4.1.09

Why my church models the New Testament model




Yes, we're an Anglican church and so we exist within an organisation that has a three fold sense of orders but on a practical level there is a lot that the church where I worship does to uphold the New Testament model.

Paula Fether at Fether.net deconstructs what it is to have a sense of calling and what the early church was called to be in the New Testament. She takes on John McCarthur and his very unbiblical view of ministry and by doing so has opened my eyes.

What actually qualifies someone to preach? She wonders. It is not some mystical experience as claimed by some of the 'called'. In fact, she questions the use of this word. This comes as a huge relief to me because when people ask me about churchy stuff and college and ask why, I sometimes feel as though they want me to recount some single lightening bolt moment, some big hand in the sky, you know, like the pointy finger coming down in gold on the National Lottery adverts saying 'It's you oooo'. I can't do this.

Paula explains 'Biblically, all believers are “called to ministry”. We are all priests (1 Peter 2:9), all “preachers” (Mt. 28:19), all servants (Acts 2:18, Rev. 1:1), all “called” (Eph. 4:1, 2 Thes. 1:11, Heb. 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10).'

'...scripture puts us all on the same plane, gifted by the same Spirit for each other’s benefit...' and this is what the church where I worship is successful at doing, even within the constraint of the traditional structures of the Church (universal). It is a church which seeks out and releases people's gifts. If you volunteer to have a go at something because you think you can, it's an area you love to work in, or a skill that you have, they will use it. We're a great big team of people, all playing our part, some in more visible roles, others in less visible roles, whether it be outreach, singing, making, am-dram-ing, reading, praying, preaching, teaching, organising children, organising youth, organising events, organising church furniture, church decor, finance, etc.

There is never the sense of a pressing chain of command. There are instead people who represent the place, who fit it, whom you know to work there, serve there etc but not a boss in the really authoritative sense of the word. God is in charge, the people in the church are facilitators, enablers, encouragers, (if there's such a word), role models to learn from.

Some churches get it so wrong, because the Bible, in their hands, squeezes the life out of their church, when God only ever means for it to be a life-affirming text. Some churches have done such damage to the laity with their interpretations of 1 Tim. 3:1-2.

Some church's translations render this text:

1These are true words. If a man wants to be a leader of the church people, he seeks a good thing.

2For a man to be a church leader, people must speak well of him. He must have only one wife. He must be able to control himself. He must use good sense. He must behave himself well. He must be kind to strangers in his house. He must be a good teacher.

Paula Fether explains how man is incorrect, the Greek pas means anyone, if it were aner or andres it would mean man.

Also being a leader in the sense of filling an “office” is not in the Greek at all.

Some churches have leadership limited to men but even in the translations where men is used, readers need to be aware that 'grammatical gender is not indicative of biological gender'.

Churches support their thinking that only men should lead churches with reference to 'He must have only one wife, ' but Paula very helpfully explains how

The phrase following, “of one wife the husband”, was seen even on the graves of women in the first century. It was an idiom meaning “a faithful spouse”. There was no point in telling women of the day that they were to be faithful, since it was presumed already, while men were expected to have any number of female consorts.

And so there is no mystical or gendered prescription for ministry, we are all called into ministry which can take a million different forms. As Paula explains 'All who serve must do so from the purest motives; the only difference is that those who are to serve as examples must have first been already proven to have reached spiritual maturity (1 Tim. 3:10 ref. “deacons”). The context here is not emphasizing the desire but the service.'

Titus 1:5 reveals that there are always to be a group of people serving. And so the type of team ministry that exists at the church where I worship, is something I feel I can really believe in.

And so if you're in a church where the leadership 'rule' rather than serve, have you feel that they were elected, predestined or somehow picked out as God's favourites or where they preach at you, a passive audience, leaving you feeling as though you can't disagree or ask questions, you really do perhaps need to wonder if you are in the right church.

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