Part 1 - Balancing Act Between The Clergy and The Laity?
(Another in a Series on Ekklesia)
There you go again, Krieger, trying to rearrange chairs on the top deck of the Titanic when we should be getting into the lifeboats and letting this “thing” sink! Yes, I guess I’m guilty of at least trying to move things around a bit because it’s a little chaotic between clergy/laity – pulpit/pew – ministers/congregants – elders/members - I could go on; but I’m not trying to destroy the obvious. Let me explain . . .
To suggest that there is not this dichotomy within the Body of Christ (and, consequent “tension”) one simply has either not read the Word of God—especially the New Testament—or (let me be a bit sinister here) has an agenda to have their own “tension system” of controlling the saints (not that the clergy doesn’t), but to say “we’re all the same” without gifted members of the One Body standing out vs. the “average Joe,” well, the one saying we should all be “equal” is often guilty of that which they protest the most—viz., “some are more equal than others.”
This (clergy vs laity) is a very “touchy” subject and grossly misunderstood—especially, among the growing number of Christians in America who are so DONE (aka, “the Dones”) with the traditional denominational or even non-denominational “Church-going” system. This perspective may outrage some “who are in control” but, believe me, there’s plenty of blame to go around—i.e., the abuse wrought by ministries/ministers vs. congregant manipulations is endless. Need I say more than what is already known regarding “clergy abuse” either in moral matters or “financial issues” vs. congregants who “hire and fire” - at will - pastors.
Now, bear with me, we’ve got to get the clutter taken out of the room before we can “rearrange” things. I know, somewhat presumptuous of me to suggest some of these “alternatives”—but someone’s got to do it. Clergy exploitation (e.g., material, moral, psychological, spiritual) is known in the book of Revelation as Nicolaitanism:
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. — Revelation 2:6
Allow me to quote Renner on this:
Jesus was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated.” The word “hate” is a strong word, so let’s see exactly what it means. It comes from the Greek word miseo, which means to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive. It describes a person who has a deep-seated animosity, who is antagonistic to something he finds to be completely objectionable. He not only loathes that object, but rejects it entirely. This is not just a case of dislike; it is a case of actual hatred.
AND . . .
The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word nikolaos, a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people. It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people.
Renner goes into detail wherein Nicolaitans were those who followed the pattern of Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch with a pagan background who converted to Judaism and then to Christianity and was somehow, as a result of his background, able to bring pagan practices into the congregation of the faithful (Acts 6:5; Rev. 2:14-15) a la Baalim who was hired by the Moabite king to prophesy against Israel, but could not (Numbers 22-24). These “guns for hire” are utilized to wreak havoc over God’s people—aka, “clergy abuse.” Today’s Christianity is fraught, sadly so, by these “Baalimites” who are requisitioned to afflict the people of God (at their worst) or at their semi-best, simply control the laity . . . maneuvering them at their whims.
CONGREGANT MALFEASANCE – THE LAODICEANS
However, within the seven distinctly different expressions of the EKKLESIA (aka, churches) in Asia as found in Revelation 2-3, I find the most egregious, even disgusting Lampstand, was the Church in Laodicea. Why? Because the very name conjures up a lukewarm condition which is “neither cold nor hot” so that the Lord would “vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16)? How’s that? Well, this rather prosperous outcropping of saints found itself in the midst of trade routes where lots of commercialism took place—this Ekklesia had “money issues” big time. And, money is power (in case you haven’t yet figured that one out).
“Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
So, with “riches” comes control—normally, the clergy treats you differently if you have the big bucks. The Greek words which comprise “Laodicean” are two: λαος (leos) meaning “the people” and δικη (dikay) meaning “justice or fairness” wrought by the people; thus: “people justice.” It has a “judicial context” – the best way to put it would be in a court of law where a “jury of your peers” render a decision, juxtaposed to the “court” (i.e., a judge only) rendering a decision; thus, “people justice” vs. “court justice.” In other words: THE PEOPLE RULE vs. the JUDGE RULES. Put crudely: We, the people (aka, the congregants), will act as “judge and jury”—we control this “thing” – not some judge (aka, the clergy).
