PART 3 - BALANCING ACT BETWEEN THE CLERGY & THE LAITY Doug Krieger (Another in a Series on Ekklesia) What About the Flock-less Shepherds Taking Over?
There’s nothing like attempting to hold an Ekklesia-style gathering and having a strong-willed “teacher-type” or prophetic ministry-type show up and do a “take-over.” What’s a “take-over”? Well, it looks like something found in Judges 17:1-18:31 when Micah decided he’d have his own little sanctuary (aka, “Shrine of Micah”) apart from the Tabernacle in Shiloh with his own hired Levite Priest. The Levite came up from Bethlehem and was looking for, you might say, a “pulpit.” Prior to this, this fellow Micah who hailed from the mountains of Ephraim, and his mother (who was apparently involved in some from of witchcraft, putting curses on 1100 hundred shekels of silver—bizarre, but in the story) . . . which, by the way, the number set of “11” is most definitely a very negative set indeed (11 sons of Canaan; 11 with Haman and his 10 sons vs. the Jews of Persia; the younger horn of Daniel making 11 horns; Judas’ betrayal and subsequent suicide, making the number of disciples “11” – I could go on…but “11” is most definitely connected in Scripture to the Antichrist) . . . in any event, Micah stole the 1,100 shekels of silver. His mom was so impressed with Micah’s confession that he’d stolen it from his mother that she gave Micah back 200 silver shekels, because (so she says) she fully had “wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image” (slight “mixture” going on here). Yes, I know, a rather convoluted series of phony righteous acts taking place. I mean, really, taking a bunch of silver and making idols, images, and whatnot from this silver. So, this Micah gave these 200 hundred shekels of silver to the silversmith and out popped “a carved image and a molded image” which Micah placed in his house—but Micah also had this little shrine in which, although he was right next door to the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (now in Shiloh, Ephraim), he decided the Shiloh Tent wasn’t all that attractive with its badger skin, so he “made an ephod and household (or “angelic” --Heb. Teraphim) idols”; then, ordained his son to be the priest (Side Note: What’s up with preachers anointing their sons to take over pastorates of the same “church” – just sayin’?) Well, Micah knew that his own son was no Levite like the Levites next door at Shiloh, so up comes this young Levite from, of all places, Bethlehem, wholly qualified! Eventually, as the story reads from Judges, this Micah found this wandering Levite priest (looking for a “pulpit”) to administer his little sanctuary (aka, Shrine of Micah). Then, shortly after Micah set up his little Shrine with Levite in hand, along came the rebellious members of the tribe of Dan up from the plains unsatisfied as they were with their inheritance; I mean, having to fight incessantly with the Philistines for “property rights” really bugged these Danites—they wanted an “easy hit” like the “softies” up by the gateway to Phoenicia . . . not promised to the Tribe of Dan, but why not? So, let’s go for it. But, they needed the “blessing” in their illegal pursuits; but they knew they weren’t going to get it from the Levites at the Tabernacle at Shiloh but, well now, there’s this Levite guy at the Shrine of Micah . . . not quite the same but the guy’s still a Levite, so, that should qualify. They knew they wouldn’t get a “blessing” from that old badger-skinned Tabernacle in Shiloh, but “fortunately for them” they discovered the exciting Shrine of Micah nearby. So, they decided to give this ambitious Levite priest a “better deal” (unbeknownst to “Shriner Micah”) —having him be the high priest of an entire tribe vs. a one-horse operation known as the Shrine of Micah with its little idols and whatnot! The opportunity for such a grandiose position went to the Levite’s head and off he went lifted upon a palanquin upwards to the northern acquisition taken over by Dan wherein all sorts of apostasy took place and where Dan became the “toilet bowl” of Israel as far as corruption goes, pouring in from Baal’s base in Phoenicia!
