Should Human Leaders Issue Commands in God’s Church?

With more and more information becoming available online, it seems we have more and more opportunities to create a kind of eclectic faith – that is, a faith whose tenets are drawn from many sources, streams and philosophies – good or bad. This can engender a situation where no two Christians totally agree on all doctrines.

It is beyond dispute that God raised up special leaders in the Old Testament that God's peope were expected to obey. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and others clearly fell into this category. But what about in the New Testament? I would like to suggest that God raised up not only Apostles but also Elders (which we call "Pastors" today) to lead in church affairs. Deacons also probably had a sphere of authority in the organisation and operation of certain practical and financial matters in the church. I will show some examples below of people issuing commands in the New Testament. We ought to consider this, or the body of Christ may end up resembling a jellyfish or an amoeba more than a human body.

There have been many situations where church people have not been good followers and have resisted the God-given oversight that they are supposed to follow – often for bad reasons that are only partially true. On the other hand, some church leaders who are gifted and capable and in many ways good people have messed with people's destinies and discouraged and hurt them to the point where these sincere Christian people who have been hurt want nothing to do with any kind of church structure in which there are human leaders who give instructions to the congregation that they expect to be obeyed. So what is the Biblical picture we see in the New Testament?

We don't have all the information we would perhaps like and I heard someone say recently "there is no New Testament pattern for the church". However, there are things written that give us a few guidelines, and there are Scriptures which speak on this issue.

 

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—
 
 Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders,  AS I COMMANDED YOU.
 
So Paul commanded Titus, and gave him authority to set things in order in the church in Crete, and even to appoint elders (pastors).
 
How can you set anything in order if you don't have the God given right to tell people to change or leave? What if Titus encountered people who dared to say, "The Holy Spirit has led me to teach from house to house on the meaning of the names in the genealogies and the hidden meaning of the law"? Should Titus then defer to their alleged "spirit-led" ministry?
 
So Titus appointed elders, they didn't just happen naturally and he did it at Paul's COMMAND.
According to 1 Peter 5:1-4, Elders (in the biblical sense) are supposed to "shepherd the flock of God", "serving as overseers (translated in KJV as "bishops"). In other words, they are the pastors serving God and people in the local area. In the early church, they were appointed by apostles, people divinely enabled by God to start churches in new areas. These "apostles" – like Paul, Timothy and Titus, were not of the original 12 apostles of the Lamb that walked and talked with Jesus, but they were still men SENT OUT in the name of the Lord with divine authority to go and GET THINGS DONE in a certain area.
 
So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
 
Note that "they received a command".
 
Here are two more references to commanding:
 
"that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,"
 
"And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.

(2 Thessalonians 3:4)

 
Look at what the writer of Hebrews writes to all Christians for all time:
 
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
 
The Contemporary English version says it like this
 
17Obey your leaders and do what they say. They are watching over you, and they must answer to God. So don't make them sad as they do their work. Make them happy. Otherwise, they won't be able to help you at all.
 
I don't say that these Scriptures prove that certain people have the right to "lord it over" the people of God, but in the context of certain ministry activities, you can't just do as you think the Spirit of God pleases, you have to do what those people in authority over you tell you to do. Otherwise, you can't be part of that ministry.
 
In your personal or family life or your own ministry or other spheres, you are not necessarily subject to those same people in the same way. For leaders to insist on this easily crosses the line into the realm of "spiritual abuse".  I don't think pastors should be telling people they are not allowed move cities or change jobs – people should answer to GOD for those kinds of decisions. They may get out of God's perfect will or it might be God's perfect will. Its not for a pastor to command on these issues, in my view. It is horrible when pastors or religious leaders CURSE those who leave their flock and even in some cases try to break up their families. But if a person wants to stay connected in ministry with a certain leader, there may be further binding ties that should be considered and respected.
 
Elders and "apostles" (if you will) should not be using their authority in a domineering manner. This is what the apostle Peter had to say:
 
 1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly,[a] not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
 
There is a lot in this, but the main points I want to bring out are as follows:
 
1. God still wants human leadership to exist in the New Testament Church.
2. Such leaders should shepherd, guide, counsel, and supervise.
3. The people are entrusted by God to these leaders, and the leaders have to give account.
4. Elders and pastors are not supposed to acts as "lords" or little rock star gods over the people of God. They are supposed to be EXAMPLES. Pastors should be doing the things they exhort the people to do. Otherwise, they themselves are in disobedience to God.
 

What do YOU think?

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About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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