Poetry of Love (Part 3)

12 11 2010

“The Church: God’s Collection of Poems”

One of my favorite poets is Gerard Manley Hopkins.  And in this poem he captures the heart of God for imageodei, people created within His image, a lonely people looking for light, like a man carrying a lantern through the night.  He writes,

The Lantern Out of Doors
Sometimes a lantern moves along the night
That interests our eyes And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
there, eyes them, heart wants, care haunts, foot follows kind,
Their ransom, their rescue, and first, fast, last friend.

All people matter to God.  All of us at times are the person walking through a lonely night of the soul, looking for something.  We are all walking through the wind and fog.  And we are noticed by Jesus.  Christ minds: Christ’s interest.  His eyes, His heart, His care is upon each man and woman.  He is there for our ransom, our rescue.  He longs to be our friend for we are the apple of His eye.

He is, after all, the master poet, always writing, always meditating upon His work.  He is brooding over each of us for greater healing.  He is longing to complete His work in our lives.  His work is plural: works.  He is working, always working to give us more freedom, to heal the deeper wound.  To avow or amend what He began.  Not done.

The church is His “collection of poems.”  The church—His grand idea.  As disappointing as the church might be at times, she is still his collection of poems, a poetic statement within each soul of a master poet that is masterfully at works. Works, not of our making, but His.  A set of sad works, joyful works…but all thoughtful.

The big poetic idea of Jesus is the church.  A communal idea that was first birthed in and through the nation of Israel but has come to fruition through the church.  Not consummation but fruition.  The works of Jesus are manifested through the little poems that walk, talk, share, cry, give, love.  Little poems.  Undone poems.  Incomplete.

Creation Continues

God’s collection of poems—the church is still being created.  The creation continues.  An incomplete collection; a dirty collection; an untidy collection.  But His creative collection nonetheless.

God’s collection of poems—unfinished.  We are all still so broken, fractured, torn, and tired.  But, the final line has yet to be penned.  There’s still time.  A work in progress some have said. But, it’s true.  A work.  Not a project or “resource.”  We are not projects of this world.  We are not resources for some seemingly greater work.  We are already the greater works of God!

We are original works of grace being created by Heavenly Father for the works of His doings in our life.  Eugene Peterson captures this thought,

Original works of grace are possible in the everyday work of forgiving the sinner, in helping the hurt, and in taking up personal responsibilities…creation continues.  The streets and fields, the homes and markets of the world are an art gallery displaying not culture, but new creations in Christ (Traveling Light)

Creation continues when we cooperate.  When we allow the paraclete to have access into our life—the walking, the conversation, the relationships, the job, the boring hours, the shopping.  He’s never done; never a complete poem.

And so grace continues, grace is not conspicuous.  All grace is a writing of the hand of God upon our lives.  Nobody’s life is without grace.  More about this next time…





Poetry of Love part 2

12 10 2010

What is the true journey between the crib and the crypt?  Why are there seasons of life in a tunnel of experiences?  Is not our life to be punctuated with shafts of insight that take us deeper into who we are and why we are here?  I think so.

In a culture that has trivialized the sacred, commercialized the occasion and sentimentalized the most lovely, there is within each of us a longing for the prophetic word that will give us the reason for our life.  Even the most hardened cynic, worn down by failure, confusion and unreached dreams, has times of deep yearning for answers to their very existence.

You are a spiritual, physical, emotional and mental creation of God.  Your body, your mind, your spirit, your emotions are the stanzas of a poem spoken into existence by God.  Every cell, chromosome, bone, every dimple, mole and cowlick is part of the poem of God.  You are His work, His dream, His thought, His heart. 

All of us were penned before the foundation of the world.  We were thought up in the heart of the Master Poet before our exit out of the birth canal.  The Bible is crystal clear: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4)  He was dreaming of, thinking through and musing over you millennia before you were created.  The poet expresses it deeply, 

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works

Which You have done;

And Your thoughts toward us

Cannot be recounted to You in order;

If I would declare and speak of them,

They are more than can be numbered.

Psalms 40:5

God, The Master Poet, has thought about you innumerable times in creative ways that have yet to be discovered.  His greatest work is the beauty of his handiwork in each image bearing soul.  A sonnet penned by the hand of God, written with the ink of love.

