabilities, and NOT as people. I believe you can see someone as a person, and at the same time see them as a very valuable person (an asset), or a less valuable person (a liability). Ideally, we should strive to see the value in everyone, but if the VISION of the organization is paramount, sometimes there must be pruning.

    TJ,

    I do not believe the concept of five-fold ministry creates a divide (like you see in the Catholic Church) between clergy and laity. Every believer is called to be a minister. The whole purpose of five-fold ministry is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” — to equip the people to DO ministry. The ONLY distinction between five-fold ministry and everyone else is that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers have a calling to train and equip everyone else to fulfill their own calling. So, even if you are in five-fold ministry as a pastor, you still need to be matured and completed by the apostle, prophet, etc. But I would NEVER say, TJ, that non-pastors are NOT in ministry, because the Scriptures clearly teach EVERYONE is in ministry, regardless of whether you are a pastor or not.

    Vision-casting does not deal so much with five-fold ministry as it does with the responsibility of someone pastoring a local church, who operates in the gift of kubernesis (gov’t/administration) in 1 Cor. 12:28. Pastors are responsible to steer the ships of their respective congregations, and a large part of that is casting the vision for the local church. Hab. 2:14 speaks to this, and I actually agree with your own interpretation, BUT NOT TO THE EXCLUSION of mine, either. Again, this is a “both/and” situation, not “either/or.”

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  50. 4-2-2007

    Alan,

    I think I would agree that the NT does not prescribe a certain model of church, but there are certain indications of how NT churches functioned under the particular contextual circumstances they inherited.

    I am also quite confident regarding certain things the NT has to teach us regarding the unity of the Body. I think that when we take into account whether or not “our model requires that we live/act/relate differently that the NT teaches we should,” that is one of key things we should consider.

  51. 4-2-2007

    Jonathan,

    I definitely agree that we are all ministers (“servants”). There is no hierarchy among believers in the NT like we see in some traditions.

    I’m wondering about something. In a previous comment (here), you said: “A lot of what I say is also based on looking at a Greek text. If I say words are synonyms, or are NOT synonyms, I’m looking at the Greek. That is a valid form of learning from the biblical text, is understanding the Greek meanings of various words, such as ‘kubernesis.'”

    Several of us here also read and study the Greek NT. I’m wondering if you can explain (from the Greek text) 1) where you find the “five-fold ministry” and 2) why ‘kubernesis’ applies to pastors.

    David,

    Unity in the body of Christ is very important to me. I do not disfellowship with believers because they have a different understanding of the church than I do. I also try to be very humble about what I find in the NT about the church. I always try to listen to those who disagree with me.

    In fact, I know that I am wrong about many things. I would say that every believer is wrong about some things. That’s why we must trust Christ – who is the truth.

    As I’ve read your blog and your comments here, I think we are probably very close on this issue.

    -Alan

  52. 4-2-2007

    JOnathan -

    You said:

    I believe you can see someone as a person, and at the same time see them as a very valuable person (an asset), or a less valuable person (a liability).

    I have to completely disagree with that statement. You are not seeing the person as a person at all if you are assessing their “value”, especially if that value is based on what you think you see.

    ~Heather

  53. 4-3-2007

    Heather,

    Do you believe we should appreciate and recognize the value in people?

    Also, do you believe that sometimes individuals can be a detriment or a hindrance in group settings? How would you handle that if you were a group leader???

    Alan,

    The concept of “five-fold ministry” is not precisely in the Greek. In a former post, other people have referred to APEPT, which are five functions, if you will. So, that’s why we call it “five-fold ministry.” What we really mean are the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (five of them) listed in Eph. 4:11. That’s all. Nothing special about the Greek there, but that’s the list.

    But, your other question, about “kubernesis.” This term is only found ONE place in the NT, and that is 1 Cor. 12:28, and it is often translated “government” or “administration.” It is different than the Greek word used for “leadership” in Romans 12. The reason why I believe “kubernesis” applies to pastors is because of the Greek definition, to basically “steer the ship” of the local congregation — this is what local pastors should be doing. Is it someone else’s responsibility to steer the local congregation? Someone besides the pastor of the local congregation? I don’t believe so — the gift of governments/administration applies MOST to those in pastoral ministry to guide and direct those in the flock into their place and ministry in God, and to guide and direct the congregation as a whole, like a ship, to steer it towards God and His vision for it.

    Does that make sense, or are you looking for something else???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  54. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan,

    No, that doesn’t make sense.

    Eph. 4:11 has a specific list. Can you show me from the Greek text why you believe there are five things listed?

    Again, 1 Cor. 12:28 includes kubernesis in a long list of gifts. Why, according to the Greek text, is this gift associated with pastors?

    -Alan

  55. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan -

    You asked:
    Do you believe we should appreciate and recognize the value in people?

    We are to love all people, but I don’t think we are to place a “value” on them (i.e. this one is more valuable, this one is less valuable). Why? Well, First God doesn’t do that. Second, because we make evaluations and judgements of people based on what we think we see. The Lord looks at the heart, but man looks as outward appearances. Those outward appearances are perceived differently by different people. And what you see, based on your perception, may not be the case at all. Without sharing details, I have seen this over and over when people are seen as assets and liabilities vs. just people. Also, a person may be going through a season in his or her life. Outwardly there may be nothing “going on” but inside there is life and growth and love. Consider Mary and Martha.

    As was said earlier by elderswife: “If Jesus had made staff changes, He would surely have fired Judas for disloyalty and Peter for immaturity. And James and John for sleeping on the job. Perhaps He looked at their shortcomings as potential for spiritual growth and an opportunity to glorify Himself.

    You also asked:
    Also, do you believe that sometimes individuals can be a detriment or a hindrance in group settings? How would you handle that if you were a group leader???

    Since I have been in leadership I can answer this from my own experience. I always, as best I can, look at the heart. I try to do as the Lord does and not look at outward appearances. I do not believe that people can be a detriment or hindrance to a group. It may sometimes appear that way to our dull and finite minds, but God is always working. He may use whatever appears to someone to be a liability as a way to grow others and glorify His name. What seeing someone as a liability or hindrance or detriment indicates to me is that there are throwaway people. I don’t believe that at all.

    I come along side them and show them a more excellent way. I disciple them as best I can and pray pray pray pray pray.

    I do not see anywhere in Scripture where people are seen as assets or liabilities to the kingdom. Perhaps I just don’t see it, but I’m not aware.

    Do you have children? If so, do you see any of them as assets or liabilities to your family? Your children may be stronger in one area and weaker in another. Does that make them any more or less “valuable”, or loved? Would you propose that perhaps the weaker ones should be in a different family? Perhaps they just don’t fit in? How do you handle it? Perhaps they are struggling with something … how do you handle it? Perhaps there is something in their weakness that pushes your buttons … when you realize that, perhaps God will use that to grow you up.

    We are a family, brother and sisters in Christ and God is our precious heavenly Father. He doesn’t see me as a liability, a hindrance, a detriment. Sure, I have issues, I have weaknesses, but I am growing. And He loves me with an everlasting love. I pray that I am able to show the same love to my bothers and sisters as well.

    But when we place the organization/congregation/institution/whatever-you-want-to-call-it above people then we start to see them as something other than people, something other than the way God sees us.

  56. 4-3-2007

    The only examples I can see in the New Testament where people could even be considered to be a “liability” in the body of Christ is when they are living in unrepentant sin.

    But even then, the answer is not to “let them go”, but to bring it to their attention, seek their repentance, and “restore them gently”.

    The goal is always unity, and the goal is the maturing of every member.

    This notion of a “local church vision” that actually makes certain people expendable is completely foreign to the New Testament. Even if you’re reading it in Greek!

    It’s frustrating to see it continually defended here, Jonathan.

  57. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan,
    In all of this conversation the main focus of your posts has been the vision for the ministry. Who’s vision is it, your pastor’s or God’s? And yes, I would agree that they could/should be one in the same. If your pastor has received God’s vision for His church, it will absolutely come to pass. It’s as good as done. Your pastor cannot stop it and he cannot make it happen either. If he can, then it’s most likely that this is not God’s vision at all.

    It’s also entirely possible that the vision is from God and the men entrusted with it are not patiently waiting upon the Lord and His timing to see it come to pass. Look at Abraham and Sarah, they had a promise from God that they would have a son. This was the child of promise or God’s vision for them. The fruit of their efforts brought forth Ishmael, but God had Isaac in mind when He promised a son to Abraham and Sarah. Sometimes the manipulation of man can bring about Ishmael when all along God wants us to know and have Isaac.

