Friday, November 4, 2011

The Courtroom is to Judge as Church is to - Church Order

"Parking In A No Parking Zone!" Courtesy of thienzieyung

Learn to take orders before you give them. Elders are elders because they do the work.
-- Jonathan Brower

I just came back from a trip. It was an intense trip to an intense place. This place was not predictable, far from it. I remember walking down the street, through a marketplace and suddenly feeling like I was peddling a bicycle. I looked down to see that the sidewalk was reseeding from me. I looked to my right to see a rooftop pull up beside me. Down the way there was a group of teens beating up an old lady in broad daylight, with no shame. But the most disturbing part was the attitude of the citizens of this place; they seemed to take all these occurrences in stride, as if they were not out of the ordinary.

This world is marked by chaos. It is a world in which kindness may or may not occur. It is a world where punishment may be severe, may be light and may not even happen at all based on absolutely nothing because the government may not have decided to go to work that day. But then, who has time to hurt each other when they are worried about whether gravity is going to perform it’s natural function from one minute to the next. I am glad to have returned from that trip. I was unable to relax in that atmosphere.

But that is the definition of chaos; unpredictable behavior. Chaos does not mean everyone behaving badly, one may choose to do good and one may choose to do bad and another may choose indifference, that one person may be presented with the same stimuli and choose differently. When we know that we cannot know what may happen next, we tend to get nervous.

For instance, I remember the first--and only--time I went to a Bible Club meeting in High School. I attended Coral Reef High School in the heart of Richmond Heights. The meeting was held in the criminal justice room where the mock trials were held. Coral Reef has a magnet program for Law, so we had the privilege of having such rooms. It was a wide open space and I was one of the first students to shuffle through the door.

I was met with greetings and welcomes and smiles. I was issued a seat in the back corner of the room at the furthest point from the exit--where there was no escape. Before too long, the room filled out. There must have been upwards of fifty students packed into the mock trial room, steadily buzzing for the meeting to start. I was comfortable. I had no clue what to expect, but I figured it would be a great experience.

Then it started. Someone busted a note and the whole room popped up to their feet and started singing and dancing and clapping and stomping and banging on desks and getting their praise on. Before the song was finished, the speaker jumped up onto the desk and began his message. He was railing against (or maybe he was railing for) something very important. There was no amplification in the room, but I wish there was so we could turn his volume down a few notches. This was not so much because his voice was bothering me, but since he was loud the people who continued to sing and the other people who decided to start praying through the message felt that God couldn’t hear them over the preacher. So they got even louder.

And so the noise retaliation turned into noise escalation. From there things only got worse. Several girls began busting out in some different language, in addition to the singing, preaching and praying. So now added to our screaming preacher, note busting singers, ground shaking stompers, clappers and desk-bangers are a few jabbering tongue twisters. Nothing good can come of this, I thought, this is not profitable for me.

And that’s when they noticed me.

It was as though the blood of my unbelief was leaked into the shark infested evangelical waters of the faithful. A few of them compassed me round about. Included in their numbers was a tongue twister who decided to lay her hands on me. Right when I thought things could be no stranger. Right when I thought I had seen it all. I learned there was more--to be felt. I promptly gathered my backpack that bore an elven inscription and left those weirdos behind me.

Titus 1:5 is a unique verse in the entirety of scripture. Paul’s vocabulary specifically chooses a word that appears in no other place of scripture. The word is pronounced epidiothaoo, and is translated into our word for order. Read:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you

This word indicates that correction must take place and order must be restored. The reason why this instance is unique is because the connotation is that things must be “set (back) in order.” To restore means to but back to a previous (usually useful) state. There are several implications that can clearly be made by this sense of the verse.

The first implication is that there is a standard for order. We know God loves order by casually reading the beginning of the Bible. In fact, the entire narrative of scripture carries the theme of a theocratic order which has been spurned and will soon be restored. This brings us to the second implication which goes hand-in-hand with the first, this order is obviously not being seen now. One explicit admission of this fact is found in the Psalms and is re-iterated in the New Testament when the writer states that The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet. The enemies are not at the Lord’s feet right now, but they will be. Order will be restored. And the restored order should begin with the Church, since the Church is the group of special people in this world who actively put themselves in subjection to Christ.

The next implication is with regard to the importance of this order, it is important because God has established this order and is actively re-instating it. In other words, God likes it. He genuinely receives pleasure from observing his creation operate in the order He established. And now for the final implication, as beings fashioned to closely resemble the Creator, we like order too.

Why do you think I did not enjoy my “trip?”  I was pleased to wake up from my nonsensical imaginations to a firm reality where at least physical laws govern the universe and will not change. Is it any wonder that there are no countries that formally have no government? Anarchy rules no body of people. There is always a group of individuals who meet some criteria and are charged with the safe keeping of the whole group. The Church should be the same.

Those individuals are called Elders, and Paul made sure Titus appointed elders in every Cretan city. The Elders were to meet certain criteria, which can be summarized by stating that they were to behave themselves in a manner that reflected Christ-likeness. The goal was to appoint Elders that could double as human examples of Christ. They were to strive to attain this goal so that they may lead by example rather than dictation.

Some say that the Elders must be publicly declared and empowered. Others argue that the Elders are the ones who do the work of the Elder. Truthfully, a sound biblical perspective finds a position between these extremes. Church administration is clearly both an office and a practice. It is an office because the Elder must have real governance. A practice because all Christians are obligated to practice.

Part of the practice of all believers is to submit ourselves to the ruling of the Elder. This essay opened with a quote from Jonathan Brower stating that we must learn to take orders before giving them. We must take orders from both God and those in charge of His flock (remember, His flock includes all true Christians). It is only by submitting that we can learn from others. We can then be fashioned into the tool that God may chose to use in some administrative capacity in the future.

Let us look one more time to the epistle written to Titus 2:15, reading through verse 2 of the next chapter:

You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.

Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Here we have an example of what order should look like in the Church. A man who has been given authority should be able to teach and encourage the believers while bringing correction as necessary. This is to be done boldly. Note that boldness need not be rude or classless by any means.

The reminder that should be delivered to the congregation is that they should be Submissive, Obedient and Humble. We, as imitators of Christ, should already know that these characteristics ought to permeate our lives. We know this because these same characteristics permeated the life that Christ lived on this earth. He submitted Himself to those who were in authority. He was obedient to scripture, ready to do good even in the face of persecution. He never spoke against anyone with a haughty spirit.

And now we get at the heart of the Biblical teaching concerning Church Roles, it is a display. A display to the World that we are citizens of another kingdom. We respect one another as creations belonging to a creator. We love one another in a special way, because of a common bond. We strive to lift each other up. We sharpen one another, rejoicing when the other grows because we can learn from them and--in turn--teach others. We do all in the spirit of humility; like a well-oiled machine we hum along, each element working in harmony with the other.

If this sounds like a dream, it is. Unlike the dream this essay began with, the dream of unity is not mine, it is God’s. Specifically, it is Jesus Christ’s as recorded in John 17. And He will receive what He desires.

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Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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