Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Biblical Leadership

Short Thoughts on Pastor Worship

One of the reasons that Calvinism has become popular in our day probably has a lot to do with pastor worship above Bible study.  I am convinced that many of the “new” Calvinists (the so-called “young, restless, and Reformed”) are convinced of Calvinism not because they actually read Calvin or Arminius and not because they actually took the time to seriously consider Arminianism but because of pastor worship.  Calvinism has a bunch of “cool” pastors and this has caught the eye of the young.

The names of the pastors that Calvinists worship can be long.  John MacArthur.  John Piper.  RC Sproul.  James White.  Matt Chandler.  Mark Driscoll.  Tim Keller.  CJ Mahaney.  Joshua Harris.  Sam Storms.  Wayne Grudem.  Many of these men are godly men indeed and I am not attacking them.  I am attacking the worship of these men.  I often get asked to name top Arminian preachers and top Arminian theologians and we have had our John Wesley’s, our EM Bound’s, our Leonard Ravenhill’s, our Francis Asbury’s.  We have had our pastors that we elevated and we Arminians have been guilty of lifting up men as well.  Yet modern Arminianism doesn’t have the superstars that Calvinism currently has.  Perhaps that will change but for now, I am grateful that we don’t have superstar pastors.

Scripture does teach us to acknowledge godly men (see 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7). Biblical leaders are to be servants (Matthew 20:26-27; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  Biblical leaders are not to be superstars.

In Acts 3 Peter the Apostle could have focused the attention on himself after the Lord used him to do a great healing.  Yet Peter cries out in Acts 3:12-16:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

The focus was clearly to be on the Lord Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 Paul the Apostle wrote:

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Who is Apollos?  Who is Paul?  In our day, they would be superstars.  Yet Paul clearly wants the focus to be on God alone.  After all, it is God alone who saves!

I could name many godly men who have spoken into my life.  Some of them are godly Calvinists.  Some of them are godly Arminians.  Yet in the end my focus must be on the Lord.  Flesh will let you down (Jeremiah 17:5).  The closer I have got over the years to other godly men the more I realize that we all need Christ.  Not one of us have arrived.  We all still struggle to be like Christ.  Some of us are further up the road than others and we should rejoice in that but our focus must be on Christ.  Christ must be our gospel.  Pastors and church leaders will never save one soul.  All of them are just like us: sinners redeemed by grace.

If Arminianism does see a future growth, I pray that it will be because we proclaim Christ.  In fact, I don’t even want to make Arminians.  I want to make disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19).  Arminius needed Jesus just as Calvin did.  Our faith is in Jesus and not in the doctrines of Arminius.  It is saving faith in Jesus that saves (Romans 5:1) and not faith in Arminius.

For my Calvinist friends, I pray that same for you.  I pray that your faith is not in Calvin or Spurgeon or MacArthur but in Jesus alone.  Jesus saves sinners and not Calvinists or Arminians (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus redeems those who call upon His name (Romans 10:13) and not merely those who use the term Calvinist.

Our faith must not be in men for they will fail.  Our faith must be in Christ alone.  He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Christ alone is the one who is praying for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25) and not Arminius.  When I die, it will not be the names of great church leaders who will rescue me from the wrath to come but the Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  It is the name of Jesus that alone saves (Acts 4:12).

Let us all pray, both Arminians and Calvinists, for the name of Jesus and His gospel to be proclaimed.  Let us declare that Jesus alone and not Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Augustine is our Savior.  In the end, every knee will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:1; Philippians 2:5-11).  I will bow my knee now.

Jesus is Lord over His Church

This post will seem like a rant against traditional pastors but that is not the case.  I want to make that clear before I dive into my thoughts.  I know some will feel that I am maligning pastors but this is not the case.  I believe in biblical pastors (Ephesians 4:11) and I believe that God has given godly elders to lead His people (Titus 1:5).

However, have you ever driven by a traditional church and wondered why the pastor alone is the on the church marquee?  Why does his name appear and his only?  Why not include a Sunday school teacher’s name or the little old man who faithfully prays in the prayer room each and every week?  Why not put up a deacon’s name?  Why do traditional churches only put the name of one gifted person’s name on the church sign?

