There are a few introductory posts for this site. Please take the time to read each of them:
- This Introduction Post
- Brief Story of Laymans Fellowship
- Fred Malir’s Blog – these writings were significantly distributed and read throughout Cuba in the form of small books. They are reproduced here as blog posts with permission of Fred Malir.
- A. Laymans Feed – these writings capture a series of key verses and other subjects starting in 2004 to the present. This includes key reports from a significant evangelism efforts in Cuba.
Before going further please take some time to read the remainder of this introduction. It is long, but important to set the tone for what is presented on this site for the difficult and problematic subject of leadership, authority, submission and obedience in the Body of Christ.
I do not believe I have a perfect view of the topics related to leadership, authority, submission and obedience. I am not writing my view down for others to understand my point of view and suddenly agree with me. What I am doing is writing down what I have understood so far with an understanding that I have not “arrived”. I am still looking through the fog and cannot see with full clarity. It is not my goal to reach 100% clarity of sight. It is my goal to learn, apply -> share, apply -> be corrected, apply -> and press forward with the Lord Jesus Christ in my life according to what the good works He has prepared for me in advance.
I do believe I have some significant insights that have been shaped by my walk with the Lord (as led by the Holy Spirit) and through reading and study of the Word of God.
I also believe that some of what is taught and practiced in today’s churches is somewhere between slightly off to significantly off.
Note: I always assume that NO ONE will get it fully right, so I would never say “somewhere between significantly off to on track”.
Appeal to the Body of Christ
A key purpose of this site is to make an appeal to the Body of Christ. The appeal is to both leadership and congregants (aka clergy and laity).
The essence of the appeal can be summed up in one sentence:
- In our hearts, minds and actions, let us properly acknowledge and relate to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as the Head of the Body of Christ.
If it is not obvious, let me point out the clear connection to the topic at hand. If each believer in the Body of Christ is relating to Jesus Christ as the Head, then the Body will come into full function and the relational balance that the Lord wants between those who are specially gifted (apostles, prophets, teachers, etc) and others will emerge.
There will be some who will react to my statement… “Well, he is the Head of the Body of Christ, the Bible says so.” This is true, but our Lord and Savior does not force his headship. He is the head, but He is also a servant to each of us. If we ignore His service to us and fail to return our service to Him, then we are individually and collectively failing to treat Him as the Head. He doesn’t force us to serve Him, so we have to make a choice as to how and to what extent we will serve Him.
Leadership and Authority in the Body of Christ
If you have had any exposure to just about any kind of local congregation or body of believers that is any form of organized fellowship then you have surely experienced some form of authority structure set in place to govern over those gathering together in the name of Jesus Christ.
The local congregation is one of multiple spheres within which the issues of power and authority must be dealt with because the local congregation involves the organization of people in a group setting and how they will relate to one another.
Our understanding how authority works in the Body of Christ and how it should operate is a central issue in local congregations that has a fundamental impact on each believer’s christian life.
What you believe about this topic does, in fact, fundamentally alter your christian experience. In most cases (which probably includes you), your growth in the Lord is affected (stunted or promoted) by your belief about how authority works in the Body of Christ. If this is not obvious to you, read on and discover why.
It is a topic that is loaded with assumptions. How power and authority in the Body of Christ is handled has been built up and torn down in various ways throughout the course of Christian history. Every group (denominational, non-denominational, trans-denominational, protestant, catholic, orthodox) has grappled with the issues surrounding authority in the local church setting and has resolved it to some set of practices that set the boundaries on what experiences are more or less likely to occur within each particular group setting.
- Catholic Church has “THE” delegate authority (vicar of Christ on earth) as the head of a hierarchical organization that spans the globe
- Eastern Orthodox Churches have a patriarch’s over each subdivision (Greek, Russian, Serbian, etc) of the Orthodox branch of Christianity
- Protestant Christianity has various flavors of delegate authority structures from those that appear and/or operate very similarly to the Catholic Church to those where a small congregation operates completely autonomously from any kind of network or affiliation.
Even with the completely autonomous congregations, the issues of authority always surface and end up being addressed at some level by each group.
Various other spheres of our lives have been used to support all different forms of authority structures in local churches. The main ones being:
- Government / Political Theories
Within each group, it always boils down to who or what wields authority from God? (i.e. who holds the delegate authority). For the purpose of this writing, we do not assume that it always boils down to a single person being in control. In various settings it is a group of individuals operating in a well-defined structure where appropriate measures have been taken to ensure a balance of power is maintained. It may also be some form of constitutional governance that is administrated by a collection of people which can continue beyond the boundaries of any single generation of believers.
