18 February, 2007

Elders: Rulers Or Servants?

"But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:25-28

Tomorrow, I will begin a 4-part series on the 'authority' scriptures. It will include the scriptures on elders and submission to authorites. This series is taken from a piece I was sent over two years ago by e-mail. The author's name is not on the piece but I think the content is so interesting that I am going to post it. I have tried in vain to find out the name of the author. Perhaps that is best so we can judge the content instead of the author!

This series is in response to the spiritual emptiness, biblical ignorance and spiritual abuse I have witnessed by powerful 'elders' in large (and small) churches over the years. Now that churches are consistently bringing in business growth principles, we are seeing the complete 'business-ization' of the role of elder.

Gone are the days of the gray headed, poor, prayer warrior with calloused knees who drove a beat up Buick and you could trust with your life savings. This was a man who would be there to anoint you when sick. These days he would be lucky to have a post at the church pot luck.
Now, we are seeing the politicization of the role of elder where it has become the equivalent of a political office. Elders now look more like a 'millionaires' club of successful businessmen who nominate each other for the office and then vote among themselves for each other! Try getting this successful and busy man on the phone if you are seriously ill and want to be anointed. (Anoint with oil? What's that? You mean you expect me to go to a nursing home? I am closing a 10 million dollar deal this afternoon! That is what we pay all those staff ministers to do!)
You see, Holiness is no longer a requirement for the role of elder. Evidence of a regenerated heart is not even required. And forget the Beatitudes that our Lord used to teach the disciples...namely, number 1.. "Poor in Spirit".... which means humble. Successful men and/or millionaires are rarely humble. There may be an exception or two out there but that is not the norm. ('Oh yes, he became CEO of the 1 billion dollar Acme Corporation because he was so humble'. Or how about this one: He is a self made man and became a millionaire at 40...because he was so humble. Yeah, right.) And these are the types that expect total loyalty and you dare not disagree with much less rebuke for scriptural ignorance! Their response to disagreement: Maybe this is not the church for you.

While the role of elder has not typically been a concern within Southern Baptist circles, that is changing. We are seeing many SBC churches opt for elder rule. Ironically, this change coincides with the advance of the Church Growth Movement. Nickels and noses are now the name of the game in churches and who better to turn to than successful business men in the community who just happen to attend your church? These are the guys that can make things happen.
I am not anti-elder. How could I be in light of 1 Timothy and other scriptures? But I do question this idea of total 'submission' to church authority. (Gasp) What concerns me is how the authority scriptures have been interpreted the last 2000 years that in turn gave us the Catholic Church, then the State Reformed church complete with armed magistrates and now, the commercial "business" church with a bottom line that does not include Holiness.
We are seeing more and more churches opt for elder rule that are starting to look like...well...like a combination of the Vatican (Without the funny hats) and the Microsoft Corporation with members being referred to as 'guests'.
I have to remind myself daily: The church is the Bride of Christ.
What concerns me is the interpretation of the role of elder. Churches all over this country are opting to be run soley by a handful of rich, successful men and their handpicked staffers, who not are scripturally qualified. Are we are seeing the pitiful results: Spiritually dead churches that are being built on the dead bones of unbelievers. Or as one pastor recently put it: A large church of baptized pagans.

As I get into this series (and if anyone is actually reading), I expect some tomatoes thrown from my Reformed friends who seem to adore human authority. Personally, I fear that too many in the Reformed movement make idols of the old dead guys just as the seekers make idols of Rick Warren and Billy Hybels. When people talk more about Calvin or Warren than they do Jesus and His Word, something is seriously wrong in Christendom.
With full disclosure, I want to state that I believe in election (not a 5 pointer and would NEVER call myself a Calvinist). I am more of a 'Historic Baptist'. I admire the Ana-baptists who defied the Reformers by refusing to join the state church or have their babies baptized. We really did have a sacred tradition for Solus Christus, the narrow gate and the Priesthood of Believers. The last one being very sacred to Baptists.
I believe we have to take scriptures as a whole in total context. The Bible does not contradict itself but if you listen to how some elders interpret 1 Timothy 3 and Hebrews 13, you have to wonder how they can so blatantly contradict Matthew 20 or 23? There are other examples of this but I think you get my point. What is going on?

The following series takes an in depth look at the 'authority' scriptures. It is worth reading, debating and asking the Holy Spirit to teach us. It just seems to make sense, in the light of Word, that we will answer for submitting to ungodly elders or false teachers. I mean, what excuse could we have...we all own Bibles, right?

May God have Mercy on us. Go read the scripture at the top again.
See you tomorrow for Part 1


Jen said...

Lindon, I, for one, will definitely be reading this series. In fact, I can't wait!

Except for one brief stint, I have not attended any of these mega-churches that are becoming so prevalent today, but I do have concerns about the role of elders.

I would like to say that we currently have several gray-haired elders at our church who are always glad to hear from any Christian, member or not, in need. These are all the type who be glad to anoint the sick with oil. Some have invited us over for dinner. One elder, who is a missionary, meets with my husband for counseling every week. We talk to several of them every week as well. These are a group of down-to-earth elders who make it clear that their only purpose is to take care of the sheep, in whatever manner is needed. Oh, they are not perfect, but as far as I can tell, they are fulfilling all their biblical duties and no one could ask any more of them. Maybe this really is a rare group of men.

David Dansker said...


I read the introduction to your series on "Elders: Ruler Or Servants?" and I Plan to follow it. Thank you for taking the time to run it,


Lindon said...

David, when I clicked on your name it did not take me to your site. Just wanted you to know the link is not working in case you want to fix it!

Lindon said...

Jen, We cannot seem to get away from authoritarian abusive elders who are scripturally ignorant. I am concerned that we have completely forgotten the doctrine of Priesthood of the Believer.

We have become Christians who follow men instead of Bereans whom Paul commended. It seems we want to know what everyone else teaches except going to scripture first to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us first.

I am not anti elder but we need to go back to scripture and take a good hard look at the role as intended by God.

David Dansker said...


Thanks for the broken link report,


Aussie John said...


Brother! I am one of those, dare I say it, reformed brethren (notice the lower case "r"). Please don't use such a broad brush when alluding to my ilk.

I, and many others of my brethren have been much exercised over, what we see as, the return to a magisterial rule in local assemblies, and that by "priests" who call themselves elders and pastors.


Aussie John

Lin said...

Aussie John, I am little r, too. Thanks for pointing that out. And, I,too, am very concerned about the 'magistrates' that are coming in all shapes and sizes including those that are asking members to sign covenants stating they will never critisize the church.