Oddly enough, it was the very Council in Laodicea in 363-364 A.D. of some 30 bishops which solidified the separation between Jew and Christian and forbid worship on the Jewish/Sabbath as well as Hebraic Feast Days, among other things, but also, sought the following:
·Enforcing modest behavior of clerics and laypeople (4, 27, 30, 36, 53–55)
My, my, how the clergy turned things around and sought not only to control the laity but themselves! But I think one can clearly see the extremes represented by the Lord’s hatred regarding the Nicolaitan system and His disgust (vomiting) toward the Laodicean system – amazing how the Lord sees things vs. how we see them, isn’t it?
THE “CONGREGATIONAL SYSTEM”
Today, the “congregational system” is celebrated where the Board of Deacons or Elders (depending on whether your Baptist [deacons] or Presbyterian [elders] tell the pastors “where to get off” (I know, sounds a bit negative) or on the positive side provides a wide-base of support to said pastor almost to the point of the ridiculous (e.g., “pastor appreciation days” – all sorts of “vacation perks” – inordinate expressions of adulation, etc.); however, sometimes a member of the clergy will “gain the upper hand” and create a “leadership environment” where the congregants are, in the main, subservient to some type of administrative leader, patriarchal figure, nigh cult-like character or the assembled are mesmerized by some charismatic “Lollapalooza or Wallapalooza” -style” leadership (viz. "an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or instance.”
BALANCE BETWEEN “THE WORK” AND THE “CONGREGANTS”
Three things are at stake here:
(1) The congregants – the regulars – the “whole Ekklesia” when it comes together.
(2) Gifted members – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors-Teachers – sometimes affectionately known as “the clergy” . . . closely associated with them but a little different are the . . .
(3) Ministries – gifted members normally not connected, per se, with immediate “Church leadership” yet having ministries supporting what are known as “churches” (aka, “para-church ministries”).
Can we find these three entities in the New Testament? Of course, in some fashion we can . . . known as (1) the “churches” (aka, the Ekklesia); (2) the gifted ones (viz., those who should be equipping the “saints for the ministry” as found in Eph. 4:11-12) or “workers” as per 2 Tim. 2:15 and illustrated by the workers from Antioch “when they were sent off” to Asia Minor in Acts 15:30-41 and (3) the elders/deacons of local congregations (e.g., Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13 – with all THREE designations found in Acts 15:23: The apostles (aka, gifted ones); the elders; and the brethren (congregants).
WHO’S IN CONTROL – WHY I LEFT THE “CHRISTIAN CULT” . . .
Herein lies the rub. Somebody must be in control, right? In remembrance of a brother, who once considered himself (as well as others who so considered him) the ORACLE OF GOD (a bit of a stretch but, nevertheless, God’s insurmountable mouthpiece on the earth today, would be more like it—yeah, I know, sounds nigh Papal, and it was/is).
Another brother and I after nearly eleven years within the “confines” of this man’s “ministry” knew exactly what we stood for:
“We are the OVERCOMERS who are ‘standing on the local ground of unity’ - for within any jurisdiction we may find ourselves—we are absolutely for the Body of Christ for we are the Body of Christ locally expressed; therefore, either we find others who are standing as we are (EXCEEDINGLY RARE TO FIND) or we “take the ground of unity” wherein all other believers who are in confusion (viz., Babylon) and, therefore, must meet with us to express the same ‘ground of unity in that locality’ – otherwise, if they don’t align with us, they abide in division, sectarianism, and sundry factions (especially, the overt denominations).”
I generously labeled this, after I was “excused” from this concept/Church the “doctrine of the dirt.”
Now, you may think this a somewhat odd “awareness” (shall we say) of “Body Life” – but the “doctrines of demons” are extremely clever and rabidly sectarian (although initially, they present themselves as most benign and gregarious—open to all, said the spider to the fly). Normally, such groups result in some form of “cultic expression”—although, they may be Christian, at least in name. Frankly, you can normally consider something cultic by dent of the fact these beloved members have an intense “superiority complex” and delight they have discovered truth and mysteries unknown by most Christians. Again, the closer one gets to the epicenter of their movement, the harder it is to digress from the dictum which normally are ensconced and/or broadcast by their leader or “ministerial council” – any deviation is at best suspect and at worst pure rebellion and must be excised from the “group.” This sometimes is referred to as “leaven”—in other words, once one is designated as “rebellious” by the “authorities” that person is stigmatized and shunned, lest anyone within the group “touch the unclean thing” and become contaminated [aka, leprous]—forbid!
