[This is a compilation of several posts on this blog centered around the subject of Church Structure. The first post was July 21, 2008. I have compiled them here because several folks have asked for it. Enjoy!]

The Error of Replacing Christ as the Head

Recently I had (and am still having a discussion with a friend) regarding a church’s governmental structure (By Laws) and the issues that are inconsistent with what I perceive the Lord is doing in His Church today. There were two major themes that caused me great concern, and I would like to discuss them here. These two issues are closely related because one error leads to the other. These two issues are:

  1. The error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head.
  2. Setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community.

In regards to the first, (the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head) this has been one of the major errors throughout the history of the Church. This has been a ploy of Satan throughout the ages from Cain and Able, to Babel, to choosing a king in Israel, to the desecration of the Temple.

Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God and the good news was that the King has arrived and his name is Jesus. We have no need for another king, another mediator, another leader that reigns supreme. When we ignore this reality in our church life and reduce the presence of Jesus to a faith statement at best we are robbing ourselves of what Jesus came to do. When we gather in His name He is really in our midst. He is not there figuratively, He is not there as a memory from the past or hope in the future – but He is there. Why is He there? He is there to administrate His authority as King. (Matt 18:18-20).

Why don’t we expect Jesus to administrate his supreme authority when we gather, or when we lead the affairs of a local church? Why do we look to men to replace or King? Why can’t we step aside and let Jesus be king and head of His Church? There are a few possible reasons, it could be unbelief, or lack of knowledge, or just plain lust for power to be in charge. This practice is a great sin. Our churches should resist everything the raises its head to replace the headship of our Lord and King Jesus. The only other head allowed in scripture is the husband being the head of his home, (Eph 5:22-24 – and that is in the context of explain Jesus as the head). Nowhere is there a mention of a man, regardless of his gifting, replacing Christ as the head of His Church.

Are we willing to structure our churches governments, meetings, ministries and activities with Jesus as Lord and King? Are we willing to have a relationship with him that is so real that we not only acknowledge his presence – but we expect him to preside? There is a desire in the body of Christ to have more intimacy with the Lord, to get a touch from the Lord, to have a visitation from the Lord both when we gather as well as in our hearts and lives. Is it possible that the reason these experienced are sometimes fleeting or at best for short seasons is because we refuse to submit to is lordship and plan our lives, our budgets, our ministries around the ideas of the “body” rather than the head?

What will it take to change? It first starts with me – how about you?

The Error of Creating a Class System in the Body of Christ

I started this discussion by relating to a conversation I am having regarding the development of a church’s governmental and leadership structure as prescribed by their By Laws. In my last post I discussed the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head. This leads us to the second error.  That error is setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. This leads to many problems within the Church and I would like to discuss of few of those here. This has been major error which is in direct relation to the first error previously discussed (The error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head).

The problem is rooted in the tendency that men (and women) want to be in power. Therefore, there must be an “us” (the clergy class) and  a “them” (the laity class). How does this happen? Sometimes they set themselves up as a separate category of disciple or class of believer. Then they proclaim that if you want to grow, if you want to mature, if you want to have gifting and even our degree of anointing, then you must allow us to govern, rule over you as your overseers. There are even claims of financial success, prosperous lives and good marriages if you remain submitted to this man or system. This cuts the believer off from the head who is Christ and replaces Christ with an elite class of clergy. We see that this happened historically and it originated in the Church out of Rome as well as the perversions of pagan practices of the Constantine era.

It does not matter if the church structure minimizes the titles and offices normally labeled as clergy. If they continue to set a group apart as being superior or closer to Christ because of their anointing or position the same erroneous practice is at play. The clergy laity system ignores the biblical pattern of a body and has established a hierarchal order based upon the professional and the non-professional Christian. There is no biblical precedent for this at all. This class system causes several errors and weaknesses in the body of Christ. I will be discussing in later posts six of these errors or weaknesses:

  • A misunderstanding of overseer
  • A misunderstanding of leadership
  • A misunderstanding of anointing
  • Ignoring the priesthood of all believers.
  • A departure from making disciples of Jesus Christ
  • The development of a separate entity other than the church of Jesus Christ

A Misunderstanding of Overseer

The first error or weakness of we see when a church is structured in a way that creates a clergy class or professional leadership class is that there is a misunderstanding of overseer.