    I hope that in these comments you can understand that I’m not calling you or your pastor into question. Just making a point.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  58. 4-3-2007

    Heather,

    I believe that you articulated my point (and the point of many others here) very well! That is one of the best explanations that I have seen.

    Steve,

    I thought about “church discipline” in the context of this discussion. Thank you for bringing it up, and reminding us that even in the case of church discipline, our goal is to restore people.

    Brandon,

    You said: “Sometimes the manipulation of man can bring about Ishmael when all along God wants us to know and have Isaac.” That is an awesome statement! You should write a blog post about that.

    -Alan

  59. 4-3-2007

    Heather,

    I didn’t say, to clarify, that we are to place a value ON people. No, I said we are to recognize the value IN people, the CHRIST IN people, and value their gifts, talents, and abilities, and what they have to offer the local body. That was my point with that question. Some people really are valuable, in that they are very gifted, talented individuals, and contribute GREATLY to the Body of Christ and to their local church. I would call these people an “asset,” not because I place a high value ON them, but because I recognize what God has put IN them IS indeed valuable. And I believe this is a BIG PART of loving people, which I agree with you, we are commanded to do.

    So, you would keep someone who we would characterize as “not a team player” in the group, doing what he is doing, and not seek to get that person to repent of a bad attitude like that? If I was in charge of a group, and someone was not doing their part, or had a bad attitude, or was not being a team player, then I would pull that person aside, and tell them they need to repent and change, so that the group can achieve its goals. By not doing their, having a bad attitude, or not being a team player, THAT PERSON is not loving other people… THAT PERSON is being SELFISH. In group settings, both inside and outside the church, such selfish behavior is counter-productive, makes the group not effective to reach goals, etc. The situation must be dealt with, somehow, and if the person is not willing to repent and change, then there needs to be “church discipline” of some sort, to rectify the situation.

    No, I don’t have children, Heather, I’m a single 26-year-old guy. So, I cannot respond to that, any further.

    Lastly, Heather, I wouldn’t say that God sees someone who has a bad attitude as being the hindrance or the detriment — it is the attitude itself that must be dealt with. Does that make sense to you???

    Steve,

    I agree with what you’re saying, but I have a question for you. If you were a worship leader, would you allow someone who is living in unrepentant sin to continue to be on the stage/platform every week??? By the same token, if you were the Children’s Pastor, would you allow someone living in unrepentant sin to minister to the kids week after week??? I hope the answer to each of those questions is NO, because of what I see as obvious reasons.

    Steve, I agree that the goal should be to restore people, but the issue I see is I think sometimes we need to TEMPORARILY remove people, or have them step down, so they can deal with issues. I don’t think its the same as simply “letting them go,” but I do not think it is effective or right to let someone who is an adulterer participate in the worship team, or someone who is addicted to pornography minister to children. These people need ministry themselves, and should not be openly ministering to others while in unrepentant sin.

    What do you think about that?

    Brandon,

    Of course its God’s vision for the church, but I do not believe that just because something is God’s vision, then it automatically will come to past. Rather, and this is probably more of a different kind of discussion (Calvinism vs. Arminianism comes to mind), I believe we must cooperate with God in order to see God’s vision come to past. Its not just the pastor’s responsibility. It is EVERY MEMBER’s responsibility to contribute their part, as God shows them what to do. But we can be selfish, we can decide to disobey, we can do our own thing, we can choose not to participate, and thus thwart God’s vision. Yes, this is Arminian-type thinking, and I’m not a Calvinist as you likely are, but I believe God expects us to cooperate with Him to see God’s vision come to past in our local congregations.

    Brandon, I understand where you’re coming from with the Ishmael story. But real faith requires action, and not just patience and waiting on God to do something. To be honest, we probably disagree fundamentally here, but I believe that God is waiting for us to act on what He has told us, to OBEY Him, when we are waiting on God to do something instead. If you’re not acting on what you believe, then that’s not real faith.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  60. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan -

    First, let me say that originally we were not talking about people living in blatant sin and needing correction and discipline. All along we have been talking about people in general. So that is what I am talking about here. Although I do have to say that I am with Steve on that as well.

    I’ll let others respond to what you said to them, but could you please tell me where in Scripture you find the following?

    Some people really are valuable, in that they are very gifted, talented individuals, and contribute GREATLY to the Body of Christ and to their local church.

    I’m not sure that I understand where this comes from (other than our culture). God is no respecter of persons. Someone is either His child or they are not. Contribution and talents = more valuable? Can you back that up with Scripture in context? Thanks!

    You also said, By not doing their [part], having a bad attitude, or not being a team player, THAT PERSON is not loving other people… THAT PERSON is being SELFISH.

    How do you know the person is being selfish? And that’s quite an assumption to say that he or she is not loving people. Are you with the person 24/7? And even if you are, do you know the things going on inside his or her heart?

    You are making assumptions on what you THINK you see. What may seem like “not doing their part” may actually be a season to which the Lord has called them of sitting at His feet and resting.

    Again, on what basis do you consider someone as having a “bad attitude” or “not being a team player”? I’m not even sure I am called to be a “team player”, but instead, I am not to think of myself more highly than I ought and to live at peace with all people as much as it depends on me.

    It just goes back to a fundamental difference in how we view the church and how we view people. Just know that making assumptions based on what you think you see has the potential to really hurt a person.

    Is what you have said — is that how God sees people? If not, then why are we called to a “higher standard”?

  61. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan,

    I’d have to agree with Heather on this one. It seems you have jumped categories. Remember, we were originally talking about someone that Driscoll decided had to be “let go”. What kind of person was this? Did he have a bad attitude or not a team player? Well, Driscoll called him “godly” and “hard worker”. This is not an issue of discipline at all.

    Also, I’m wondering how you (or another leader) decides who is of more value. Do you mean value to the team, or value to the mission? Could it be that the person seems “weak” and “dispensable”? But, doesn’t Paul say these people are actually “indespensable”?

    By the way, I noticed you didn’t answer my two questions.

    -Alan

  62. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan,

    Your questions to me have absolutely no relevance to the points you have been making or my challenge to the same.

    Several have already pointed out how you changed categories for this discussion, and in doing so, you have avoided the questions we have been asking.

    Your discussions about valuing vision above all, and that sometimes meaning that people get layed off or “let go” had nothing to do with unrepentant sin.

    It was I who made the case that unrepentant sin is the only situation I can find justification for “letting someone go”, and even then, the goal is to eventually have that person restored.

    Do your examples have restoration as the goal? Does your extra-biblical concept of vision and dispensable people (e.g. Mark Driscoll’s dismissal of his worship leader) have restoration as the goal? NO. It has advancement of the organization as the goal, and your many lengthy comments have demonstrated this.

    I still can’t believe that you are trying so hard to defend the idea that the vision and organization ultimately trump individuals. I’m getting as upset about your comments as I did about Driscoll’s horrifying story.

    Perhaps this is starting to answer your own question from our previous conversation as to what I meant about your mindset leading to people getting wounded and hurt. You have said that it’s acceptable for a “ministry” to lay people off for financial considerations. No, it’s not, Jonathan. If the financial commitments (mortgage, utilities, etc.) have grown to the point that people are getting laid off, something is wrong. People don’t accept it when Ford Motor Company does it, and neither should we when it is done in the name of Christ.

  63. 4-3-2007

    Jonathan,
    You completely missed what I was trying to share with you. And in the process you jumped to some false conclusions about my theology. You did this by assuming that you knew something about me. This is EXACTLY what Heather is talking about. You’ve made a false assumption based on what you THINK you see.

    You wrote, “But real faith requires action, and not just patience and waiting on God to do something.”. That’s exactly what Abraham and Sarah were thinking. They figured that God needed their help in making His promises to them come to pass…in reality, they didn’t trust God enough to let Him bring His promises to fruition. The result? Ishmael, the best the flesh could produce.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  64. 4-4-2007

    Heather,

    Everyone is valuable in Christ. But, the Scriptures are clear in Romans 12 and 1 Cor. 12, that different people have different gifts, different abilities, and different skill sets, and some of these giftings are more valuable than others because they are more in number or can more greatly benefit a local congregation. For example, in some ways, leaders can be at least perceived as more beneficial than those who follow, esp. if these leaders reproduce themselves in others. Such a person to whom God has given more (in number and in quality) gifts and abilities is going to be of greater value than someone who has less (in number and quality) gifts, skill sets, etc. EVERYONE is valuable, but in the context of a local congregation, some people are going to be more valuable than others, depending on their gifts, talents, abilities, skill sets, etc. Does that make sense, or do I need to explain this further???

    Heather, when you exhibit a bad attitude, or are not being a team player, then such behaivor DOES indicate selfishness, which is the OPPOSITE of loving people. Perhaps I did not present that in that order, but that’s the logic.

    If someone is taking a season of rest and refreshing from the Lord, then that is different than not doing one’s part. Hopefully, if you feel a season of a “break” is necessary, then you would communicate that to the people who need to hear that. That’s not what I was really envisioning, anyways, because I was imagining someone who was goofing off, doing their own thing, which is counter-productive, and selfish. Its not putting others first, which we should do as Christians. Its not Christ-like behavior that we should emulate as Christians. An example of this would be a guitar player on a worship team goofing off during practice, or during a rehearsal before the service starts. I’ve personally dealt with this before, and it was a spirit of rebellion affecting that person. So, that’s what I mean by someone not doing their part. So, having a “bad attitude” basically would be exhibiting any of the “deeds of the flesh” listed in Gal. 5, and NOT the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Gal. 5, as well. If we’re not exhibiting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then we have a bad attitude, amen???

    Alan,

    I apologize for jumping categories and somehow changing the topic. I’ve just been trying to respond to the questions people have asked me, in the best way that God shows me.

    Alan, as regards to the Mark Driscoll situation, I re-read your original post, and this is what I have to say about that — perhaps this will get us all back on topic — yes, the worship leader was “godly” and a “hard worker,” but apparently there was a lack of management ability on this person’s part, which shows me a lack of LEADERSHIP skills. I really do think Driscoll was in a “judgment call” situation, and did the best he could do with the insight that he had at the time. Perhaps “letting go” the WL was NOT the right move. But we should not judge him for that, because perhaps it WAS the right move. We really don’t know.

    So, Alan, that’s my response to the Driscoll situation. I believe what concerns me EVEN MORE SO is that Driscoll himself admits he was lacking direction. Driscoll said, “church… was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going.” That’s BAD. That’s EVEN WORSE than letting the WL go. That’s not putting the VISION first, like I’ve been discussing here.

    Alan, its not the person itself that is of value — its the gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that God has blessed a person with to make them valuable. The Bible does speak in 1 Cor. 12 that there are different levels to this, and clearly, we are to esteem more highly those who are “lesser” in our eyes. But ultimately, EVERYONE has value in God’s eyes, and NO ONE is of NO VALUE. But, SOME people clearly have MORE gifts, and MORE skills, and these people are in a better position to serve the local body, using those gifts, talents, skills, and abilities that God has blessed them with.

    Lastly, Alan, I think I DID answer your two questions. If you don’t think I did, please explain why. Thanks.

    Brandon,

    I apologize for assuming too much about your theology. But it sounded to me like a Calvinistic argument that I would disagree with. I apologize for that.

    Let me respond again, however, with this. As NT believers and Christians, we have something that Abraham and Sarah did NOT have. We have the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, then we can cooperate with God in God’s timing. Abraham and Sarah did not have that, and you’re right, they did produce Ishmael of the flesh. But we have the Spirit of God, indwelling us, and His charge is to lead us, guide us, and direct us. I also believe the Holy Spirit is to EMPOWER us, and FILL us, and that we should OBEY His promptings. If we obey the Holy Spirit, then we really don’t have to deal with the same issues as Abraham and Sarah, because we have faith, AND we have the Holy Spirit, which is better and different than Abraham and Sarah.

    I also believe we can wait too long. So, that’s why we have to be sensitive to Holy Spirit to find the right time, and I admit, that is a challenge.

    Again, Brandon, sorry for assuming too much, but I hope that’s an adequate response to your concerns.

    Steve,

    Again, I apologize for going off topic. I do believe that restoration should be the goal in any “church discipline” situation. However, that doesn’t always mean someone should be restored to their position, esp. in a leadership position. This might be off topic, but take for instance Ted Haggard. He’ll never again be the Senior Pastor of New Life Church. He can be restored, yes, but because he was a senior leader and statesman to the Body of Christ, and thus restoring him to that position of authority will be a rather strained process.

    To be clear, I do not believe people should be viewed as dispensable. I believe we have to see the value in everybody. I do not agree with how Driscoll treated the WL… but I am even more concerned with what Driscoll said with how he did not know where the congregation was going. That shows a lack of vision and a lack of leadership on Driscoll’s part, and that is the WORST PART of all of this. If Driscoll DID have a greater sense of vision and leadership, then he would have found a better place to have this WL serve, rather than just letting him go like that. So, no, Driscoll did not act in a biblical fashion.

    Also, to be clear, Steve, I do not believe the organization trumps the individual. Rather, it is the VISION that trumps BOTH the people, AND the organization as well. The people are BEST SERVED in the MOST EFFECTIVE MANNER when the leadership effectively carries out the vision God has given them for the local body. There is NO OTHER WAY, biblically, to effective SERVE THE PEOPLE.

    Lastly, I do agree that it is not acceptable that people get laid off from a church because of financial constraints. Something IS wrong, and its with the finances. But its NOT that the vision is wrong. It reflects poor financial management, which is a different issue.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  65. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan -

    Can you show me where in Romans 12 and 1 Corithians 12 that it says, as you said, “some of these giftings are more valuable than others because they are more in number or can more greatly benefit a local congregation”?

    And can you please answer my last question – How does God see you and me and every one of His children? Does He see some of us as more valuable to His kingdom than others? If not, then why do you think that you are called to a “higher standard” than God Himself? And if you think that He does, please show me that in Scripture, because I have missed it.

  66. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan,
    I appreciate your apology but there was no offense taken in your comments. I was simply trying to help you understand what you were communicating. Thank you anyway though.

    I can appreciate your zeal for the church and the loyalty that you have for the vision that has been cast by your leadership. It’s commendable that you have that level of commitment. In your understanding of the value of the vision over all else you would be considered a great asset to the church and it’s leadership. But allow me to share some of what I’ve learned about leadership and the vision.

    I asked you about your position in your church a few days ago and you responded that you are in lay-leadership. I too served in lay leadership for several years before stepping into a pastoral staff position. The purpose in my asking that question was to see what your experience in church leadership has been thus far. I understand how it is to see the man of God from the lay position and embrace their leadership and vision for the church almost unconditionally. Be careful about putting your leaders on pedestals. These are simply men that serve God in a different way than you do. Let me assure you that no matter how well you know these leaders, it’s a whole new perspective from the other side of the pastoral desk. I’m not saying that they are deceiving you in any way, I’m simply saying that you may not have the proper perspective to say some of the things you are saying here.

    Jonathan, I’m 37 years old and I have to tell you that 11 years ago these posts that you’ve made could have easily had my name signed at the end of them. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion. I too had extreme loyalty to the church, the pastor and the vision. This draws me to you as I see myself in you, but I wanted to caution you that you may not fully understand all that you think you understand.

    Of course, I could be wrong…I know that I would never have had the wisdom at 26 to receive most of the insights that others have offered you here. My unsolicited advice is that you listen more and try not to strain out a gnat while you swallow a camel.

    All of this is spoken with love for you and the desire to see you grow and prosper in the Lord. If I failed to communicate that then I failed to share my heart with you in this post.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  67. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan, you wrote:

    The people are BEST SERVED in the MOST EFFECTIVE MANNER when the leadership effectively carries out the vision God has given them for the local body. There is NO OTHER WAY, biblically, to effective SERVE THE PEOPLE.

    Well, except for the fact that you have not demonstrated through proper exegesis that your way is the “biblical” way to “serve the people”.

    Several presuppositions that you are reading back into the text are:

    1. There is a “vision” for a “local body” given by God. Demonstrate that from the Greek text, please.
    2. God speaks to leadership apart from the people, communicating a vision to them for that “local body”. Demonstrate this from the Greek text, please.
    3. Serving = “carrying out a vision”. Demonstrate this from the Greek text, please.
    4. There is a significant difference between “leaders” and “the people”. Demonstrate this from the Greek text, please.

    So far, I have not seen any exegetical evidence from you, Jonathan, as to the presuppositions I have pointed out above. Earlier you denied that you were doing eisegesis, so this is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are not.

    So, even if you say that organization does not trump people, but the “vision” does, you are implying that God’s vision for the “local body” may include brushing aside those who are not “more gifted” because they are “less valuable” to the body.

    Unfortunately, Jonathan, this puts you in the very unenviable position of teaching something quite opposite from what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 12:22-25:

    [I]t is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

  68. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan,

    No, I don’t think you answered my questions. You side-stepped the question about what the text says and told me what you believed instead.

    I think I will deal with the text of Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 in future posts.

    I would suggest, again, that a “vision” given to anyone which does not value people above all else is not a “vision” from God. I do think it is a common “vision” though.

    -Alan

  69. 4-4-2007

    Heather,

    Rom. 12:4-6 states, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Since we have gifts that DIFFER according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.” Likewise, 1 Cor. 12:22-25 states, “It is much truer that the members of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body tht we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has composed the body, giving MORE ABUNDANT HONOR to that member that lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” These two passages indicate to me that different people have different gifts, and some people have more gifts, skills, etc. in number and quality than others do. Clearly, someone with more gifts, talents, skills, etc. will be a greater blessing to others than someone with just one gift. This is just common sense to me. However, we are to value ALL PEOPLE, no matter what their level, but some people are more gifted than others.

    To answer your question, God sees everyone as valuable. He is the One who affirms us and gives us value. I do believe that God does see some people as having greater potential than others. You are right that God is not a respecter of persons, but he IS a respecter of faith. And someone who has proven themselves of having worthy character can be used more in the Kingdom of God to bless and serve others. Someone with more gifts, talents, skills, and abilities, as well can be used more to bless and to serve others.

    Also, Heather, God does say there is a higher standard for leaders, in terms of accountability, so God expects more of people who have been given more than others.

    Lastly, Heather, I am shocked by this statement, “Why do you think that you are called to a ‘higher standard’ than God Himself?” — I NEVER said that I am called to a ‘higher standard’ than God Himself. Where did that come from?

    Brandon,

    I understand where you’re coming from with the whole lay-leadership thing. I’m sure my understanding will change in the next 10 years. It is quite another thing to be on pastoral staff. I do try to listen more, and I apologize if I am straining at a gnat, etc.

    Steve,

    First of all, you’ve never specifically asked me for exegesis from the Greek, so I haven’t provided any. I have provided some exegesis earlier to Alan on 1 Cor. 12:28 and the gift of kubernesis. A lot of what I said there applies in answering your questions, esp. #1 and #2. So, I refer you please to go back and re-read what I said to Alan about 1 Cor. 12:28 and kubernesis.

    As regards to your question #3, I never said that serving equals carrying out a vision. You’re implying that from what I did say, but that’s not what I said. Serving is meeting the needs of others. I think that is clear in the Scriptures. There are different ways to serve others. Some ways are more effective than others. I believe the best way to meet the needs of others, in the context of the local congregation, is to effectively do your part (serve using your gifts, your talents, your abilities, your skills) as we are exhorted to in Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12, and Eph. 4. By fulfilling our part, we then our fulfilling the “vision” of the local congregation.

    In terms of your Question 4, I do not believe there is a significant difference between five-fold leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers), and everyone else, except for ONE thing, and that is God designated a specific purpose for these ministers that is different for every other believer, because EVERY believer is called to BE a minister, but THESE ministers (APEPT) have this special calling in Eph. 4:12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” All are called to edify, but only five-fold ministers are called to equip (to train, mature, complete, and perfect). That is the ONLY distinction.

    Lastly, Steve, I don’t think I’m implying that its OK to brush people aside for the sake of the “vision.” I seriously disagree with such implication, and I don’t think that’s what I’ve said here. I think I addressed this with Heather, so I encourage you to read my comments above to her.

    Alan,

    We might have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think I’ve side-stepped the issue. If you don’t think my answers were square ones, I’m sorry, but I do think they were square with your questions.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  70. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan,

    I just wanted to clarify why I do not think you have answered my questions, nor do I think you have exegeted the text involved (as you said you did to Steve).

    I asked specific questions about two specific texts: “I’m wondering if you can explain (from the Greek text) 1) where you find the “five-fold ministry” and 2) why ‘kubernesis’ applies to pastors.” Notice, that I asked this because you said yourself that you studied the Greek text.

    Your answer to question #1 was: “The concept of “five-fold ministry” is not precisely in the Greek. In a former post, other people have referred to APEPT, which are five functions, if you will. So, that’s why we call it “five-fold ministry.” What we really mean are the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (five of them) listed in Eph. 4:11. That’s all. Nothing special about the Greek there, but that’s the list.” This does not answer the question from the text. In fact, you said that it is not in the text. I’m still waiting for exegesis here.

    Your answer to question #2 was: “But, your other question, about ‘kubernesis.’ This term is only found ONE place in the NT, and that is 1 Cor. 12:28, and it is often translated ‘government’ or ‘administration.’ It is different than the Greek word used for ‘leadership’ in Romans 12. The reason why I believe ‘kubernesis’ applies to pastors is because of the Greek definition, to basically ‘steer the ship’ of the local congregation — this is what local pastors should be doing. Is it someone else’s responsibility to steer the local congregation? Someone besides the pastor of the local congregation? I don’t believe so — the gift of governments/administration applies MOST to those in pastoral ministry to guide and direct those in the flock into their place and ministry in God, and to guide and direct the congregation as a whole, like a ship, to steer it towards God and His vision for it.” Note that in your answer, you again do not deal with the text. You gave me the definition of ‘kubernesis’ but you did not connect it to pastors from the text. Once again, this is not exegesis. Instead, you say, “this is what local pastors should be doing.” How do you know this applies to pastors? There are only two possibilities: 1) you find it in the text or, 2) you come to the text with this understanding already in mind. It seems to me that you are quite content with the second choice. I believe we should start with what the text says.

    As I said before, I plan to study these two passages and post my exegesis soon.

    -Alan

  71. 4-4-2007

    Alan,

    Just wondering. I can’t remember if, in the context of this particular issue, you have already discussed the implications of 1 Tim. 3:5 and Titus 1:7, and what they have to say about the way elders are to lead.

    It seems like to me these might be good cross-references for the “kubernesis” question.

  72. 4-4-2007

    David,

    I think 1 Tim 3:5 is applicable. The way person cares for the people in his family will demonstrate the way he will care for the people in the church. The two verbs in 1 Tim 3:5 seem to be synonyms. I’m not sure what Titus 1:7 has to say about this. If you meant Titus 1:6, that verse only seems to say he should faithful or believing children, perhaps as a demonstration of the way the cares for his family, but that is not stated in the verse itself.

    But, I’m still not sure how these passages relate to ‘kubernesis’ in 1 Corinthians 12:28. I’m not sure how anyone could relate this specifically to pastors/elders/bishops. In fact, many commentators make a big deal of the fact that pastors/elders/bishops are conspicuously absent from 1 Corinthians.

    -Alan

  73. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan -

    I just want to quote Alan’s last paragraph in his original post:

    Our desire should be to grow the people (edify the body), not to grow the organization – and this includes those “stubborn” people that God has placed in our path. In fact, our purpose should be the growth of the whole body, not just 2/3 of the body. When people begin to be sacrificed in order to further the “organizational mission”, then the organization has the wrong mission. And, when pastors/elders/bishops begin focusing on the organization instead of the people, then they are not acting as the pastors/elders/bishops that Scripture describes.

    I agree with Alan’s statement that I quoted above. For the sake of unity, let’s agree to disagree.

    Blessings!

    ~Heather

  74. 4-4-2007

    Jonathan, I have to tell you that you seem to be very good at sidestepping questions and arguing both sides.

    Everything that I have challenged you on in these threads is based on your own comments. But you always come back with “that’s not what I’m saying.”

    I’ll be honest. This is getting very frustrating. When challenged, you consistently backpeddle and change your tune. This is not good, Jonathan.

    Alan already made the point that I was going to make in response to you, and that is this: You have already clearly stated that some of the things you are arguing for are not directly found in the text, and this is exactly the problem that some of us are trying to address with you.

    You have used circular reasoning in your idea that “vision” comes to the “pastor”, and that it is this vision that is paramount to everything. You say that you base this on “kubernesis”, yet it’s not in the text. You assume that it’s the role of the pastor because you believe that’s what the pastor’s role is. That is circular, Jonathan, and your constant evasions don’t change that fact.

    Instead of typing another lengthy comment defending yourself, why don’t you take the time to stop…really, truly stop…take a deep breath, go back and read all that you’ve written and all that we’ve responded, and then let yourself be teachable in this.

    I want to caution you that you might want to be “slow to speak” and “quick to listen”. Your lengthy comments in defense of your lack of exegetical work are tiresome.

    My challenges to you were based on what you have actually written here. You have spoken in defense of layoffs, you have spoken in defense of people being “let go”, and you have argued based on your own opinions without regard for the actual text.

