This is not as it should be. The church of God should not be a pyramid of power, with Jesus at the top and the great "leadership" just under him. What we have there is the mimicry of a system of oppression. Oh sure, as long as the "leaders" are benevolent, this might work ok. In fact, it might even be more expedient, and less chaotic that the alternatives. But it is not God's revealed way.
Now as this is a blog, not a treatise on the issues of leadership and structure, we will be approaching this subject with a bit of simplicity. I have found that of all my "weird" ideas, this one seems to get the most resistance. I believe this is because the structure of our entire life is based around the idea of top down, oppressive leadership and ministry. We are so stuck into this system that anything else seems incredibly subversive and wrong. That our deep involvement with the culture and structures of our day not only hold our imaginations hostage, but they seductively inspire our treatment of the scriptures. We do not see the truth, even though God lays it out before us so powerfully.
In order to grasp what I am talking about there must be a breaking of supernatural power upon our minds. We must be able to see how the powers that be use our marriage to these structures of hierarchy to not only keep us bound up, but to keep us supporting those structures that are outside of the church. We become upholders of evil, as we practice systems and structures that are in themselves the tools for the oppression of the entire world.
Like I said, I am going to keep it simple, I could go through the entirety of scriptures, and tear our systems to shreds, but I will instead just share two scriptures here, and if you need more, we can speak of that in the comments.
The first scripture I would share with you comes from the 1 book of Samuel chapter 8 7 The Lord told him, "Listen to everything the people are saying to you. You are not the one they have turned their backs on. I am the one they do not want as their king. 8 They are doing just as they have always done. They have deserted me and served other gods. They have done that from the time I brought them up out of Egypt until this very day. Now they are deserting you too.
The Lord goes on to explain how a king will tax them, take their sons and daughters into service and slavery, rule over them with an iron fist and make his own house great. Yet the people wanted a king so they could be like other nations. Now please hear this, to God this was rejection of Him. The rest of the scriptures speak of the horrible atrocities that accompany kingship, even a "good" king like David winds up in the midst of civil war, murdering a man and taking his wife, and practically destroying the nation all the while building up a huge monument to himself. The fact that God loved David, does not take away from the fact that God did not desire a king, in fact it shows that even with a man as good hearted as David, power corrupts.
The next scripture is repeated in the gospels, but lets look at Mark 10
James and John Ask a Favor of Jesus35 James and John came to Jesus. They were the sons of Zebedee. "Teacher," they said, "we would like to ask a favor of you." 36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right hand in your glorious kingdom. Let the other one sit at your left hand."
38 "You don't know what you're asking for," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup of suffering I drink? Or can you go through the baptism of suffering I must go through?"
39 "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink. And you will go through the baptism I go through. 40 But it is not for me to say who will sit at my right or left hand. These places belong to those they are prepared for."
41 The other ten disciples heard about it. They became angry at James and John.
42 Jesus called them together. He said, "You know about those who are rulers of the nations. They hold power over their people. Their high officials order them around. 43 Don't be like that. Instead, anyone who wants to be important among you must be your servant. 44 And anyone who wants to be first must be the slave of everyone. 45 Even the Son of Man did not come to be served. Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free."
The disciples John and James want to be at the top of the pyramid. The other disciples get mad, probably because they didn't think of it sooner. They understand the way leadership and power work in the world, and they would like to be at the top end of the pyramid. But Jesus explains that in his kingdom, things are not as they are in the world. The leaders are those that give up everything and serve others, not those that have authority. We in the church are called to a different understanding of structure and leadership. We are not to be a hierarchy, but a place that truly practices "the first shall be last and the last first"
Another problem with the church is our refusal to abandon the ways of empire in our structure. To elevate people, usually professionals into places of authority. For the incredible majority of people to give away their own power, their own responsibility to someone else. And what is very disturbing to me in this culture of consumerism, people pay others to live out their discipleship. One of the problems with the church is we have a structure that allows a dereliction of discipleship by the majority, and an acceptance of power and authority that is unbiblical by the leadership.
How this is remedied is by the first relinquishing their thrones and serving the last. By smaller groups, allowing, in fact requiring, that all share their gifts, their talents, their thoughts and practices. That once again all of the church becomes the reflection of God, and the dazzling presence of Jesus is found not at a service where the hierarchy is in full effect, but in the everyday life, where every single joint supplies.