They “become cultic” because, although they may give allowance in recognition that Christians can be found “all over the place” – there can be little doubt the REAL, GENUINE, COMMITTED ones are found within the wagons they have circled! Those “circled wagons” normally restrict or consign the “ministry” of that group to the singularity of that minister/ministerial council. To leave the group is more than dangerous and can result in some form of “dis-fellowship” – censor – shunning – and in extreme cases “curses be upon you” and even (as was the case with the inquisition) DEATH!
So, “Christian cults” can be very large or very small—do you follow? Oh, sure, since YOU are the problem, the group’s members may from time to time see you at “neutral functions” (someone’s going away party known by everyone - or a funeral, aka, Memorial Service or a wedding) but, in the main, stay out of your sight or give you a smile (if you’re lucky) but, other than that, YOU’RE THE ENEMY!
SO – HOW WERE YOU EJECTED or “IT SEEMS THAT ANTIOCH WAS CONTROLLING THEM”?
Another brother and I, along with a few other young people, raised up a work (aka, “church”) in, of all places, Berkeley, California back in the heyday of the Jesus Movement (early 1970s). We contended that we were standing on the “ground of unity” and all other believers in Berkeley, CA were just in some form of “degraded Christianity” (derogatorily known as “poor Churchanity”).
But, as we continued to minister among the young people, hippies, university students in Berkeley, we realized that many of the “other believers” who were doing similar works in leading young people to Jesus were still in the same “Household of Faith/God” as we—you see, that was “part of our doctrinal belief system” (in theory, at least)—notwithstanding, they still weren’t on the “ground of the dirt” as we were!
So, there were Pentecostals doing a work there in the form of a place called Resurrection City, which was an outcropping of the Assemblies of God; then there was the rump-session of Campus Crusade for Christ known as the Christian World Liberation Front (by then) and then eventually as the Dwight House and, finally, as the “Spiritual Counterfeits Project or SCP” (although the latter came “transforming itself” and it was hard to figure that one out).
We got into all sorts of trouble when one day a bunch of our “kids” gathered in Sproul Plaza near Ludwig’s Fountain on the UC Berkeley Campus and “held hands” in prayer and worship with those, oh forbid, who were “not meeting on the ground of oneness” with us, of all people! Word of this and other “encounters of the worst kind” got back to “headquarters” and we were in hot water . . . not just for the fact that we had a “jug band” creating “jug people” (long story, there) but the fact that we were compromising (in the eyes of THE MINISTRY) with other believers who were “so different” from us! How DARE YOU meet with DEGRADED CHRISTIANITY—especially, with those NOT “meeting on the ground of unity” (sounds rather ostentatious of us, but we were the “cat’s meow” and all others were obliged to join our form of “oneness” and end their sectarianism post-haste)!
In order to “smooth things out” – I and this other brother who was as “radical” as I was – took off for Southern California to meet with the Oracle of God (although, at the time, he had not yet “ascended” to such heights—but was heading in that direction) . . . we sat in his living room to “discuss the matter” . . . stupidly thinking there could be some kind of compromise or terminus to our dilemma of being “out of the flow” vs. “in the flow”—meaning, “How’s about our ‘ministry style’ being a little different than that of “central command” in that we were in a little different environment (to say the least) than “command central.”
He informed us of the following taken from a text by Watchman Nee’s FURTHER TALKS ON THE CHURCH LIFE. Nee’s comments (at the end of this section) in the relationship among the churches, the workers and the eldership of those sundry churches in Asia Minor went something (not word for word) like this (from the lips of the Oracle):
“In Acts 13 we read:
‘Now in the church (Ekklesia) that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have CALLED THEM.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away . . . So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus, etc. (Acts 13:1-4).
The “Oracle of God” continued:
“Now, Barnabas and Saul (Paul) went to Perga (Acts 13:14); Iconium (Acts 14:1); and Lystra (Acts 14:8) . . . and then they returned to Antioch (Acts 14:21) . . . and then they (Barnabas and Paul) appointed (or “pointed out”) elders in every church” (Acts 14:23).
“According to this ‘pattern’ it APPEARS ANTIOCH WAS CONTROLLING THEM” – (so said the Oracle).
