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Many Popes?

January 3, 2016
Greetings,
Jesus said:
               “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and He is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called ‘teacher’, for you have one Teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”   Matthew 23: 8-12
               So the Roman Catholic “church” has a Pope and according to their theology the Pope is The Vicar of Christ.  They believe that the Pope is actually Christ on earth and that all should follow him.  To them the Pope is more than just Christ’s representative.  They actually say that the Pope basically is Christ in the here and now.  That is totally dead wrong in oh so many ways…make that in all ways!  Overall Francis seems to be a more down to earth Pope and I appreciate his focus on helping the poor and the oppressed, but quite frankly no “man” should ever be exalted and revered like he is.
               However, the modern traditional “church” is not much better…because the vast majority of “churches” out there have Pastors who basically operate as little Popes.  They may stop just short of actually saying that Pastors are Christ, but they most definitely state that Pastors are Christ’s main representative in their “churches”.  Even when “churches” have boards, elders and deacons…the buck usually starts and stops with the Pastor.  I say that no “man” should have such power and authority in the “church”.  I have heard many Pastors say that they are God’s man and God’s mouthpiece to their “church”.  How incredibly wrong and sad is that?
               Jesus basically says in this passage that no man should have the title or authority of a rabbi, Pastor, master, father, or teacher.  According to Jesus it is always wrong to use these titles of power and position, but congregations all over still insist on having Pastors, Rabbis, Fathers and Teachers.  Jesus said that we should not have these positions in our churches because we are all simply equal sibling peers in Christ.  There is no real chain of command in a true church except Jesus is King and all the rest of us are mere brothers and sisters.
               The only thing any of us should strive to be called is a servant.  Laying down every title we should seek to merely serve others as Jesus did.  We are all called to lay down our lives for the sake of others.  Titles and positions destroy true unity and interrupt the Spirit’s flow to all who find themselves subordinate to “man” made hierarchies within the church.  We should all be free to directly hear God for ourselves and not through any other person with a position or title.  Popes, Pastors, Teachers are all the same…they all think they are serving, but all they really are doing is placing themselves as a roadblock between God and all others who desperately need to hear Christ’s voice for themselves.  There is to be NO human mediator between God and His children.  This is my plea to all of those out there who find themselves with a title or position within the “church”….Please get out of the way?  You want to help?  Then simply step down and aside and start being the sibling and peer you were always called to be.  Humble yourselves?
               Love and …..
Kirk Out !
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41 Comments
  1. Once again I apologize for the formatting of this blog post. WordPress would not allow me to publish it with proper paragraph breaks. However, I was able to add indentations to make readability better.

  2. I get it. It’s crazy how we have made the body of Christ so severed……and like the world…..go up and down the ladder of offices……I’m so thankful Jesus isn’t like that! We can go straight to Him! And together, as one body. 👍

  3. we3masonjarmamas permalink

    I remember being in church years ago and the pastor would make an alter call for prayer, there was a prayer team of about 6-8 people every time, yet almost no one would go to the people on the prayer team, there was always a line waiting for pastors prayer though…They wouldn’t say it with their mouths bu their actions really said “I think he’s more of a man of God then you and God hears him better.”

  4. Mick Curran permalink

    Your point isn’t an unreasonable one but within the settled order there are always natural leaders (it’s said they emerge in times of crisis) and there are always those who prefer to remain subservient. The hierarchical model isn’t perfect but it has evolved naturally, it does work and it can be endorsed by Scripture. I’d be interested to learn the details of an alternative working model if you have one in mind.

    • Karen permalink

      Can you share the scripture that endorses as you say?

      • Mick Curran permalink

        Scripture doesn’t necessarily endorse it. But Scripture can be quoted in order to endorse a hierarchy (if one favors prooftexting). Consider the interpretations held by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

      • Tom Ball permalink

        Paul was quite clear on the qualities of a pastor, and he appointed a bunch of them in various churches. Scripture is clear pastors should be paid as well. Anything can be distorted and certainly the church is no exception. But, perhaps there is room for many church “models” and none need be demonized. Many folks are drawn to Christ by a positive message rather than a tear-down-the-other-guy, only-we know-what-G0d-wants- and-are -doing- church- the-“right”-way approach. . I respect and value the house church movement. It has much to offer. But, can it be possible God is pleased with only the house church approach to worship? There is biblical support for the house church approach. There is biblical support for paid pastors. Perhaps in this fallen world, God chooses to use both to draw people to Christ.

    • Jesus spoke directly against the hierarchical model and did in fact institute a new model it is exactly OPPOSITE (inverted) with respect to the hierarchical model. I have a post somewhere re that… but read Mat 20 especially:

      Mat 20:25 But Jesus called the disciples together and said: You know that foreign rulers like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over everyone they rule.
      Mat 20:26 But don’t act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others.
      Mat 20:27 And if you want to be first, you must be the slave of the rest.
      Mat 20:28 The Son of Man did not come to be a slave master, but a slave who will give his life to rescue many people.

      So the new model is Jesus at the Bottom as a slave to the slaves above him who are slaves to the servants above them who serve the members of the body. so it is like a tree, and the Holy Spirit Juices flow up from the root (Christ) and into every branch and out and up to the smallest branches which are the ones that actually bare the fruit! so those below support and feed those the multitude of believers (above) and it is THEY the weakest members who are the ones that manifest the glory of God…. The Slaves and servants are hidden. as are the parts of a tree which supplies the juices to produce the fruit on the twigs….. etc etc.

