PART 1 ABUSE OF TRUST
PART 1 ABUSE OF TRUST
Writing about the topic of “Abuse Of Trust”, I thought about how some readers might find it boring, perhaps thinking that a topic such as “Being More Than a Conqueror” or “I Can Do All Things through Christ” would be more appealing. However, I believe that you will find this study very interesting.
Many church goers who attend a gathering of the saints, wherever it may be, use it as a time to socialize, hear the message, and then go home. For others, it is just one of many engagements they have chosen to participate in along with group prayer, visitation, taking classes, etc. Usually, getting involved on a consistent basis in such church activities is encouraged, and sometimes mandated. But, there is a big difference between encouragement versus mandate in terms of involvement, and the leadership model that is embraced by the theology of the believer’s church undoubtedly determines these differences in approach.
Why is this important?
It is because the leadership model will indicate the relationship between those in authority and those who are not. The reason one should be aware of the leadership model you are participating in is that it has everything to do with your walk with God, the goal or objective of which should be to become conformed to the image of God’s Son.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29
Such conformity relates to a process known as sanctification, whereby the saint is transformed to resemble the Lord Jesus. How does this take place? The leadership model will determine the manner in which it happens, and we will examine two leadership models in this study.
The first I will call the mandated leadership model, in which those in the hierarchy make all decisions that, according to them, are for the benefit of the attendees. It is expected that teachings from the pulpit be received as truth, and responded to as such. There is little or no dialogue between the hierarchy and the attendees in regards to church theology, church decisions, church behavior, church participation, etc. This model is especially desirable for those attendees who need others to make decisions for them concerning their spiritual walk. Everything about what a believer needs to do in order to please the hierarchy, and subsequently please God, and receive favor for entrance into heaven upon physical death is clearly delineated by those in leadership.
I will call the second leadership model the tested leadership model, in which input is encouraged from the attendees relating to church theology, church functions, church participation, etc. All of the assembly is expected to examine whatever is taught from the pulpit.
I would like to first provide sections of scripture that serve as the foundational basis for each model, and you might ask, “For what purposes?” I believe that each member of an assembly should be able to distinguish between these two leadership models for themselves, and scripture should assist them in determining which one would be more beneficial in their progression toward the goal of their walk with God, i.e. to be conformed to the image of His Son. Sections of scripture will first unveil characteristics or perspectives of the mandated leadership model. Then we will look at these same characteristics or perspectives from the tested leadership model in order to see if this model would generate the same characteristics or perspectives. And finally, near the end of the study we will attempt to address the question, “Are those who are in the leadership positions in the church above reproach in their teachings and conduct?” Enjoy.
SCRIPTURES SERVING AS THE FOUNDATIONAL BASIS FOR THE MANDATED LEADERSHIP MODEL, PART I
To review, in the mandated leadership model all decisions are made by those in the hierarchy that believe they are for the benefit of the attendees, who are expected to receive and respond to whatever is taught from the pulpit as truth. There is little or no dialogue between the hierarchy and the attendees in regard to church theology, church decisions, church behavior, church participation, etc. This model is especially desirable for those attendees who need others to make decisions for them concerning their spiritual walk. Everything about what a believer needs to do in order to please the hierarchy, and subsequently please God and receive favor for entrance into heaven upon physical death is clearly delineated by those in leadership. So, let’s begin by looking at various scripture sections, which will generate some of the characteristics of the mandated leadership model.
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush:
Suggested Reading: Exodus 1:1:15-16; Exodus 3:1-4:12
The background to this story is taken from Exodus 1:1, 15-16. Jacob’s son, Joseph, was food commissioner of Egypt. During a period of famine, Joseph’s family was allowed to come to Egypt and dwell in the land of Goshen. While there, the Israelites increased in population. Later, a new king of Egypt, Seti 1, tried to reduce their number (population) by using them as public slaves who were employed in the construction of various buildings. This did not produce the desired effect so another method was tried.