    This is not about the definition of one Greek word, Jonathan. You have built a whole line of thinking on “kubernesis”, with a total disregard for the entire rest of the New Testament.

    There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament text, either English or Greek, which talks about “vision” for the “local body” as something that is 1) different from body to body, or 2) transmitted to pastors from God for the people.

    You have taken the statements of Paul about the weaker members and completely turned them around on their head, saying that one with more gifts is more valuable to the body than one with lesser gifts. This is completely opposite from the text of Scripture, Jonathan, and as such is false teaching.

    Your one Greek word does not trump the rest of Scripture, and you are making a grave mistake by continuing to assert that it does.

    Exegesis is so much more than just looking up a definition of a word and making assumptions about it from that definition. Exegesis involves looking at the whole of Scripture to interpret the usage of that word. As such, your interpretations of “kubernesis” fall woefully short of proper exegesis.

    What more can I say? Will you stop and actually listen for a moment? I pray that you will. Brandon has challenged you to this, and I second his challenge. Before you write one more defense of your “reasoning”, go back and re-read with an open heart and mind all that has been said to you, and especially re-read the things you have said which contradict other things you have said.

    I pray that you will take the teachable route in this, Jonathan, and not continue to resist correction in this.

  75. 4-4-2007

    Alan,

    Titus 1.7 in the Contemporary English Version says: “Church officials are in charge of God’s work.” Several other versions say something similar. Most say “manage” or “take care of.”

    I will defer to your knowledge of the greek here. My guess is that you will say this translation is way off-base.

    Anyway, that’s what I was referring to: the apparent similarity between “ship-steering” and being “in charge of God’s work.”

  76. 4-4-2007

    David,

    I missed the word oikodonomos in Titus 1:7. This is the word for “steward”. It is a little different the word in 1 Tim 3:5 or kubernesis in 1 Cor 12:28. oikodonomos has more to do with being responsible for that which God has entrusted you. All believers are called to be oikodonomoi in several passages.

    -Alan

  77. 4-5-2007

    Alan,

    Concerning your two questions, I’ll give you two clarifications. First, I couldn’t really answer the first question, because the term/phrase “five-fold ministry” isn’t in the Greek. “Five-fold ministry” is basically a label to be used to functionally identify what you see in Eph. 4:11, et seq.

    Second, I thought the definition that I gave from the Greek of “kubernesis” was sufficient. I guess it was not sufficient. As to my thought-process, I don’t know precisely how I came to the conclusion. So, I need to think about that. Perhaps my best response will come when you post your own exegesis, and hopefully I can respond to that. :)

    One other thing, Alan. You noted in your post to David that some commentators have noted pastors, elders, and/or bishops are conspicuously omitted from 1 Cor. 12. This is conjecture, but perhaps that is because Paul was inferring the governing capacity of pastors/elders/bishops in the gift of kubernesis. Just a thought.

    Heather,

    That’s fine. God’s blessings in talking with you.

    Steve,

    I’m an attorney by profession, so that first comment makes sense to me. However, I don’t think I’m side-stepping here, at least not intentionally.

    I don’t believe I have defended ALL lay-offs. I have defended SOME, and CRITICIZED Driscoll, which is what Alan originally brought up. I do not believe that we can just say all lay-offs are bad, or all lay-offs should be defended. We have to take each situation on a case-by-case basis.

    Further, I don’t think that I’ve developed a whole line of thinking on kubernesis, while disregarding the rest of the NT. That’s clearly not true, as I’ve brought in other passages in Romans 12, 1 Cor. 12, and Eph. 4.

    Perhaps we will have to disagree about your statement that nothing in the Scriptures indicates God giving “vision” for the “local body” to pastors/elders on behalf of the people.

    The fact that you are accusing me now of false teaching is something that I VERY MUCH should withdraw from. I don’t believe I’ve taken passages from Rom. 12 or 1 Cor. 12 and turned them on their heads, going against the spirit of the Scripture. 1 Cor. 12:11 states unequivocally that the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts “to each individually just as He (the Holy Spirit) wills.” Thus, one person might have 1 gift, and another 3 gifts, and another, five of them. Or some other combination. Clearly, the more God has endowed a person with, the more valuable they can be with those gifts to bless and to serve others, which is the purpose of all the gifts, amen? After all, it is the gifts that are of real value, and not just the person who has been endowed.

    Lastly, Steve, I believe we likely have different definitions of what exegesis is what it is not. I do not have formal training in exegesis, but I do not agree with your definition of exegesis, either. Its not how I have understood exegesis to mean. I do not believe you must interpret something in the context of the ENTIRE Scriptures. Local context, yes, but not the ENTIRE Bible.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  78. 4-5-2007

    Jonathan,

    I won’t speak for Steve, but the gifts you mention in 1 Corinthians 12 are NOT endowments i.e resident gifts. They are simply the means by which the Holy Spirit manifests Himself to the body through a believer/s who is/are both willing and obediant. You don’t get to keep these gifts, more correctly they are ‘manifestations’ not gifts – check the Greek.

    Therefore the ‘gifts’ themselves add NO value to a person. It is the person who has intrinsic value to God not gifts anyway! Jesus didn’t come to save gifts. Nor does HE measure our value according to our ‘gifts’ – that sounds a lot like works, law, performance based approval etc!

    John

  79. 4-5-2007

    John Purcell,

    I don’t think that I would say “endowments” equals “resident gifts.” I do not believe that just because you are endowed with something that whatever you are endowed with is permanently resident in you. For instance, when a believer receives the baptism (or infilling) of the Holy Spirit, there is an endowment of power. However, that endowment of power is not permanent, because we have the responsibility to stay filled according to Eph. 5:18.

    I do believe, however, that some of the spiritual gifts listed elsehwhere are LIKELY resident. I believe if you have a five-fold gift, then its “resident,” if you will. I don’t like that term, and maybe you can explain it better.

    As for the Romans 12 gifts, do you believe they are “resident” – ???

    I do believe that a person has intrinsic value to God. I would agree with the statement, “People matter to God,” and therefore each believer should seek to have the power of God, the love of God, and the compassion of God flowing through their life on a daily basis. However, I believe each person’s set of gifts (whether they are resident or not), talents, skills, and abilities ACCENTUATE their value to varying degrees. And I don’t think what I’m arguing for is law-based, performance-based, etc. I’m tempted to use another analogy, but that’s probably VERY extra-biblical, so I won’t.

    By the way, John, did you ever receive the e-mail I sent you in response to the Detox article that you sent me???

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  80. 4-5-2007

    Alan,

    Would you not agree that elders have a special stewardship that goes beyond that of other church members? Just as fathers have a special stewardship over their family?

  81. 4-5-2007

    Jonathan, please provide your definition of exegesis.

    Once again, your entire answer to me sums up as “I don’t think that’s what I’m doing.”

  82. 4-5-2007

    Jonathan you said:

    “Thus, one person might HAVE (emphasis mine) 1 gift, and another 3 gifts, and another, five of them. Or some other combination. Clearly, the more God has ENDOWED (emphasis mine) a person with, the more valuable they can be with those gifts to bless and to serve others, which is the purpose of all the gifts, amen?”

    YOU used the word ‘endowed’ to support the word HAVE, above implying ownership, your words not mine. If, accepting your claim for the moment, God endows a person with gifts are you NOW saying that He has to dis-endow them so they are not resident? If not, it follows that such endowments ARE resident according to your original claim? Let’s have a look at the word you chose…

    ‘Endow’ – (from the Encarta English Dictionary) “… to PROVIDE somebody or something with desirable qualities, abilities, or characteristics” … “gifted”. (Emphasis mine)

    Clearly your usage implied a permanent provision … hence I tested your wording by using the word ‘resident’. I have already shown from scripture how such gifts as you refer to in 1 Corinthians 12 are neither ‘endowments’ nor ‘resident’ they are in fact ‘manifestations’.

    Next you said:

    “I don’t think that I would say “endowments” equals “resident gifts.” I do not believe that just because you are endowed with something that whatever you are endowed with is permanently resident in you”.

    You’re splitting hairs here and avoiding the fact that you clearly implied permanency.

    You also said: “However, I believe each person’s set of gifts (whether they are resident or not), talents, skills, and abilities ACCENTUATE their value to varying degrees. [BTW the wording used here (person’s set of gifts) implies possession of the gifts – inferring premanency … you’re at it again … you can’t have it both ways!]

