Thursday, January 21, 2010

Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement

For years much of my struggle with the institutional church has centered around leadership. I've always sensed something was wrong, but wasn't able to define or explain it biblically. In recent months, I've met wise Ephesians 4 leaders who understand why they're here...and they walk in their calling as "equippers"... not as "lords" of religious kingdoms. And some of those men have written insightful and encouraging articles and books that provide a true Kingdom perspective on leadership. One of those men is Dr. Steve Crosby.

I met Steve at a conference here in Charlotte back in September. And now I've finally gotten around to reading his excellent book, "Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement". Here's just a sample that I hope will prompt you to order the book and read it promptly. There's also a link at the bottom of this page to Amazon, where you can order your own copy.

The excerpt I'm sharing is from the chapter, "I Have It on Higher Authority?". Crosby tackles biblical illiteracy and the "pastor centered" system that characterizes way too many churches:

Unhealthy dependency on pulpit ministry promotes passivity in the hearer. Our job as leaders is to equip others to handle the Word of God accurately for themselves, not keep them dependent on our exegetical and pulpit abilities. Failure here opens the door to unhealthy co-dependencies and control. Insecure leaders and lazy saints, frankly, are content with the arrangement.

The leader's role is to work him or herself out of a job. We begin by interpreting the Word to new converts until we equip them with the tools to do it themselves. Then we need to get out of the way! So each Sunday morning activity is nothing more than the carnal thrill a pulpit minister gets from having a regularly captive audience in awe of his great revelation and oratorical skills. The spoon-fed congregation comes to be impressed by the latest cutting-edge revelation rather than being practically equipped to handle the Word of God themselves.

The highest function of the prophetic ministry is not to broker divine thought and understanding to others. The highest prophetic function is not telling others what you see. It is the ability to give (impart) to others the faculty of divine sight! Our call as leaders is to put the believer and the Lord into a hand-to-hand and face-to-face relationship, not keep them lapping at the trough of our biblical insights. If we are standing by, trying to arrange the fingers in the divine handshake, we are meddlesome controllers, transgressing the second tier of authority. Our authority as leaders does not extend to the eternal brokering of the Word of God to the believer.

First-generation, resurrection-witnessing, dead-raising, miracle-working apostles taught the Bereans, and they were commended for checking things out! If the first-century saints are thus commended, how much more should we, two thousand years later, do likewise? For some reason, professional ministry attracts insecure people like bees to honey. They mistakenly expect personal validation through the acclaim that can accompany pulpit ministry - the perceived admiration of others. However, their personal insecurity is threatened when instead of doe-eyed awe and admiration they are met with honest inquiry, examination, and questions presented in a right spirit.

When emphasis on honoring leadership (and it frequently is over-emphasized) combines with a celebrity spirit that accompanies any form of success in an American paradigm, leaders begin to believe their own press reports about how wonderful they are. A subtle spirit of "immunity" creeps in. Woe to the leader who dismisses every honest inquiry as either beneath his dignity to address, or who attributes it to disloyal, dishonoring, rebellious, deceived saints who just need to submit. Leaders owe it to God's flock to fully equip them to handle the Word accurately for themselves and to honestly answer any question given in a right spirit. Insecure leaders are intimidated by inquiring minds larger than their own. Inquiry is not subversion.

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