We are poems “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10), designed and written for the ultimate good work of love.  And as with any loving relationship, there is an unpredictability and ever-present possibility of pain and disappointment involved.  C.S. Lewis once said, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.”[i]  In speaking of God’s love, John Eldredge writes, “But God does give it, again and again, until He is literally bleeding from it all.  God’s willingness to risk is astounding—far beyond what any of us would do were we in His position.”[ii]

A love relationship with God and others is risky business.  God sent His Son to risk it all on you and me.  The ultimate poetry of love was God creating His Son in the womb of His creation in order that He might die under the hands of creation for the ultimate purpose of a rescue mission.  Francis Frangipane has said, “Rescue is the constant pattern of God’s activity.”  This is why Jesus came.  Jesus proclaims His mission to us when he said,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

(Luke 4:18-19)

A poetry of love first dreamed in the heart of God, expressed by His Son, wordsmithed upon our heart.  We are the poetry of a warrior poet, a passionate God who has risked it all for us.  We are His collection of poems, each one of us, unique and complex, written for a purpose.  He has come to rescue and redeem His marred poems.  His rescue mission involves a deepening love and more extravagant relationship—a poem being written.


[i] Quoted from Wild at Heart by John Eldredge p. 32

[ii] Ibid.





Poetry of Love

29 09 2010

While praying and musing at a monastery chapel high and hidden in the mountains near Long’s Peak God spoke into my inner spirit, “poetry of love.”  I was startled and confused for it seemed so foreign and out of context.  It didn’t fit at all with what my mind was thinking about at the time.  It almost seemed as if He had bypassed my mind to touch my heart.  I asked for a bit more clarity and I was greeted with silence (I hate when He does that).

I just couldn’t get those three words off my mind.  I was doomed to ruminations, meditations, and inner questions for days.  The answer came from the Word of God, through a conversation and discussion with one of the Mountain Springs pastors I was reminded of a verse.

Paul, in writing one of his most intimate letters to a church that he deeply loved, wrote,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

The word “workmanship” riveted my imagination and served to wipe away the cobwebs of my past study.  Workmanship is derived from the word, poieema, from which we get the English word “poem.”  In the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, this word is described as “a thing of His making,” His “handiwork,” a “spiritual creation.” John Calvin writes of this phrase:

When he says, that “we are the work of God,” this does not refer to ordinary creation, by which we are made men. We are declared to be new creatures, because, not by our own power, but by the Spirit of Christ, we have been formed to righteousness.[i]

God is saying that each of us are a unique and beautiful poem.  As a new creative poem, He is writing His sonnet upon the fabric of His book of poetry.  It’s His book but we are the verses.  He’s the poet and we are living His verse.  We are living, loving poems.  We are the poetry of God.

What is poetry? Throughout the centuries, there have been many attempts at a definition.  Poetry is “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)[ii], “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)[iii], “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)[iv].  T.S. Eliot once said of poetry, “It is not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.”[v]

William Wordsworth may have captured our meaning best when he wrote, “the poet is the rock of defense for human nature.”[vi] Similarly, Coleridge wrote, “[the poet] brings the whole soul of man into activity.”[vii] God is the poet and it is through His Spirit that we come to discover our true nature, our whole soul moved to creative energy.  We are the poems of the Poet.

Dylan Thomas once commented that “a poem on the page is only half a poem.”[viii] You see, a poem is only half alive until the words on the page are spoken.  They must be spoken into the hearts of other people.  Our life in the Spirit is a wildly jumbled creative, unique blend of verses that have a rhythm that touches everyone around us.  But we must live, really live.

Albert Einstein said that truth is “that which stands the test of experience.”  We are a creative energy of God mirroring the Master Poet with all of our poetic experiences.  Sometimes we are a poem of pain, sometimes a poem of joy, sometimes a poem of endurance.  But with each experience, His poem is crafted, rewritten, and more deeply edited by the love of God.

Jesus said,

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  These things I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:15-17)

We are not just any run-of-the-mill poem.  We are poems being written by the love of Jesus.  We are the fruit of His love.  We are in a love relationship with the Poet.  He is writing His words, His purposes into the fabric of our heart.

