Series Five – Structure
Theme = God’s way for family, church, and society
‘The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.’ Titus 1:5
It’s quite amusing to see two pastors meeting for the first time. “Hi, what church are you from?” “The church of glory and healing power on the holy mountain” (it’s an African Pentecostal church). “Oh great, and how many people do you have?” If the man gives a number of anything under a thousand then he is likely to get a fleeting sympathetic yet superior smile as his questioner moves on to find someone more influential.
We pastors tend to be size sensitive and also rather proprietorial. We speak proudly of ‘my church’. But of course local churches do not belong to pastors, although I know of a few where the pastor actually owns the property and everything in it. Churches belong to Jesus! He is the invisible yet real head of every church and church group. And because of this, the church should be structured in accordance with the pattern of the Holy Trinity.
In the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate together in headship and submission yet are equally divine and one in unity and essence. So in the church, three structural elements exist: The Lord Jesus Christ who is the head, the Elders, and the Members. The Elders are in submission to the Lord Jesus and the members are in submission to both the Lord and His Elders. This doesn’t make the Elders more important or of greater status than the members but it does mean that they have a particular functionality in the household of God. Ironically, Elders, who I believe are biblically mandated to be men only, take the role of ‘mother’ in the extended family of the church. In the family, the children are in submission to father and mother, and the father is the head. In the church, the members are in submission to Jesus and the Elders, and Jesus is the head.
In the New Testament, Elders are always presented as a group, not as individuals. My understanding is that a local church needs to be led at a human level by a group of at least three. Together they govern the church under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. One of them, sometimes called Pastor or Lead Elder, establishes doctrine and vision and leads the group, but all major decisions are made by a genuine group consensus.
Churches, like families, are imperfect and experience disorder from time to time. However, the church splits, Pastor firings, and major church calamities that I have come across have all been in churches where one man rules. This is very common in charismatic circles. The Pastor is the boss and the members are his not so happy helpers. This is not the structure modelled in the Godhead and it is no wonder that ill health so often results.
What is your church structure? How closely do you think it matches the biblical pattern?