An overseer is not a ruler but one who looks over the flock to protect her from wolves and to find places of safe “pasture.” It is not a controlling office setting policy and leading the affairs of the Church, but “looking over” the church (its members) and providing watch while the flock works (does the work of the ministry). Overseers do not rule, direct or control – they watch. It is a role of a servant seen in the background if seen at all. They are not the prominent ministers in the congregation, they are on the sidelines watching – overseeing. This is not a position at the top of a hierarchy, but a function of serving. It usually designates those in the congregation who were older and more experienced.

The Misunderstanding of Leadership

We have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer.

The second error or weakness is the Misunderstanding of Leadership. I am referring to leadership in the Kingdom of God and NOT business or the world’s leadership – these are not the same. A leader is to be a servant from the start. (Matt 20:26) He is not to climb is ladder to ascend to a position of high ranking and then attempt to humble himself as a leader. He is to be a servant – that is it. Servant and minister are basically the same word. If we serve, in the biblical context we do lead from that position of washing feet. Leadership is never ruling. This is reserved for Christ. Leadership is needed, but it is more like the skeletal structure of the body, not the skin. It is never the head. The skeleton is never to be seen. If you see someone’s skeleton they are either very sick or possibly dead. Biblical leadership is unseen and supports the ministry of the body. If all we see in the body is the leadership, then that congregation, denomination, or even fellowship of ministers is very sick and possibly dead!

The Misunderstanding of Anointing

So far we have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer and the misunderstanding of leadership.

The third area of error and weakness is the misunderstanding of anointing. There is no evidence in scripture that there are levels of anointing, but there are diversity of gifts. These gifts are determined by God, not man. The anointing we receive is Christ’s anointing in us (1 John 2:20-27) The Spirit of Christ is in us and leads us into all truth, teaches us, convicts us of sin and righteousness. It is not for the purpose of position other than the position that all believers have in Christ as priests and kings (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6, 5:9). Therefore all believers are equally anointed and destined to rule under Christ. The anointing should not determine position over others or to establish a clergy class based on that anointing. In regards to the diversity of gifts the New Testament teaches that we are not to judge or position ourselves based upon that gifting (1 Corinthians 12:14-26). We are a body and all members are equally important though some may have greater value based on the needs of the body at that time, but not based on the position of the individual.

Ignoring the Priesthood of All Believers

I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, and the misunderstanding of anointing.

The fourth area I would like to discuss is the practice of ignoring the priesthood of all believers. When it is clear that every believer has within him or her the spirit of Christ, and they are now priests and kings then to place them in a category of being lesser in the body of Christ is not only error but is an affront to the work of Christ’s grace and redemption. If someone does not allow another member of the body of Christ to function in the work of Christ on earth because they have not attained some degree of education, financial responsibility, joining an organization, or submission to an individual; they are ignoring what Jesus has done for them. They are ignoring the position in which cross brings them to in society by submitting to the King of kings. Every member of the body of Christ has the ability and the freedom to minister as the Lord has gifted them and instructed them. He is their head. He is the administrator of those gifts via the Holy Spirit. To not allow them to preach, serve communion, teach, pray, lead small groups, baptize and serve others based upon some qualifications beyond what scripture teaches is to ignore what Christ has done.

When this practice is done in the church, the members who are held back refrain from growing in Christ beyond those who are over them and their growth is stunted to the maturity level of their ruling class or clergy. The only way to break out of that cycle is be ambitious and practice carnal ways of advancement or to ignore the clergy class and possibly leave that congregation of Church group. This causes them to be labeled many times a rebel, when it is really the other way around.

A Departure from Making Disciples of Christ

When we discuss church structure, there is a tendency to get lost in the details of governmental theory and attempting to develop a way to control Christ’s Church. Up to this point I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. So far I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, the misunderstanding of anointing, and ignoring the priesthood of all believers.