You can tell much about a poet by his or her poems.  The poetry of Emily Dickinson is vastly different from Robert Frost.  The works of Coleridge stand in major contrast to John Keats.  We are the sheet poems, the unfinished poems of God.  We are being crafted and written by the hand of God, through the Spirit, in the blood of Jesus.  If we will let Him, if we will stop resisting, God will write us.  We are His poetry of love.

Receive the point of His pen.


[i] Calvin’s Commentaries

[ii] A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems, Crown Publishers, New York, p. v.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Gerard Kelly, Spoken Worship, Zondervan, p. 13.





War, Witches and Panic

17 08 2010

Wars, witches, and panic attacks are the substance of 1 Samuel 28.  King Saul is a study in fear.  Faced with withering support and a ferocious enemy, Saul is wholly unprepared for the challenges of life that God has put before him. And in this chapter, Saul is overwhelmed by the impending battle with the Philistines.  Saul succumbs to fear, and fear has power.

“When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.” (vs. 5) Saul is a beaten man before he’s entered the battlefield. Let’s look at the process of paralyzing fear in Saul’s life, and the confusing questions that are created:

vs. 6  Because of his fear, Saul can’t hear from God even when he prays.  (Where is God in my life?)

Vs. 7  Because of his fear, Saul compromises his convictions and morals and seeks out a witch.  (What do I believe anymore?)

Vs. 8  Because of fear, Saul loses his sense of identity and “disguises himself.”  (Who am I anyway?)

Vs. 16-18 Because of fear, Saul can no longer listen to sound advice and wisdom.  (No one understand me?)

Vs. 20 Because of fear, Saul is overtaken by a panic attack and collapses.  (Am I losing my mind?)

Vs. 21-22  Because of fear, Saul is broken down physically and unable to sleep or eat.   (What is happening to my body?)

Vs. 23-25 Because of fear, Saul can no longer lead with strategy and clear thinking.  (What do I do next?)

If you have asked such questions, then you just might understand the power of fear.  Fear has power. Fear combined with worry can have a paralytic power.  Satan uses fear to create panic and confusion in our mind.  Fear not only affects our mind, but also our body and spirit in ways that can shut down the flow of our physical and spiritual antibodies.

Sick of Fear

Have you ever been sick of fear?  You probably have.  In a landmark study entitled “Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods and Thoughts Affect Health,” Dr. Blair Justice found that a life based in fear and worry was one of the most common denominators of those people who contracted cancer.  Fear could be traced closely to all forms of cardio vascular disease as well as many other physio psychological ailments.  The study found that fear has a paralyzing impact on our natural abilities to cope with life.

Undealt with fear has the potential to immobilize our physical immune system, thus creating a domino effect that can bring with it panic attacks, disease, and despair.  This is exactly what happens to Saul.  We read in our passage, “Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear…” (vs. 20)  The panic attack that Saul is experiencing continues and eventually leads to a loss of all appetite and an inability to sleep (vss 21-23).  Fear has power.

Attacked in L.A.

Ten years ago I fell under the power of fear and was shrouded with an anxiety attack.  I was enveloped with a blanket of claustrophobia that left me in a fetal position in a California hotel.  I was emotionally paralyzed, wept uncontrollably, and experienced insomnia.  The sense of foreboding, depression, and distress that followed took all my efforts, prayer, and seeking of God’s power to overcome.

As I sought wise counsel, at times fasted and prayed, and talked to several doctor friends, I realized that if I was going to live a healthy rest of my life, I needed to seriously reevaluate my lifestyle.  In due course this led to a new set of daily habits that included exercise, more laughter, and a deeper relationship with Jesus and people.

Created for Intimacy

You can break the cycle of fear.  But you will have to get off the anxiety merry-go-round and seriously reassess your lifestyle.  I did almost ten years ago and it’s made all the difference in my world.

I believe the heart of every human being was formed for intimacy.  Intimacy with God, made known through Jesus, and intimacy with people is the key to peace.  This is why when Jesus was challenged by religious leaders as to which Law was the greatest, responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  Love is the strongest form of intimacy.  Jesus is commanding us to love Him with every ounce of our spiritual, emotional, and physical energy, and then, as a result to love people with equal passion and zeal.