In finishing our introduction to this topic, let us be clear that how each group resolves its understanding of delegate authority has no impact on God himself. God is no respecter of men (Romans 2:11). God does not operate with respect to any man-made or agreed upon boundaries. God operates on his own and in coordination with those who pursue His will. This includes operating inside, outside, alongside, through and across any of these organizational constructs of authority established by the agreement of men.
A Subject of Many Pitfalls
This topic is full of pitfalls. We must make many clarifications.
If I am to be successful in my entreaty to the Body of Christ, I need to accomplish several things together
- Affect existing concepts of leadership and involvement in church
- Build up a better and/or more refined understanding of church leadership, authority and submission in each believer
- Counterbalance the fleshly tendencies of “being right” by emphasizing the need for “obedient service” by all believers (this is probably impossible for me to do)
A Word to All Readers
There has existed an ongoing kind of divide between leaders (aka “clergy”) and congregants (aka “laity” or “laypersons”) throughout history in the Body of Christ. It has, at times, been an intentional divide (as seen historically in the Catholic church) and at other times an unintentional one (as seen in recent post-modern small group gatherings). There are various forces that can produce and solidify this divide, but it almost always emerges. In some cases, it happens by intention. In other cases, it occurs even if there are attempts to prevent it. Practically speaking, it is almost impossible to stop. When the desire to stop this divide between “leading ones” and “other congregants” is emphasized it can grow into an idol that is not under the headship of Christ.
It is the hope that a full digestion of the content of this writing coupled with ongoing maturity in Christ will lead to a narrowing of this divide in the hearts and minds of both leaders and congregants alike.
Think of it as leaders stepping downward while congregants step upward. Optimally, the two could meet together in a place where all are functioning according to their gifting from the Holy Spirit. This does nothing to harm the gifting that is given to ones currently leading in the Body of Christ, but empowers the congregants to grow and to be environmentally positioned for growth. It also can prevent the burnout phases that are commonly seen and experienced by those recognized as leaders in church gatherings.
To help convey this idea a bit further consider this “word picture”. The word leadership and fellowship both contain “ship”. Think of fellowship as what we all have in common through Christ. Leadership is not held in common. It has some separation. So, it is a separate ship that we will call the “Leader Ship”. Leaders are also part of the “fellowship”. Think of this as a ship called the “Fellow Ship”. So, we have two ships, the “Leader Ship” and the “Fellow Ship”. The leaders can go back and forth between the ships, but the congregants stay in the “Fellow Ship”. Using this analogy, think about how hard it is to transfer people between ships while out on the water. It is not easy at all. It is quite difficult. So, you end up finding that each leaders stay in their ship (The Leader Ship) and the congregants stay in their ship (The Fellow Ship) because of the difficulty of moving back and forth. These two ships are also sailing separately and all their activities must be coordinated across a divide.
With this picture in mind, let’s make a change. Let’s introduce a different type of ship. Consider a catamaran. Two hulls are tied together and a permanent platform is built between them where all the people exist together. Now, let’s rename our two ships from before. Now we have “The Leader Hull” and “The Fellow Hull”. They are two separate hulls that could be the basis of two separate ships, but they are One Ship. The people on this ship can move back and forth without as much effort. Additionally, all the activities can be coordinated without having to always consider the divide between them.
This is just a word picture to introduce a different idea. This picture doesn’t imply that leadership doesn’t exist. It suggests a different relationship of believers to the ideas of leaders vs. congregants. This word picture isn’t scripture, just food for thought.
A Word to Rebellious Ones (Me Included)
I should probably leave this portion under the part titled “A Word to All Readers” because we are all rebellious. I’m not calling anyone a rebel. However, it is important to realize that we can be rebellious without being labeled a rebel. Each one of us fights against the will of God even if we say we are desirous and trying to be right in the center of His will for our lives. Our sinful nature positions us into a rebellious status and we act on this sinful nature when we are not walking in obedience to Christ.
Sadly, I must admit, I have acted on this rebellious nature many times. However, I must also admit, that I have learned how to submit properly to authority in my life. I’m not claiming perfection, but substantial progress compared to earlier times in my life. This has taught me a great number of things and I have come to understand that my proper and appropriate submission is one of the biggest keys to having a full relationship with Jesus Christ and the rest of the Body of Christ.
Why is this important in introduction to this site? It is essential to point out our naturally rebellious nature because the content of this site can be used to foment rebellion and cause further division in the already divided Body of Christ. I fully realize this and I put this information forward with the full knowledge that some will misuse it. To those who would do this, I will strongly encourage and implore you to find a better way to address your concerns.
