Part 7 in the Series:
Questioning Church Authority
by Don Enevoldsen
Human institutions naturally tend toward hierarchy. The church might be the body of Christ with far reaching spiritual implications, but as a collection of human beings, it qualifies as a human institution. The human desire for control, status and position invariably weaves its way into the organization.
Evidence that church would not be free of this lust for honor was evident long before there was a church. The sons of Zebedee, James and John, motivated by their mother’s wish for her boys to do well, pushed for a hierarchical recognition. They asked Jesus to let them sit to his left and right in his kingdom, the two positions of greatest honor (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45).
Three points in this story are relevant to this series. First is what we might call a disconnect between expectation and reality. The Zebedee family envisioned leadership as obtaining a place of honor. Good leadership has ramifications far different from their dreams. “You don’t know what you are asking,” he told them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Leadership requires sacrifice. They didn’t understand the most basic element of good leadership. All they saw was the honor.
Second, the other ten disciples were indignant. I would say that James and John had greater integrity than the others. Apparently everyone wanted the place of honor, but the others expressed it only through jealousy. At least James and John were honest about it.
Third, Jesus knew that for the church to function in a healthy way, leadership had to be different than the worldly system of hierarchical control. Making position a priority would never get the job done. Those twelve men were to be the foundation of the church. They needed to get their priorities straight, and Jesus took the time to explain to them how that should look.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
In other words, if you want to be a good leader, get over yourself. You will be loved and respected by some, but you will certainly be despised and attacked by others. If your decisions in life are based on who does which, you are not ready for a position of responsibility.
Next, Part 8: Deacons, Elders and Bishops
Go to the beginning of the series, Questioning Church Authority: Part 1: False Prophets
Do you have an additional thought on this subject that will assist our search for truth? Please join the discussion and share your insights.