I believe that it is because we have created a culture of pastor worship.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy hearing godly Bible teachers proclaim His Word and I love to hear a brother who fears God stand up and teach the Word but why do we exalt men?  Why do we take just the pastors (or better shepherds as translated by the ESV in Ephesians 4:11) and elevate them?  This mentality has more in line with the Roman Catholic Church and their exaltation of the Pope then with the New Testament Church.  The Catholics not only exalt the Pope but they exalt the various saints despite the fact that the Bible calls all disciples of Jesus “saints” (see Romans 1:7 or 1 Corinthians 1:2 for examples).  If we are in Christ Jesus, we are saints by virtue of His grace toward us.  We are sanctified in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  I am a saint in Christ.  If you are a true disciple of Jesus, you too are a saint of God.

At times the Protestant Church has traded one pope for a thousand popes.  Each church now has their own pope over them and they heed his voice, do his biding, and he receives money from them.  We have traded in the priesthood of the saints (1 Peter 2:5) in favor of one priest doing our bidding.  This is nothing more than Catholicism on another level.

What is the solution?  The simple answer is to teach that Jesus is Lord over His Church and not any flesh.  Colossians 1:15-20 makes it clear that Jesus is the head over His Church.  Ephesians 5:23 says that Jesus is both the head and the Savior of His Church.  He is in the process of sanctifying His Church by His Word (Ephesians 5:26) so that the Church might be holy bride (Ephesians 5:27).  We need more emphasis on Jesus and less on flesh.  We need Jesus to be on the marquee (if you will) and not the name of one person.

Secondly, we need to emphasize that the Bible never teaches one man to lead the Church.  Peter was not the first pope nor are any others in charge of God’s Church.  The Holy Spirit leads the Church (Acts 13:1-5).  The Bible teaches that elders are to lead but they lead by examples (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Hebrews 13:7, 17).  Elders did not cast visions for the early Church.  We find nothing in the book of Acts to suggest that elders did any thing other than shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:17-35).  The Lord saved sinners, He added them to His Church (Acts 2:47) and He gave gifted men to lead the Church (Ephesians 4:11) but these gifted folks had a focus and that was to mature the saints that the saints might do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16) and not one person or a group of people.

Lastly, I believe that it takes humility to serve Christ in truth.  I know many pastors would not want their names on the marquees.  They know that this is done because of tradition and not because they are proud and want people to know their names.  However, some pastors are prideful and they find satisfaction not in Jesus but in power and praise of people.  They love the praise of men.  They love for people to almost worship them.  This is of course not true for all but I do know some pastors who are very prideful.  I remember meeting this one man and when I was introduced to him, he corrected the man who introduced us because he had said, “This is brother James” and the man said, “That would be Dr. James to you fellows.”  Okay.  In some churches (and again not all), the pastor is the king, the man with the plan, the main focus, the reason people attend, God’s anointed servant, nearly like Christ.  I say again, we have traded one pope for a thousand popes.

Notice this from Vatican I:

“But since in this very age, in which the salutary efficacy of the apostolic duty is especially required, not a few are found who disparage its authority, We deem it most necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the Only-begotten Son of God deigned to enjoin with the highest pastoral office. And so We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Savior, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, possesses that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not from the consensus of the Church, are irreformable. But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema.” (Vatican Council I, 1870 A.D.)

I know many Protestant pastors like this, men who define doctrine regarding faith or morals.

The answer for us is a desire to place Jesus back as Lord of His Church.  The true Church of God is led by Jesus Christ and not by men.  We need no prophet to speak for God.  We need no pastor to speak for God.  We need His Word alone (2 Timothy 3:15-17).  No doubt godly men (and women) can teach us much from the Word of God through exhortation to the Church as Ephesians 4:11-16 establishes but let us not exalt one person above others.  Let us seek to exalt Christ alone.  He alone is our Savior and Lord and He alone shed His blood so that we could be forgiven in Him.  Our peace with God comes only in Christ and not in a person or an institution (Romans 5:1).  Do bless godly leaders (1 Peter 5:1-4) but always place Jesus as Lord of our lives and over His Church.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/30/2012 at 4:25 PM

House Churches and Leadership

One of the most common arguments I hear from traditional (or institutional) churches is that house churches are opposed to leadership.  One blogger put it this way, “House churches want to play church instead of being the church.”  Traditional churches pride themselves on their clergy-laity division, that they have leaders in place whereas it is assumed that house churches oppose any thought of a leader telling them what to do.

Well this is partly true.  First of all we hold that Jesus is the head of His Church.  As did the New Testament.  As do all evangelical churches.  Colossians 1:18 says, “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” (NASB).  Ephesians 1:22 echoes the same thought.  Jesus is the head of His Church.  Not a pastor.  Not a pope.  Not a priest.  Not any flesh but only Jesus is Lord over His Church.  Therefore it is true that we in the house church movement oppose someone telling disciples what to do or think since Jesus is the Lord of His Church.  We need to heed the words of Christ as found in the Scriptures above the creeds and confessions of human beings.  We believe that leaders in the church are not to lord it over others faith but be examples of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).

