The illustration is humorously eye-catching, a retired-aged, clean-cut person being shamed by a finger pointing through heavenly clouds.
The opening story highlights a pastor from a Baptist church who phoned 911 on Sunday morning.
"Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10% of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's office. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.
"The charge was trespassing, but Mrs. Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading 'a spirit of cancer and discord' and expelled her from the congregation. 'I've been shunned,' she says."
Her strict offense was urging the new pastor to abide by the bylaws of the church, which including assigning deacons. He refused deacons for his reasons. She insisted on the bylaws. For this she was shunned.
His justification for shunnnig her? He says in the article that "a strict reading of the Bible requires pastors to punish disobedient members. 'A lot of times, flocks aren't willing to submit or be obedient to God,' he said in an interview."
I'd love to know that verse in the Bible that says it is a pastors job. Matthew 18 says it is the congregations job, not the pastors. In that passage, not even elders are mentioned to do it by proxy. And that makes everything a little trickier.
This continues some thinking I've done regarding authority in the church and the model most evangelical churches follow... a senior pastor who is in charge of just about everyone and everything else.
I've got questions:
- Has the idea of "this is the way we've always done it" blinded us from reviewing whether our method is what God intended? Are we guilty of not studying the issue and demand we stick to what has been taught us or accepted as the norm?
- If Jesus is the head and the church is the Body, what is a pastor or elder? Another head? A representative head?
- Is there a senior pastor position in the scripture? If so, is he given authority to judge, shun, excommunicate... what are his limits?
- Is the pastor or elder accountable to anyone?
- Is leadership in the early church singular or plural?
- If a pastor's or elder's job is to safeguard doctrine, is that necessary now that we have the Scriptures spelling it out for everyone to read?
- If a pastor's or elder's job is to organize services or to help teach Scripture to the congregation, does that include taking authority and discipline unto ones own hands?
- What qualifies someone to take such a position? A seminary degree? The gifts of the Spirit? Mature character? Who decides this? Ordination? Ordination in denomination?
- If members in the church find the pastor unbiblical or spiritually abusive, what do they do about it?
- Does Jesus through Holy Spirit lead the people of God or does he only lead the 'one in charge'?
While you gather your thoughts, feel free to prime the idea pump with this thread at the Christian Classics Etherial Library. Maybe this will prime the idea pump.