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ORDINATION AND THE BIBLICAL MODEL OF ACCOUNTABILTY.
In the 1st century Jesus showed up in the midst of a religious system that had a voice of its own and refused to acknowledge anyone who did not submit to its authority. This system [religious Judaism] not only resisted Christ and the disciples, but would later resist the freedom and growth of the New Testament churches established by the apostle Paul. The leaders of this system actually said that they feared loosing the influence they had in society if the young church continued to experience success. They were already showing signs of the kingdoms of men resisting the kingdom of God. The Pharisees had their position that religion gave them and they were unwilling to give it up, even if it meant their rejection of messiah. The Pharisees used the law and religious protocol as a means to de-legitimize those who would not jump through the hoops of their day. Many of our modern concepts of church and ministry unconciously produce the same results. The very idea of ordination in the new testament was simply the public recognition [through the laying on of hands] of those leaders [elders] in the Christian community [not some non profit entity] who were deemed grounded in the person of Christ and could be looked up to as spiritual guides in a voluntary society of believers.
Over the years ordination has evolved into a ritual of licensing and certification from a religious institution in order to be legitimate to function in church circles. So the simple concept of all believers having the ordination of God [John 15] has now developed into a system of approval that one must have in order to function in the church [as a full time minister]. Now while I personally have no problem with ordained ministry, we must see that what we call ordination today is a more developed concept than was originally intended in the New Testament. It can become wrong when we begin to limit the function of all believers as ordained priests under God and use the modern concept of ordination to de-legitimize those who don’t have it. The 1st century Pharisee saw Jesus ministry as a direct violation of their understanding of legitimate ministry. They were using law and religious regulation to exclude people from feeling accepted in Gods society. Jesus way of doing ministry not only violated the current standards of the day, but also opened up a whole new realm of people who would be able to function in Gods kingdom. All who would simply accept him and become a follower were now given legitimacy to spread God’s kingdom despite their unwillingness to submit to the system of their day. This is what offended the religious mind of the 1st century Pharisee. They spent years jumping through the hoops of religious protocol in order to function as religious leaders, Jesus comes on the scene and bypasses all their procedures and vests authority to do kingdom works to the common people.
There was a spirit present in both the mind and religion of the 1st century Pharisee. They had an intellectual knowledge of scripture that focused on particular aspects of scripture while never being able to comprehend the ‘body of truth’. Their religious position in society gave them a greater degree of responsibility to be able to understand that Christ himself was the goal and result of all religious learning. In essence they were guilty of possessing a special position in society and because of there unwillingness to loose the ‘honor’ that came from this position they committed the worst type of offense that leaders could commit. They actually rejected the person of Christ in order for there own personas to continue to be at the forefront. If you remember when Paul speaks of antichrist [I am not saying here that present Christian leaders are antichrist!] Paul says that ‘he sits in the temple of God showing HIMSELF to be God’ 2 Thes.2: 4]. There is an aspect of ‘anti-christ’ that rejects the development of the person of Christ in the Church [body] in order for mans persona to remain at the forefront. He sits [antichrist-not wanting Christ to be seen!] in the place of God taking the glory [adulation/honor] to his persona that belongs to Christ.
I want you to see that no matter how well we know scripture, we really know nothing until the actual person of Christ is at the forefront [Jesus being Lord]. When man persists in his pride to continue to hold on to a position of attention in the Christian community that rightfully belongs to Christ, he unknowingly is violating one of the most fundamental truths of the church. What I want you to see, without getting too much into the whole subject of antichrist, is that he wants the place that rightfully belongs to Christ. In the Christian community Christ’s rightful place is the center of our attention. True worship is Him actually being the focus and center of attention. The unhealthy attention that we often see given to people’s personalities is a subtle way the enemy uses from keeping Christ’s image and person from being the center of community.
Recently there was a Christian brother who fell in a very public way. It was a situation where he admitted to certain sins [adultery] and it was very public. While I wont use his name, he was a very influential leader in charismatic circles. He held the title of ‘arch-bishop’ [I don’t understand why we do this stuff!] Well as usual when word got out about his fall, people began to expound on why this happened. Some explained that they thought it was because he wasn’t ‘accountable enough’ [he was archbishop to more than 200 churches!] We never seem to think that if we allow individuals to be exalted above measure, that this itself is a violation of the principle of New Testament leadership. Jesus said whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Many times in Christian circles we don’t realize that we are doing this!
We often blame the fall on ‘lack of accountability’. True accountability is submitting to each other in love. It is not some unnatural structure that we create. I have heard it taught in the way that if some outside person is our ‘covering’ and they call us once a month and yell at us, that some how this is being humble and being accountable. You can’t be accountable without true friendship and relationship. We often jump to the conclusion that when one of our brothers fall that it’s a result of a lack of accountability, when it just might be that we allowed them to be lifted up to a place where the Lord had to humble them. [I don’t want to judge this man, I didn’t even realize I was going to share this but during my prayer time early this morning I continued to pray for him and some other brothers who have fallen, and then I felt the Lord permitted me to share this!] When we allow leaders to attain honorific titles in violation of scripture we are unknowingly placing them in a position where Christ must humble them.
Let me mention here the interesting phenomena of Christians [charismatic and others] seeing the ‘need’ for believers to revert back to ecclesiastical structures. During the Jesus movement of the 70’s, as well as the charismatic movement, there were well intentioned brothers who felt like the freedom of ‘simply following Christ’ and the working of the Spirit were not enough to keep the movements from going off track. They sensed the need to have ‘structure’ for the new believers. Jack Sparks, a brother who felt this way, eventually reverted all the way back to Greek orthodoxy and is an orthodox priest today in California. Others like Bob Mumford and Ern Baxter became involved in the discipleship/shepherding movement which placed an overemphasis on the concept of covering and being in submission to authority. These men were well intentioned, but it is my feeling that there is a degree of arrogance and elitism that causes people to believe that somehow through establishing ‘structure’ that they can safeguard the new Christians who where coming to Christ at this time.
The whole phenomena of reverting back to previous church communities is nothing new. You had the ‘oxford movement’ after the reformation where many Anglican scholars became Catholics after studying the church fathers and other early sources and felt that the earliest Christian witness was Catholic. You had cardinal Newman later on also becoming catholic, or a Frances Schaffer jr. leaving evangelicalism in order to become eastern orthodox. In all these scenarios these are good men who are finding refuge in ‘structure’. While I consider all of these faiths to be Christian, I believe the error of this type of thinking is we seem to believe if we add structure to new believers this will keep them from going off track. The ‘structure’ of the New Testament churches was nothing like this. Their safeguard was in keeping Jesus pre-eminent in their lives and living together in Christian love and brotherhood. When a Paul or other Christian leader saw them getting off track [Galatians/Corinthians] the answer was not more structure, but simply refuting the error and re-presenting Christ. It was ultimately being able to trust God to finish the work that He started in them.
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