Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Leadership: Continued

Last week, we started on a road of exploration as we looked at the beginning of the topic of Church Leadership. As hard as I tried, some personal feeling will drift into our study.  I do not apologize for that. I feel that we all might be challenged as we continue this study.

Who’s in Charge?  With the situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East, that question could take a long while.  The spread of the challenge of Change is everywhere. Even in the USA, people are screaming for change.  Sometimes, people want change without any thought of what changes are needed to be made. Change for change sake may not be the best result but the masses are still crying for change.

In some countries, any change that is taken, the government has a way to find control.  Sometimes, heavy-handed measures are taken to suppress the people’s wishes—whether they are good or bad—it doesn’t seem to matter.  We hear cries for People’s Rights.  We see the marching crowds.  Some feel threatened.  Some go into prayer.  Some take to the streets in open rebellion. Others go to the rooftops to get a better position and shoot the public with sniper rounds.  People are scared in the world today.  Unrest is everywhere. Leaders are trying to secure a better situation.  Some leaders are trying to bribe their way back into the hearts of the people by giving them some money as a way to make them liked again.

In a country just three hours away from us, even the treat of a protest brings out the police and military in force.  People were arrested just because there is a possible protest.

And what is our response to these world-wide changes?  For the most part, we are unmoved.  We might be concerned when the gas prices go up to 200Y per liter but if you don’t use a car, that will not affect you.

What about changes within the Church? We have seen, depending on your age, all sorts of changes.  From the mid-1900’s, there was the ‘God is Dead’ movement.  The ‘God Is Not Here’ movement.  ‘God Is Everywhere’ movement.  The ‘God Is In You’ movement. Leaders of some churches have changed their stand of morality.  In some cases, the morality of the Church looks like the world the Church is supposed to help lead.  Some endorse Gay marriages. Some allow open rebellion.  ‘Jesus is a Rebel’, they cry!  Che Guevare and Jesus are after the same things in life.  Some teach that the Power of the Church is based on false teaching and needs to be cleansed.  The interpretations of the Scriptures were questioned and then denied.  People looked to science and education once again for meaning.  A newer Age of Enlightenment took center stage.  God would be made in Man’s Image.  Man became the Authority in ALL matters.  But, yet, people were empty.  Why?  Because the heart of man was already turned from Truth and from God’s heart. 

Romans 1:18-23  But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn't treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.” ~ from The Message.

So, here we are today, looking to the Word of God for answers.  The questions may not even be on your lips but we do need answers that will direct our hearts.  Keep your eyes open to see just what it is that the Lord of the Bible wants you to know of His plan for all of us.  His authority in our lives will be the cause of great joy.  We are made to please Him.  We are made in His image.  Romans 1:6 states: “And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  (NIV) We do best when we reflect His heart in this cold and changing world.

This next Sunday, we will be looking at the different offices that is found in Church Leadership.  Keep in mind that Jesus is THE Authority over all the Church.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Introduction to Church Leadership as found in 1, 2 Timothy & Titus “Who’s in charge here?”

 By way of introduction:
The Apostle’s Creed:

 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

 On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right Hand of the Father, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 

 I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.

Starting a Church…That must have been hard to do!
How did Paul do it?  He would visit a pagan city, talk to a few people, maybe a crowd.  A few or even many would come to believe his Gospel message of Salvation through the Lord Jesus. Then, he’d teach the Word to them and leave.  And behind would be a Church!

How did he do that? What was Paul looking for in the New Believers that caused the Church in that city to grow—even after the main man left?   Good question.

Paul wrote to those new leaders in the form of what is called his Pastoral Epistles. 1, 2 Timothy & Titus. They are called pastoral because they are letters with instructions for pastors, congregations, and general functions within the church.

 1st Timothy deals primarily with church worship and organization.  It deals with the issue of women in relationship to authority (1 Tim. 2:9-15) and dignity (1 Tim. 3:11), speaks of overseers (bishops, 1 Tim. 3:1-7), deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-10 12), and elders (1 Tim. 5:17-18).  Titus deals with the character and qualifications of church officials such as elders, declaring that they are to be men of dignity, respectful, honorable, etc. (Taken from Christian Apologetics & Research Ministries)

This would be Paul’s last word to the leaders of those young congregations.  These three short letters to the young pastors Timothy and Titus have a unique value in themselves. The three letters show us:
1. -HOW we are to share or communicate our Faith.
2. -TEACH us how to recognize and select spiritual leaders.
3. -Gives us INSIGHT into different categories of leaders and how our local fellowship/church leaders are to function.

As Paul writes to Timothy and Titus, we can see these words of apostles, overseers (Bishops), elders and deacons interspersed through out the letters. 

As we read these three letters, we can come face to face with some modern issues that tend to be sensitive modern issues.  Early on, Paul tells Timothy to commit what he had been given and to teach that to “reliable men.”  And Paul also writes the he (1 Tim 2:12) did “not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.” oh my. Does that mean that women cannot function as leaders in the church?  And, if so, what specific leadership roles are they not to take?  Are certain members excluded from leadership roles altogether?  Let’s find out.

AGAIN, as I stated last week, if the scriptures say thus and so, we are to follow it.  If it is silent on certain issues, we too are to be silent.  We can’t make Church doctrine on silence. Nor can we disregard other things scripture does say.

The structure of the modern church has some major differences than the one Paul was addressing.  For one thing, the early church leaders were all from the Jewish Faith.  Many were leaders already in their congregations.  Some were already Scripture Teachers.  As the Gospel spread, many from outside the Hebrew Faith followed the TEACHINGS OF JESUS and so many of them had zero knowledge of being Hebrew—never mind the Scriptures.  Look at the list of what they use to be and you might be shocked. 1 Cor 6:9-11 And that is what some of you were. And to remember what the Key Gospel message was: 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,

We will need to look at what Paul wrote and learn about leadership and then apply it to our own situation today in order for us to maintain a healthy and vital Fellowship that reflects Jesus.