Then he said:
“What is the antecedent of ‘them’?” –
In other words, what does them refer to?
“Was Antioch (the Church in Antioch from whence the workers were sent out by the Holy Spirit) CONTROLLING the workers (Barnabas and Saul/Paul); the churches these ‘apostolic workers’ founded in Perga, Iconium, and Lystra; or the elders they pointed/appointed in every Ekklesia they established?”
The actual comments by Watchman Nee in his text, FURTHER TALKS ON THE CHURCH LIFE, “appear” to be as follows:
“From Antioch, some went forth to other places to do a work. When churches came into being, elders were appointed to be responsible for the oversight of the churches. But it seems that Antioch was responsible for them, because the workers lived in Antioch.” (Chapter 6, Section 2 or 7 sections)
Please note, the word “controlling” replaced the word “responsible” by the Oracle…how convenient was that? Also, the “them” was clarified to us as being the workers from Antioch, the churches those workers established, and the local leadership/eldership of those churches.
Wow, that was a mouthful – in point of fact, as we discovered - far too much for us to swallow and VERY ROMAN CATHOLIC-sounding for this direct descendant of Martin Luther. How’s that…listen up to the answer to the “antecedent” . . . “the workers, the churches, the elders”?? Imagine, as well, an entire book dedicated to meticulously restructuring the Scriptures in formulating a system of control over all aspects of the work (ministry), the churches, and the leadership of those churches!
ALL THE ABOVE . . . the Church in Antioch was CONTROLLING (and THAT was precisely the operative word used by the Oracle) the workers, the churches the workers founded, and the elders appointed by these workers – Antioch was controlling ALL OF THEM.
SHOCK AND AWE was our response. Gish, we thought, based on the Oracle’s previous ministry that it was “Administration local, each answering to the Lord; communion universal, upheld in one accord” – not some central ministerial regional center controlling workers, churches, and elderships . . . I mean, after all, weren’t Barnabas and Paul “sent out by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:4) and “separated out” by the same Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2) – even though the brethren in Antioch “fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3) – wasn’t that naught but a CONFIRMATION and blessing, rather than some system of CONTROL of those workers, and eventually churches and elders?
We were at least signaling for a “congregational approach” to ministry, juxtaposed to an intense centrality of control that appeared like the Catholic, Mormon, Scientology, Jehovah Witness-style system of control. What was really going on in this brother’s ministry was obvious: The “ministry” was in control – of the workers, the churches and the leadership of those churches—plain and simple. Ultimately, the ministry subsumed all—IT was like the BORG in that it “absorbed” everything into the collective! The “regional centers” (e.g., Antioch, Jerusalem, etc.) were replaced by one magnanimous center of the work/ministry HQed in the Los Angeles area—and YES, it sounds like Roman Catholicism or Mormonism out of Salt Lake, UT—I could go on but you get the drift.
We drove up along the coastal highway back to Berkeley, stopping off in Goleta, CA near UC Santa Barbara where another brother (we’ll call him Eddy) had left some years back this movement . . . whatever happened to Eddy . . . what’s it like when you find yourself outside of “God’s final move on the earth today?” Can’t imagine.
We sat there in this, what appeared to be a youth hostel, in a large living room. As we sat on one of the many couches in the room, we began to hear the sound of Eddy singing the Crusader hymn: Fairest Lord Jesus in melodious tones with gusto . . . coming ever closer to the disenfranchised. There he was, still with thunderous baritone voice standing arms outstretched before us. I whispered to my associate: “Does Eddy see us, recognize us . . . is he in his right mind?”
Shaken from the episode—especially when Eddy told us: “You can leave the “group” but the “group” never leaves you!” With that affirmation—we got in the car and drove off. My associate immediately froze up on the steering wheel and I proceeded, at his injunction, to pound his back and shoulders to release him from his bondage at the wheel. A cop saw what I was doing, stopped us, and wanted to know what on earth was going on? Of course, we told him the truth about leaving God’s final move on the earth today and then our visit with Eddy—at which point he thought we were nuts and sent us on our way but warned us to quit with the shenanigans!
This “Christian cult” we discovered touted our “spiritual unity” (i.e., the “unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace”—Eph. 4:3) then criticized “spiritual unity” on the basis that our unity in Christ HAD TO BE EXPRESSED in any given locality—viz., “the doctrine of the dirt!” (IT HAD TO BE TANGIBLE, MATERIAL). I can sure see why (now) one of the critics of this “movement” once said to the Oracle when it came to this issue of the “dirt” (aka, the Church’s standing in a locality): “Your Christ is too small.”