- Address your part of the problem first… Don’t try to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye when you have a log firmly planted in your own eye. Be sure to realize that you probably don’t see the log in your own eye. You are probably blind to it, so walk humbly in engaging these subjects of leadership, authority, submission and obedience.
- Make sure it is your place to address any areas of issue related to leadership in the church… I have been instructed by the Lord through various situations in my life and the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit to stay out of situations even though I was seeing a problem and felt I might be able to help with the situation. I have learned to ask the Lord, “Should I be involved in that?” and then make sure I am supposed to be involved before I go messing with something that is none of my business.
- Realize that God’s way is the way of love, not contention… This does not mean false peace or a lack of significant engagement on issues where there is disagreement.
- Important: Love does not fail to discipline when it is needed. God disciplines those whom He loves, but this is not at the start of a problem on our part but after many cycles of error.
After numerous years of a more rebellious spirit and approach, the Lord slowly but surely led me to begin to submit properly to various authorities in my life. This was a trying process for me, but also very instructive. As I learned to properly submit and to continue adjusting my attitude and mindset the Lord began showing me that the approach to dealing with these kinds of problems is governed by love and requires a high degree of humility. I’m not naturally a loving or humble person, so this has been a difficult thing for me to learn. In fact, both of these attributes have to come from God through me because I was not naturally blessed with either of them.
In closing, the reader should be cautioned. One of the basic goals of the Christian walk is to learn how to appropriately submit to all authorities in their lives. Don’t misunderstand what is meant here. Our submission to authorities should only be done to the level prescribed and expected by God. You have to learn quite a bit to come to a full realization of what level of submission you should have to each authority in your life. If we improperly submit to someone who claims authority, but doesn’t actually have it then both the one improperly wielding this authority and the one coming under this improper authority are harmed and abused by the Enemy of God. If we fail to submit to proper authority, we are actually going against God himself and He loves us and is faithful to discipline us when we get into this situation repeatedly.
The Christian walk is more about relational correctness than it is about conceptual correctness. This means that in addressing any issues related to leadership, we are to attempt with a proper heart towards God to preserve our relationships sometimes even at the expense of dropping our “correctness” on non-essential matters of faith. Many (me included) lead with our conceptual correctness and expect our relationships to fall in line with our concepts. I have learned that it is the other way around.
Using material from this site to prove your correctness on any particular matter while not also working to preserve your relationships in the Lord whenever possible (and yes, sometimes it is not possible) is not the intent of this author and I implore you not to do it. I can’t stop you from doing it. I can simply ask and hope you will respect my request.
A Word to Leaders
First of all, I consider you to be a leader if you have been gifted by the Holy Spirit as an apostle*, prophet, evangelist, shepherd or teacher.
* Many believe that the gifting of those as apostles ended near the beginning of the church age. I don’t see any reason that this gifting had to stop, but I leave this to God to know. I do believe the original 12 apostles were unique because see them in the foundation of the new Jerusalem, but I don’t see clear Biblical evidence to rule out the possibility of this function still being given as a gift to the Body. Additionally, as I have studied Paul and how he conducted himself in relation to this gifting I can see how it is a useful gifting throughout the course of church history. Most people don’t realize how Paul conducted himself because they assume too many things from how the church works in this day and age.
There are many other “titles” which are present in various church organizational constructs. I am not sure it is possible to exclude you from this section but I prefer to view you according to your function and gifting rather than by title.
Note: The role of elders and deacons are not mentioned here, but are also part of leadership in the Body of Christ that the Bible addresses.
It will become very obvious as you read this that I am sincerely addressing (not upbraiding or scoffing at) many concepts held by many leaders in the Body of Christ. It is likely that there will very few leaders who will read this and easily agree with my view. I hope you will take the time to prayerfully consider what I present. I am a studious type of person who can see many sides of the same situation. I am going to present a clear viewpoint while acknowledging that other views exist. I will stick to my view because in the realm of authorship on the subject of Christian leadership and authority the views I am presenting are under represented.
To give you some personal insight, you should know that this writing is born from a full life set on a path by God himself. This isn’t a boast. It’s a simple recognition which I feel led to share with the reader because I am not writing this out of a mental exercise, but from many years of growth in knowledge, wisdom and a transforming life of Christ in my being.
From birth, to severe damage under a very bad leadership structure, to progressive healing over decades, followed by experience with various kinds of leadership (some good, some bad) the content of this writing has been wrought into my life. I can testify that I have been taught what I know by the Spirit of God through both study of the Word and specific experiences which I believe have been clearly set in my path by God himself to promote my learning on this subject.
God has used a series of work settings followed by a series of Christian congregational settings to train me up to give witness to what I am about to present.
