For many years, and more clearly in the last year or so, probably since about the time that Crossroads began studying the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, I've been wondering what it might mean, in a practical sense, to re-form a church based more closely on the patterns of Christian life that we find in the New Testament.
Back on Monday I mentioned in this blog that I had been reading a book (see photo)
that connects closely with this. As I have started studying this book, I've discovered that I feel "at home" in it. It's as if Frank Viola is clearly spelling out what I have always believed.
I'm hoping to spend time with brothers and sisters at Crossroads in prayer and study of these things, perhaps by reading and studying Reimaginging Church, but, in any case, the outcome will not mean only a "reimagining" of church, but a redefining of my own self too, especially in the eyes of others. For I've never accepted some of the stereotypes that people have of "pastors" in the church.
I've been called "pastor" since 1986. Right now I'm honored to serve as "pastor" of Crossroads Community Church. But what is a "pastor"? Where do we get our definition of that term? Do we get it from the Bible? Or do we get it from somewhere else?
Frank's book says that many of our ideas come from hierarchical systems, systems or organizations in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority. Sometimes we think of pastors as the "Chief Executive Officer" or "CEO." Other ideas come from the Old Testament, such as when we consider the pastor to be "the shepherd of the flock," the flock being the people of the church, or the "chief spokesman" or "figurehead."
But does God truly recommend that a single leader do these things? As we read the New Testament, we will not find this "single leader" model. The emphasis in the New Testament is on co-equal ministry as brothers and sisters, with more experienced believers being honored and respected. Church leadership is to be recognized from the bottom up, not from the top down.
As I have read the Bible, as I have prayed, and as I have lived life in the role of "pastor" for many years, I have always believed, and have worked to the end that spiritual leadership be shared, that no one person should be "the leader" of a church in a spiritual sense.
I have always worked for the sharing of that leadership on a more equal basis. I have preached this, advised this and tried to be an example of someone who respects the leadership of those who are not "ordained" or "commissioned" in an official way. I could tell stories and share anecdotes of how my work in the church has been marked by this commitment. I can remember times when people have been set free to minister with me as equals. I can also share memories of times when I've been told I'm a failure as a pastor because I do not accept the hierarchical model.
If some of us at Crossroads would be willing to read and study the ideas that the book Reimagining Church puts forward, I believe this would be a good step toward the future God has for us, and for the future God desires for me personally. Being a "pastor" in this sense would be defined as being one of those responsible, with others who are respected for their spiritual leadership, for equipping and building up every believer, so we all are mature and unified, ready to do the work of God.
Ephesians 4:11-16 "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."