Saturday, July 17, 2004

Excerpts from

Jesus Versus The Eldership

by Dr. Norman Park

"Jesus and his apostles stand solidly in opposition to the modern-day authoritarian institution called "the eldership" in the Church of Christ. Unknown to early Christianity, this institution functions as a self-perpetuating, collective papacy. It is a sort of combination of the corporate board of directors and a Communist politburo. As a corporate board, it exercises total decision-making power, it asserts total administrative authority, and it claims total power to rule. As a politburo, it pursues a sleepless watchdog role over the church to maintain official orthodoxy. Results have been the destruction of congregational responsibility, reduction of members from participants to attendants, and the stifling of individual growth. This does not mean that the men who compose this latter-day papacy are bad men. As unquestioning prisoners of a closed-end orthodoxy concerning elders, which is no longer subject to examination, they are victims not unlike the many who suffer under the oppressive institution......

There were elders in the assemblies of the Lord established by the apostles but no "eldership." The former were older and spiritually mature persons who were primarily teachers and also leaders by example. The latter is a collective authoritarian institution devoted to ruling and decision-making. It has been demonstrated that Jesus, in building his church, did not create a power structure, and specifically denied the use of power to any of his disciples, saying, "It shall not be so among you." The modern eldership is a power-wielding body, arrogating to itself all decisions for the church, issuing excommunication bulls ("withdrawal of fellowship"), exercising total control over church property, declaring official orthodoxy, and practicing exclusive mastery over the church's money.......

The growth of legalism, which views the faith as a code of laws, has contributed to the growth of the eldership institution. Someone is needed to legislate, someone is needed to "watchdog" over the church to see that the code is followed, someone is needed to guard "dangerous" thinking, someone is needed to enforce uniformity--and that someone is the modern authoritarian eldership. The corporation culture has been absorbed into religious thinking. It holds that the few must rule, the many must serve. It has bred a wholesale distrust of the capabilities and potentialities of the ordinary pew occupant. The consequences of the eldership system are bad. First and foremost, it fails "to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the full measure of perfection found in Christ" (Eph. 4:12). In denying the congregation the experience of decision-making and the give-and-take of interpersonal relations involved in discussion, it promotes immaturity. People who never have the responsibility of facing group problems and applying intellectual and spiritual resources to their solution will remain spiritual children...."

For the complete article at Battered Sheep Minstry click here.

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