Hebrew midwives were told to kill any Hebrew sons who were in their care; but this edict was not rigidly enforced, so Pharaoh decided to make a new edict, which stated that the civil authorities were to cast any Hebrew male child that they found into the Nile River. During this time, Moses was born. His mother, aware of this edict, placed him in the Nile River in a floating device, knowing that it was in the vicinity where Pharaoh’s daughter would come and wash herself. Pharaoh’s daughter did discover the child, hired a midwife to care for him, and when the time was right brought him to the royal palace as the adopted son of the princess.
Some believe that Moses’ first 20 years of life was enveloped with education, and his subsequent 20 years were spent in military service. At age 40, he witnessed the oppression and bondage of his people and on one occasion, observed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Moses avenged the man by killing the Egyptian. Subsequently, Ramses II, the new Pharaoh was made aware of this crime and sought to slay Moses, but Moses fled from Egypt to Midian and remained there for 40 years.
According to Exodus 3:1-4:12, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep in Midian when suddenly he saw a burning bush and heard a voice calling him. This voice was that of the angel of the Lord.
2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
The angel told him that He had seen the affliction of His people and would like him to bring them out from their slavery in Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. In order for this to happen, he would need to go to Pharaoh and ask for a release of three days so that they could go into the wilderness and sacrifice to their God.
10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
18 …unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
The angel also instructed Moses to go before the elders of the children of Israel and convey to them His name, His mission, and His plan for deliverance.
16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them…
These verses, along with many others in the Old Testament, convey to us this characteristic of the mandated leadership model.
Mandated Leadership Model Characteristic
Those who are in the leadership positions in the New Testament church have the same authority as Moses did. As Moses heard the words that he would convey to Pharaoh and to the elders of Israel directly from God, so do the leaders of the New Testament church receive instruction directly from God by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This infers that the assembly should receive whatever those in leadership convey to them by means of teaching as being God’s words, whereby obedience to them is to be followed without hesitation. (Exodus 3:1-4:12)
Is this surprising? I think many churchgoers are ignorant about why the leadership of their church believes as they do. The more informed we are the better able are we to recognize the why behind what is taught. And so, the next characteristic that we will look at is derived from the book of Numbers.
Korah and his men:
Suggested Reading: Numbers 16:1-49
Korah, a Levite, the son of Izhar, the brother of Amram and an ancestor of Moses and Aaron, came before Moses along with 250 men, complaining that the office of the high priesthood should be made available to the entire congregation. According to them, Moses had no right to bestow the priesthood to Aaron and his sons. Moses responded by saying that this decision was the Lord’s, and was not made from his own mind.
And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also? Numbers 16:8-10
When the Israelites left Egypt, they still observed the ancient manner of worship, which meant the eldest son of each house, inherited the priest's office. At Mount Sinai, the first change in this ancient practice was made. A hereditary priesthood in the family of Aaron was then instituted.
And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. Exodus 28:1
Korah and his men also questioned Moses’ authority over them, believing that he was a self-appointed ruler.
Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us? Numbers 16:13
Moses told Korah and his men to meet him the following day before the door of the tabernacle of the Lord. When they arrived, Moses told the congregation to separate themselves from Korah and his men, advising them that if what Korah and his men had said was true, then no harm will come to them, but if untrue, God would consume them.
And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. Numbers 16:28-30
As soon as Moses was finished speaking, the ground opened up and consumed Korah and his men.
And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. Numbers 16:32-33
When the rest of the congregation saw what happened they fled in fear. On the following day, they approached Moses and complained about the death of their brethren.
But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord. Numbers 16:41
In response to the people’s complaints, the Lord sent a plague among them. Moses instructed Aaron to make atonement to the Lord in order to prevent the plague from continuing. Aaron took a censer, put fire in it from the altar, added incense and then ran into the midst of the congregation with it, but not before fourteen thousand seven hundred of them had perished.
And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. Numbers 16:46-47
Mandated Leadership Model Characteristic
Leaders are not to be criticized or questioned. If they are in error doctrinally and, subsequently, in the decisions they make, then God will deal with them directly. This view allows those in leadership to promulgate doctrinal views and make subsequent decisions that are considered to be absolute, meaning that their teachings and decisions are God-sanctioned, and are not to be questioned. To disagree with the leadership is to not follow God’s man, and thus to not follow God. (Numbers 16:1-49) Remember, this is the perspective that the leadership has adopted in some churches, and moving forward, the next characteristic or perspective is found in the book of Joshua.