The ironic thing about reading the New Testament is that you find not a lot of information about leaders in the church.  Only one letter in the New Testament even addresses the leaders from the outset and that is Philippians (1:1).  All of the New Testament letters are addressed to the saints when it would be assumed by modern traditional churches that leaders would first be addressed since the professional clergy set the tone for the local church.  The clergy set the agenda, the vision, the purpose, etc. for the local church.  This is not the case with the New Testament.

Leadership is addressed in the New Testament.  Jesus spoke about leadership in Matthew 20:20-28 but He contrasts the worldly leadership that the Jews had seen with true servant leadership that He called for and demonstrated with His life and death (Mark 10:45).  Leadership is addressed in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.  Ephesians 4:11 speaks of gifted people who God gives the Church but for a reason: to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (vv. 12-16) and not to pay someone else to do the work of the ministry.  Leaders are mentioned in Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 1 Peter 5:1-4.  Elders are mentioned in James 5:14.  You’ll notice how important elders were to the New Testament Church.  What you will not find is the idea of one professional pastor serving over a church with a deacon board or a group of elders helping the pastor lead the church.  The word pastor appears only in our English Bibles in Ephesians 4:11 and the ESV correctly translates it “shepherds.”  Jesus is the true shepherd of the flock of God (John 10:1-16; 1 Peter 2:25; Hebrews 13:20).

So what does leadership look like in a house church then?  First of all, we have elders.  A biblical house church should have a plurality of elders (Titus 1:5) who lead the house church.  Their purpose is not to be over the people of God but among the people of God (1 Peter 5:2).  The elders are to fit the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  The elders are not professional Christians although they could receive some money as a gift from time to time (1 Timothy 5:17-18).  No where does the New Testament call elders to abandon the “secular” for the “ministry.”  Elders are to lead by example and not as professionals who dominate the local church life (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Secondly, leadership in the local house church is often consensus based.  In Acts 13:1-3 we see the Holy Spirit leading the church in Antioch and He does so through the people of God.  Notice that the people of God were seeking the Lord for Himself (v. 2) and it was during this time that the Spirit called Barnabas and Saul for a specific work (in this case to be apostles or sent ones; see verse 4).  The church didn’t quickly say okay but again they fasted and prayed to come to a consensus about this call.

In Acts 15 we find another example of consensus.  Here the church meets to debate the relationship between the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ.  The church comes to a consensus after much debate (Acts 15:22).

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is another example.  Here Paul is addressing an issue among the Corinthians about head coverings.  His point throughout these verses is that the church needs to come to consensus over this issue as he states in verse 16.

What this looks like on a practical level is that house churches often move slowly.  Unlike the traditional churches who vote on issues all the time and are building buildings and doing this or that, house churches are slow to act and instead seek God for His wisdom, to study Scripture, and to come to a consensus over issues.  Some issues are quickly solved while others must be handled with much prayer and wisdom from the Lord.  Keep this in mind, however, that Jesus is the Lord of His Church and He is faithful to His Church.  We need only to wait on Him and obey all that He has taught us (Matthew 28:20).  No matter the issue, Jesus should be the main focus and His glory is to our aim.

Lastly, the priesthood of the believers is vital to the local house church.  Each person can study the Scriptures and can speak for God (1 Peter 4:10-11).  All of us are called by God to glorify His name and to proclaim Him.  All of us can hear from God in His Word (John 8:47).  All of us have the Spirit of God living within us (Romans 8:9) and all of us can be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and He is able to speak through us.  We should be open to all disciples of Jesus sharing from the Scriptures or giving a teaching since we are all priests unto the Lord (1 Peter 2:4-11) and all of us can give input into the kingdom of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Elders are not to be the only ones teaching the Bible.  Elders certainly are to keep the house church sound doctrinally (Titus 1:9; 2:1) but elders are not to dominate the house church meetings.

Leadership in the house church is important and should not be rejected.  God raises up elders to glorify His name through their passion and examples.  Elders are not to dominate the people of God nor are elders to be professional Christians but they are to serve as servant leaders of God’s saints.  We need godly leadership in the local church but what we don’t need is more of the CEO-type leadership that we find in the traditional churches.  Only Jesus is truly head of His Church.  Let us exalt Him for His leaders while He Himself is our true leader.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/28/2012 at 12:07 AM

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