    Accentuate their value to whom? We have nothing of any value we can give to God – period. And if by this you mean their value to an organisation, then you have relegated a person’s worth, to that of their ability to add value to an organisation. You can’t be serious!

    John

  83. 4-5-2007

    Everyone,

    I’ll put in my two cents on this point about gifts (and, David, I would say this applies to elders as well).

    People are gifted differently according to the will of God. Gifting does not give someone value. You will not find in Scripture where one person is more valuable or special as compared to others (except, perhaps in 1 Cor 12:22-24, which turns the human concept of more valuable and special on its head).

    Organizations place more value on people with certain gifts. This is a human invention, not God’s intention.

    -Alan

  84. 4-5-2007

    David,
    Hope you don’t mind if I jump in the discussion on the role of elders.

    I would agree with the concept of stewardship concerning elders, although I wouldn’t attach the word special and I also wouldn’t equate it to the role of the father in a family.

    Elders are those in the body who have an accumulation of wisdom, experience, and maturity. I think that stewardship is a good word to use to describe their responsibility to the body.

    Just as those who have an accumulation of economic resource have a responsibility to steward their resources for the kingdom, elders also have the responsibility (and privilege) to steward their resources of wisdom for the kingdom.

    We would be wise to recognize those among us who have a history of faithfully walking with the Lord. If they are truly elders, they will be generous in sharing their wisdom freely with others.

    I feel the functioning of this role in the body has been hindered by titles and positions and the associated assumptions of rights and authority.

    This is where I would say it differs from the role of a parent. Perhaps it could be equated to the role of a parent of adult children where there is relationship and respect, but not authority.

    Jonathan,
    I could have written many of your posts 5 years ago. Even though I have come to a different way of seeing things, I find myself at a loss to explain what others here have attempted.

    We don’t always know what we don’t know.

  85. 4-5-2007

    Grace (and Alan),

    When elders are “appointed,” would you say this changes anything at all about their responsibilities within the church, or about the way in which the other members of the church are responsible to relate to them? If not, why bother “appointing” them?

    Also, would you say what 1 John 2.12-14 has to say about children, young men, and fathers has any relation to the role of elder in the assembly?

  86. 4-5-2007

    David,

    Or, could it be that elders were “appointed” in recognition that they were already living out the responsibilities that all believers are called to carry out? Thus, for the other people in the church, there would be a recognition that these people are actually doing what everyone is supposed to be doing, so they would be examples to the flock, as Peter calls them.

    I’m not sure what 1 John 2:12-14 says about elders. I would expect that the elders would be older, since that is the meaning of the term “elder”. But, I don’t see anything specific to elders in that passage. What do find there?

    -Alan

  87. 4-5-2007

    Alan,

    I can’t help but think that maybe I’m not getting something here.

    If all there was to appointing elders was giving a recognition to those who were being a good example, so that everyone would know who the good examples were, then why did Paul make such a big deal about it in his letters to Timothy and Titus? Why did Paul leave Titus in Crete, if that’s all there was to appointing elders? If the people of Crete were left on their own to figure out who were the ones who were good examples, what would have been so bad about that, so bad that for Titus himself not to do it was “leaving things unfinished” that needed to be “straightened out”? I can’t help but coming to the conclusion there was something more at stake in the appointment of elders.

    As far as 1 John 2.12-14 is concerned, if the “fathers” mentioned there were the ones who had reached spiritual maturity (and it seems to me that is the case), were they not also “elders” then, by the criteria you are using for elders? Or were there some “spiritual fathers” who, for some reason, were not, at the same time, “elders” in the church?

  88. 4-5-2007

    Steve,

    Exegesis simply means to draw the meaning out of the text. One would do this by looking at the Greek, comparing other verses that use the same words/phrases, and seeking to get a cogent, cohesive interpretation of what the specific passage at hand says.

    John,

    “Have” does not necessarily mean ownership. In fact, I do not mean “ownership.” Rather, I mean “possess.” These two term are different. I may “possess” something, but I may not be the “owner” of it. This distinction is inherent to the concept of stewardship that David is discussing in this thread.

    I did not infer permanency by what I said. Even if I DID imply that, in Romans it says, “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance (or irrevocable).” So, that Scripture would actually SUPPORT the permenant residency position that I’m not taking.

    John, “possession” does NOT imply permanency. This is even a greater stretch on your part than “possession” meaning ownership. I can possess something today, and NOT possess it tomorrow, by throwing it away, or forfeiting it, or by returning it to its owner.

    Lastly, you stated, “We have nothing of value that we can give to God, period.” Actually, that is only true before we’re born again. Once we’re born again, now we can offer up our lives, because we have been accepted as sons of God. Because we live by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can offer up ourselves as living sacrifices that are totally acceptable to God.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  89. 4-5-2007

    Jonathan, so if exegesis means…

    looking at the Greek, comparing other verses that use the same words/phrases, and seeking to get a cogent, cohesive interpretation of what the specific passage at hand says

    …what do you do when a word (like your favorite in this topic: kubernesis) only appears one time?

  90. 4-5-2007

    David,

    Paul wanted Titus to “set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5 ESV). Apparently, there was more lacking that just appointing elders. Since appointing elders covers 5 verses out of 46 in Titus (and a smaller percentage in 1 Timothy), it seems there were other important things for Titus and Timothy to “set in order”.

    Certainly, we cannot know why Paul wanted Titus and Timothy (and himself in Acts 14:23) to appoint elders, since Scripture does not tell us specifically. So, your reasons could be correct. However, it is also possible that Paul wanted them to point out who was living as they should, because on their own, people would not normally pick servants to follow. Instead, humans will naturally pick those who “love to have to preeminence”. Since Jesus turned leadership on its head by telling them to be slaves, the believers in Crete and Ephesus might need help in recognizing this.

    I’m still not catching the significance between 1 John and pastors/elders. I think 1 John is talking about either age groups, or maturity level, or both.

    Jonathan,

    The “gifts and calling” in Romans 11:29 seem to refer to salvation instead of spiritual gifts.

    -Alan

  91. 4-5-2007

    Jonathan,

    A while back Steve challenged you with the following…

    “What more can I say? Will you stop and actually listen for a moment? I pray that you will. Brandon has challenged you to this, and I second his challenge. Before you write one more defense of your “reasoning”, go back and re-read with an open heart and mind all that has been said to you, and especially re-read the things you have said which contradict other things you have said. I pray that you will take the teachable route in this, Jonathan, and not continue to resist correction in this”.

    Now Jonathan, after repeated attempts to engage you openly, honestly and with compassion (having been where you are) regarding your distorted view of scripture, which you staunchly defend by evasion, misdirection and lack of sound biblical methodology I find myself at an impasse. I too find frustration rising in me, which could well prove counter-productive if I were to continue to engage you in any way.

    I would therefore humbly suggest that you ask yourself why you are commenting here! You clearly disagree with the main themes addressed here and the majority (if not all) of those who frequent this blog.

    I see no evidence of a willingness to learn (as in iron sharpening iron) but rather increasing obstinacy and a consistent ‘unwillingness’ to honestly and openly engage with your peers in a teachable manner.

    Unless you are willing to examine each issue raised, based on solid biblical exegesis of the appropriate scriptures, and resist your defensive deflections we have no further basis on which to continue our discussions.

    It saddens me to have to take issue with you in this manner, I too will be praying for you.

    John

  92. 4-6-2007

    Steve,

    You do three things. You try to get as many different Greek definitions out. You look at the context of the passage. And you pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it means. That would be a thorough approach to exegeting a unique term, e.g. “kubernesis” in 1 Cor. 12:28.

    Alan,

    I don’t know about that. I’ve heard different interpretations of Rom. 11:29, both the concept of “salvation” and “spiritual gifts” in that passage. I’m not sure if either is correct. I was just tossing that in as food for thought.

    John,

    I’m sorry you feel the way you do. I’m sorry that you believe that I have a distorted view of the Scriptures (I strongly take issue with that statement), and I’m sorry that you believe I am misguided. The Scriptures are clear that the Holy Spirit is there to GUIDE us into all truth, and so I am not sure how to respond to you further, except by saying that I believe what I believe because this is what the Holy Spirit has shown me. If you think it is arrogant to say that, I’ll let God take the heat on that one.

    I actually agree with Alan, David, and a lot of the others who post here much more than you might realize. If you have looked at the history of my posts, I have clarified my views, and actually “come around” so-to-speak. I share in the criticism that most express here against Driscoll, for example. I may articulate my views differently than others, but that’s not a sin.