THE LEVITE PRIEST RIDES OFF TO “NORTHERN DAN” TO BE THE TRIBES’ PRIEST FROM THE “SHRINE OF MICAH”
There’s always—well, most of the time—going to be OPPORTUNISTS (like this young, qualified Levitical priest who appears destined to exploit “things” in an Ekklesia environment). When that inevitability takes place, the locals must rise up and “mark them that cause divisions among you” . . . as Romans 16:17-18 states: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” The “Church in Antioch” Didn’t Control Paul & Barnabas—Don’t “Federate” Just Fellowship . . . This is not a sidebar—this is most essential in our understanding of the relationship between “the work” and the “Ekklesia” (aka, the so-called Church—but by this we mean the “people” not the “church buildings”). So, let’s examine, more closely, the New Testament pattern and/or association between the “work” (ministry) and the Ekklesia (aka, “the churches”). Cutting to the chase: churches don’t control the workers. If that were the case, when Paul and Barnabas had their contentious falling out over John-Mark – Paul taking Silas and going off in one direction (modern-day Turkey), and Barnabas taking John-Mark and heading off, apparently to Cyprus – then why isn’t there some record where they “brought the issue of their dispute to the Church?” (In their case to the Church in Antioch.) “Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work,. Then the CONTENTION became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God” (Acts 15:37-40). No, they didn’t bring it to the assembly, congregation, congregants or “Central Command” as per Matthew 18:15-17 because it had nothing to do with sin, per se. “Per se” because it was simply a matter of a brother (John-Mark) NOT being “profitable” for the work (i.e., “the ministry”). Hey, the guy took off to Pamphylia and forsook “the work”—according to Paul, this John, called Mark, was not all that committed for whatever reason. Paul and Barnabas became quite contentious over John-Mark’s “profitability” for the “work of the ministry.” Eventually, which proves Paul and Barnabas apparently had some “fellowship” as time wore on, because later Paul brought John-Mark back into his own ministry (2 Tim. 4:11). Besides, the churches do not control the workers, PERIOD! The workers of that given work have got to resolve the matters of “contention” between and/or among themselves. We may think it expedient for there to be “much more coordination” between the “work” and the “churches” – true, there should be – but such collaboration should never result in either the “clergy” or the “laity” trying to control one another! To suggest that since the workers (in this case Barnabas and Paul) were commissioned by the Holy Spirit and “sent forth” by the brethren from the Church in Antioch (as a confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s choice in the first place) - somehow this can be interpreted “that Antioch was controlling them” (i.e., the workers, and eventually the churches and the elders established by these workers) - is the height of eisogesis; check it out: EISOGESIS: The art of making a text say what YOU want it to say. Usually the eisogete already has certain beliefs and is simply looking through the Bible to find passages that will support that belief. The eisogete will ignore any passages that would dispute his belief and is simply looking to proof-text what he or she already desires to advocate. If there are any passages that seem to dispute his preconceived ideology, he simply seeks to reinterpret them or apply a different hermeneutic to it (dispensational, cessationist, allegorical, etc.) (See: Christian Forums) The HEAD of the Body gave some to be . . . (Acts 15:36-41). Once you open the door to “centrality of control” (in this case, the Church in Antioch) in the name of so-called unity, better coordination, greater impact, regional collaboration—you’re up and running as a cult-like entity. Your “work” or “ministry” may be small or large, but the goal is to RELEASE MINISTRIES on their own, not to build a humongous work/ministry over which to gloat. Let Paul be our example and imitate him—he wound up with NOTHING BUT CHRIST HIMSELF. The “divine destiny” of what happened to Jesus was a complete forsaking. Think about it. No, the workers don’t control the churches; just as the churches (Ekklesia) do not control the workers. Paul admonished and encouraged the Ekklesia—but did NOT control them—he certainly sought to exercise “spiritual encouragement” with them, but by saying to the Ekklesia in Corinth: “I am of Paul, or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’” – it seems rather obvious that all sorts of “apostolic” input had gone into the Corinthian Ekklesia—the Corinthian believers apparently had a multiplicity of influences in their midst. The problem was they went off into factions based upon the “apostle they liked the best” with those of Christ standing off by themselves. They had become factious, divisive. What About Local Eldership? So, what about the ELDERS and/or the “leading ones” in their midst. Well, we have this rather peculiar text: “For first of all, when you come together as an Ekklesia, I hear that there are divisions (lit “factions”) among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you (NOTE: It is NECESSARY there be FACTIONS in an Ekklesia), that those who are approved (lit. “genuine”) may be recognized (lit. “manifest, evident”) among you” (1 Cor. 11:18-19). Elders aren’t “voted in” – they need factions in order to manifest their genuineness (the stress is not laid on the “position” of so-called elders but upon their “actions”—not “who they are” but “what they’re doing” . . . it’s functional, not positional)—i.e., genuine in that they are mature enough to “keep the peace” among the factions so the folks do not become FACTIOUS. Yes, “I hear there are divisions among you” – AND I PARTLY BELIEVE IT – of course, Paul believed it. But he also believed that those who had some maturity in Christ would manifest in such a situation as to bring in the peace of Christ into their