In the Spring of 2012, we moved from a rental apartment in Charlottesville, Virginia to a rental house about 10 miles outside of Charlottesville. As part of this move, we decided to look around for a new church closer to our new location. Just after we completed the move, I was praying one day and asking the Lord what I should be doing. This is a semi-regular habit of mine to ask the Lord directly what I should consider being involved in. In the past, this has opened some new doors of activity and also brought some activities to a close.
At this juncture, I heard the still small voice of the Lord speak to my heart saying “study to show yourself approved”. I knew that was part of a verse, so I looked it up.
15 Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, a worker having no need to be ashamed, guiding the word of truth along a straight path.2 Timothy 2:15 (LEB)
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV 1900)
Initially, I did not understand what the Lord was saying to me. So, I asked. “What am I supposed to study?” My thoughts were guided to a topical area related to leadership and their practices in the church. By way of birth, I grew up in a church that was different than what most people in America experience. There were a number of groups that sprung up during the time of the Jesus Movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s. My parents belonged to one of them. This particular group had a lot of issues over time. There were other similar groups that also had issues. Many of the issues revolved around the leadership and its practices in these groups. My family was affected by this group. I was fortunate that my parents left the group before I reached an age that it would have affected me even more.
One of the effects of my family’s involvement in this group is that I ended up with a perspective on christian leadership that was not favorable. By the point in time that the Lord was leading me to “study to show myself approved” regarding the subject of leadership, my view of leadership had already changed quite a bit. I had been involved in some church settings and interacted with some church leaders. I had realized that most church leaders are very good people and very well intended. They were working diligently to fulfill the call that they believed God had on their life. In some cases, it was evident that they were fulfilling this call. However, they were also in a culture and process of church which isn’t healthy and most of this centers around issues related to how each believer understands their role and responsibility in the Body of Christ.
As I considered what I knew about leaders and leadership in the church, I realized that I had never thoroughly studied it in the Word of God. So, I knew that the Lord prompting me in this area was very valid. It has turned out to be very important as well.
There is a significant portion of the content of this site that is geared towards the subjects of leadership, authority, submission and obedience in the church. All of these items are interrelated. You can read more about these topics on the following pages:
For this testimonial timeline, I will share a few thoughts. I know my thoughts will bother some. I know what I am about to say is very strong. I will say that these thoughts most specifically apply to the American church in a broader generalized sense. However, I do understand that there are always exceptions and the intention of most leaders is very good. The following thoughts are born out of my study and God’s progressive revelation to me over time. One of the things that has added significantly to this progressive revelation is my involvement in what the Lord has been doing in Cuba. I have heard various reports of significant concern about the American church from missionaries who traveled from other countries to America in the past. I knew that they were looking at the American church from the outside and seeing problems. As the Lord involved me in the work in Cuba, my eyes began to open to better see the extent of the problem in the American church. In summary, it is bad at this stage from God’s point of view. (And, I will continue to reiterate that I see good intention everywhere I look).
- I believe that from God’s point of view there is a major issue with leadership in the church, however there is shared responsibility with those who follow this leadership as well.
- The problems with leadership are a repeat of history. Even though I know it will be offensive to some, I believe that the best picture to understand the problem is from the Bible and seen through the Sadducees and Pharisees at the time of Jesus.
- Based on my study, the Pharisees and Sadducees also had very good intentions, but found themselves at odds with Jesus.
- There are many earmarks of the strategies of the Enemy of God in play in the American church. This means that that the Enemy has deceived many and assumed a level of control inside the church in America.
- I believe the underlying issue is related to the Headship of Jesus Christ in His Body. The leadership has overstepped the boundaries that God intended in the church, but in most cases, it has not been intentional. It is the work of the Enemy of God to deceive and mislead those in leadership to unintentionally subvert the Headship of Jesus Christ. The work of the Enemy has been to seduce leaders and congregants alike into a form of Christianity that is not what pleases God.
In my study, I found key verses in the Bible that I believe are mistranslated or misinterpreted. This is because the concepts of leadership in the church have had issues for as long as translations have happened. I believe that the fundamental understanding of each believer as it relates to their responsibility and authority to mature in Jesus Christ is not understood properly. I also believe that this is one of the hardest topics in the Bible to understand properly. There are so many things related to leadership that are not spelled out clearly in Scripture. It requires significant interpretation (layer upon layer), so it is open to misinterpretation and deception without a good guide. This is also true of some other subjects in the Bible.
One might think that the Bible should be clearer and more specific on such and important subject. Well, it is NOT. I believe this is completely intentional on God’s part. I do not believe that God ever intended for the Bible to be something that could be applied by believers separate from a living, active relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Bible is essential, but it must be used together with a relationship with God. If the Bible is used separate from a relationship with God, it can become a tool of the Enemy of God. The same is true of trying to have a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit without properly using the Word of God. There are many examples in history and present time that make this plain and obvious to see for anyone who studies christian history and current christian groups who have gone awry.
Through this study, I have realized that the topics of leadership, authority, submission and obedience are one key to understanding where the American church is today. I do not advocate for a specific approach or propose a new practice. Rather, I call for repentance and returning to Jesus Christ as the Head of the Body of Christ in a way that has not happened in my lifetime. I call for repentance of subverting His leadership and participating in the construction of conceptual idols in the forms of methods, practices and emphasized teachings used as “marketing” tools and “systems of control” used by various churches.
At the same time, I do not think churches should shut their doors or go away. There needs to be a fresh and real repentance for the unintentional mistake of controlling the members of the Body of Christ under systems of leadership that blocks the maturing process of each believer. There also needs to be a fresh and real repentance on the part of congregants for not taking up their responsibility and authority as members in full standing in the Body of Christ. One party is taking too much responsibility and the other party is not taking enough. I emphasize the unintentional nature of these mistake. In all the cases I have seen the desire is quite the opposite, but the good intention is not good enough.
The problems I have seen go beyond one lifetime. They started before I was born. They come from the most subtle deceiver of all time (Satan himself). They have gotten worse over time.
I ask the Lord to provide deliverance from the snare of the Devil! I believe this has to come from the throne of Heaven! I do believe it is coming and may have already started. I can only pray that those who are currently in leadership can have the humility to respond like Nicodemus (John 3). I pray for a willingness to have a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ and to repent for something leaders never intended to do, but have been made party to through a multi-generational problem in the church. I also pray for new teaching for congregants to understand the gap between how they have operated up until now and what Jesus Christ expects of them in the Body of Christ.