The way Paul and Company did Church planting can be used today to draw some principles yet provides us with a number of questions.
a. Paul and Timothy and Titus did not function as local church leaders.  What were they?
b. The office of Elder was to be established in every worshiping location.  There was no teaching at that time about ordaining a “pastor” to the local church.  What was the elders’ task? What about pastors?
c. It seems that elders were appointed on the returning visit of the planters (Paul and Co.) Why not on the first?
d. These New Testament letters seem to assume (or to explicitly teach) male leadership.  What is with that? What about women in the local church? Can they be leaders?

We might be digging a pretty large hole here.  Please stay with us. Don’t run away from these issues. They are presented to us from the Word of God and we are to look TO the Word of God for answers.  It is not my intention to cause us to question how we do things here at ICCS but for us to think more clearly about spiritual leadership here and how that leadership functions in our local church.

Our background may have something to do with how we feel about these issues.  Some of you are from formal denominational Churches with high functioning leadership roles.  Some are from churches were such things are not present at all—and that way on purpose. 

Let’s look at some terms here.  Hopefully, this will aid us in understanding how and what the Bible says about leadership in the Church. (I use Church in its Biblical form—not as a building but as a Body of Believers.)

When it comes to Biblical leadership, three terms are usually used to describe the situation.  The first word is CONFLICT:  Here the conflict is found in obeying or resisting of authority.  We are talking about conflict between Man and his God.  Not conflict between each other.  Iron sharpens iron happens during some conflict and that is good for the relationship.  This is different.  Between Man and God!  When it comes to Christ and His Church, any conflict that divides the Body is not to be. We would need to set it aside and have an open heart to God’s way of leading the Church.  Because of the Fall of Man and since the Garden, man has sought to be independent from God.  His rebellion and disobedience has been historic.  Man tries, almost at every turn, to be free from a Higher Control and Authority of God: thus conflict.

The second term is CONFUSION: For many in the Church today, few have really had the interest or the time to look at the different teachings coming out of the Church. There tends to be a reaction to unknown things. Long lasting traditions and Theological vagueness creates confusion in the Church. Think of the teachings of the Pharisees.  Somewhat based on Holy Scripture but seeded throughout in man’s teachings and added to by man’s wisdom. Jesus told them that they were mistaken: that they thought they could get eternal life from those teaching when the Scriptures themselves were left untouched.  When church leadership looks like a Pharisaical movement, error is found and confusion follows.

The third word is CONTENTMENT: When members come to the Authority of God’s Word and find the source of belief there, that pleases the Lord.  When we come to the Authority of the Word in life and practice, one finds a delight in the Law of the Lord. When we obey the teachings of our Lord as found in Holy Script, life takes on a different level of contentment.  Someone once said: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it for me!”  How about dropping the second point!  God’s Word does not NEED my endorsement to be considered truth.  His Word stands by itself!  The Authority of the Word of God in life and practice stands no matter what man believes. 

When looking at Paul’s letters about leadership, his first word is APOSTLE; This word means ‘ambassador’ or delegate or messenger.  They were used to name the 12 who followed Jesus and who He called to follow Him.  Add to that list Paul, who was added later on—after his conversion on the Road to Damascus.  There were others, including Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and from Romans 16:7 two little known Apostles, Andronicus and Junias.  These were traveling itinerant teachers who founded and then guided a number of local congregations—much like some missionaries today.

Whether there are modern apostles today is an open question. (Not for some!) If there are, they should fall into the category of ‘apostle’ and not ‘Apostle’. (Again, this is only the introduction!)

In like manner, if there were apostolic ministries today, they would truly, as in the NT times, extend beyond the local ministry of a single church or fellowship.  (There is a need to be careful here.)

BISHOP is the next term found in these letters.  The word comes from a Greek word that means “overseer” or “one who takes care of.” In 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the “Bishop (or sheperd) of our souls”. This tends to mean someone who watches out for a group of people.  A special responsibility to have over a group.  Over the years, this role took on incredible power and later in Church history, some who held this office was not even a believer but paid for this seat.

As we look at 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we can see an overlap of the usage of this term/office.  The words overseer and elder suggest that they both ‘shepherd’ or ‘presbyter’ or pastor and are synonyms terms.  Paul uses Bishop both in places were elder and overseer are used.  In Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church, Phil 1:1, “all the saints…with the overseers and deacons.” A division of leadership.

Just what are the specific duties of an overseer, we are not clear from what Paul wrote.  Again, silence or certainly a soft-spoken situation, and what you have is: we can’t be 100% certain what that office was to do except oversee the Family. To shepherd them in the Lord.

ELDER. From the Greek which means, as it does in English, “older.”  Or “the older one.” It many mean age or long term believer.  In Latin, the Romans have Senator, and the Jewish leaders who are members of the inner group of the Sanhedrin were also older men. 

As with some things in the Scripture, there might be some confusion.  I trust that will not happen to us.  Be like the church found in Acts, in Berea, (Acts 17:10-11) “…for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”   Search out the Word of God—as the Word of God is THE Authority on life and practice of the Believer.  It is easy to fall into traditions and historical explanations, but when His Holy Word touches the heart, the result should be quick to follow.  He said it; That settles it for me!

So, Who is in Charge?  Over all things, Jesus holds that role.  He alone is the One who saved us from sin’s hold.  He alone went to the Cross for our Salvation.  He along is the only one who can give Salvation to those who believe.  He alone is the Chief Cornerstone, the High Priest of our souls.  Give Him allegiance and honor as you set your hearts to follow His Will.