Part #2 of this series focused on the exclusive nature of the modern Christian church, and in reality, the church throughout history. Of course, when I say ‘the church’, I am speaking of the entire body of Christendom, with its obstacle course of denominations, denominational splinters and ranging theology. When the body of Christ was supposed to include the marginalized, the suppressed, the ‘unclean’, and unworthy, Christianity has in reality done nearly the opposite, on a massive scale. Of course, it should go without saying that there are people and churches out there that defy this stigma and attempt to fulfill the example of Christ the fullest.
Today, I want to talk about the part of Christianity that looks a little bit like feudal medievalism, the topic of Kings and Kingdoms. Us vs. Them. More specifically, Leader (preacher, pastor, evangelist, prophet, missionary) over Saint (laymen) systems of power and authority. The hierarchy of authority that has been fabricated within the church, defying the example of its founder, who systematically went against hierarchical control structures. Sadly, many Church systems have adopted such dictatorial leadership styles.
Kings & Kingdoms
It is by no means a modern phenomenon within Christendom to have puppet leaders in bully pulpits. Indeed, looking back in history, this was a normal modus operandi of Christian leaders, turning ‘oversight’ into ‘control’.
Controlling the public was made much easier in olden times by the lack of information, lack of written publications, heavy superstition, etc. In today’s world, it is accomplished via manipulation, brainwashing, and dominance of the mind, still with some heavy use of superstition.
In a random moment of irony, (random that I was even looking at his page) David K. Bernard, the head pontiff of one of the most fundamental sects (and dare I say, a cult) of Christianity, the Oneness Pentecostal Church, International., made a seemingly contradictory string of Facebook comments in which he said the church should be governed by the ‘main church body’, but then once grown to maturity, be self-governed and autonomous of external hierarchies. Even stating that Paul, the undoubted leader/creator of New Testament Church doctrine and certainly the most prolific in his writings, acquiesced to local church leadership.
The scriptures that David K. Bernard references (November 7th post) are of Paul giving commandments or greetings to local churches, not succumbing to their wishes or unique church ‘standards’. Putting aside my disdain for Mr. Bernard, I believe what you are witnessings is ‘backtracking’ on what clearly is a dichotomy in the organization’s leadership, and perhaps this is found in many other organizations.
The setup here is that the UPCI hierarchy will govern the workings (laws, rules, standards) of a church until the local pastor has matured to a place that he can take control of it. From there – so long as the local church is paying the franchise dues, it has a mind of its own.
shepherd and guide and protect the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will ofGod; and not [motivated] for shameful gain, but with wholehearted enthusiasm; (AMP)
Why am I talking about this?
There are multitudes of church governance types. My experience was Theocratic, which is modern code for cult/dictatorial control. Theocratic of course, just means ‘God ruled’, but in my experience, that means a single man says, ‘God told me so.’ and anything from there goes. Leadership in theocratic church governance is not hired/fired and thus it generally results in nepotism, where the church passes down to a son or another appointed individual and the people have no say in who rules them. Just like Kings and Subjects.
Other churches have committees and boards that hire the pastor and supervise and govern his continuance of the church’s doctrines and normally this follows a model of the congregation voting upon leadership. There are other church bodies that only allow leaders to serve a certain length of time and then shift them to other flocks to ensure they do not have too much authority over the flock.
Some time ago I wrote an article titled Biblical Headship – Who’s in Control? to talk about who really is the authority figure from a Christian perspective. There is no doubt in history that religious authority is abused and still is. From the time of the Pope to the Holy Wars of the Crusades, to today, so-called ‘Men of God’ often say “God called me into the ministry, that gives me authority over the church.” In reality, these positions of power have been grasped and taken with the threat of punishment for disobedience and the promise of reward for loyalty.
More importantly, the correlation between Kings and Peasants to Pastors and Laypeople is an easy one to make and I got this idea somewhere close to two years before I left a high-control church I belonged to. The pastor (king) had started the church 39 years beforehand. This was no doubt something worth being proud about, that is a long time to stick it out and give your life for. But, one day, a question came into my head.
Why, in 39 years, has this church not sent out from his pews a single pastor, preacher, missionary, evangelist, daughter work, etc. Why?
This past August they celebrated their 41st anniversary, a very large shindig where pastors of like mind come from all around. There are big banquets, special ministers only banquet where the laypeople serve the ministers, their kids have special ministers kids only rooms. A ton of money is spent, the church generally gives the pastor a large love gift, and in general, the entire proceedings look a lot like a Matthew 23 slideshow. Still, this church hasn’t sent forth a single preacher. Why?
Kings don’t trust other Kings
You lose control over someone who becomes a peer. Two production workers on a production line have no authority over each other, they are laypeople. The supervisor oversees them both. A supervisor who likes controlling others is not going to promote a line worker to his level of authority and share his control with another. Yet, a supervisor has a district manager, and that manager as a Vice President and that VP have an owner or board of directors to answer to. This is the secular chain of command.
But does this hierarchy belong in the Church? Why did it get adopted? Looking back over Mideival history we see people being killed (by the Church) for baptizing a different way, having a different end-times theology, or disagreeing with authority figures. Entire wars were fought over who had control of the ‘Church’, which at that time would have been either the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox church, or the Church of England.
Does the Bible put ministers on a pedestal of authority, to dispense justice upon the Church? I do not believe so but I’m looking forward to your comments.
That is, the United Pentecostal Church, International has a set of bylaws and articles of faith of which it’s licensed ministers are to abide by, including the dress standards, non-engagement in sports, drinking, watching of television, Hollywood movies, no wearing of jewelry with the exception of wedding rings, etc, and to also teach their flock to do the same.
is referencing the Acts 15 council, that certainly was not ‘local church leadership’. The church elders of Jerusalem were, in fact, the leading body, the headquarters if you will of the New Testament church. If anything, Paul and Peter, arguing over whether or not Gentile believers should observe Judaic law, acquiesced to the governing body, they certainly were not autonomous leaders who created their own doctrines and Biblical commands.
What I have seen, across many denominal sects of Christianity, admittedly mostly amongst the more fundamental/non-progressive denominations, is something I call Pastor Worship, which can also be called Blind Obedience. More distinctly, obedience is demanded by pastors, elders, leaders, with the mentality that they are more connected to God, wiser, spiritually strengthened in ways ‘normal’ saints are not.
By way of example, let me show you a
One of the greatest internet memes I’ve seen recently said, “You’ll find out who is in charge when you find out who you aren’t allowed to question.” This is the definition of an authority structure that leans more towards dictatorship and narcissism. By way of example, my former pastor said, “I don’t have a problem with people asking me questions so long as they accept my answers.”
In other words, you can ask why we do so and so, then you nod, say that sounds good, and do as I command. That’s the interpretation of the methodology and mindset of dictatorial leaders.