Monday, September 19, 2005

Don't Touch?

Has church leadership ever demanded that you consult with them before making a major decision or any decisions at all? Have you ever had extra biblical rules equated as coming from GOD, with your salvation or spirituality linked closely behind them? Have you ever felt that you just can’t do enough for the system or the leadership and that you are not good enough and just can’t live up to what is expected? Has church leadership forbidden you to go on vacation or spend time with certain people or in certain places? When in a church service do you feel beaten down and depressed afterwards? Do you find that leadership often discourages questioning and interprets it as being spiritually immature, or rebellious? Have you even found yourself in the position of being removed from a church, shunned, labeled or even excommunicated because you did not follow the rules?

Not too long along a friend of mine was sitting in his church {which according to him is going through a bit of a struggle} and the pastor began to speak on a passage, that I must confess is really easy for all leaders to use when are facing conflict or opposition:
I Chronicles 16:22 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm."(NIV)
It is interesting to note that many [of us] leaders when approached personally, regarding something questionable that [we] have shared {preached on} with the community can and usually is perceived as a challenge to authority. It is important to note that Jesus did allow his disciples to question what he taught. He even allowed those who were against him to question him.

I can honestly say that I am not shocked by any pastor’s response ( I heard it all) and many times, leaders obviously feel the need to either defend their actions, statements or whatever. How is it that when one calls something into question regarding something previously said or done, that one is touching GOD'S anointed? How is it that in the asking of a simple question, one can become GOD’S enemy? How is it that a leader can see himself as the recipient of an anointing that sets him apart from the rest of the community? How is it that these ‘anointed ones’ come to be defined by having a special anointing, one that makes them incapable of making mistakes?

Is it acceptable to question? And when does the questioning end? Someone once attributed this entire concept of “not touching” back to when the papacy was loosing power and would not go down without a fight. As I understand, it was Pius IX who declared an edict stating that, as GOD’S delegated authority, he cannot be wrong, and he also declared that much of the ceremonies of the papal church could not be called into question. The records of history are filled with the dirty narratives of leaders who dominated and controlled people through their rants and word twisting.

Johnson and VanVonderen in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse state: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way that you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian – to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

So in a world, where spiritual manipulation, even spiritual abuse is common, who are the anointed ones? In the Old Testament, were not the anointed the Priests, leaders, kings and even the Israelites? In the New Testament is it possible that the “anointed ones” are the entire community of Christ? Did GOD pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and not just a select social order of Ministers, Pastors, Elders, etc? Peter wrote. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (NIV) (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture tells us that as followers of Jesus Christ, there is now a new priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and this priesthood represents a better covenant. Under this covenant, GOD puts His laws into our minds, and writes them in our hearts. So as believers are we all not priests? Are we all not His anointed? Or does GOD have special followers or are those in leadership more special to GOD than the average person? Are there some people who are more important than others? If that is true than one must examine what is written in 1 Corinthians 12 which enforces the idea that each individual is needed and has a specific work to do, and each person is equally important, but with different responsibilities.



Kinnon said...

A great post. All the more encouraging that it comes from a leader of a growing church. Bravo!

Too many leaders in the charismatic/pentecostal stream have bought into a church government model patterned after the leadership in Kings and Chronicles. They style themselves as modern day Davids.

They are “mythtaken” in believing this model allows them to lord it over their “subjects” with the proof texts off 1 Samuel 26:9-10 (do not touch the Lord’s annointed) while ignoring Jesus, the ultimate servant leader in Matthew 20:25-29. They ignore the fact that the very reason the Father instituted the role of Kings was the people were unable to accept God as their King – 1 Sam 8:7-9 – and God even tells Samuel: “... but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."

Jesus broke that down with his coming as the King of Kings – restoring us, each to a relationship with the Father that we could not otherwise have. But throughout the 2000 year history of the Church there have been those who have wanted to reinstate the authority of the Kings – manifested in these “church” leaders. Their exegesis of the scriptures they purport to use to support their position is limited at best.

I look forward to your next post – even if I have to wait an entire week.

Scott said...

Good Post,
I wonder though, is it wrong to have "leaders". Leaders can help in many positive ways. Of course Leaders shouldnt take the place of God, but dont we need some leadership sometimes as well.

Hmm, if im understanding correctly, then every church has a leadership doesn't it. I mean you have you pastor, and you have you commitee of people that make decisions. Does that constitute as a Government. Some people like to be more traditional as others. Some churches like to have a hierarchial system of leadership, where the head makes all of the decisions. Others like to be more conservative, having a Pastor as the head and his own cabinent if you will, of people that he trusts to help him make desicions.

I dont know if im way out in left field on this one. But I dont think that our Leaders are lords over us, i believe that we should always ask questions about stuff thats been said in Church, think critically if you will. No question is a stupid question. I think it gets to far when you stop attacking the opinion and start attacking the person that said it. Being apart of Gerrys Congregation i believe him to be a leader in his own right, guiding ppl to God, or to just at least open up someones mind to consider God in their lives.

As for does God favor some ppl more than others. Not in the grand scheme of things. But Gerry is more suited to run a church than i am. So maybe God choose him to do that instead of me, hes not any more important, but maybe God puts ppl that he has given special skills into the positions that fit those exact skills. He favors Gerry to start the church, becuase of his God given gifts, than me, but in the same right, God may favor me to be a laywer or a doctor instead of Gerry cuz of gifts that i have been given.

Anyways, Good post, always gets ya thinking. Hope i didnt go to far off the point in the beginning of this post. Cya

younghands said...

You couldn't be more right. Jesus taught us that leaders are here to serve. My biggest criticism of church leadership is that we have tried to slot people into our programs and "ministries". We have wanted them to fit into our systems instead of meeting their needs and giving them the tools to minister where God has planted them. We have pulled people out of the community as volunteers, telling them that they are not using their gifts for God and then coerce them to teach to Sunday School or whatever. Why? So that our ministries will grow. We have swallowed the lie that big church equals success. I want churches to grow but not at the expense of the people in them. Not at the expense of diminishing the priestly call that God has put on their lives. Not at the expense of the people who could be reached for Christ if we freed up our church people from our systems and let them do ministry where they are planted, so that as leaders we serve the people in our churches in their ministries.

Grey Owl said...

I have experienced something like what you're describing here. Challenging the status quo is always a risky venture, but with threats of damnation or excommunication poor leaders can remain in power long after their time is done. I think that many churches are needlessly suffering under such leadership, but I also think that there are several (like my own) that demonstrate sacrificial leadership. Good post, Gerry.

Andrew Evans said...

I enjoyed reading this post and have just a couple quick comments. 1) I think we need to be careful in judging the leadership of the past with standards we have set up today, one day those who will follow us will bring judgement down upon us as well. 2) I think that an abusive use of power by leaders is abhorant and should never be tolerated. Too much harm is done by leaders who have manipulated others by using the idea that they are "God's anointed" 3) We must also remember that many times in conflict with church leadership, those who are challenging are not doing so with pure motives, but more out of a desire to control of have power and 4) Leadership over the church is a biblical idea and it can be seen that the apostles led the church with community leadership rather than dicatorship (Acts 15), however the structure of leadership within the global church is so dissimilar that it would be impossible to comment fully on it, however if a church does bring someone in to be their pastor they grant him or her authority over the congregation this needs to remembered this when challenging that authority.

Andrew E