29 August 2016
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What seems to run through this thread suggests that the problem is (very often) lack of willingness to address discipline in local congregations and national denominations.
One notable exception was the situation in Tain whereby the minister tackled the local problem which was and is starkly manifest in the denomination. He is now out of the congregation and out of the denomination.
But he will have enjoyed God's favour and will also have a inner liberty in his spirit. The 'watchman' passages in Exekiel Chs. 3 and 33 illustate the principle. If we don't address the problem of sin then we suffer the same fate as the sinner.
The simple reality is that when it comes to the elephants we need look no further than our own situations churchwise! We all have them grazing quite happily, feeding off of sin and sinful attitudes, the question is what, if anything, are we doing about them?
Left unchecked they will eventually run amock, by then it may be too late to do anything!!
It is always tempting on all subjects to do with the church to look at the bigger picture, but maybe this one requires a more local focus if we are to see blessings!
From the opening post;
What is/are your elephant(s) church wise, and how should it/they be dealt with biblically?
A second question is: What is likely to happen if we continue to ignore the elephant(s)?
Regarding how to deal with the elephants, this is where the 'one-person' leader (irrespective of what title they are known) is in a very vulnerable, difficult and dangerous situation. We are all familiar with the David and Goliath(one man and God is a majority) but trying to address a problem on one's own can end up with that person being 'forced out' (and that was in a presbyterian situation and the minister did have some support).
Churches really do need to get into the biblical model of plural male leadership with mutual trust and support amongst a group of godly men.
Of course this is not the present situation in thousands of congregations.
What I am saying to every believer (irrespective of what type of God's work they are involved) is to get into fellowship with mature, prayerful and trustworthy fellow christians (irrespective of where or who they are. It is in this context that a believer is most secure.
Regarding 'what will happen if we continue to ignore the elephants'? They will not go away; they will get stronger and stronger. They will remain passive until eventually something - and it could be something trivial - provokes them to action; and then 'Look out'.
I have seen it happen; time and time again. A nice little peaceful church erupts in flames with rivers of lava flowing out every door. Bystanders are totally shocked: "Where did that come from?" But of course it is just a herd of elephants coming up from the basement.
This is spiritual warfare and can only be tackled with all the spiritual weapons which God provides.
I will not say more in this 'public' space but I could offer some suggestions (for what they may be worth) in a more private context
Peter, you have placed great emphasis on personal responsibility and that is very important. We are saved individually, redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We cannot come to Christ in a group or even with one other person, no matter how close we are. We must know what it is to be sought by Jesus, to hear His call and in individual repentance receive Him as Saviour and Lord. If we read Ephesians ch.1 for example the first 14 verses deals with this experience pointing out the sublime blessing involved. From verse 15 to the end of the chapter Paul is pointing out the wonderful blessings that the saints of God enjoy collectively. In such a consideration we have a great responsibility to one another. In what we might term as normal Christian fellowship we are to enjoy together the blessings that we received individually. The greater our understanding of these things, the more the Lord will hold us responsible as to how we use any small measure of gift we have. The Epistle brings out this truth in a very wonderful way. For example, in Ch.4:11 we have three gifts for the blessing of the church of God listed. The third gift suggests a dual responsibility, shepherds (pastors) and teachers. Shepherding is vital and so is teaching. A shepherd or pastor who does not teach is not feeding the flock. A teacher who does not care for the flock does not represent the Good Shepherd. I fully concur with your insistence on individual responsibility when we are faced with the choice, Christ or Barabbas, and I am sure that you would agree that when it comes to our blessing as a member of Christ's church and one of those who are "seated with Him in heavenly places" we have a great resposnsibility to one another, no matter how small and outwardly insignificant is any gift that we might have been given. I am sure that inyour own ministry the truth of this is understood and practised with zeal. It is not the case in every church. I believe that the Editor's last post regarding plurality of leadership is a vital matter for any healthy church.
