Who Leads the Body?

4 04 2008

Each body of Christ is an autonomous organism that must grow into full maturity (in fact the full stature of Christ Eph. 4). When the goal is maturity you cultivate and train the organism, but one thing that stunts organic growth is to subvert it’s will. Forcing children, for example, into a structure of concrete where they are given no responsibility for their own actions will cause them to exist in a continual state of immaturity. This makes leadership a very tricky proposition. How do you provide enough structure so the organism grows in the correct direction but not so much that growth is stifled?

Have you ever seen a tomato plant growing up into a three ring tomato stake, bursting with6757504.jpg life? This tool was designed to provide just enough structure to assist the organic growth of the tomato plant and strikes that perfect balance for that organism. So what is the correct balance for the body?

In our community, cultivating the soil is like the continuous discipleship training we engage in but I want to explore what the three rings of the tomato stake and what this assisting external structure looks like for us.

Lowest Ring – The Apostolic Team

Each body receives ministry and nurturing from the 5-fold members of the apostolic team (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) that planted the new work. And they release team members according to the specific needs of that organism. If major restructuring is going on an apostle (architect) will assist. When serious doctrinal questions arise we send a teacher. When relationships are strained we send a pastor. None of these gifts work INSIDE the organism. They are external. They equip the organism (Eph. 4) so that it can build itself up. But they do provide that bottom layer of the structure.

Middle Ring – The Elders

At the center of the organism, surrounding and protecting the body’s growth is a team of elders. Elders are never given the charge to proactively “lead”. They shepherd the body. The word elder during the first century was not exclusively a Christian term but referred to the guardians of a city that often were stationed at the gate guarding what goes in, releasing and resourcing what was sent out, and dealing with what the city needed to remain healthy and prosperous.

The Top Ring – The Holy Spirit

It is through the Holy Spirit that Christ takes up the headship of his Body. Christ is not a part of the structure; he is the Head of the organism, but he released the Holy Spirit into each member of the body as a way for us to know his heart and follow his direction. This requires each member of the body to have a deep and consistent relationship with Christ so that, through the continuos filling of the Holy Spirit, each part of the organism can be unified, walking in step with the direction of Christ.

Notice there is NO human head to Christ’s body. Who would dare take up such a position and supplant the headship of Christ? But we have a track record as humans of rejecting the direct leadership of God, preferring the security of a human head. Three times in God’s historic work to bring us back into our Edenic relationship, we have rejected his headship.

At Mt. Sinai God tries to speak directly to his people wanting to make them a “nation of Priests” (Ex. 19) and they beg Moses to go and talk to God and be their surrogate. Then God tried to train the next generations of Israel through judges who were like elders, not taking God’s headship but leading the people under God. But the people demanded a human king. So in sadness God tells Samuel, the final Judge of Israel, that it is not he, Samuel, who is being rejection but “they are rejecting me as their King.” And then the final and most surprising supplanting of God’s headship is happening in our day. Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was ripped so that all God’s children can enter into direct relationship with him, not through a priest, and become the “nation of priests” God wanted. But we, once again, demand a human head and train, ordain and pay people to be priests on our behalf.

And so Christ’s waits for the church, the body, his bride, to align herself underneath his headship once again. What will we do?

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