    I don’t think I am being obstinate or unwilling to learn or have an unteachable spirit. I come here to discuss different ideas that Alan presents here. I do not respond to every post Alan makes, but those that interest me.

    So, those are my final thoughts to you, John.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  93. 4-6-2007

    I realize the church is not the same as other entities. However, whether in a business “organization,” a family, a classroom, or a hiking expedition, it seems to me there is always some sort of social order and structure. I don’t see why the church should necessarily be an exception.

    Jesus said (Matt. 23.9), “call no man your father upon the earth.” Yet John, in 1 John 2.12-14, acknowledges there are “fathers” in the church. It is apparent to me he is talking here about levels of spiritual maturity and not physical age. Otherwise, why specify, for example, only “young men” as those who “have overcome the evil one,” etc.?

    Jesus and Peter also say (Mark 10.41-43; Luke 22.24-26; 1 Peter 5.3) no one should “lord over” others in the church. At the same time, though, there is a place for “overseers.”

    While I would agree there are certain authority structures that tend toward abuse in and of themselves, that should certainly be avoided in the way we “do church,” it seems to me the biblical injunctions toward “servant leadership” have more to do with style and attitude than they do with actual responsibilities and job description. In other words, there is no room in the church for spiritual dictatorship. But neither do I see any encouragement toward spiritual anarchy.

  94. 4-6-2007

    OK, i leave for a day and this discussion blew up? I don’t think I can wade through it all right now, but I wish I had been a part. Cheers to all.

  95. 4-6-2007

    I will respond to DR’s last comment: Of course there is no encouragement to spiritual anarchy and most of 1 Corinthians is written toward that end, but, ideally, if all are submitted to Christ and to one another, then there is no anarchy at all… How that looks for humans is hard to tell because I think we’ve all tasted so little of it, but in the Spirit I am quite sure it is the desired order of things.

  96. 4-6-2007

    David,

    I know that Bryan has already responded to your comment, but I thought I would add my own. I understand and agree with the tension that you describe. I believe we should live within that tension, without trying to explain away one side or the other.

    On the other hand, I believe that “spiritual anarchy” is an oxymoron. Those living in the Spirit will not live in anarchy. The authority that they are under clear.

    -Alan

  97. 4-6-2007

    David R.,

    I mostly agree with what you’ve presented here. However, I think that the reference to “spiritual anarchy” tends toward a false dichotomy.

    I don’t see anything in these discussions that comes even close to “anarchy”, and I would suggest that there are other options available on the continuum between dictatorship and anarchy.

    In fact, I might even suggest that seeing it as a continuum between those two poles is to look at the wrong scale to begin with.

    The relationships that are ours in the Spirit are of a completely different nature than human organizational relationships. Everything about the Kingdom of God seems to be of a different nature than the kingdoms of this world (be they political or corporate or whatever).

    I think this is why so many of us react against the “organization” which seems to put us on a continuum related to abusive authority.

    I dunno. Just thinking “out loud” here. I appreciate your input and your thoughts, though. You are a good voice of balance in some of this! :)

    blessings,
    steve :)

  98. 4-6-2007

    Jonathan,

    You try to get as many different Greek definitions out. You look at the context of the passage. And you pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what it means.

    So you have 1 definition (ship-steerer), but then you have a context which indicates that it is actually the Holy Spirit who is “steering the ship”. This presents a problem in your interpretation, because you have concluded that the pastor “steers the ship” through his possession of the vision for that local body.

    The context does not support this idea of a “local vision”, however, and my repeated requests for you to defend such have been woefully brushed aside.

    Finally, I see we’re back to “the Holy Spirit told me so”, according to your response to John Purcell.

    Listen, the Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself. An interpretation that actually runs counter to the text itself cannot be from Him.

    You need to test your interpretation against Scripture itself, lest you find yourself continuing to defend something which contradicts Scripture.

    Once more, with a clear answer, Jonathan, PLEASE:

    1. Defend the concept of “local vision” transmitted to a pastor from the text of Scripture itself.

    2. Defend your understanding of how one tiny word in a list of many other gifts, all controlled by the Holy Spirit as He wills, in a passage which actually stresses the importance and honor given to seemingly lesser gifts leads you to a system of following a man who says he has a vision from God and you must support it, and calls into question anyone who questions that vision.

  99. 4-6-2007

    David,
    Sorry I’m late getting back to your question. In the meantime, it has been answered well by Alan.

    I agree that the reference to “appointing” means to point out. There also was likely an aspect of exhorting the elders in their responsibility to serve the body.

    Personally, I have seen the assignment of offices as a hindrance to the functioning of elders within the body.

    I see the passage in I John descriptive of the relationship between older and younger believers. It is similar to other passages that talk about older women instructing the younger women (which btw hasn’t been used to prescribe church offices and positions).

    Regarding structure, I believe that one of the problems with church organizational structures is that we have attached spiritual hierarchy to them. The problem is not with the structure itself, but with the idea that certain roles assume an elevated spiritual position and authority.

    Agreeing with Steve, our relationships in the body are of a completely different nature than other human organizations. Rather than anarchy we are commanded to live in submission to the Lord and mutual submission to one another. This should be the key dynamic that defines our relationships.

  100. 4-6-2007

    Grace and Steve,

    I think you both expressed my view better than I did. Thank you.

    -Alan

  101. 4-6-2007

    Steve,

    1 Cor. 12 says absolutely nothing about the Holy Spirit steering the ship of a local congregation. Yes, according to verse 11, the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts to each one as He wills. However, each gift has a different function, and a different purpose.

    After listing several gifts in 8-10, and dealing with unity and diversity in the Body of Christ, then Paul lists several other gifts, some not mentioned in the earlier section. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12:28, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations (or governments) (this is “kubernesis” in the Greek), varieties of tongues.” So, that is the context of this ONE term “kubernesis.”

    It is interesting that “kubernesis” is given two different definitions in various Bible translations. One translation is “governments,” and the other is “administration.” It is also interesting that in some Bible translations, the same word for “administration” is translated “dispensation,” whichis commonly understood as a synonym for “stewardship.” Thus, for example, Eph. 1:10 in the NAS states, “with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times,” while the same verse in the NKJV states, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of the times.” Likewise, Paul speaking of his “stewardship,” and his calling, writes in Eph. 3:8-10, “To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the ADMINISTRATION of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” This same passage is rendered in the NKJV as follows: “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Where the NKJV uses the word “fellowship,” there is a note that the NU-text and M-text BOTH read “stewardship (dispensation).” So, we see, looking at Eph. 1:10 and 3:9, that this concept of “kubernesis,” which means “administration” or “government” can also mean, in a way, “stewardship.”

    So, where also do we find the term “stewardship” in the NT? Paul states in 1 Cor. 4:1 that as “servants of Christ,” we are called to be “stewards of the mysteries of God.” This is cross-referenced with Eph. 3:2, and more importantly Col. 1:25, which states in the NAS, “Of this church I was made a minister according to the STEWARDSHIP from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.”

    The NAS also uses the word “steward” in several of these places. One that is highly relevant to our discussion of 1 Cor. 12:28 is Titus 1:7, which states in the NAS, “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward.” So, this is in reference to an overseer (or what we would call a pastor, elder, bishop, etc.) In fact, the NKJV calls the overseer a “bishop” in this verse.

    Now, I’ve laid all that out as a foundation of the text. The fact is that the concept of “administration” or “government,” as it is presented in the NT when the term “kubernesis” is used, is connected to the same concept of “stewardship,” which is also tied to the concept of being an “overseer.” And what “overseers” DO is they administer, or govern, or “steer the ship” so-to-speak of local congregations. This is more full definition of “kubernesis,” which is used in 1 Cor. 12:28.

    So, all of the above is my attempt to more fully answer your question as to the definition of “kubernesis.” Now, I will look at your two specific questions.

    Your first question most recently was, “Defend the concept of ‘local vision’ transmitted to a pastor from the text of Scripture itself.” OK. Lets go back into the “foundation” of what I wrote above. Notice that Paul wrote in Eph. 3:8 (NAS), “This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” Paul is saying here, along with some of the other verses I cited above, that he has a special calling to be a “steward” over, or to reveal, if you will, the mysteries of God to God’s people. In saying this, I am cross-referencing Col. 1:25, 1 Cor. 4:1,and other similar verses. This was Paul’s “vision,” if you will, his calling. This is also a function of those who are “overseers,” or as we would say in modern vernacular, those in “pastoral ministry,” or simply “pastors” of local congregations.

