In the previous posts in this series, I suggested that it is dangerous to the spiritual maturity of believers to place an extraordinary emphasis on Sunday as “The Day” or a specific location as “The Place” or a specific set of activities as “The Program” for Christians to meet together as the church.
In this final post of the series, I want to focus on another “danger” of the modern, traditional Sunday: a focus on a specific person or group of people who must “lead” the church meeting. Usually, this person is the senior pastor, sometimes combined with other “staff” such as “minister of music” (minister or worship) or perhaps another “associate pastor.”
And, what happens when that person (the senior pastor) can’t be there – rare though that must be? He (or she) hand picks a replacement.
At the time when the church comes together, teaching, edification, discipleship, etc. is placed in the hands of one person. The church loses its mutuality. The focus turns to that man, and the church learns that they are not the church if “the man” is not up front leading them – or at least giving his approval of the person to take his place.
The modern, traditional focus on a particular person is extremely dangerous to the spiritual health of the church, all in the name of helping the church. The fact that this practice is considered both necessary and healthy makes it even more dangerous.
Instead of God being allowed and expected to work through the church to help the church grow (Eph 4:16), God is now expected only to work through the professional, pastoral staff and especially the senior pastor. Once again (as with the day, the place, and the program), the focus is taken off of Christ and placed on an individual – yes, even when that individual thinks that he (or she) is placing the focus on Christ.
The church, instead, should be working together to build one another up. As the Spirit works through all his children, the church is strengthened and encouraged (in Paul’s words) “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14)
This warning is not against leaders among the church – as long as we understand that Jesus defined leadership as service – no, not “servant leadership” but service. A focus on “the man” up front turns Jesus’ teaching about service upside down. In fact, it’s changing Jesus’ counter-cultural teaching about leadership/service back into a worldly view of leadership.
God dwells in each of his children and can (if allowed) work through each of his children to build up his church. The modern, traditional focus on “the man” hinders that growth.