authority + church leadership + trust

Ploughing through my book on church history I’ve reached the French Revolution and as the centuries pass by a recurring theme seems to play itself over and over again.

Jesus once said these words

‘You know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them and that their great ones have absolute power? But it must not be so among you. No, whoever wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be your slave – just as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others free’

Well it’s hard to see how that command of Jesus fits with the words of someone like Pope Innocent III who said of his position way back around AD 1200

‘The successor of Peter is the Vicar of Christ:he has established as a mediator between God and man, below God but beyond man; less than God but more than man; who shall judge all and be judged by no one.’

The author of the book also mentions about how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples while subjects(?) had to kiss the pope’s feet.

Of course that was a long time ago but it seems pretty clear that Jesus was telling the apostles that they should be leading in a completely different sort of way to the pagans.

This was Jesus who practiced what he preached as well, it wasn’t just some type of fancy theory that he said about leading but then didn’t follow through on.
He was cursed and exiled, beaten to pulp and lonely and led like a lamb to the slaughter. He washed the disciples feet. It’s there right at the start, as plain as the nose on your face.

That’s was what being great looked liked.

Yet reading through church history (and you won’t need me to point this out) much of it doesn’t seem to be like that.
Church leaders have continually lorded it over people, over and over and again. And it’s not just the Pope’s in the days of yore. And it’s not just the Catholics either back in the days of yore, it’s Protestants today I guess for that is my branch of the Christian tree.

The author of the book has pointed out a few times that society was different back then so while we look on in horror now at the time it wasn’t considered unusual to execute someone for heresy but I say ‘bollocks’ to that.

The plain fact is that Jesus said that we shouldn’t lead like that, we should wash each others feet and serve each other. Does the Jesus we encounter in the gospels and who said ‘take up your cross and follow me’ sound like the type to be launching a Spanish Inquistion?
Paul was responsible for killing lots of heretics in his day but once he met Jesus he gave up that up.

Killing heretics doesn’t seem to be part of the way things should ever go down. But hey they did.
All this would be easy to dismiss as from another time when things where different except for the way that it still seems to go down that way.  Church leadership seems to be for the ‘movers and shakers’ and certain Christian leaders like John Piper can cause a sh*t storm when they say that the Biblical pattern for a Godly man is a certain way and the batallions of reformed evangelical church leaders line up behind him in agreement and tell the women to stand back while they take charge as God has commanded.

I was originally going to forget about this blog but my wife and I got talking tonight and we realized that the attitude is still around and the struggle is how much you submit to church tradition or the way things are done.

Again we’re all a mess and if you have men with messy hearts you will have a messy church and institution just like any messy institution like the banks or government


that the church should be different if it’s real and really has the Spirit of Christ living in it.
World leaders might kill those that threaten their regime of power but it should never be like that in a church.
Yet we  still do. Not literally but metaphorically.

In closing I guess a lot of my struggle is how much I’m on board with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland or the branch of Christianity I’ve inherited.


5 thoughts on “authority + church leadership + trust”

  1. I totally hear you. I’ve been astounded at the abuse of power the church has exhibited. I’ve read a couple of excellent books on the matter. They don’t focus on the huge moments in history but more the subtle abuses that churches carry out today, albeit mostly by well meaning people. I’ve been through it myself.
    There is hope though. There are good amazing people leading and fathering churches. We where at a church in the states a couple of years ago and they spoke about their leadership structure and it astounded me how they looked at things. Instead of the usual triangle, we’re at the top, you will follow us, they turn it upside down and want a culture where they as leaders are the foundation not the pinnacle, and their goal is to make everyone become who are they meant to be in Jesus and surpass where they have gone. A culture of absolute honour.
    We have since been back a few times and have truly found they practice what they preach. We’ve met with a member of their senior leadership team and he was more than willing to take time to talk to us and to offer us the tools to help us succeed in the vision we believe Jesus has given us. Their grace has overwhelmed us.
    I think one of the main issues is tradition/denominationalism. Tradition usurping the spirit and a need to be right instead of be in relationship. The Lord is on the move though and I believe he is restoring the Father heart to his people. Churches have turned into orphanages because they have lost sight of their positions as sons and daughters loved and cherished by a Father. People are singing songs on Sundays and have rarely seen the power of those songs actually manifest in their lives. That has to change. Experience leads to transformation, not knowledge.

    1. it’s hard. I guess that I don’t expect much from church leaders as I was one myself and know that if people like me are church leaders then it’s going to be messy….as we’re all sinners and sinners x sinners = sinners.
      And even all those leaders in the past who done horrible things, I get because they were sinful just like us.

      What I don’t really get though is why the Apostles might have been different or less sinful…when Paul writes Corinthians or Timothy he was sinful as well yet his writing isn’t considered sinful in any way, it is The Bible. Much of the stuff about church authority comes from Paul’s words and what he said.

      Sinful Apostle Paul writes that he doesn’t allow women to whatever and thousands of years later it’s scripture and what God wants us to do (apparently). I know that the early church leaders thought that closing the Bible was the right thing to do, but was it?

      The triangle thing is madness….from my point of view it puts too much pressure on H___ to be a good’s like if you decided to give it up (being a minister in a church) it would almost be like divorce…. because being a minister is often like being in a special relationship between God and the church.

      It puts pressure on me to be a good example as because I’m married to the person in the special relationship between church and the congregation…if I reflect badly on H___ that might reflect badly on her position as a church leader and make her job harder. So I mightn’t want to go to church on a Sunday morning as I’ve serious questions about stuff, doubt sometimes but I should ……..or to put it more simply, it’s hard to be yourself!

  2. Again, I hear you. I fully agree about the words of Paul being used out of context, especially in relation to women. I just listened to a podcast of a woman teacher and was incredibly blessed and I wondered – can complementarians listen to that? They’re big time missing out and I really do think that there will be a day when, perhaps on a different scale, but the church will have to apologise to women like they had to apologise to slaves. Paul is radically misinterpreted. I don’t blame Paul for that, I blame the church. What’s worse is when Paul’s words are used against Jesus’. Amazing.
    And of course some parts of the bible are poetry or contextual and not truth for now. Psalm 137 is a perfect example of that where he says “blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” That’s just outrageous.
    As for being yourself. That’s what we’re meant to be. Yeah we’re meant to be an example but we’re not meant to fake it. We have to be real. People being inauthentic is so easy to see through. I can see the struggle with the upside down triangle but for me it’s a whole lot healthier that the normal triangle. That’s where I see leaders faking it trying to be a perpetual example. When the triangle is upside down those leading can say this is who we are this is our victories and failures, learn from them and surpass us and succeed. Those guys in the church we’ve been to a few times have plenty of tragedy around them, divorce, affairs, betrayal etc but they allow us to learn from them and watch a community learn to love and honour each other. It’s tricky but if we’re going to do life together let’s actually do life together. Faking it takes up way too much energy.

    1. I’m not one for wearing masks…..but I wear them all the time as well….

      Part of me doesn’t really like writing about stuff like this as I’m very self righteous. and a bit bitter…very self righteous and bitter. But on the other hand I’ve hand to write them as I’ve been bottling them up too long…faking it does use energy.

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