    Thus, given these texts, with Paul as our example, I believe God is revealing hidden mysteries to those whom have been charged to oversee God’s people, i.e. pastors. Specifically, in Col. 1:27, Paul wrote, “to whom God willed to make known what IS the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles, which IS Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In verse 28, then, Paul writes, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man COMPLETE in Christ.” This idea of completion is the same concept of maturity, as presented in Eph. 4:11 as to what apostles, prophets, evangelists, PASTORS, and teachers are called to do. Thus, local pastors are called to complete/perfect/mature the saints.

    Now, the next vital question in this discussion, is how PASTORS are called to perfect the local saints that have also been entrusted to them. I believe the Scriptures are clear they are to do this by “preaching and teaching the word of God.” This phrase is used several places in the NT. One example is 1 Cor. 9:14, and an analogous verse is Acts 6:4. So, the next question is then what does it mean to “preach and teach the word of God.” In the Greek, there are several words for “word.” One Greek term for “word” is “logos,” which is the written word (i.e. the Bible). The Bible is the “more sure word of prophecy,” and so anything that is preached and teached from the pulpit should line up with the Scriptures, amen?

    Now, Steve, “word” in the Greek can also mean, “rhema,” which means basically “living word.” This would be Holy Spirit-given revelation from the word of God. It is the “rhema” word that is most likely specific to local congregations, as the pastor hears the “rhema” word, if you will, from the Holy Spirit. This is tied to the pastor’s function to “steer the ship” of the local congregation (kubernesis) and to cast the local vision for the respective local congregation. Such local vision comes from the concept of the “rhema” word of God, which must be in accord with the “logos” (the Scriptures), but is more specific to a local body.

    For instance, the “tag line” for the “local vision” God has given my pastor is “Raising up a powerful and victorious church.” This comes from revelation based on the “rhema” word of God, and what God has shown my pastor that we at Faith Church need, in order to be perfected, complete, matured, etc. So, that is all how I believe, based on the Scriptures, God transmits the “local vision” to pastors in the setting of the local body.

    Your second question was, “Defend your understanding of how one tiny word in a list of many other gifts, all controlled by the Holy Spirit as He wills, in a passage which actually stresses the importance and honor given to seemingly lesser gifts leads you to a system of following a man who says he has a vision from God and you must support it, and calls into question anyone who questions that vision.” This is actually several questions, and I will try to address some of the points here. First, I don’t believe in “following a man who says he has a vision from God and you must support it, and calls into question anyone who questions that vision.” Good grief, Steve, that is not what I believe, nor what my pastor believes, and most importantly, not what the Bible teaches. I do not believe we are to follow a man, we are supposed to follow the Holy Spirit. Further, ONLY if you are called to a local congregation is there a need for you to support the local vision that God has given as a “stewardship” to your pastor. So, if you go to First Baptist of Springfield, and your pastor has set forth a certain “vision” for that local body, I’m not called to agree with it. Likewise, you are not called to agree with the vision of my church, unless you’re called to be a member there. So, this whole notion of no one can question the “local vision” is hogwash, because only members of the local assembly need to support the local vision that God has given their local pastor. So, that’s my answer to your second question. I do not believe in the “system” as you suggest that I do, and so I cannot answer that question any further. I’ve tried to explain from the Scriptures why I believe “kubernesis” is tied to casting a local vision, by explaining the “stewardship” principle, and I hope you can accept that. If not, please let me know.

    If you have other questions, please let me know, as well.

    I will soon be doing a series on leadership in my blog, so I will once again cover all of this, probably in a more systematic manner than I just did for you.

    Blessings,
    Jonathan

  102. 4-6-2007

    All,

    Maybe the church in its earthly incarnation is meant to be more utopic (or other-worldly, if you prefer), than what I am seeing. If such is the case, I need God to open my eyes to this, and receive it by faith. No sarcasm at all. I’m open to being convinced.

    In the meantime, though, it seems to me that, here on earth, as a general principle, “when everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.” Normally someone needs to know that the rest are looking to them to sound the alarm or give instructions, or else everyone just stands around looking at each other.

    This is the way it was in the Old Testament. God had his appointed leaders who did just that: lead.

    Moses is a good example of this. Yet he was, according to Num. 12.3, “the meekest man on the face of the earth.” Sounds like a pretty good example of “servant leadership” to me.

    And, in Acts 15, its seems to me like James (in conference with other leaders) assumed the same type of leadership.

    Really, I can’t remember any other specific examples of specific elders, and how they led in actual situations, in the NT. So, this is the material we have to deal with. Unless some of you can remind me of something else I am forgetting.

  103. 4-6-2007

    Jonathan, I must say, that’s the closest I’ve seen to actual exegesis in any of your comments, and for that I am truly grateful!! It seemed to take a long time to get that from you, so thank you for finally spelling it out.

    You have given me a lot to examine in your cross-references, and I can’t do that at work here, so it’ll have to wait for me to actually follow your line of thinking through and see what comes of it.

    Whether or not we can come to agreement is not the issue here, but I’m glad to see you finally spell out your foundation. I would suggest that this was sorely lacking in the comments of the past week or so (however long we’ve been discussing this), but you have brought it to a point where I believe some fruitful discussion could take place now. That’s a relief.

    With regard to the questioning of the vision, it feels to me like you are contradicting some of your earlier comments, but I will have to spend time going back and harmonizing everything you’ve said now to see if that is still the impression I get.

    Have a blessed Easter weekend, if I don’t correspond with you prior to then.

  104. 4-6-2007

    Alan, I apologize. We were posting at the same time, so I didn’t see your “cease fire” ;) before clicking publish.

  105. 4-6-2007

    Everyone,

    First, I appreciate all of the discussion on this thread. I also appreciate the tone of the comments.

    Second, it seems that we have wandered away from the intent of the original post into areas of meaning of specific passages and how to connect various passages of Scripture. This is beneficial and necessary. However, I don’t think this comment thread is the best forum for this type of discussion.

    So, I am going to ask for no more comments in this thread. I hope that you will continue the discussion in your blogs, and I will gladly take part.

    Thank you again, and I look forward to interacting with all of you in the future. I wish we could do this in person over coffee.

    -Alan

  106. 4-9-2007

    Jonathan,

    Please accept my unreserved apology for my lack of grace in our most recent exchanges. I thank God for His faithfulness in His dealings with us (all of us) and I really do appreciate the opportunities He provides whereby we can ‘rub each other the wrong way’ and yet learn of Him.

    Alan,

    Apologies also; one for re-opening this thread, (I thought since the offence occurred here it would be appropriate for the apology to appear here as well) and secondly, for my lack of grace in the first place.

    John

  107. 4-9-2007

    John,

    I cannot know your heart, and I did not know your heart toward Jonathan or anyone else in the earlier part of this comment thread. However, I can tell that this last comment is filled with grace and humility. You are always welcomed to comment with grace and humility, even in a “closed” thread.

    -Alan

  108. 6-21-2011

    This is exactly the kind of attitude towards running the church as a business that I have seen as a pastor myself, and as someone who spends time with senior pastors who have to make that “hard decision” to jettison a brother in Christ and put his family on the street searching for another job because the church business needs to downsize or make room for growth, etc.

    This is not what Jesus founded. He did not intend for us to treat one another as assets to exploit but as brothers and sisters to love and support.

  109. 6-19-2012

    A lot of discussion here about how to go about, man have we missed the truth here and are too busy building our Chusrches, organizations, acting as if we care for the people, yet focusing on growth using money as a means to gain. Wow I think I see why if the Lord were here today He would not be in any of the Churches today as he was not in any synogogues in his day for the leaders put him out.
    And Church really is not a true word used in the original translation from greek, Ecclesia is the original word and it means the called out ones. Where as Church means building, there is a strong differance, and Christ came to take away sin in his Father’s sight, so father can live in the believer and be a called out one, God and you the believer, not a pastor, a deacon, a betty better than you. No it is you called out so go and tell all that God just love you!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That is the Ecclesia, to tell all that God has forgiven you you, receive receive receive, the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 is filled it is done be ye reconciled, and go forth in God’s love preaching this truth to all

  110. 8-23-2012

    I haven’t read through all the comments so I apologize if this has been made already:

    would it not be fair to say that nearly every church in America of every stripe has put the organization ahead of people when 75-80 percent of their budgets go toward buildings and staff? And pastors spend about two thirds of their time, or more, preparing and delivering sermons that studies show few people even remember. Seems like they could spend their time better.

    Churches are doing a lot for people and God is working through them, but don’t those numbers reveal that more could be done and that priorities are mixed up.