Welcome to episode 17 of The UnSunday Show. I’ve listened to two different podcasts over the last couple of weeks that asked the question, “Can fallen pastors be restored?” One was from a former mega-church pastor who had an emotional affair with someone and in the process of working through that, several people surfaced with other charges of arrogance and pride that led to his being removed from that position.
The second was an interview with a former pastor who admitted to having an affair and both podcasts were asking the same question, can a fallen pastor be restored?
I believe this question is symptomatic of a larger problem that plagues most institutional churches in the west. It assumes there is a valid top-down position of authority in the Ekklesia and in both of these podcasts, restoration meant climbing back into a role of being in charge. It’s another indication that Christ’s words, “it shall not be so among you” with regards to top-down authority in the church he’s building, have become meaningless to us.
I also continue my interaction with Jon Zens’ book, A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick?
Welcome to episode 15 of The UnSunday Show. In this episode I continue my interaction with Jon Zens’ book, A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? as I look closer at the top-down authority structure of the clergy/laity system. In my opinion, this system is not neutral but adds an intentional, built-in layer of division within the body of Christ. The pastor-centric, top-down clergy/laity systems in most institutional churches is a product of church history. There is no New Testament warrant for its existence. In fact, the New Testament clearly mitigates against it.
The result of 2,000+ years of the clergy/laity system is that we can’t function apart from the pastor. The pastor is central to the extent that the identity of the entire local church is wrapped up in the person of the pastor in charge and if he or she fails to show up on a Sunday unannounced, we don’t know what to do. We even assign ownership of our local churches to the one pastor in charge. This expresses itself in phrases like, “I go to pastor John’s church” or “Pastor Jim started a new church.” This system of complete dependence on one person was first introduced by Ignatius of Antioch in the early 2nd century when he said,
“Let no one do anything in the church apart from the bishop. Holy communion is valid when celebrated by the bishop or someone the bishop authorizes. Where the bishop is present, there let the congregation gather, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the church.”
Welcome to episode 14 of the UnSunday Show! In this episode, I continue my interaction with Jon Zens’ book entitled, A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? In Section 5 of the book, which is called Why Has Church Become So One-Part Driven?, Zens shares the following quote from David L. McKenna,
“[The pastor] is like the cerebellum, the center for communicating messages, coordinating functions, and conducting responses between the head and body…. The pastor is not only the authoritative communicator of the truth from the Head to the Body, but he is also the accurate communicator of the needs from the Body to the Head.”
Later in the chapter he quotes C. Peter Wagner as saying,
“The army has only one Commander-in-Chief, Jesus Christ. The local church is like a company with one company commander, the pastor, who gets his orders from the Commander-in-Chief. The company commander has lieutenants and sergeants under him for consultation and implementation, but the final responsibility for decisions is that of the company commander, and he must answer to the Commander-in-Chief… The pastor has the power in a growing church… The pastor of a growing church may appear to outsiders as a dictator. But to the people of the church, his decisions are their decisions.”
Welcome to episode 7 of the UnSunday Show. “Preach the word” were Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2. This short phrase presents two concepts that I talk about in this episode by asking the questions, what is preaching and what are preachers, and what did he mean by “the word”?
We take what we know in our modern-day pastor-driven model, and superimpose it back into scripture on passages like this. We assume that preaching and preachers are a reference to pastors and what they do because that’s what we see all around us. We’ve been told the pastor is the preacher and the preaching is what’s done from behind the pulpit every Sunday as we’re instructed and challenged to live better lives and get better at this whole Christian thing. But is that how the New Testament presents preaching, preachers, and the phrase “the word of God” to us? Is the pastor the preacher, making preaching on Sundays a biblical requirement or imperative? Is that what Paul meant when he encouraged Timothy to “Preach the word” or has that interpretation come to us via church history and tradition? Let’s talk about it.
“Wherever the pulpit is going, that’s where the church is going.”
Welcome to episode 5 of the UnSunday Show. The statement above appeared in my Twitter feed not long ago. Unfortunately, it’s true. In our modern-day top-down hierarchal church structures, one man or one woman is at the helm, driving the entire institution. Far from being an accomplishment to be celebrated, this structure is a symptom of something gone terribly wrong in the history of the church. The centrality of the pulpit and the person behind it has crippled and rendered lame, the functioning of the one anothers within the body of Christ. The priesthood of every believer has been reduced to a priesthood of a select few. Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to episode 4 of The UnSunday Show. Let’s talk about leaders and leadership. I believe we read our 21st century model of institutional Christianity back into Scripture when we talk about leaders and leadership. I believe our present-day top-down authority systems are in opposition to the leadership model we’ve been given in the New Testament. Our top-down hierarchy model in modern-day institutional church settings is in direct opposition to Jesus’ instruction that within his assembly, “it shall not be so among you.” Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to episode 2 of this newly launched UnSunday Show! In this episode, I begin taking a look at pastors. What does the New Testament say about pastors? What is an elder? What is a bishop? What is an overseer? The New Testament letters use these terms to describe certain individuals within the assembly, but how do we know who’s who and how do we sort it out? Does the New Testament employ these terms as honorific titles and/or career paths to be pursued?
These are subjects we will return to often as we continue to peel back layers of church tradition and ask honest questions about some of our practices and assumptions within 21st century institutional Christianity.