I believe that a deep growing maturing friendship with Jesus releases spiritual antibodies that strengthen our immune system.  Intimacy with Jesus brings a new power, the power to break the insidious satanic pressure of fear.   Intimacy with Jesus and people fills up our spiritual and emotional tank.  This then enables us to have the spiritual immune system needed to withstand the many anxious thoughts that we are bombarded with each day.

So, enjoy Jesus today through prayer and Bible study.  Build deep friendships and laugh often.  Exercise is vital.  Surrender your need to be in control and give God your worries.  Don’t hesitate, boldly jump into a new life of faith and peace.  Then, fear will have no power!





One Thing Losers

3 08 2010

I’m a loser!  If I were to evaluate my life based on the standards of the sports page, the entertainment section, and my son’s high school friends, I’m a loser.  I’m not all that intelligent, all that funny, or all that cool.  I’m showing signs of a growing spare tire around the belt line, grey hairs are popping up everywhere, I drive a truck with camo seat covers, I turn in the bill of my baseball cap, and love flannel shirts.  None of which constitutes culturally current winning qualities.

But I’m a loser with passion.  I tell my sons and daughters all the time to “give it all.”  Whether it’s a recital for piano or a baseball tournament, I say things like “leave it all on the field,” or “don’t hold back,” etc.  You know, the kind of stuff that parents are supposed to say to their kids.  The only difference is that I mean it.  I’m not saying that other parents don’t mean it, they do.  I’m sure they do because I sit in the stands with a lot of them at games and they shout, scream, pout, and almost cry like 3rd graders.  It’s an amazing thing to watch—otherwise normal middle aged worldly successful adults suddenly morphed into adolescent elementary aged behavior that often leaves me wondering what happened to the adult I was just talking to.

But I really mean it when I say to my children to be all there—focused, determined, and relaxed.  I don’t mean win, win, win, rah, rah, rah.  I mean be hot.  Be hotful (is that a word?); radically give it all—for something greater than yourself.  I sometimes say:  My time is valuable.  Don’t waste my time, the coach’s time, or your time.  Be hot out there.  I don’t care if it’s a piano, violin, or sports contest—be hot and be focused…for God’s glory.

I’m a loser for one thing.  The apostle Paul once said, “This one thing I do…”  Most of us can only do a few things half decent.  We’re just losers who aren’t very smart nor very talented.  But we can do one thing.  Yes, all of us can do one thing.  Instead of dabbling around with drink, entertainment, or whatever we dabble in, I want to be a one thing guy.  One thing.

Years ago I came across these words of Bishop Ryle.  They speak of our calling as Jesus followers,

“A zealous person in the Faith is pre-eminently a person of one thing.  It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit.  He only sees one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.  Whether he lives, or whether he dies—whether he has health, or whether he has sickness—whether rich or poor—whether he pleases men or whether he gives offense—whether he is thought wise or foolish—whether he gets blamed or praised—whether honored or put to shame—for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all.  He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory.  If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it—he is content.  He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work of God for which God appointed him.”

Be a passionate one thing loser…for Jesus!





6 Principles (and the bonus 7th principle) of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 6

28 06 2010

This is part six in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #6: Elders are Appointed

Acts 14:23 reads, “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Paul told Titus to “appoint elders in every town…” (Titus 1:5).  The word “appointed” is from the Greek verb, cheirotoneo, meaning “appoint,” “designate,” or “choose.”  Elders were chosen by the apostles and the local leadership of each church.

The early apostles knew that false teachers and heretics were growing in influence in the newly planted churches.  Indeed, one of the elder’s most important responsibilities was guarding the flock from false doctrine.  Thus, it makes sense that the apostles would have seen the need for the proper appointment of biblically educated elders.  In the context of Acts 14:23, “…they (apostles) commended them (newly appointed elders) to the Lord…”  The verb “commended” (paratithemi) implies entrusting something valuable (Strauch, ibid, p. 139).  The implication and meaning of this phrase being the value placed by the apostles on those whom they appointed to this task.

