This is something I have had to learn as well. My heart has been broken more than a few times by those I considered to be fellow soldiers with me. In the beginning of my adult ministry, I had never seen people come and go. When people started to leave, it was very difficult. Especially for their reasons, so my response was to follow what I had been taught by my dad. To place myself behind an emotional wall that couldn’t be broken. Don’t trust anyone. As I became a pastor and transitioned from a facilitator in a non structure Bible Study to responsible for others with Ecclesiastical Authority… My view deepened. I realized that a divide between people is mechanical rather than necessary. That people could bridge the gap and sit somewhere in the middle of being an officer of the church and being a paritioner. I realized that the people were broken by default and to that end, couldn’t be blamed as much as the system which didn’t demand excellence of them… nor provide them with the tools for excellence. The church was structured in such a way to remove responsibility for its stability from the general church as a whole and place it into the hands of its leadership. So naturally a divide existed. If you don’t have calling, you can’t lead. If you can’t lead, you don’t have calling. Who affirms calling? The church. But the church only affirms the calling of those who are either directly in office (such as pastors) or those who come from an institution (such as seminary). So no one from in the church can be held responsible for their actions to a higher calling. If they can’t be held responsible… than they can’t be blamed for their inaction. This makes for philosophically fat and lazy Christians and Officers of the church…. Where the responsibility of the church falls on the shoulders of those who already lead it. Those who don’t lead it, shouldn’t lead it because theyre not called to lead, they are called to follow. So then how can i blame someone for not acting as if they are leaders in the church… if they don’t first confirm a calling… which they can’t have…. cause they are not leaders? The scripture, of course, doesn’t teach this at all. It teaches that a church is interdependant and that every person is uniquely fitted to their local body, with a unique gift meant for that particular body. They are irreplaceable in their calling to that body. Some are meant to be officers, some are meant to be citizens, but each meant to better the kingdom, locally and in a specific way. This is where real community begins within the church. In this way, there is truly no gender, age, experience level or rank within the body of Christ. Every person is necessary because of who they were intended to be in a local body. From my Son at 1 year to Aunt Chris as she pushes 70. Each should be seen as a necessity. Believing this about every individual in the church makes it possible to cement relationships locally and universally. This goes against the ecclesiastical structure of the church, codified in Rome and applied in modern American Christendom. Churches are made up of individual sovereign nations (families or individuals) whose purpose is personal (rather than communal) before God. Local bodies are there to serve the individual in their walk before God. Therefore, when a local body no longer serves that person, the local body is to be discarded for one that does… or in a lot of modern cases… no body at all. I of course summarily reject this notion. It cannot help collapse upon itself. Other than the fact that it is completely unbiblical and you will never find a body setup that way in scripture… it also isn’t set up for success because of the dynamic nature of people. Local bodies are meant to serve specific purposes (like a body part), therefore they are relatively defined in their identity. This makes them dynamic in a limited sense. But people are constantly growing and changing. If you adapt the model where the local body serves its paritioners, than paritioners can only, in good conscience, be at that local body for a short period of time, because humans beings would psychologically age out of that specific body. This system is dead on arrival. People accept this system because they have attachment issues. This system allows them to keep from grounding their identity. Without grounding their identity in a local body… they dont have to be held accountable. Without accountability, there is no light shined on our sinfulness and no causation to continually grow. Without this, people can have the “best of both worlds.” They can be “saved,” but not have to live “saved.” The church has gone along with it because the officers of the church also get the same benefits. They get an unhindered authority, while also being saved. This is not the NT church. People are given to a body to serve in it, as it serves in the universal church. When a church adopts this inverted truth about its identity… you cannot rely on its membership. They, by nature, are not solid. They will ebb and flow depending on what is happening personally or politically with the church. There are many sincere brothers and sisters in Christ who have everything else right, but this. And it is a doozy. This is what makes ABF different. We flipped that script in 2009 after hotly debating it for 5 years before. The changing of the mentality upset and tore the church apart. But what remained is what you see now… and what some have come back to (seeing that they were wrong). With that change came a breaking down of my trust walls in regard to the burden of the Eldership. I no longer believe that only the Elders can know the weight of Eldership (though I do believe that only the Elders can bear it). I have begun to feel as if my colleagues are my friends. I now understand that I am not alone. We understand that we are not a machine, but we are an organism. We are intricately linked to each other in a way that demands we love each other and invest fully in the success of our people (christians, not just ABF). This is what has led us to many crazy thoughts… like that we should not be stingy with our membership, but we should help “place” people…. because, as a body, we are no longer afraid of being alone or having our needs met. Crazy!
*This is an excerpt from personal correspondence and was not intended as a blog.