The fifth area is the departure from making disciples of Christ. This error causes the members of a church to serve the system in which the clergy/professional leadership have erected and become a disciple of that system or individual rather than of Christ. Making disciples is at the core of the church’s purpose and the clergy laity divide has greatly hindered that purpose. This has led to denominationalism, sectarianism and the development of a clergy elite in the Church. The new apostolic movements or ministerial fellowships are not exempt, in fact many have fallen into the same trap, building kingdoms of men’s ministries rather than making disciples of Christ whose allegiance is to His Kingdom. Certainly the intention of many is not to forsake Christ and His Kingdom, but the structure and system in which they have designed and promoted leads to this error.

The Development of a Separate Entity Other Than the Church of Jesus Christ

If you build a house and it looks like a corn field – what is it? It’s a corn field! When we discuss church structure, we have what we build it to be. I have been discussing the error of replacing the headship of the church with a man rather than keeping Christ as the head and setting up a system that creates a class system within the body of Christ (laity and clergy) rather than allowing for each believer to develop/mature under the leading and lordship of Christ in community. I have talked about the error and weakness of misunderstanding what is an overseer, misunderstanding of leadership, the misunderstanding of anointing, and ignoring the priesthood of all believers and the departure from making disciples of Christ.

In this post I will be discussing the development of a separate entity other than the Church of Jesus Christ. The practice of establishing a clergy class leads the members to submit to another Christ. This could be a leader, a system, an organization or something other than Jesus. These churches are Christ’s in name only. They may have many valid believers in their ranks, but as an organization they serve another because they have pledged their allegiance to another (who is a member of the clergy) rather than to Christ. This can even happen in organizations who minimize the clergy system. If they establish a class of leadership such as their governing structure prescribes it is not far from the governmental structure of Roman Catholicism. The senior leader (pastor, overseer, apostle, director, CEO, president, superintendent etc.) is being the pope, the other leaders his ranks of bishops and clergy, and the members serve the church and the edict of the leadership rather than Christ. It wasn’t until almost the third century of the church that leaders became and official ruling class and this quickly led the Church into the Dark Ages in which we are still attempting to escape. There was always leadership, but never as an office. This practice was a reaction to the desire of Constantine to initiate the same system he saw in pagan religions. This was a system of priests, temples and sacrifice attempting to make Christianity acceptable to the masses as well as conducive to his system of control or leadership. He wanted to endorse this new religion, but in order for it to work under Rome’s rule it had to take on the characteristics of Rome and her pagan practices.

Conclusion to Church Structure

Let me conclude this series by saying that the comments I have made are not a judgment of individual’s relationship with Christ, but the practices in which I have described. I have participated on one level or another in all of the erroneous practices I have discussed in this series. While I was functioning this way I never thought I was in error. In fact I assumed I was doing things the right way. Could it be that we are many times blinded by the traditions of men and the status quo and never able to break out of the mold in which we were raised up in? I ask that you take a long look at your structure, systems, government and leadership development practices, discipleship tools and church membership training and analyze it to determine if Christ has been removed from the process; or are we even willing to go deeper and see if he has been removed from the head as our King, our Lord and our God.

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13 Responses to “Simple Church Structure”

  1. Sandra Says:

    Healthy and valid points to consider. Harder
    to implement due to oposition to changes that strenthen individual autonomy and places orientation of Christ’s principles
    rather than mans.

  2. oikoskrk Says:

    I wrote a 3 part blog series on “It Takes The Entire Crew”
    @ http://notesfromthebridge.wordpress.com
    It is all about EVERY member ministry.
    I enjoy your blog
    Love, Chris

  3. Duane Says:

    Good article. Some thought provoking points. I believe you are in error however when you state “overseers do not rule, direct, or control”. A pastor,elder, overseer, bishop certainly is responsible to direct the affairs of the church. 1 Tim 5:17.

    1. Andre Cilliers Says:

      GOOD ARTICLE! Should be prayerfully studied by ALL family members, each linking all the Scriptures relating to this. Then make sure all obey the Head of the Church,THAT
      is loving Him..


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