In 1 Timothy 5:17, the elders are the ones who “rule” in the local congregation. The word “rule” is the Greek word, prohistemi, meaning lead, manage, or direct.  Therefore, in crucial matters, such as the selection of leadership for the church, the overseers should direct the whole process (Strauch, p. 278).  For this reason, healthy eldership means that the elders are always on the lookout for new leadership that can be developed in the congregation.  Kenneth O. Gangel, professor and chairman of the department of Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary says, “The key to reproducing leadership is to clearly plan for it.  Church leaders need to produce leaders who will reproduce leaders precisely as it is done in the family—through experience, instruction, and modeling” (Feeding and Leading, p. 309 and 313, quoted by Strauch, ibid, p. 278-9).  These explanations provide us with new meaning to  2 Timothy 2:2 that reads, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” One of the most important qualities of strong leadership in a local church is the ability to raise up other strong leaders.

Benefits of Appointing Elders:

  • The leadership of the congregation realizes the need for strong team leadership
  • The elders of the church are able to observe and choose the most qualified men
  • The leadership must fast and pray and seek God before choosing new leadership
  • New leadership is constantly being perpetuated as the elders look for and develop more leaders

In Practicum:

The MSC board elder team selects new elders for the board.  The pastoral elder team, in consultation with the board, appoints new pastors.  All pastors at MSC are required to be building their ministries with other strong and capable leaders of character that can share the load of leadership and more effectively multiply their influence into their areas of discipleship.

Principle #7:  Elders are Men

For the Bible believing follower of Christ, the fundamental principle for male leadership is the person of Jesus.  God, the Father, sent Jesus, the Son, to the earth.  God did not send a daughter, but a son.  Jesus was the “last Adam” and the “first born son of David.”  It is the maleness of Jesus that is the marital picture used for Christ and the church in Ephesians 5.   His maleness was not an arbitrary matter (Strauch, ibid, p. 52). 

Jesus chose twelve men to “be with Him.”  Peter, James, and John became the first leaders in Jerusalem.  The twelve apostles in Jerusalem appointed seven men to wait on tables.  Paul became the first elder to the gentile churches and appointed only men in positions of leadership.  Timothy led the church at Ephesus.  Titus was the lead elder on Crete.  In every example of government structure in the New Testament, men are chosen to lead. Indeed one of the qualifications given for leadership in the local church is that the elder be, “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9).  Clearly stated, in God’s divine order, men are tasked with leading the church. 

Paul loves to use the household analogy when speaking of the divine order for the local church (see 1 Timothy 3:15).  Just as he teaches male headship in the family, Paul also teaches male headship in the local body of believers, the church (1 Timothy 2:8-3:7).  Since the home is the basic unit for social order, it should not be a surprise that Paul would take the same analogy into the order for the “household of God” (Strauch, ibid, p. 58).  In Paul’s mind the leadership of a biological family is an extension of His leadership over the church family.

For the sake of not being misunderstood in our 21st century world, I must be clear in stating that I believe that the biblical teaching regarding men and women is of full equality in dignity, personhood, gifting, and value, but distinct in gender roles.  In explaining what the Bible teaches about eldership in the church, I am not making a statement about the role of women outside the church (i.e. home, work, or politics, etc.).  My purpose is to only share what the New Testament teaches about roles in leadership within the church.

John Piper, one of the editors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, clearly expresses my heart concerning our differences:

Over the years I have come to see from scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God.  He designed our differences and they are profound.  They are not mere physiological prerequisites for sexual union.  They go to the root of our personhood” (p. 32, cited by Strauch, ibid, p. 52).

God’s divine gender roles really matter.  Like the play, Romeo and Juliet, each actor has a role. When the roles are played according to the script and guided by the producer, a wonderful play is produced.  So it is in the church of Jesus Christ.

Benefits for Appointing Male Elders:

  • The Bible clearly states that male headship results in the proper divine order for the home and church
  • Men who lead with love (Ephesians 5:25) will imitate Christ and give their lives for the church
  • When the biblical roles of divine order are observed, the result is a unified and smooth governorship
  • Men and women, functioning in their proper roles, result in a more effective church ministry

In Practicum:

All of our MSC board and pastoral elders are men.

In Conclusion

As I finish this white paper, I feel compelled to conclude with the admonition of Peter, “above all things have fervent love for one another…” (1 Peter 4:8a).  When we read the first letter of John, we are constantly reminded of the vital importance of love in everything we do.  Love is the definer of what we believe (see 1 John 3-4).  Love is the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:35-40).  This commandment is defined by our actions of loving God and people.  We cannot say that we love God and then hate our brother (see 1 John 3-4).  Therefore, the most important testimony of love for God is our love for God’s people.  Every elder must lead with such love.  Great love is great leadership.

