Our goal with the show is not to offend or make light of God. Instead, we want to point to the truth of Scripture, and hope that the truth can provoke people to examine their ways, and respond how they see fit. When we fail to reach truth, then we are settling for something else.
Modern definitions of church membership are invented by man. The concept of membership is distorted because the concept of the church is distorted. The church is not the legal organization existing in a building with set public meetings. Only Jesus can add you to the church So the question is, how does Jesus add you to the church? Many churches state that baptism is how you are added to the church. Scripture does not reflect this. Apostles and others in scripture were looking for the Holy Spirit in others, which is the Gift that Jesus promised us. Receiving the Holy Spirit is what includes us into God’s church, the mystical Body of Christ.
So with this concept of church, what are the implications of becoming a member of God’s church?
- The Bible says if we love God we will obey His commands.
- We should use our spiritual gifts. “Time, talents, and treasures” are not spiritual gifts, and things that should already be surrendered to Christ. Spiritual gifts are gifts from God that supernaturally empower us to minister.
Church membership in most churches does something very harmful that most people never think about. It creates a social class system. There are first time visiters, random attendees, regular attendees, members, tithing members, lay leaders, paid clergy. These different classes are treated differently and have different expectations placed on them.
God didn’t design the church to be a class system. Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:22-25) states that God utilizes spiritual gifts to give everyone equal value in the Body. Each member should have abundant honor in the eyes of every other member.
Leadership and Structure
There is God’s design and man’s design. God has an order to things. The church is the Body of Christ, a mystical, supernatural being made up of all believers throughout all time, someone the Bride and the Body of Christ at the same time, filled with the Holy Spirit of God. This is not something God would not give guidance in. He is not negligent.
The primary function of leadership in God’s design is equipping. In man’s design, it is control. The leader’s of God’s church should be nurturing and empowering people for ministry, not trying to control who can speak, serve, etc. The only “control” that God’s leaders have is to stand against false doctrine, exclude unrepentant believers from the assembly, affirm God’s call by the laying on of hands and sending out, appointing elders and deacons, and resolving disputes. Man’s design of leadership resembles pharisees. They add requirements of education and submission. God gifts people supernaturally with leadership and forms them to lead. Man’s design also includes non-competes in employment contracts. Man’s leadership structure prevents certain people from teaching, speaking, singing, leading, serving, etc. Man doesn’t have to control the gift of God; we have to affirm and nurture the gift, and set it loose.
The early church was accused by the Roman Empire of turning the whole world upside down. Where do we see that today? We do not accomplish this through political revolutions, through winning elections and passing policy; through oppressively establishing the morality of others. We do it the same way the early church did. We BE. We manifest the body of Christ here on the earth and declare the glory of God through how we love God, love our enemies, value life differently, transcend societal hierarchies and castes.
Some of the aspects of man’s design are subtle, or appear altruistic, logical, and good. Among these is the practice of congregations electing elders. This seems like a minor preference of practice, and makes sense. The congregations would know the people best. America loves democracy. Democracy is good. Voting is good. However, it’s not found in scripture. The elders were appointed by apostles or those they sent. This was important because the apostles were gifted to start these new spiritual works, these faith communities. This is not to say that the leaders are to lord their power over congregations. It doesn’t mean they rule with an iron fist. As we outlined earlier, the leadership responsibilities have a lot to do with equiping, protecting, confronting heresy, etc. If a leader is elected by the congregation and then subjected to them through a paycheck and job description, then they are not free to lead.
Authority is an important topic to God. He establishes and empowers proper authority. He was heavy handed in how He shepherded Paul into his leadership position. Man’s design does not make space for God’s leadership development. Many American churches have a structure similar to a corporation. Many of them are legal corporations, in the form of a non-profit organization. Usually, this is so it can own property. Once it becomes a corporation, it needs to add officers, which are not found in Scripture but are required by law. Then then add offices, in the form of paid positions, to operate the church. These are jobs, with job descriptions, requirements, and paychecks. These also are not scriptural. This methodology is not found in Scripture, is subject to current laws, brings money and transaction into something which should function more like a family (could you imagine paying your father to be your father, complete with a list of job responsibilities and requirements to qualify?), and yet it has become the standard for how churches are formed. So much so that it is rarely questioned. If you dispute paid positions, people counter by saying you’re against people supporting their spiritual leaders. If you dispute job requirements, people say you’re opposed to ensuring righteous leadership. If you dispute having a legal corporation, people say you are opposed to accountability. And yet the early church accomplished all these ideals without subjecting themselves to extra-biblical, secular demands.
So why do we do this? Why does the church in America continue in this way, and why is it seldom questioned, and why is the questioning opposed? A lot of it is due to what we inherit. None of us invented these systems. We inherited them. We were told this was the way, it was good and true. We retrofit things into Scripture by cherry-picking verses to defend present practice, instead of diving deep and headlong into Scripture and the Holy Spirit and obeying diligently.
God has a structure for His church, and it is built on Jesus, on the proclamation of who He is, on the Good News of the Kingdom. The Church’s manifest power comes from the declaration of God’s glory through His people. The local church gains its uniqueness as the Holy Spirit transforms and empowers people to give up everything and separate themselves from the world, and as they use their spiritual gifts in power. As this entity grows, those with leadership gifts rise up and are recognized by the church, and they appoint deacons and elders to minister to the needs of the church. The leadership teaches and disciples people for the works of service.
Man’s design starts with a bad foundation of an incomplete gospel. It builds on that an unbiblical structure of business and leadership. It defines its ministry by the walls of its buildings and hierarchy of leadership. We will continue to examine how these bad foundations distort and divide through things that should unite us, like communion, baptism, and spiritual gifts.
This episode originally broadcast live on September 25, 2015 on KXEN 1010AM in St. Louis, MO