In a book entitled “Dr. Frankenstein and World Systems” Bob Mumford, in describing how systems rule our lives, quotes the philosopher David Hume. He says Hume once observed: “Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few.”
Mumford goes on to say that dominion of the few over the many is contrary to the intent and wishes of Father God and that entering this kind of freedom involves tribulations. When this type of abuse of authority is exposed and we refuse to dance to its tune, we open ourselves to the antagonism of the system.
Having lived what Mumford is exposing, I can heartily agree—almost down to the “I could have said that”—degree.
He goes on to talk about the fact that systems cannot love—only people can love.
Having just come out from under a church structure that exemplified what Mumford is talking about—I can say that he is definately on to something.
I have been blogging for about 3 1/2 months and have not been ready to discuss this until today—if I am even ready to now.
However, talking with an old pastor friend of mine the other day, my eyes were opened to see the depth of what I have been set free from.
As Paul wrote his letters to the new Christians it is obvious that he was beginning the process of re-defining the role of authority in the early Church and all that it meant in the everyday lives of the believer. He had given up his life to lead the one that he had been chosen for—a man willing to die in order that the truth be known about God’s plan in the earth through Jesus Christ.
Paul was the one that said that everything he had learned in his “natural” life was like “dung” when compared to what he knew about Christ and the riches of his plan and purpose for his and our lives.
Paul was the one who said that he labored during the day making tents in order that no undue financial burden woud be placed on those he was sent to release. He had God-given authority, but didn’t presume to lord it over anyone—follow me as I follow Christ was his mantra.
It is amazing to consider the contrast to today’s leadership in many churches. And this is where is gets hard for me to explain—the subtleties of this current authority dynamic and how it plays out in many of our local churches.
Before I go any further—and to avoid confusion later—let me say that it is not the people in the church I am talking about but a force with a life of its own that has been loosed within the corporate congregation. As Mumford further explains, in biblical terms, it is a principality, a non-physical person demanding allegiance that rightfully belongs to the Lord Himself working within the church structure.
Yes, this force will use people to control and manipulate the overall church experience. This force, once it has taken on a life of its own, will lead people into the fullfillment of personal agendas, selfishness and ambition.
I can also further say that I will not cover this subject in one post—it may come up again and it may not.
What I do know is that I haven’t fully moved on from having been abused by the system. It has only been a few months and there are still a few tender areas. When we left the church we attended for 22 years, we blessed the people that stayed and prayed for the leadership as well. Our heart is for them to prosper—yet at the same time—knowing what I know now—there is an enormous struggle ahead for any that would try and come against the system.
That this scenario has played itself out all across our nation is, in once sence, a travesty—an abomination. Churches have left the wounded beaten and scattered about like wheat chaf on a windy day.
I know in my case, I pleaded with leadership to come to grips with what I felt was happening to us. Yet at the same time, when others would question our direction (I was a part of leadership as well) it seemed like it was always their problem that lead to their leaving the local assembly. That is until I became the problem myself.
I remember a story I tell about my son. It goes something like this: when your mother tells you the book cover is red, and your sister tells you the book cover is red and your dad does the same thing—and you continue to say that it is blue—we have a problem. This is not to say that he might have been right some time. But most of the time, the book cover was red, not blue.
When talking with my pastor friend, who indeed perpetuated the system I am talking about and was also, eventually, a victim of it as well, I began to see something about power and authority. He said, as we talked, that he had too much power and at the time didn’t realize it. And that people submitted to this authority as if it came directly from the Lord Himself. Because his power was not balanced by outsiders (an apostolic counsel perhaps) he continued in his abuse until he himself was offered up by the same system that he had helped flourish. Don’t get me wrong, my pastor friend is a great guy and loves the Lord—he was just a part of something that began to control him in subtle ways over the months and years of his tenure.
I don’t think he would mind my saying that. Bear in mind as we talk, we are in the process of discovering things that bit us both and that we were both to some degree unaware of.
To much power. Unregulated authority. It all boils down to us listening to other people’s opinions as to how our Christianity should be expressed in the local chruch. Paul said follow me as I follow Christ. He is the leader and founder of our faith.
I guess that is point that I have come to in my current journey—I allowed things to happen to me out of a dependence on the local church and not out of obidience to the King of Kings. I was being governed—not released into my destiny with the Lord.
When I began to realize that something was amiss—I addressed it. This was to be the first step in my tribulation with the local church. The second step was in believing that I could fix it. I couldn’t fix it. Even when I thought I had a handle on what I perceived to be wrong—the problem would morp into something else. Then the system branded me as the problem. Once that occured—it was all over except for me cleaning out my locker. I wasn’t trusted, believed, or a part of the solution anymore. I was, for all practical purposes, looking in the window from outside a faraway place.
After many meetings and many attempts to forge a path forward out of the mire that had become my everyday experience—I was released from standing at the gate by my apostolic oversight. One day we were there and the next day we were not. All very wierd and sudden—but all for the best.
It is not until you stop doing something that you begin to realize that what you had been doing wasn’t really good for you. It isn’t uniil you finally get out from under something—that you really didn’t realize you were under—and didn’t really want out from in the first place, that you begin to breath a little fresh air and have a profound change of perspective.
Not that it doesn’t still hurt—not that you don’t have good days and bad days—days when you are focused and grateful for everything that God has done for you—and days when you wonder where your next step will fall.
