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The Myth of the Apolitical Church

The church is anything but apolitical. We can act like it is all we want; that won’t change the facts.

Most church systems are as complicated as our local government. We have elders, deacons, pastors, board members, committees, sub-committees, small groups, discipleship groups, and youth groups—and that’s not the end of the list. We’re not sure who is in charge of what, or whom we should direct our questions to—outside of the senior pastor, of course. So the senior pastor remains distracted. The staff remains unfocused. And most people aren’t sure what those men called elders actually do outside of meet behind closed doors.

Order is good. Government is good; bureaucracy is not. Confusion will destroy us. I suggest a change.

We need to reinitiate Paul’s model for running the church. I think we can do so within the parameters that our government has set up for us. We can meet legal requirements and Paul’s requirements at the same time.

I serve as the board president of a church plant here in Bellingham. And we’ve been subtly experimenting with this idea—more by the leading of the Spirit than intentionality. That’s exactly the way I think church business should be done. We should be intentional about letting the Spirit do His job. Acting according to the Spirit’s plans should be our goal. Business is something we do out of necessity; the Spirit’s work is something we do because we are called to it.

Paul says: “Now you [all] are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kind of tongues” (1 Cor 12:27–31 ESV).

In the church, God has appointed a hierarchy of offices:

1.       Apostles—our pastors, who should focus on the vision of the church and projecting that vision

2.       Prophets—our board presidents, who are guardians and advisors

3.       Teachers—our experts in discipleship and curriculum  

4.       Miracle workers (1 Cor 12:10)—our people who show that God still reigns

Our church leadership teams should have people called to each of these offices on them. These people should be free to lead.

This does not mean that one calling means more to God than another; it just means that there is a hierarchy in the church that is meant to bring order to the chaos. This hierarchy also keeps people with certain gifts, or offices, focused on what God has called them to do, rather than the things that drain them.

Within our churches, we should also have people with the gifts of: healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Many of these people should end up on leadership teams as well. For example, the person with the gift of administrating will likely end up as your board secretary; and the person with the gift of helping may land the title of board vice president.

Spiritual gifts should extend beyond our leadership teams; spiritual offices are a bit different. In most churches, there is only one person who is called to the office of apostle, and one called to the office of prophet. That’s usually how the Spirit does business (at least according to the church history we see in the book of Acts). The office of apostle and prophet are unique in this regard.

In our churches today, it seems that we are not just lacking prophets, but also miracle workers. We have enough teachers, but many feel unwelcome or underrated. We need to make a change.

Filling our church offices is difficult, so (in some ways) it’s understandable that we have trouble filling the seats with the right people. The lack of people utilizing their spiritual gifts, though, is frightening.

Let’s kill the political atmosphere of our churches and replace it with a spiritual atmosphere. Imagine the type of work we could get done for God’s kingdom if we all focused on what we were called to do, rather than what we think we should do.

How can we change the structure of our churches? What can we do to make these changes?

Comments

John,

Very perceptive and timely post. I agree that our churches are mired in bureaucracy, and within the basic structure most churches follow--whether they follow an elder model or congregational model--there's competition among paid staff and confusion among so-called lay workers.. The model you are suggesting is bold and biblical. Best of all, I like that it reintroduces the Holy Spirit to the church!

Thanks Stan. I hope it works.

Anyone else want to chime in?

--John

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.