midst and not allow a factious spirit to divide the Ekklesia! Some translations mistake the word “factions” or “divisions” as SCHISMS and HERESIES. No, we’re talking here of plain old-fashion factions and divisions—having absolutely NOTHING to do with schisms and heresies. Folks are simply embracing sundry doctrines and super apostolic stars like Paul, Cephas (Peter) and Apollos to the point where factions have arisen among the brethren (as in “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” etc.) and as a result, there are these divisions. Factions can result from all sorts of issues—be they personalities, styles of ministry, doctrinal emphases, methods, etc. I discovered there’s a whole denomination in Nigeria called: THE CHURCH WITHOUT SHOES…for the “ground we walk upon is holy ground” (Who knew?). Again, we’re not saying that folks will not be overly influenced by various apostles or ministers—it’s when it becomes factious and divisive that we have problems. Again, there MUST be these factions—but someone(s) has/have got to be the reconcilers; the genuine or approved ones who keep the congregants from falling into factious, divisive traps of their own making! Aren’t these “genuine” brethren the real “elders” of the Ekklesia? According to Paul, I think so. Ministries and dynamic ministers have some amazing influence upon the Ekklesia—and should have such impact . . . but why is it, far too often, these gifted brethren come into an Ekklesia-environment and “continue their old habits?” Let me explain. Let’s say a brother gifted as a pastor-teacher steps down from his ministerial role as a “pastor-teacher” to attend a general gathering of the assembly where a great deal of diversity among brethren takes place. As discussed, folks from “different persuasions” are gathered with the express intent to be under the direct headship of Christ (just like the ministers should be—“HE GAVE SOME TO BE”). But this time it’s a purposeful, intentional, gathering of the “general assembly” where EACH ONE HAS, not just the gifted pastor-teacher, evangelist, prophet, or even an apostle (whether you believe or don’t believe in cessation). Two things here: (1) The pastor-teacher does NOT give up his gift—it will probably manifest itself in some form of caring and teaching at and during such an Ekklesia-style gathering; however, (2) The pastor-teacher should NOT dominate the meeting with his gift fully exercised; after all, this isn’t “his meeting.” What do I mean by that? Well, in the common vernacular: TONE IT DOWN, brother—there’s room in here for everyone—this is NOT your “ministerial pulpit”—this is the general assembly where EACH ONE HAS and you can all prophesy ONE BY ONE. That’s all—use some common sense and get excited that your sheep who are in the gathering are exercising their God-given right to participate, contribute at such an Ekklesia-style gathering. Likewise, it might—I didn’t say always—be good if you have a gifted prophetic ministry, to “keep your gift to yourself” to allow others to participate . . . sometimes it’s healthy for you/we gifted brethren in the Ekklesia to keep silent (for a change) and be a good listener. The problem—and it IS problematic—strong-willed prophets, pastor-teacher types, find it virtually impossible to “stay out of the fray” and just, at best, privately minister on a one-to-one basis rather than a “group-basis” – but the “force in them is strong” . . . much like the wandering Levite from Bethlehem who accepted the “exciting pulpit” at the Shrine of Micah but even that did not satisfy—he sought to be the high priest of the Tribe of Dan—and you know the rest of the story. Well, “I’m hosting this Ekklesia” - so, I’ve got to take control of this “thing.” Recently, I’ve had the very good pleasure of visiting a number of Ekklesia. All I was given was an address where it was to be held. I entered - the door opened to some kid who just happened to be there to open the door for me - he was very matter of fact and said: “You’re in the right place; come on in” - that was all he said; except he told me to take my shoes off because everyone else had done so as not to dirty the carpet of the host. The whole gathering was wonderful—the food and the fellowship—I had no idea whose house we were meeting in and never did figure out who was hosting the gathering—now, THAT’S A REAL HOST for you! Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you have to dominate things—remember, this is an Ekklesia . . . better to be the “unseen host at every meal” rather than the flamboyant host who decides to host an Ekklesia, giving the host a preeminent position - it’s better to serve than be served and far better to serve without anyone knowing you are serving - that way, the Lord could possibly get more glory? Think about it. Imagine a host who makes everything happen without being noticed much—or at all! Hard to fathom - but such anomalies do exist within the Body of Christ. There’s nothing worse than an overbearing host—someone who makes everyone know “they are in charge” and, furthermore, as a result of their “newly-found status as host” they can manipulate the entire gathering. My suggestion: Find another host! The BBQ that got Busted! I hope this gives us a little insight into the difference between a “work” or “ministry” (leadership) and an “ekklesia” (the brethren/congregants) coming together. I remember a brother telling me a rather dynamic gathering of brethren from the “same church” came together in a home for a BBQ. I may not have the entire story straight, but, in any event it went something like this: They (members of the same church) decided to have additional BBQs until it became a weekly affair—like on a Saturday evening. Folks brought their playful kids, food, and they all gathered together for some time of singing, sharing and worship—praying for one another—it was sweet. When it got too cold—they all went inside the home and continued their fellowship - kids were encouraged to stay with the adults or go downstairs to play - you’d be surprised how many kids didn’t think the adults were boring!