Thoughts on Church organization, pt 2
The rest of the old notes on the subject:
–patterned after secular business, complete with “executive ‘boards'”
–make it sound like a moral obligation– “financial responsibility“, or “stewardship”
–Incorporate and get tax exempt status –503(c)(1) (so you won’t “lose” to taxes money you could be using “for the flock” (church)
–But what is never questioned is why church fellowship should be subject to taxation in the first place.
NT Church was a series of informal fellowships in the home.
–basically like today’s small group meetings. (Which organized Christianity sometimes criticizes)
–friends -or “brethren in Christ” (spiritual family members) gave each other money. It was off the books and non-taxable
Modern Church cites 1Cor.9:10,11,14 (also 1Tim.5:18/Matt.10:10, Lk.10:7 (Lev.19:13/Deut.24:15)) as basis for “professional clergy” (ministry ‘positions’ advertized as “employment opportunities” like secular jobs.)
–“Denominations” and independent churches alike are organized as corporations, like secular businesses and governments;
“employers”, with local ministers, missionaries, musicians, “executive boards”, etc. as “staff” on “payroll”, making a fixed “salary”, often including “retirement”. (If church/ organization is big enough, additional “staff” has to be hired to manage all the paperwork, money, building maintenance, etc.)
To support this whole system, the money has to be “collected” from members– the “laity”, officially put on books, and this is taxable. So organizations have to become further organized (and controlled by civil government) in order to “steward” the money properly (It just makes “business” more and more complicated. Just like in the secular world. The more organized a church starts out, the further organized it has to become to survive financially).
This system actually began with the “Christendom paradigm” when Constantine legalized the Church. Then, about a century later, the bishop of Rome, Leo I, reorganized it, copying the Roman government, which he saw as the most fascinating thing on earth. So all the offices became highly paid professions. The Protestants continued the system down to the present. It wasn’t designed to spread the Gospel, but rather to control the people in the Church-led kingdom of the Christendom paradigm.
1 Corinthians 9:16
First– they leave out v.12&15– Paul did not use this so-called ‘right’. He was pointing out that ministry in a sense “deserves” support, but still, the inference is that this is in cases of “need”. As in the cross reference to Rom.15:27 (see context –preceding 2 verses) –refers to churches helping out other churches.
“Those who preach (announce, proclaim, promulgate the Gospel…” We normally think of the local pastor preaching from his pulpit, but it really means missionaries (apostles, evangelists)– people who announce or promulgate (make known–see Strong) to those who have never heard. These people, who like Jesus, have “no place to lay their heads”(Matt.8:20), having to go to all sorts of places (even though the mission field was all around them, not just ‘far off’ somewhere); obviously cannot be tied down with a job, so it’s these people, such as Paul and Barnabas (v.6), who should be supported. Not local teachers, pastors (shepherds), bishops (overseers), etc. They originally were not stationary ministry “executives” with a nice home and chariot, as it became later, down to the modern American church. There is no hint in the New Testament that they should be regularly ‘paid’. This passage draws analogy from the OT priests in the temple, but the church is not under that old covenant system.
(Leaders apply Paul’s teaching on the need for material support for apostles/evangelists to themselves, while preaching Jesus’ “take no thought” to the laypeople!)
1 Timothy 5:17-8 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward”
This still is not necessarily teaching the “salaried profession” model we have today. (The “muzzle the ox” reference draws an image of someone consuming something. But what is being consumed? The plentiful grass nature provides them, not some limited resource taken from others).
While the definition of “honour” (Gk. time) mentions “value” and “price paid”, the actual word mean literally, “honor”, “deference” or “reverence”. The context goes on with the respect that should be shown them. (“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses”).
So these scriptures are not even referring to any “salaried” “ministries”, and definitely not any corporate denominational boards, who go home every night to nice homes, fly around the world, often first class, and stay at plush hotels and cozy “conference” retreats, where they discuss what else, but running a business. Basically, living the “jet-set” high life. We’ve used this passage to justify giving all the money to these leaders, and then the ministries which this verse was actually talking about– the mission field and struggling saints, get whatever is left over, or next to nothing!
