Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Sort of Fruit Do Churches Reap When They Concentrate Authority?

Every now and then I read or listen to someone who's attempting to make the case that sole pastoral leadership and/or a qualitatively unique sort of authority invested in one man are perfectly acceptable options. By that I mean, despite the consistent NT pattern of plural eldership in local churches (reinforced by apostolic command), some commentators deny that plural elder-led congregationalism is an ideal we ought to pursue deliberately. They think it's merely a viable option; I understand it to be a biblical model. I believe the exegetical case is formidable, but let's assume for the moment that it's ambiguous.

Now, does this disgraceful affair emerge from a vacuum, or is it possible that the leadership culture and hero worship so endemic to churches in this stream facilitated the pastor's [and I use that term with clenched teeth] opportunity to abuse his authority? Is it possible that the church's Pastor-centered polity enabled his exploits?

Perhaps some might respond that this is an extreme example. I'd concede that it's an extreme example of power and influence concentrated in one man in a local church context. (I'm not so sure it's an such extreme example at all of the misuse of that power and influence.) I'd also concede that plural eldership has a distinct set of pitfalls. But if we believe anything about depravity, and if we understand anything about the storyline of the Bible, will we then be more or less inclined to centralize authority in one person? And will those understandings lead us toward a stronger or weaker commitment to identify and train faithful men who be able to teach others also?

No comments: