When Christianity began people met in homes. When Paul wrote to the churches the people were meeting in homes. It carried on this way for the better part of 200 years and even up to the 300s when Constantine became favorable to Christianity and institutionalized everything.
What changed when church got big and needed its own building? What changed when the church moved from family and home to stranger and neutral location? Our view of authority changed. Now, we think our view is biblical but it is heavily influenced by our form of church so that maybe it is not as biblical as we thought!
So when we talk about “authority” in church we are seeing it through the lens of hundreds (even thousands) of people who see each other an hour or two a week based in a program driven environment in which big decisions are required to be made. None of that is the case in a house with a dozen people.
Authority in small house churches, like Paul was writing to, is much different than authority in big church. I challenge you to go back through Paul’s letters and the book of Acts and re-examine authority through the lens of the house church. I believe a few things will stand out to you.
First, authority was actually about being a servant rather than about having a position.
Second, authority was familial and pastoral rather than by near strangers exerting an executive role and function.
Third, the level of intimacy was far deeper in their world at home than in the corporate industrial complex we now call church.
Much more could be said…I want you to go back and read the pastorals (Timothy and Titus especially) through this lens and see what stands out! I believe what you will see is that those same passages we based our view of position, authority and qualifications sounds quite a bit different than how we have applied them! Let me know what you find.
Congregations need patriarchal and matriarchal leadership, not business managers and PhD orators.
Ah, Matt! When we are in a time where the “musts” of Paul have become, “Get as close as possible,” we do have issues!
When we are getting closer and closer to the “Pastor” model, where the elder/shepherds/overseers are put into a secondary role, we do have issues.
When a group of “pastors” get together and refer to “my church is… does… believes…” we do have issues.
When elders/shepherds/overseers no longer know the sheep up-close and personal, we do have issues.
Or, in the words of Lynn Anderson, when they no longer smell like sheep…
Our assemblies have become models of efficiency, our reason for gathering has turned in to hear the preacher rather than the celebration of the Risen Christ…
How to get back is problematic, without a doubt. Maybe another year of COVID??