NT leaders saw their ministries as joyful service to the Lord, not as an “occupation” to gain “wages”(income). When they stopped by and stayed at local congregations, they were taken care of by local members. And it was all tax free. But today, we use these scriptures to justify what we consider is only “adaptation” to modern culture and law. “Nobody does anything for free; everybody has to ‘make a living'”; “Everybody has to have a ‘salary’ for ministry work”.
And they usually then are sheltered from the trials of going everyday to a secular job, working for a secular employer, and with non-Christians. This is justified because they are burdened with all the tasks of ‘running’ the church, but that too is unbiblical, because people met in homes, and there was no ‘business’ to run; either you were a pastor (shepherd), or a teacher, or an evangelist spreading the Gospel. No one man did everything in a group. It was this that paved the way for the celebrity-based churches we see often. And also the supply-side mentality where we figure he “did all this” for us, so we must “give all this” to him. (And the “burnout” that is often reported, with the onus on the “laity” do do more to take some of the burden off the pastor. Or sometimes, the pastor leaving for greener pastures , with a subtle guilt trip placed on the congregation).
Perhaps it’s more convenient to run everything the way they do. Why shouldn’t people want to make money and their whole living from their ministry work, and not have to deal with an unstable and hectic secular work force. But if ministry simply becomes a job, a means of making money, based on human needs and wants, then the whole spirit is gone out of it. It becomes just another secular profession, where the common (‘lay’) people become pawns, who are pressured financially to support people more prosperous than they, and who are out of touch with the mundane realities of their lives being sheltered by the church organization. The focus of the organized system becomes growth— numbers and dollars– just like in business, of an institution (denomination or local church), and the simple spreading of the Gospel is buried below layers of ‘administration’. And it causes schism, strife over power, etc.
This system is problematic, because not only do the leaders complain of all the work they do, compared to the “served” laity, but the other side of the story is that most of these leaders are sheltered from many of the daily cares of the laity. The organization takes care of their needs. If possible, it pays them well, and they do not have to go out and work for and with non-Christians and their many temperaments attitudes and actions, including the persecution of believers. They work almost exclusively with other Christians, either counseling the flock, or the various conferences with other leaders they often fly around the world to, like their business and government counterparts (more expenses).
A recent [mid-90’s] Christianity Today feature discussed the problem of “pastor burnout”. Yet, in the end, the church bought the pastor being interviewed a $900 gift. When my then pastor first took the position, the church bought him all new furniture and flooring. (My wife was ashamed to have them over, comparing our house to theirs). His wife needed insurance, (in part so they could have children) so the church then aimed to try to squeeze that into the budget, and the implication was that we’d probably have to give more.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t have these things, but it just seems kind of unfair because most of our employers would never do those things for us. Making a little more money in most of my jobs means taking a promotional test and waiting years, with almost no spending money, and utilities near being turned off. We couldn’t have any children until my wife finished college and got a better job. [By that time, I no longer felt like having children, and then what does the state do a couple years ago but raise the standard, requiring her to get a second Masters; so we’re paying for more school instead of making more money. Now, she’s looking for a job].
There is no one to help us like that. (Except family, basically). The very scripture that directed the church to help people more like us is used to justify giving it all to the pastor.
And then how do these leaders respond to the needs of people like this? With many, it’s simplistic “pat answers”! When one pastor and the elder years ago asked my wife how she was doing, and she told them that the job and school really had her down, they said “oh, other people suffer too”. In the past, when I was struggling with low-paying jobs, and an abusive alcoholic father, I was told by leaders “just trust God”.
All of their physical needs are being met here and now by some organization, that I’m helping fund, but I have to trust God in uncertainty. That, they are above. I feel that if the pastor had to work for a tyrant boss in a hectic setting, like my wife did (before she went back to school), and had to struggle for survival, then maybe they wouldn’t see our suffering from afar off as just something of no real significance.