Denominations were anathema—accursed—but, ALAS! That which we feared the most came upon us—we became one of the most sectarian organizations ever to countenance the flat earth (not to offend those who embrace a “global cosmology”). There can be no other “churches” but those found on certain jurisdictional land (and, by our group)—and, furthermore, all those in a given “region” must be one in coordination and practice (viz., the aforementioned Antioch Model—“all the above”). Specifically, that “regional coordination” demanded that the work, churches, and eldership among those churches were all “one with the ministry” (or else).
Suffice it to say, this Christian cult, like the others in the USA has experienced little or no growth for decades! Their elaborate orchestration of control may slake the thirst of the inquiring mind—but twisting the Scripture to fabricate such a system of control is as old as the devolution of the Early Church into its present Romish practice of the College of the Cardinals, with Pope and subservient laity.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN “THE WORK/MINISTRY” AND THE EKKLESIA/CONGREGANTS
Unfortunately, most churches today act like ministries—yes, we’re all members of the Lord’s One Body—whether you’re a pastor or a “pew sitter” – you’re in the Ekklesia; you have FULL MEMBERSHIP (and, yes, it is a SPIRITUAL UNITY—notwithstanding those involved in the “ground of the dirt” doctrine of locality). That said, however, is the minister equipping the saints “to do the work of the ministry” and are the saints coming together, wherever (on a piece of dirt included), to literally “practice Ekklesia?” No, I’m NOT badmouthing ministers, pastors, teachers, evangelists, or even prophets and apostles (those founding various Ekklesia/Churches).
What I am saying is this: If ministers really did the following:
“And He Himself (the Head of the Body, our Lord Jesus Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the EQUIPPING [lit. “fitting or preparing fully” as in “perfecting” – Strong’s G#2677—katartismos] of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, HOLDING THE REALITY in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:11-15).
. . . then, instead of equipping God’s people to “do the work of the ministry”—these ministers of God, far too often, gather the faithful around themselves for “fear they will lose them!” Dare they equip them to become “pastors and teachers” themselves? Dare they create “other ministries” (Seemingly, NOT in direct coordination with their original ministry!) based upon the principle that “each of you has a gift” and that gift should be exercised?
No, the pastor-teacher demands (or strongly suggests) we “use his notes” from the week’s previous sermon and the “home group” should go over them as an “outline” to keep the congregants “on track” lest they be sidetracked (That’s a ministry FOR the Ekklesia—but that’s NOT the Ekklesia coming together to experience “Body Life.”). Ekklesias are not “orchestrated” they are the antithesis of orchestration but still “decently and in order” - who knew?
Forbid that the pastor-teachers (who now, in the main, dominate the congregants—because, as well, the congregants want them to do so, lest they have to do the work of the ministry themselves!) – so, in essence you have a “collaborative conspiracy” of sorts – the clergy find themselves “running the show” and the congregants are more than willing to see this to be the case lest they become more involved in doing the “work of the ministry” themselves – BOTH ARE COMPLIANT – BOTH are caught in an ever-devolving spiral where the pastor-teachers are the targets of the congregants praise or wrath AND the congregants, because they lack “ministerial skills” are ill-equipped to strike out on their own. Indeed, if they (the congregants) were to shrink to their actual “spiritual size” most would be whisked out the front door of the “church” in baby carriages!
Part 2 of this article/chapter in this series on Ekklesia, is even more “inflammatory”—especially, if you’re a “gifted one” (which there are such in the Body of Christ) but who are NOT maximizing their gift for the true building up of the Body of Christ—viz., “perfecting (or “equipping”) the saints for the work of the ministry, to the building up of the Body Christ” (Eph. 4:12) . . . which, according to 1 Corinthians 11-14 displays to the “uninformed” and the “unbeliever” that “God is among you of a truth” (1 Cor. 14:25) while the “secrets of his heart will be revealed”—it doesn’t get any better than that because these uninformed and unbelievers will SO WORSHIP GOD by stating the obvious!
Isn’t that what every gifted member of the Body of Christ should desire? We can only hope so . . .