Most recent years I can look back and see a definite theme or subject that has been the main thing God has been teaching me. For instance, my first year in Mexico was all about learning the importance and power of prayer. The past year and a half has been dedicated to simple, organic church principles and the importance of discipleship. I haven’t usually had an agenda about what I will learn in the upcoming months, but this time around I do. In the upcoming ministry year, (a ministry year for us runs from September through August) I really need to learn more about authority and leadership structure in the Church.
The past year and a half, my worldview has dramatically changed regarding the Church. I’m all about simplification, laying aside those practices that are unhelpful and/or unbiblical, and seeing people discover what it is to be the church rather than to go to church. It works great in the early stages of discipling new believers, because they can come together in homes or parks or coffee shops, pray and worship together, teach one another, and minister to one another. No building or salaries to worry about. No institution. Minimal structure.
I know we’re approaching the time, though, where more definite leaders need to be raised up from among those we’re discipling. I’m not sure Jesus had in mind the extensive organizations that churches are today, but it’s hard to deny biblically that some structure is necessary. Positions of leadership and authority did exist in the early Church, and they seem to be given a fair amount of attention in Acts and the Epistles.
This leaves me in uncertain territory. I understand that authority and leadership and structure must exist, but I’m not sure what they should look like. I have certain points of difference with contemporary Western models of church leadership. Also, I have recently been forced to rethink much of what I have believed and practiced concerning leadership and authority. So my big question is how churches are to go about setting up a leadership structure that is in keeping with biblical principles. Will it involve official positions with ceremonies and titles? Is authority earned or ascribed or both? If both, does one or the other have precedence? Was the structure the early Church developed exactly what God had in mind? In other words, should we study early Church history (beginning with the New Testament) and create the exact same structure they did, or was their expression just one of many possible expressions?
I don’t know, but I hope to learn.
If anyone has thoughts on any of this or would like to highlight pertinent passages of Scripture or other good resources, chime in with a comment. I’m already off and rolling studying Scripture, and I will have much more to do this year. I’m excited that Neil Cole of Organic Church fame is working on a new book entitled Organic Leadership. If all goes well, in the coming months to a year or two, hopefully I will be sharing many new insights on this blog in the area of church leadership and structure.