Lords or Servants
Lords or Servants
Chapter Two - The Crisis: Leadership
The church today is facing a crisis. It is a crisis of leadership. A group of people will not rise above their leadership. Human nature being what it is, God has always seen fit to provide the proper guidance for his people. The patriarch of the family originally was the one through whom this direction was given. The good, God-fearing leaders kept the people close to the Lord and to his will. Those who chose to follow their own ways led the people into idolatry and ruin.
God has not left the church without a design for leader ship. When a congregation is functioning according to the divine pattern, it will be a dynamic, growing body leading people to heaven. But if the divine pattern becomes perverted by incor porating into the church the organization and traditions of men, people will then be led away from God. Let us learn a lesson from history.
No sooner was the church established than men began to follow their own logic and figure out better ways to do things. Leader ship is so susceptible to such temptation. In Acts 20:30 the apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders, "Even from among your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples away after them."
We find in the later writings of the New Testament this very thing happening. Among the leaders in Ephesus who turned away from the true gospel and led people after them were Hymenaeus, Alexander, Phygelus, Hermogenes and Philetus. These men, if not some of the very men Paul was speaking to in Acts 20, were certainly the beginning of the fulfillment of what he warned would happen. Many scholars believe Diotrephes also lived in Ephesus. From among the elders of the churches, apostasy began.
We also know from the early first and second century writings many churches began to experience problems with the leader ship within the congregations. Looking at these writings, we can easily see not only the changes in basic doctrine, but also the not so gradual change in the government of the church. Men began teaching others to follow "after them" rather than just following the teachings of Jesus.
In a letter written by Clement of Rome around A.D. 95, he addresses a problem in the church in Corinth where evidently some of the "presbyters" had been put out of their "office." While this is used by some people today to substantiate the claim of "elder authority," it should be noted that Clement was not simply one of the elders of the church in Rome. He was the bishop of Rome . He goes on to point out that the church has a "bishop's office," and the bishop succeeds the apostles in authority and work (S. Clement 44). One can clearly see even from this early manuscript the departure from scripture by men who would distort the truth in order to draw disciples away after them.
During the early years of the second century Ignatius wrote seven letters to seven different churches. In his letter to the church in Ephesus he says, "...seeing then that in God's name I have received your whole multitude in the person of Onesimus, whose love passeth utterance and who is moreover your bishop." (Epistle to the Ephesians I) He goes on to say, "Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself." (Epistle to the Ephesians 6).
Consider the following statements in Ignatius' second letter to the Magnesians. "I was permitted to see you in the person of Demas your godly bishop and your worthy presbyters Bassus and Apollonius and my fellow-servant the deacon of Zotion, of whom I would fain have joy, for that he is subject to the bishop as unto the grace of God and to the presbytery as unto the law of Jesus Christ: Yea, and it becometh you also not to presume upon the youth of your bishop, but according to the power of God the Father to rende