Along the way were some leaders who saw some of these problems and spoke of “turning the church top down”, from the highest organizational level, to the local congregation and individual members [i.e. this was the cell-group movement coming up at the time], but I already felt as if I was in the Army. I’m on the frontline bringing Christ with me to the battlefield of the daily train commute, the time-clock, the bosses and their moods, and all sorts of worldly co-workers with their frustrations they often take out on others [making it worse was that all of this was often interpreted by the teachers as our “crosses“!]. Then there’s the commander back in the camp (the pastor), and the generals way back in the Pentagon (ministry leaders, authors, teachers etc.) giving me the directions, and receiving all the material rewards and honor and glory for the war. If I need a leader, I’d like him to actually lead me out, in the world, not just see me once a week and give me simplistic advice when he doesn’t even share my circumstances.
It’s said that the entire burden of spreading the Gospel has been placed on the backs of pastors, but that’s precisely how I felt when I found myself out there by myself in the world. I look around and think “where are all of those professional, seminary trained people who preach and write so much about how I should deal with this world, ‘trusting God’?” They’re all being paid, by me to stay out of these environments!
It is true that church leaders already have enough to do, but that is part of the problem too. It’s this very salary system that is encouraging this. The balance of work falls on the leaders, because they are the ones getting paid for it. The people are coming to buy their services! They have been set up in this system as consumers! When I buy a material item, I don’t go to the factory and help the manufacturer build it. My ‘job’ is just to receive and pay. This is what is happening in the church.
Everyone looks to the pastor, and there is power in the position. But in the New Testament, “pastor” (mentioned only once!) is just a shepherd, someone more mature in the faith who leads others to maturity. They were not to ‘follow’ him forever. And he needed no money from them. This is what I feel we also have to get back to for the next century. It is no fair to try to distribute the workload more evenly to everyone, but leave all the money with one person. He is then just being paid to be a figurehead. It is still simply rehashing the present organizational system, not changing it, and people will still see the church as being preoccupied with money.
If the Church could do this, then we’ll really be getting back to the apostolic paradigm. But I know that this is much, because who will want to give up the money, security and prestige of the present system, even if they do feel “burned out” by it.
Women in leadership Positions
Now that we understand that the original Church was a series of home fellowships led by informal teachers, not a corporate hierarchy, the entire controversy of women’s place in the church becomes easy. The problem comes from us, as always, thinking of the modern organized church. Why shouldn’t women [be “hired” to] teach in these institutions? Why shouldn’t they be “equal opportunity employers”?
But in the home, the husband was the head, and thus also the host of the fellowship, so he was to do the teaching. It would even look funny to have the wife leading the fellowship over the husband. Proof of this context– 1 Tim.2: v13&14’s reference to the the Fall’s part in establishing the roles of husband and wife.
So what should the organized churches do regarding the “ordination” (hiring) of women? The question is actually moot! This organization is not scriptural, so the Bible was not talking about how to run them.
A modern analogy (that I just thought up):
Church originally more like informal internet forum, where you have moderators watching over individual subforums, administrators watching over the whole thing, and even “trolls” and “spammers” who are those who “crept in” to wreak havoc; yet it is not a system of powerful paid professionals.
I can imagine, a time of persecution of free speech, where the government is trying to shut all private boards down, in addition to the trolls and spammers still trying to infiltrate. Member Ignatius110 suggests looking to the administrators to deal with the situation. The moderators and administrators increase stature as the representatives of the forums, even as this government persecution continues.
Eventually, one government leader is so impressed with the organization of the forums, he makes them the official government websites. One administrator ascends to rule over the others, and to even bear influence over government leaders. Even the spammers are allowed to join, and use their tactics to control the members. Those who don’t get with the program are regarded as the true trolls, and banned.
This becomes completely corrupt, and as knowledge of website management and vbb code increases, it starts splintering, first into two large factions, and then many small sites split off, some according to country or region, as everyone tries to maintain authority over a set of members. And then, what started out as a single forum itself comes to represent the entire internet, with thousands of sites, big and small, and many different discussion groups. Yet all claiming to represent the one Truth.