A loving Jesus raises up loving elders.  Loving elders build loving churches.  What we need today are loving churches.  Churches built on walking in the truth of love (see 2nd and 3rd John) are churches which are impacting the world with the “agapeo” of Christ.  The most important function of leadership in a New Testament church is that of love.  Such love cascades down into the body and touches every member.

In conclusion, may love be our aim, may love be our vision, and may love for one another be the hallmark of our church.





6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 5

21 06 2010

This is part five in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #5: Two Levels of Leadership

The ruling leaders of the New Testament churches are called bishops, pastor-teachers, elders, and overseers.  Paul states clearly, “Let the elders who rule [lead, direct, guide, manage] well be counted worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17a).  Dr. Grudem writes, of the main purpose of the elders: “One of the major roles in the New Testament is to govern the New Testament churches.”  He then references 1 Timothy 5:17 and 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ibid).  Dr. Alexander Strauch writes, “Elders…lead, direct, govern, manage, and care for the flock of God” (ibid, p. 25). So, the Bible is clear that certain men are given the responsibility and gifting to lead the local church toward the purposes of God.

Besides the elder ruling structure, we also observe the use of deacons in the local churches.  There is much less in the New Testament in regards to the role of deacons compared to elders, bishops and overseers.  The word deacon is a translation of the Greek word, diakonos, which is the ordinary word for servant, whenever it used in the context of dealing with church officers.  Deacons are mentioned in Philippians 1:1: “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”  We find no specifics as to their function, other than a distinction from the elders/bishops.  Deacons are also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 in reference to the needed qualifications for those in such responsibility.  The list of character and moral qualifications for deacons follow closely the list given for elders.

From the list in 1 Timothy 3, we observe that the deacons must have had some responsibility with finances, administration and counseling.  The best example of the elder and deacon branches of leadership might be found in Acts 6: 1-6. 

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Grudem comments:

The noun deacon is not found in Acts 6:1-6, but a related verb (Gk. diakoneo “to serve”) is found in verse 2… “Here the apostles who ruled over the Jerusalem church found it necessary to delegate some administrative responsibilities to others…” It seems appropriate to think of these seven men as deacons even though the name deacon had perhaps not yet come to be applied to them as they began this responsibility, for they seem to be given tasks which fit well with the responsibilities of deacons hinted at in 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (ibid, p. 919).

The deacons had a distinct role of serving the local church through serving the leadership of that particular body.  It is significant that nowhere in the New Testament do we find deacons as having ruling status in the churches.  The role of the deacons is clearly one of serving the elders in tasks that would pull them away from their primary function of ministry to the Lord, the people, and the spiritual ministries of the church.  (In this regard, there is no biblical reason that women would not also occupy such a position.)  Thus, there are two primary branches of leadership in the New Testament church:  the elders who rule over the spiritual direction of the body, and the deacons who serve the administrative and leadership needs of the elders.

The following diagram illustrates the two branches of leadership and how they function at MSC.  This is a visual of how God has led us to design the flow of leadership from Jesus Christ, the head of the church, through the elders to the congregation:

 

Benefits of Two Levels of Government Structure:

  • The ruling elders are not limited in their ministry and leadership by the physical/administrative needs of the congregation
  • The ruling elders can stay focused on the spiritual vision and direction of  the body, while the deacons take care of the needs of the elders
  • The deacons can provide support and healthy leadership in the day to day functions of the church while the elders can oversee such functions
  • The gift mix needed for each function is very different, and more people can be utilized throughout the leadership structure of the church
  • More people will be served by utilizing the different branches of government, thus enabling a healthy, more productive fellowship

In Practicum:

As stated earlier, MSC has an elder team made up of pastoral and board elders.  Pastoral elders are on staff and focus on preaching, teaching and oversight of the day to day ministry of the church.  Board elders focus on governance.  The roles of both Pastoral elders and Board elders are complimentary and have some overlap, as necessary.  We believe in the function of the deacons but do not use the term.  We consider associate staff, support staff and volunteer leaders who are ministering alongside our pastors, as functioning in the role of deacons.