Whither the men went I wot not:
Suggested Reading: Joshua 2:1-24
The Lord had chosen Joshua to lead the Jews out of the wilderness by crossing the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, the land that God promised as an inheritance, which would become theirs through conquest. The first place that Joshua set out to conquer was Jericho. He sent two spies, who eventually stayed at the home of a prostitute named Rahab. It was probably their mission to obtain information about this fortress - its gates, fortified towers, military force, and the morale of its people1. The king of Jericho, somehow made aware of the Israelite spies, decided to send messengers to Rahab’s house in order to apprehend them. Aware that the two spies’ lives were in danger, she asked them to hide under the stalks of flax fibers on the roof, which were laid out in heaps to dry so that they could be woven into linen cloth.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
When the messengers of the king arrived at her house she told them the spies had already left, but it is obvious that she didn’t tell the truth.
5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
Some would say that the situation was such that lying or committing sin was the appropriate response. Therefore, because the result was beneficial (the saving of the spies’ lives), sin can be considered as an acceptable alternative to be committed by those in leadership as long as it promotes the kingdom of God. This view opens up all sorts of opportunity for those in leadership to make decisions that, while knowingly sinful, are considered tolerable because they promote their church while claiming that they are doing God’s will.
Mandated Leadership Model Characteristic
This characteristic is that of justifying sinful behavior as long as the intent of the actions is for the benefit of the kingdom of God. (Joshua 1:1-24)
So far, what do you think about these characteristics or perspectives? I won’t say that every church will formulate these same characteristics from these particular scriptures under the mandated leadership model, but some will, so we should be aware of how these scriptures can be used by those in leadership to justify their actions. It is incredulous to think that in some churches, known sinful actions by those in authority are purposely kept hidden from the assembly under the guise that such knowledge would cause more harm than good. It is also incredulous to think that when sinful behavior by those in leadership is uncovered, time and time again the congregation is told to forget about it because God will take care of it. I want to leave you with the following story.
In the late 70’s, I was working on staff for a particular branch ministry church. Each Wednesday, I would accompany the pastors on a trip to the headquarters for a day of: listening in studio to live radio; possibly watching a softball game; browsing the book store; sitting in on a Bible class; attending evening worship. Immediately following the worship, it was time to head home as the trip took about two hours. I was asked to drive the staff vehicle back to the branch ministry, which I was glad to do. Upon leaving the parking lot, we would usually take a right. However, as we were departing the head pastor said, “Take a left.” I did as he said, wondering why he would direct me this way. After traveling for about a half mile, he asked me to turn around. Again, in my mind, I am wondering what is going on?
Heading back to the parking lot where evening worship was just held, he told me to pull over. I did as he said. He got out of the car, proceeded down a hill, and entered a building. I asked the other pastors what was this building used for? They said that this was the girl’s dorm. I proceeded to get out of the car with the intent of going inside to make sure that nothing inappropriate was going on. They told me that if I attempted to go inside this building they would have to restrain me physically. I decided to stay put but, in hindsight, I should have gone ahead with my original intent.
Years later, this pastor who at the time had been married, got divorced. He left the ministry and decided to quit the pastorate. I can’t be sure if there was a connection to a possible indiscretion in the girl’s dorm and the decisions that were made later on in this pastor’s life in respect to his marriage and calling. I will probably never know whether anything inappropriate did occur. However, I regret to not having acted upon my initial sense.
Some might argue that it was none of my business what he was doing late at night in the girl’s dorm, but I think that there are times when a fellow believer projects an appearance of evil by the decisions they make. In this instance, I don’t believe that it was appropriate for any male pastor to enter into a girl’s dorm alone, especially late at night, and it’s interesting to think about the response by the other pastors who were there. They didn’t seem to have any reservation about this visit to the girl’s dorm. I wonder why. Did they already know something that I didn’t?
Would you agree that the type of leadership that was exhibited in this case indicates that this church operated under the mandatory leadership model? In the next chapter, we will look at more scripture sections that will generate more characteristics or perspectives of the mandatory leadership model.
1Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament, 2000, 01 Nov. 2014 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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