July 12, 2008
Just sitting here praying, wondering about why it is so “hard” to just have/ choose “elders” for the church… and who should choose and appoint them? … and how does one know? …. (of course knowing that it IS the Holy Spirit’s choice and guidance…)
(and looking at the New Testament pattern, it seems that the original “elders” … evangelists, apostles, etc…. people like Paul (church planter), Timothy and/or Titus (assistant, new evangelist/ church planter mentored by Paul) etc did the actual appointing, after fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit appointing men…)
But the thing that hit me as I prayed was that these “elder-elders” knew the people they were appointing. They lived in their midst, they worked with them, maybe even lived with some of them… and met with them day-by-day, ate and fellowshiped together, suffered together, preached the word together, met as the church of that city together in a format in which these mens spiritual gifts, maturity, Spirit-filled-ness! was clearly evident and over a period of time… and saw them in their day-to-day lives, saw how their “spirituality” was worked out both in their love for the brethren (practical, prayer, teaching, family care, etc) and in their relationship with (and even respect by) non-believers as well! Even if they personally didn’t know each one that well (as may have been the case when Paul sent Titus to Crete to take care of the churches in the cities there) (which had been facing serious problems of some kind… need to look at that again)… yes, I’m quite sure Titus spent time with each church before appointing elders… but also, the church themselves, the body, would know each other well enough that they could also point out to him those worthy of special consideration, as he prayed, fasted and sought the Holy Spirit’s will and direction!
Can that be said of our churches today? What if we really aimed for true New Testament patterns? Would there even be any questions, bickering, disagreement about “who” and “how” if:
- there was real prayer and fasting by the whole church, and regularly, especially by the “spiritual leadership” (but yes, by everyone as well)
- if the people really knew each other because their lives were lived together day-to-day, house-to-house, even on-the-job
- if “services” allowed for the participation of all according to their spiritual gifts (which would require some serious de- and re- structuring!)
- if, perhaps, for a “church in trouble,” there was someone sent in from outside (like Titus!) who could rise above the internal dissensions, have a clearer view… who could stay there long enough to really know people, love them, pray and fast over them, seek God’s will (Holy Spirit’s guidance) for them… and choose elders based on that?
- maybe we can’t even “go there” as long as we – the church – are divided into our little groups, behind our “castle walls” (sadly, that seems to be one of the things that “church buildings” and “denominations” and other such “structures/ systems” do : divide us into mini-kingdoms, each with our own little castle and moat and territory – and “peasants” outside the walls whom we invite in, whom we expect to participate and donate to the “economy” but who really don’t ever become accepted and involved in the happiness of the “upper classes” – oh dear!
- how can we – all of us, the whole body of Christ – become the “church at our town” – short of, perhaps, strong government persecution and/or war… which destroys our systems… and, I suppose, drives away those who aren’t serious believers (but maybe at the same time attracts some who’ve been wishy-washy or not even part…) – does it have to come to that?
- the biblical pattern is elders of the “church at __(city)__”… - could we even start by encouraging each little group in our city (a.k.a. “local church”… with a building and name… ummm…) to send one really spiritual representative (who fulfills the biblical definition of “elder”) to come together as the “elders of the church (universal) at our city” – who would fast and pray together, go out to the “groups” in 2s or 3s (like Paul, Timothy, Barnabas) (or even individually like Titus to Crete) (but not to the group they came from… at least not individually), to spend time with them teaching, preaching, fasting and praying… and perhaps then appoint elders for those groups…
Well, what do you think would be the most difficult part of this process? Wouldn’t it be each “church” being willing to pull out the stakes marking their “territory/ kingdom” and even be willing to truly be part of the “church at __city__” … beyond monthly (or less) “ministerial meetings” (which generally only include a few “churches” anyway) and annual once-a-year “church in the park” or whatever?
How far are we willing to go to really become “the church at __city__”? Does it even matter? Do we really need to be biblical? How far do we take that? Details? Sharing all things in common? Meeting daily? House to house? (Sell those buildings? Oh dear!)… Women under their husbands’ headship?
What are we afraid of? How counter-cultural do we have to be?
What if it brings persecution? Not just from the “world” but from those in “the church” who don’t like the idea… And/or what if the world take notice that we have “been with Jesus”? (Yes, both to be expected...)
Do we really want to be the church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, "the way" that turns this world “upside-down?”
What might we have to “give up?” How willing are we to really examine ourselves and cast out that which is “baggage” (tradition, deeply cherished and long held, even reverenced, as it may be!)
Are we worrying about “structure” when we need to get rid of all the “trappings” and meet Jesus first, sit at His feet, come to know Him, trust and obey… “for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus…”
(Yes, elders are important… but what else is??)