Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Warning from Current Ministry Scandals (and, more importantly from Jesus)

“Don’t ever let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Master,’ for there is only one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:7–12 NLT)

““But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.””(Jeremiah 31:33–34 NLT)

The abolition of ranks among God’s people (Matt. 23:8–11) echoes one of the promises concerning Jeremiah’s new covenant (Jer. 31:33–34).  - Craig Blomberg, “Matthew,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Usually when the religious leaders addressed Jesus, they called Him Rabbi and they spoke of His followers as “Your disciples”. The Rabbi with his disciples was a cultural form easily recognized in the time of Jesus. Jesus walked and taught as many of the Rabbis did during His time. This was a normal course of things and the inner circle would expect to become rabbis themselves with their own followers. They were following, learning from Jesus and becoming like Him. Jesus had often spoken of the coming Kingdom and the disciples often thought about their place in it. Then Jesus gave this teaching. The disciples were not to become Rabbis or Masters or take any title. They would be part of a brotherhood in which all were equal. To the extent that they or anyone else exercised leadership it would be as a servant. The greatest leader, Jesus said, must be a servant of all.

Today two of my favorite bloggers - Dave Kraft and TJ Addington  wrote about two different situations (is scandal too strong a word?) regarding two different Christian leaders from two different eras. One of them, Bill Gothard has resigned from his leadership position. The other, Mark Driscoll has not, but there have been changes made in the leadership structure of Mars Hill Church.

I am not going to write about those situations here other than to make this one point: Ministries built around the personality of a strong leader are unbiblical and precarious. As Addington says, “We should be disciples of no man, but Jesus alone”.

When Paul saw this beginning to happen in the Corinthian Church, he corrected it immediately, “Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Can Christ be divided into pieces? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12–13 NLT)

In Matthew 28:18-20 we are called to engage in the wonderful process of discipling all nations, and Jesus is our model, but there is a subtle, and important difference: we are to make disciples, not of ourselves, but of Jesus. We are no longer to be called rabbi. If you find yourself in a ministry centered on a strong leader’s personality, I urge you to run, unless the leader’s Name is Jesus.

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