Reformation to true New Testament leadership, for ongoing revival
Pt 5 of 5
by Brett Jacobsen
This five part teaching series on reformed New Testament leadership is taken from Brett Jacobsen’s book Heaven's Underground Blueprint which is available here – http://www.christisall.org/hub-book.
Equippers of the saints
Every Christian who is sent, or set in place, functioning as a leader, is also qualified as an elder. It is these ones who are called and gifted to equip and mature the saints so they will do the work of the ministry. We will now take a brief look in Ephesians at their role in readying the believers:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting (katartismos – completing) of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying (oikodome – building an architectural structure) of the body of Christ: (Eph 4:11-12)
Paul lists five diverse gifts that are employed throughout the church, manifest in proven elders, to complete and fully furnish the saints, so that they themselves will do the work of the ministry. The equipped, maturing saints are the ones that God will build His body/temple through.
These five gifts that appear through men and women, will not only manifest and function as that gift, but will also be used to equip the believers to grow in that specific area. For instance, apostles should cause the saints to take on Christ’s apostolic nature, as pastors should grow the people in their pastoral service. I will give a short example of each gift as an equipping tool:
Apostolic equipping – As apostles are Christ foundation layers themselves, they are also called to rub off their gift and anointing on the saints so they too will pioneer and lay the foundation of Christ, in every day life. They should also manifest a fatherly nature that the saints can imbibe.
Prophetic equipping – Prophets are foundation ministers as well, focusing more on prophetic direction and prophetic teaching. They are to equip the saints with a prophetic nature, teaching them to get and give direction from the Spirit and the Word.
Evangelistic equipping – Evangelists are not the ones that get everyone saved, although they surely will excel in gospel preaching both to sinners and slippery saints. Their main role is to ready the saints to “preach the gospel to every creature” in order to be “reconciling the world unto [Jesus]”. (Mark 16:15, 2 Cor 5:19)
Pastoral equipping – Pastors shepherd the saints so they will know how to pastor the world, and the brothers around them. A healthy gospel community will not consist of a bunch of saints sitting on their soft bits awaiting their pastoral visit. It will produce active, satisfied souls that watch each others’ backs.
Teaching equipping – All of the previous mentioned gifts incorporate teaching; however, this gift is a specific gift for generally teaching the doctrine of the Word. Like the others, it is not the teacher’s job to spoon-feed the saints all of their lives, but to feed them while showing them how to feed themselves. As the saints are taught, they should be learning how to teach each other and also teach the human race about Jesus.
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Col 1:28)
Every Christian should be growing in all of these areas if they desire to mature in both their personal lives and their ministry: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Eph 4:13)
We are not pipe dreaming to believe that God will bring His body to completeness in the fullness of Christ. I’d rather believe for His best than settle for the best that the desert has to offer .
It is clear that if we are going to see the body flow in “the fullness of Christ” then “every joint” must supply and “every part” must participate so that “the body” can be “edifying itself in love”. It is not the head or another special position that “maketh increase of the body” but “every part.” (Eph 4:13-16)
Paul said in the same letter that we; “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19)
To “be filled with all the fullness of God” we must “know the love of Christ” which we will only comprehend “with all saints”. It is the corporate expression of Christ manifest through His whole church, participating and functioning in the Spirit, that allows God to appear in a fuller capacity, not fancy leaders. We need the so-called “laity” to stop being captivated by the “clergy” and start being activated in the army.
The false foundation of leadership that has continued its domination of mainstream Christendom has failed miserably in releasing the majority to play their part in edifying (constructing) the church and transforming the world. There has been an overemphasis on the equippers, which has caused them to do the work of the ministry rather than the labourers who are called to. This has also put an overemphasis on meetings, causing a spectator-style of Christianity.
Does anyone really believe that strutting around on a stage is a fruitful way of equipping the saints for the day to day “work of the ministry”? Perhaps it is time that we acknowledge the degree to which this stage-strutting retards the saints from their role, and maybe then we can make the appropriate changes.
Hierarchy free theocracy
At this point, some may draw a wrong conclusion about New Testament leadership and assume that plurality means democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democracy is to allow many men to have a say, which is to bring out a consensus of what man’s will is. It is not the will or direction of man that the church needs, but the will and direction of God. Democracy can not and will not produce the will of God, so let’s just disregard it altogether in the church as it is not biblical.
On the other hand theocracy, beginning with the Greek word for God, Theos, is meant to allow God’s will to prevail. When theocracy is applied through a human hierarchy, it is not a true theocracy as no man is infallible, getting it right every time. Having a plural eldership with apostles and no head man, as well as allowing the whole church to be present when decisions are made and direction is deliberated, is the most conducive environment for the will of God to be forth coming; it is also the biblical way. When the apostles, elders and all the believers are present, God can speak through whom He wishes by whichever avenue He desires. Of course, input from any person is then able to be discerned and spiritually scrutinized by the proven mature apostles and elders. This type of New Testament theocracy really does put God at the helm of His church, ruling as King.
Now let’s take a look at this theocracy in action, in the Word:
When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders ….. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. (Acts 15:2-6)
Some have tried to elevate Peter to a Papal position or James to ‘Head Apostle’ of Jerusalem by using passages like this one, much to their heretical woe. In Jerusalem, like other cities, they worked as a team. Acts 15 merely portrays James the apostle as giving the final summary of the meeting in conclusion, rather than having the final authority on the matters in question. First, Peter spoke by the Spirit, then Paul and Barnabas testified likewise. After they had finished, then James gave his judgment of the matter:
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written……… (Acts 15:13-14)
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God…….. (19)
The word for sentence is krino which means judgment or conclusion. James was not playing Pope with the final say, but was simply giving his personal summary of the events, which, due to his maturity, was neither to be shrugged off nor to be taken as infallible.
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: (22)
The meeting ends up with a God inspired decision, as God was free to speak through whom He pleased, and “the apostles and elders, with the whole church” were generally in agreement as they were able to test the words spoken.
The First line of accountability and discipline
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matt 23:8)
We have looked at this verse a few times already, but now we will just draw from it the fact that “one is your Master, even Christ” because “all [of us] are brethren”. You cannot get a higher rank or position in the church than the brothers, as there is only one head (Christ) but “many members”. If you are accountable to a team of apostles and elders you do well. If you live in daily love and accountability with the brothers and sisters, with apostles and elders, then you walk in a fuller measure of Christ.
Paul said that the church should be “Submitting [itself] one to another in the fear of God”. (Eph 5:21) Our first and foremost place of accountability, submission and even discipline is with the brothers. The following passage indicates that the leaders need not be called upon most of the time, as the brethren, whether it be one or two, or the whole church, are apt to judge and bring correction:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. (Matt 18:15-17)
It is also ‘not’ the responsibility of the leaders to provide the day to day encouragement and exhortation for the saints, but is the responsibility of the brothers. The onus is on the saints to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”, not just the leaders. (Heb 10:24)
Paul brought out the balance in this next passage to the Thessalonians. He shows that while the main focus is the saints comforting and edifying one another, we ought not neglect or belittle the role of true leaders who are labouring “among” us:
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over (proistemi – to stand before) you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thess 5:11-13)
We need to know, and walk in, a biblically balanced lifestyle that employs every believer in the daily work, while not neglecting to honour those who are called out from amongst us to oversee and live as examples for us.
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