Some years ago (2012, after the recent recession began) I read an article on the inevitability of economic collapse given our present banking system. My experience in the United Kingdom has shown that not only do secular politicians and economists not want to listen to this message, but Christian pastors do not want to either. They are simply not bothered about the state of our society or the economy (with the exception of stopping sex shops from opening and banning homosexual marriage). One leader of a Church here in the UK said to me "I am not concerned about what is happening in the world, our job is to snatch brands from the fire." The real question for Christians however is this: when secular society collapses because of this economic debacle, will the Church be ready to step in with an alternative Christian model of society, i.e. a biblical economic model? When society collapses the Church needs to be ready to lead the way in modelling to the world what society should be like. The Church is not ready for this, at least not in the UK, and the reason for this is entirely down to the pastors and clergymen who lead the Church and who do not believe that the Church has such a role to play. This is because they are ignorant of the history of the world and ignorant of the history of the Church.
There is only one way to deal with this: get rid of the pastors and clergymen who are misleading the Church. Their religion is mysticism and pietism and has no relevance to the real world or to a biblically informed understanding of the Christian faith. It was because the early Church was relevant, because she was a society that could show the world how to live as a true society, that she was able to conquer the Roman Empire. Things started to go wrong with the rise of clergymen—who did not exist in the apostolic and sub-apostolic age—and their control of the Church. As clergymen became more important the Church became a principality controlled by the professional clergy. The Church as a dynamic community was transformed into an institution with a professional bureaucracy and the life of faith was redefined as the performance of rituals by professional clergymen. This situation has continued. Today the whole culture of choosing and training pastors is defective and is vitiating the life and mission of the Church.
The Church will not move on and the Great Commission will not progress until we deal with this problem, and this means getting rid of the whole clergy-dominated idea of the Christian Church. The New Testament Church gives us a completely different paradigm. In the New Testament Church there were ministries given by God. These were God’s gifts to the Church for the purpose of building up and equipping the Church for her work. These were the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11–16). These are not offices but ministries. There were also elders and deacons, who were chosen by the congregations from suitably qualified men. Office and ministry were not tied together. Officers (elders and deacons) do not need a calling from God, they need a calling from men. In other words they are, or at least should be according to the Bible, elected by the congregation (see below). Ministers cannot be chosen by men, whether by congregational elections or by ordination boards; ministers are called by God. They are a gift from Christ to men, and to the Church for her edification. Electing a man as an elder or a deacon does not confer on him any ability whatsoever; it certainly does not enable him to fulfil the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11–16. That is why the Bible lays out so clearly the qualifications that a man must have to be an elder or a deacon (1 Tim. 3:1–13). These qualifications have nothing to do with gaining academic degrees and attending theological college. They are based on a man’s having proved his ability to be the head and leader of his family according to Christian criteria. Elders also have to be apt to teach (v. 4), but this does not mean that they have been or that they have to be called by God to the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11–16 (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17–18).
This is not the way it is with the ministries given by Christ to the Church as set out in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Those whom God calls he equips. Ministers are not elected by the Church or by ordination boards or boards of elders. They are given by Christ. Christ calls, appoints and equips his ministers, not the Church and not the elders. The Church chooses and ordains officers only, not ministers, and it is the congregations that should chose the elders and deacons by means of elections (Acts 6: 3–6; 14:23, cf. 2 Cor. 8:19). The Church herself cannot choose or create ministers, she can only recognise or fail to recognise those whom God has called and appointed as his ministers. She can of course elect donkeys who think they are ministers and charlatans who pretend to be ministers, just as Caligula appointed his favourite horse as a consul, and with as little sense or edification for the poor souls who have to sit in the pews each week and listen to them braying.
Of course it was possible in the apostolic age for someone with a ministry in the Church to be an office bearer in the Church as well, as was the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:1 cf. 1 Tim. 5: 17–18). But this was not so with all ministers. The apostle Paul was not an elder, and he goes out of his way to point out that he was not ordained by anyone, but that his calling as an apostle was neither from man nor through man (Gal. 1:1). Being an office bearer did not mean one had a ministry. And, more importantly, having a ministry did not mean being an office bearer, and the route to ministry was not through the gaining of office. An elder had to be apt to teach, i.e. able to teach when a Church had no one with a ministry of teaching. The concept of clergymen was an invention of men. It arose when office was tied to ministry and only those who were office bearers were allowed to minister. From then on the clergy took control of ministry in the Church, and the results have been disastrous.
The vandalism inflicted on Christ’s Church by this development has been enormous. Clergymen are not interested in the Kingdom of God, they are interested in the Churches as their own dominions. They see the Church as their principality, their area of control. The implication of this—though they will never admit this of course, but it is the logical conclusion of their clerical theology—is that only they have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The clergy have become guilds that control access to the work of ministry in the Church. This is what the training colleges and ordination processes are for. They control access to ministry in the Church and restrict it to those whom the guilds of clergymen can mould and control, thereby preserving their disastrous domination of the Church for the next generation. The fact that the Church today is in a massive nose-dive due to their ignorance, intellectual laziness and idiotic machinations means nothing to them. They are determined to hold on to their dominions even if it means the failure of the their Church’s mission to disciple the nation. In fact most of them are committed to the failure of the Church’s mission as a theological principle. They do not believe that the nations can become Christian and they will not be part of such a project, and they will do all they can to make sure their Churches do not engage in such a mission. Their eschatology is a belief in the triumph of failure. They redefine the Great Commission so that it becomes mere individual soul saving, the purpose of which is to bolster their failing Churches, which are really little more than Christian mystery cults.
The whole theory, structure, and culture of Church leadership and Church leadership training must change. We must get rid of the domination of the Church by clergymen. There were no clergymen in the New Testament. A biblical theology of the Church has no role for clergymen. It has a role for ministries and for officers (i.e. elders and deacons), but the two are not coterminous. Making the necessary distinctions is essential to a proper understanding of the Church and her work, and without reform on this issues there will be no progress in the Great Commission, just more of the currently highly successful Great De-commission.
Once we have got rid of this disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be we can embrace the biblical emphasis in which the Church models true society to the world and calls the world to repentance both by her words and by the way she lives as the true society, a prophetic social order that is called to transform the world. This is what the kingdom of God is. But these two visions cannot co-exist in the same Church because they are fundamentally opposed to each other. It is time to get rid of the disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be and replace it with the biblical model: the kingdom of God. The Church cannot model to the world what true society should be and thereby fulfil her calling to transform the world while she is held captive to a false vision of her mission as result of being subjugated to a delinquent and unbiblical form of leadership that is committed to the failure of that mission.