Yes John, but the problem (amongst many) that we face today is that we live in a culture where No 1 is king, where individualism is the top priority. Sadly, this is also becoming too evident with the body of Christ, where like the surrounding culture people are big on the their rights rather than their responsibilities. This in turn makes the body of Christ disfunctional, with the body becoming dismembered!!
As for leadership, I have no idea where this notion of minister flying solo comes from. Leadership in my experience is in plural. That is the biblical model and is the reality of every church (including my own) that I am aware of.
Small churches may only have one teaching eleder, but The Lord makes up for leadership in other ways with other gifted individuals. A teaching elder is also a member of the fellowship and accountable to the whole body like anyone else!
Re "I have no idea where this notion of minister flying solo comes from", on a different thread I wrote:
There are quite a few articles on the site(a 'trawl' is required)which touch on the weaknesses of the 'one-man-band' form of ministry; which has developed in the church since the 2/3rd century and continued unchecked through the Reformation.
I think that we can boil it down to a combination of problems in 'people' (behaviour of leaders and congregations), 'systems' the structures in which we all operate, and the 'climate' (ethos of the operating environment.)
Re 'teaching' and 'elders', any and every elder worthy of the title should be able to 'teach' (1 Tim 3:2)(which is more than just 'preaching' cf. 2 Thess 2:15).
Having said that, some will - by gifting and calling - especially function in that capacity.
But herewith the problem yet again; in the one-man ministry model there are many who can 'teach' but don't have pastoral giftings and many who have pastoral giftings are not able to 'preach'.
So the individual suffers from being forced into a role for which he is not equipped; and the body suffers for much the same reason.
Meanwhile clergy-burnout is treated as if it were in some way 'different' from others, but it is exactly the same factors that are in play i.e. overwork (which can be lack of self-discipline in the individual; or otherwise, structural dysfunction); or being required to operate outside one's skill-set.
Jesus did all he did in exactly the same length of day/week as we have.
It doesn't require any huge amount of discernment to identify this particular 'elephant in the room'. But what is demonstrably lacking is any great will (at a corporate level; and in pulpit and pew) to do anything about it. Mainly, I suggest, because there are too many agendas and positions that would feel threatened by root and branch reform.
Accordingly it needs to start at a grass-roots level of local congregations with clear teaching on the biblical model of whole-body ministry (i.e. ever-member as a 'minister').
Mutual accountability would happen as a 'default'.
"(i.e. ever-member as a 'minister'). Mutual accountability would happen as a 'default'."
Ah, eutopia! The Church has been around for about 2000 years, and will have to be around for another 2000 with a single focus on this subject to make any meaningful progress!!
The church will exist eternally, but not on this earth. I think it would be very rare for a minister or pastor to have no support of any kind, but not necessarily the support in preaching, shepherding or teaching that one might require. Prayerful support would be of great value, for example, but to have one man preaching every week, two times on a Lord's Day would indicate a weakness in the local church in my judgement.
The principle, and it is a biblical one, of the priesthood of every believer, is poorly understood in the Christian profession. Many (not all) feel that to come along, listen to a sermon and leave it all to the minister is acceptable. Personally, I believe that there is the suggestion of some superiority, for instance in clerical clothing. Where did that come from? It is taken to gross excess in the Churches of Rome and England, but there is not a shred of any support or justification for the practise in scripture. We are to be sanctified, set apart from the world, not from one another. The price paid for the redemption of the thief on the cross and the Apostle Paul was the same. The prospect for both was identical, it was to be "with Chris". Both had their names written in the book of life "from the foundation of the world" (Rev.17:8) but it was Paul who decribed himself as "less than the least of all saints". If the truth, for instance of predestination and its blessing (Eph.1) was explained clearly what an elevated undersanding of their position in the thoughts and purpose of God it would give to many Christians.
"Ah, eutopia! The Church has been around for about 2000 years, and will have to be around for another 2000 with a single focus on this subject to make any meaningful progress!!"
There is nothing impossible with God. However He does not bless lethargy, unbelief, inaction, fatalism, apathy.
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