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May 25, 1999

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Q/A Topics:
Need for Church leaders?

What is the need for us to be under the authority of church leaders? We are in a young church in which things are still in the process of being worked out. Our thought is that we have the Holy Spirit, we have the Bible, why do we need a human telling us what to do? Of course we would respectfully listen to the counsel of a Christian leader. It has been suggested that we would not be under God's protection if we don't have an elder over us. I can't find anything Biblical related to this except in Titus 1 where Paul commands them to appoint elders in every city.

First of all, in God's sight, we all stand -individually-. "So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God. (Rom14:12) While we are to look out for the welfare of our brothers and sisters (Phil2:4) and "bear one another's burdens" (Gal6:2) matters of living the Christian life and the decisions/choices one makes are at the individual level. "One indeed esteems a day above another day; and another esteems every day alike. Let each -one- be fully assured in his -own- mind." (Rom14:5) And all this is a life of "faith..have it to -yourself-" ...not "doubting". (vs22-23)

Women are instructed to rely upon their own husbands for spiritual guidance. Not the congregational leadership. And this is to occur "at home". (1Cor14:35a) Even Titus, a book about church function tells the women to be subject "to THEIR OWN husbands"(2:5), not the male leadership of the congregation.

However, there is a Godly principle of younger being respectful of elders, and of elders teaching younger ones. Typically, this is related to physical age. But not always. The "aged women" would "train the young women.." (Tit2:3,4) And the "young men" to be discreet"(vs6) exercising self-control.

You mention "elders" being appointed. That these were not always "older" in "years" is apparent because Paul says to Timothy, "Let no one despise your youth" (1Tm4:12) These were appointed based on their spiritual qualifications (1Tim3,Tit1:5-9,etc) and their faithfulness to the Word and sound Doctrine.

Paul indicates that such should be supported from the ministry. When 1Tm5:17 speaks of "double honor" that is refering to the context of financial support. (vs16) Not 'genuflecting'. As he also says, "Even so, the Lord ordained those announcing the gospel to live from the gospel. (1Cor9:14)

But that the "Elder" (which Timothy was) is not the "dictator" is obvious, as Paul says to Timothy, "Do not sharply rebuke an elder (older man), but exhort as a father.." (1Tm5:1)

The congregational leaders are to be "shepherds" not "dictators". To the elders "Feed the flock of God among, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock" (1Pt5:2-3)

To Timothy Paul went on, "Let no one despise your youth...BUT be an example of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." And here's what the elders are supposed to do; this is their duty and purpose..."Until I come, attend to reading, to exhortation, to teaching...hold on to yourself and to the doctrine.." (1Tm4:12-13,16)

Occasionally, when church "discipline" is necessary, qualified ones are appointed to deal with the matter. (1Cor6:1-5,Mt18:16-20) And in 1Cor5 Paul instructs the church to deal with extreme matters with extreme measures, to get rid of the sin in the congregation.

But does this mean that the eldership dictates that all women are to wear gray dresses with white fringes, and bonnets of a certain appearance; and if they don't, declare them "unsaved"? etc.etc? No. Shepherds "lead" the congregation. And the congregation should 'respect' the teachers as God's chosen ones. Not bringing willy-nilly accusations against them, and criticizing them. (1Tm5:19) But the leaders are also "human" with human frailties. If they sin, and are investigated properly, "rebuke before all, so that the rest also may fear." (vs20)


Intrusion into Privacy?

Follow-up (excerpt)

I had wondered if other small fellowships had experienced any similair "power struggles". The thing that really made my husband (and I) balk was when the men who felt they were called to be elders wanted to visit each family's home & question them about our family life and how we are raising our children. If there were obvious sin (there wasn't) it would need to be addressed & confronted, but this seemed intrusive. We did not submit to questioning and have been called unteachable - I sincerely hope they are wrong about that!

Oh dear!! Sounds as though they like 'witch hunts' or something??

As I was reading through your note (this one), I was reminded of Peter's words in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Now, if there ever was a "close knit" church, it was the one after Pentecost as they were "of one heart and one soul. And not one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own. But they had all things common." (Acts4:32) People were selling their properties and bringing the money for the use of the group.

Then, we have Ananias and his wife, who contrive to keep part of the selling price, and -pretend- like they were bringing 'all' to the apostles. And Peter, when confronting the lie says, "while it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own authority?" (Acts5:4) In other words, while so many people were sharing like they were, it was not a requirement. This close-knitness did not take away from individuality, and private property and autonomy.

Mankind has tried to enforce "conformity" in all sorts of ways. And it began at Babel, "let's make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered." (Gen11:4) And what God did was to make them all "different" with the languages and 'scattered' them abroad. There is "one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father" (Eph4:4-6) But then, the gift to each is an individual gift. (vs7) The Spirit works "separately to each one as He desires" (1Cor12:11) We are to all have the same doctrine (1Cor1:10) but function individually. (12:14-20)

There's just some things that's nobody else's business. It's between you, your husband and God.


Church Discipline:

and the comments bring up a question in my mind, forgive me if this has been addressed before. . . please address church discipline who, how, where & to what extent . . .

On the individual level, where there is 'personal' conflict between individuals, the pattern is given in Mt18:15-20. The person commiting the sin should be confronted by the person wronged. When that fails to bring about change or repentance, take a few people as witnesses. If that fails, take it before the whole congregation. If that fails...treat him "as a heathen." (vs17)

In 1Cor5 Paul addresses an issue where there was sin (fornication) of a nature that everybody in the church knew about it. There, his exhortation was rather forthright. Get him outta there. "Deliver [him] to satan" to deal with him. To "purge out the old leaven". (vs5,7) Don't associate with him. (vs9,11) Expell him from the fellowship. (vs13)

This kind of action should be taken by a small 'group' of people. In Mt18 Jesus talks about "two or three" (vs19-20) In the context of 1Cor6 it seems like Paul is suggesting that people be appointed for the purpose. (vs4)

Now...if this disciplinary action results in the guilty person repenting, then Paul is equally insistant that the repentant one be received back in forgiveness, love and comforted. (2Cor2:6-8,7:8-16) And in this case, even though Paul was not -right- there to oversee the discipline, since the church had conducted it, there was repentance, and they then forgave the individual; Paul did, too...based on -their- forgiveness of him.


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