If the Lord is God ... then where ...?!
I can't quite decide what I love more ... discussion and dialogue with a fellow Christian who loves the same things I do, or to be confronted in the spirit of debate on something stupid I may have said!! There is a definite thrill that goes through me as I read words about myself and have to stand back and wonder ... "Did I really mean that?!". It was great to read through Luke's blog; http://lukewood.blogspot.com - an amazing guy from Southampton, and in the Newfrontiers family of churches as well. Above that he is pretty darned intelligent (must be to be studying Structural Engineering!) and has got a heart for God and his church.
The Leaders ...
So the issue under discussion is one of authority. His latest blog is so stimulating: http://lukewood.blogspot.com/2005/11/interaction.html - oh yes I couldn't agree more that we both hold and cling to the "God-given and unique authority of spiritual leadership" and how absolutely right that it is undermined today. This is so in line with what Terry Virgo wrote in his awesome book; "Does the Future have a Church?". Not only are churches closing left right and centre, but the traditional icons of spiritual leadership (bishops, priests) are frequently defamed in the press for moral failure and so on.
Yet the great thing about Newfrontiers is that we dont have to get pessimistic and defeatist. Just as churches are closing, so new ones are opening! And just as traditional leadership is folding, so new spiritual leadership is rising up and God is clearly anointing men over the nation to lead His church!!
The Tension ...
So it seems that there is a tension to be held. On the one extreme we can see suspicion and independent autonomy ... trust a leader?? believe a leader?? You must be joking! On the other extreme we can see cults. Is it then possible to hold a balance between the two and use our minds and intellects to the full under the supreme authority of Scripture, yet be joyfully submitted to a Christian leader who loves us, shepherds us cares for us, and may even discipline us if he has to?!?!
I think it must be!! And it has to be.
In terms of Luke's comment about holding leaders accountable to Scripture, in my limited experience of church life, I've only seen two men demonstrate a vast humility and desire to be held accountable. One is my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb who repeatedly from the pulpit while I was growing up told us to go and see if what he preached was in the Scripture. His favourite quote was:
"The Unexamined Opinion is hardly worth holding!".
And the other was Terry Virgo at Stoneleigh 2001. In his first message; "Time to Go!" he spoke of Gideon and his question to the angel; "If God is with us, then where are the miracles?!". His application was breathtaking to the young people in the thousands gathered. He challenged us to actually start asking demanding questions of the leaders!! They asked questions in their day, and we (he said) are to ask questions in our day.
Us, the Laity ...
That of course cleverly puts the weight of challenge back on us ... if the leaders are saying "Come on - ask us the questions!! Challenge us!! Are we preaching true to the Word?" then I see a number of challenges and questions posed to us, the younger generation:
1. Do we know the Bible well enough, to know if our leaders are preaching truthfully?
2. Do we know our leaders well enough to know what time, effort and preparation the preaching of the Word demands? (That will tell us a lot about how truthful and close to the Word they are).
3. Does their preaching fit in with the general cohort of most of Reformed Church History?
4. Do our leaders know us well enough, to allow us to get close to them to discuss these questions with them? Or are we seen as back-seat church row young people who look bored, and don't contribute much to church life?
Just a few thoughts that come to mind! ...