Spring is coming in the literal physical sence and in the spiritual dimension as well. Life is beginning to once again seem open to the possibilty that my dreams, the dreams that have been placed in my by God, will be fulfilled. Creativity and creative outlets (such as this blog) have blossomed. Old friendships are being renewed.
And, as the manure in my life is turned into fertilizer, I am once again open to the possibility that this thing called the church, the body of Christ, can bring life and healing to those in need. First in Jerusalem and then to all of Judea and the rest of the world.
Your thoughts this time are therapeutic for us all. I could almost see the yoke falling away. Now maybe it’s time to take on the Lord’s yoke, which is light. And a renewal with his identity could be enhanced by revisiting the book of John.Especially good idea in your thoughts was: manure being used as fertilizer. Keep up the good work.Carey
Terry,You stayed longer than us both overall, and well beyond our stay. When my wife and I had left, she had been there 20 years and I, 18. It was the only real church home I had known; though I had attended a denominational church a few years in high school, I had never belonged anywhere but in the organization you mention. The issue of authority you describe is exactly the issue that separated our family from the group. Since then I have thought over the role and function of authority for nearly ten years. I have come to a position which enjoys little favor in the hearts of folks who expect systems to work for them.1. In modern America we know very little of the authority God intended.2. It is never an office. Though someone who walks in Godly authority may in fact dwell within an identified position of oversight for some group of persons, no one has authority of an office conferred upon them by a group of people which is the authority of God. Conferrence or recognized authority standing on the aproval of men is not part of God’s plan.3. Even just accepting one man to be the core speaker and thus the basis of a group’s collective teaching, understanding, journey…fails God’s plan.I recently visited a very sweet fellowship of believers. Though the man speaking is intensely sincere and full of integrity, the fact that he controls a pulpit fails the needs of that group. This man would be more of a support to this group, if he left for two-three weeks at a time and let the group discover its identity in Christ without him. He could return often and lend a listening ear and support. This would be good. But as long as he speaks, the polite and gentle people listening to him will never expect it of themselves to hear God to the depths that they might. At least, so I think, which may mean very little.Love in Jesus,ded
Terry, Looking at the residue in our own lives from being abused by the same authorities, I can see that it caused us to be really afraid to take authority when it was given to us. I shied away from any responsibilities because I didn’t understand what authority really was. Now that I live in another country, I see that their definition of authority is drastically different than ours. Which one is correct? I’m not really sure. I’m not even sure if we shouldn’t say it would vary from culture to culture. When I read the letter from ded I thought that you would never even find a church like that here and you definitely wouldn’t find a pastor that would leave his pulpit or congregation for two weeks so they could find their own way… that’s not the way they think! I’m not saying that they aren’t intelligent or anything, it’s just their mindset. We are talking a completely different foundational mindset! All that said, I enjoyed your article and I am enjoying reading your blog. I understand your pain, I understand your thoughts about the old days, and I rejoice that God is bringing you through it and showing you another side of Him. Be blessed,Jan
For the record, Jan and Greg are church friends from way back who are now (and have been for some time) in the mission field. They can be found at: http://suppliants.blogs.com Jan: Thanks for the encouragement. I have come to think and am further beginning to understand that God gives us authority to help each other find our way towards a more productive Christian life and that that happens in the homes more than in the buildings we meet in. When we fellowshipped together, there was really a focus, although a sometimes legalistic one, on home groups and having people over for dinner. Sandi and I still really find a lot of life in having people in for dinner and or desert and taking time to pray before they leave. Maybe some day, we will get to break bread together again.
Great to come across your blog! Watching the Cox’s get ripped to pieces by those who were supposed to protect them was a life-altering experience for me. I saw the church behaving badly. Very badly. I saw men that I had so respected, turn so quickly into men without honor. I saw others that I had never noticed before, rise to the occasion. My Dad always used to say to me growing up that you never know what a man of God will do until he is tested. I didn’t really understand that until then. In those days, I saw some men who had always appeared strong in God and full of character, crumble in confusion, cowardice or selfish ambition. I also saw my father in law, Ben Cox, respond to deep betrayal with honor and humility. Any time someone in the family would get angry and say something negative about anyone involved, he would make everyone stop and pray blessing on the church and anyone that had pushed a knife in their back. What a lesson! God taught me many lessons in those days about what a man of God should be. I learned what a pastor should be. I learned what elders should be. I learned about Godly loyalty, and unGodly loyalty. I learned that part of being a leader is sometimes getting the kiss of Judas on your cheek (I can remember one of the primary, and most able to help, betrayers coming over to the hurting family and giving one of the daughters a kiss on the cheek and a “God bless you”. He walked away and she just started crying. Gives me chills to this day.) I’m about to take on the role of pastor myself, and I often thank God for the lessons I learned from my fallen heroes in that church. I’ve watched as God has taken each one in that family and ministered healing to them at their own pace. Each one is discovering God outside the context of the “system” that you talk about. Maybe what we all need to see is that God is sovereign, even when men fail us. He knows His Bride can be a rip-roaring mess, yet He still manages to accomplish His will in it all.
Ben: Welcome to the neighborhood. I am glad that you have added some additional texture to this thread. Before (and if) I comment, I am going to have to think for a while about what to say as I could write a book about it. You have opened up a whole new dimension and that will take a little processing time on my part. Great to here from you.
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