I can honestly testify that after many years of healing, I have maintained peaceful relationships with every leader in the Body of Christ whom I have encountered in a congregational setting where I participated as a congregant. This has remained true even when I have been witness to clear and significant mistakes that were later admitted to by the leaders in some of these groups.
It is my natural disposition to disagree with many of the constructs and concepts of leadership in the church settings which I have seen. It is not out of a desire for overthrowing any form of leadership or a rebellious nature that I have various levels of disagreement. It is out of a search for God’s point of view on this very important subject and a desire to fully and functionally restore the headship of Christ in the Body of Christ. I don’t think we can do anything to change the absolute reality of His headship, but I do believe that Jesus Christ is such a servant to us and acts in such humility that when we disrespect his headship individually and in group settings he does not wield his authority as an overlord. He continues to love us and guide us towards respecting his position and authority as Head while enduring our misbehavior(s) which effectively leave us without a fully functional headship of Him among us.
I hope my authorship on this subject will come across as intended…an honest and legitimate investigation which deserves strong consideration before the Lord.
I appeal to you to prayerfully consider before the Lord what I am about to share for the sake of the Body of Christ with the hope that the full Body of Christ might come into its full function under the headship of Christ without any blockage or impedance due to the shortcomings of the fallen nature.
I have chosen to present the following:
- A set of “Persuasions” to a New Viewpoint on some key topics related to Leadership, Authority, Submission & Obedience in the church
- A set of “Defenses” against Other Viewpoints on some key topics where I have heard things taught which I believe do not match the Spirit and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ
- A set of Supporting Concepts which may help clarify how the Lord has led me to come to a different view on the subjects in this site
I have chosen to avoid the following:
- Offering any “Model” or “Remodeling” of church governance – this is because I desire that the living, loving, active Lord Jesus Christ be the head of you and among those who gather in the name of Jesus Christ with you. He is able to lead and guide you to how He wants you to function as a group.
A Word to Lay Persons
If what I have come to believe is true, then what you are about to read may set you free. At the same time it sets you free it brings to you additional responsibility as a brother or sister in Christ.
Previously in “A Word to All Readers”, I refer to a kind of divide between leadership and laypersons in local churches. Part of the responsibility for this divide lies with you, the layperson. Leaders can only serve within their God-given, Spirit-gifted function if you as a layperson play your role as well. In many (not all) Christian settings, it is very common for laypersons to leave all the labor of the church to the leadership. This isn’t right. This is harmful to them, harmful to your growth in Christ, and harmful to the overall function of the Body of Christ.
If you find that you agree with portions of this writing and that there is an imbalance in the Body of Christ between leadership and laypersons due to how authority is structured and how it operates in your congregation, then please know that there is an implicit exhortation to you to step more fully into your role as a brother in Christ, a holy priest (1 Pe 2:5) in a spiritual house of priests in spiritual service to our Lord and God.
Final Introductory Thoughts
What I have to share is difficult to present well and with the right spirit and tone. I pray the Lord gives me this ability. The topics I am addressing are of great interest to the Enemy of God and he has worked through many generations to keep the Body of Christ under deception regarding these issues. Even if my view is not fully correct, I know without a shadow of a doubt that full engagement on this subject done in the right spirit and with the right heart will further root out the deceptions of the Enemy of God in the Body of Christ. When light shines in the darkness cannot remain.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that addressing this subject in a good way leads towards a more powerful, active and mature Body of Christ. The adjustments needed to get there involve some changes that involve sacrifice by all parties. Leaders may appear to be a little lesser (this is only an appearance) and congregants may have to give up other things in their lives (idols) allowing them to step up into their role and responsibility in the Body of Christ. Both of these changes are hard for us as believers. As Paul says, we have to crucify the flesh and walk in the spirit. I will close by quoting a portion of Colossians 3.
Colossians 3:1-15 (LEB)
Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put Off the Old Behavior
Therefore put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustful passion, evil desire, and greediness, which is idolatry, because of which the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which also you once lived, when you used to live in them. But now you also lay aside all these things: anger, rage, wickedness, slander, abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, because you have taken off the old man together with his deeds, and have put on the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free, but Christ is all, and in all.
Appeal for New Behavior
Therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and dearly loved, put on affection, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, putting up with one another and forgiving one another. If anyone should have a complaint against anyone, just as also the Lord forgave you, thus also you do the same. And to all these things add love, which is the bond of perfection. And the peace of Christ must rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body, and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom, with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God, and everything whatever you do in word or in deed, giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus to God the Father through him.
Where to go next:
Blessings in Christ for TODAY!
— A. Layman