      • Tom Ball permalink

        Herein lies a conundrum. If scripture is the inspired word of God, and Paul appointed pastors and told the church to pay them (though he himself chose not to take a salary), then it would appear Paul was contravening Jesus’ instructions (cited above.) If, however, Paul was following Jesus’ instruction that the disciples were to go and make disciples of all nations, and to teach them the things Jesus told them, then planting churches and appointing pastors seems to be the way he did it. Perhaps.

    • the hierarchical model emerged precisely BECAUSE of the fall of man… Mankind has taken on all of satan’s methods… But now we who are born of the Holy Spirit no longer need be locked in and driven by that ungodly methodology…. No we are now Holy Spirit Led.

  5. Zelos permalink

    In our small groups, It seems my position is to gently ‘enforce’ the rule that the conversation should be ‘shared’ and model that myself. As a leader, i feel my job is to gently prevent one or a small number of people from ‘dominating the others’ conversation, time, or such. I see my job to be keep ‘them’ working I am that’s ‘my’ work. Discipling is encouraging each other to learn and do ‘themselves’, rather than have some ‘one’ do everything.

  6. Tom Ball, There is no record of Paul or anyone else appointing Pastors in the New Testament. Elders at times yes, but NOT Pastors. In fact the Greek word for pastor is only used twice in the NT and it is very interesting that NOT once was a Pastor addressed or identified in the NT. I do believe in pastoral gifts in the Body of Christ, but only in a supporting and serving role and certainly NOT as the primary Leaders in the Church. The New Testament does not endorse paying servants to the Body, Paul worked making tents to support himself and his ministry whenever he could, but also recieved love gifts when he was in chains or unable to work. In fact Paul refused pay saying that taking pay would hinder and discredit the Gospel. Leadership in the NT is extremely different than we see in the modern insititutional/Traditional “church” True Spirit led biblical leaders serve like slaves rather than rule and dominate over the rest of the Body. I agree with Tom that diversity is allowed for and encouraged in scripture. HOusechurch is a misnomer, but approaching all varieties of church relationally and Spiritually instead of using worldly and business models is key to being an authentic and effective model. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but seek only to follow Christ’s example of placing relationships first and always serving rather than ruling. Like Mike shared Jesus’s view of service to the Body is from the bottom rather from the top down. I appreciate this conversation and everyone involved in it. Let us continue to reason together and love one another as we all seek HIS face?

    • Zelos permalink

      The concept of leader/pastor/bishop is simple, bit it is so hard to get the picture/ concept of good pastoring across. Because it has been tradition to have a clergy/laity format, it is hard for believers to see otherwise. You can only model it, I have found very few who model what I am talking about. The coach/apprenticeship model well describes the model for discipleship, the coach/instructor does not actually do the work and often avoids actual participation, but watches, advises, as the disciples converse, or do whatever they are doing. This is not to say the Christian instructor/teacher does not participate, because often both the more mature Christian and student can learn together. But the mature one will focus on encouraging the less knowledgeable to do the study/work ‘themselves’.

    • Tom Ball permalink

      My reading of scripture finds Paul instructing Timothy and others about the qualities to be demonstrated by those placed in positions of authority in the churches. Elder… leader… pastor… the point is he appointed some to lead. Some lead,, others don’t ( lead in the same positional way.) While Paul chose not to take a salary, he specifically said that was his choice and gave his personal reasons, but it was proper to pay church leaders.

      • Tom, the problem is that in the New Covenant there is no separate Clergy class of believers for we are all now Priests unto both God and “man”. Among a unified Body of Christ no one gets special pay or recognition. The whole counsel of the New Testament clearly shows us that we are all mutual sibling peers in Christ and no one should be called Leader, Pastor/Teacher or ANY other title. WE are bond slaves to Christ and slaves do not get paid.

      • "BK" permalink

        Precious brother, Tom. The scripture doesn’t say “elder, leader, pastor”, it says ‘elders’. Respectfully, “BK”

  7. Nathan Lambshead permalink

    Most protestant sects I attended treat their pastor the same as a ‘pope’, even if they do not see it. The pastor is ‘anointed of God’, or some such phrase or other depending on the sect, and people truly believe they are ‘above’ the rest of us, whether they admit it to themselves or not.
    The root of a tree determine the branches, no matter how split, multiplied and ‘diverse’ the branches may become. The roots of the catholic (aka universal church) tree ARE the roots of the protestant branches, whether people believe it or not. The main reason I left it. Our Creator never tried to ‘fix’ false religion, nor did He instruct us to stay in it and fight with the roots. In fact, quite the reverse. He said to come out from it and be separate. (or get out of the boat if you prefer a Messianic era bent on the subject)
    Just my input. Don’t expect anyone else to take the same path I did.

  8. daryl permalink

    It can be truly frustrating,trying to make up ones mind concerning “how things are supposed to be”,and i appreciate everyones comments.Mick commented that the hierarchical model does work,and has evolved naturally.I guess that depends on how you define “work” …and i’m not trying to criticise…I just know that when at least half of institutional churches (and it may be more),have leadership that doesn’t even grasp “not under law but under grace”,a fundamental doctrine for the Church….it’s ludicrous to think we need them to edify and equip us for anything.Makes no sense , not to mention how it contradicts the priesthood of all believers.

    • Mick Curran permalink

      Quite right that it depends upon how one defines “work” and I suppose if I were asked to detail the degree to which it works I’d have to say not as well as one might hope. Muddling through, perhaps?

    • Well said Daryl

  9. "BK" permalink

    As long as Eph 4:11 is viewed as ‘positions’, no matter how one wants to define them, there will be the problem of an image that provokes to jealousy. It is true that God is on record as hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans (clergy over laity) so for sure He has an opinion about the worldly method of hierarcy generally accepted as ‘the right way’ in Christianity. We might want to note that when God told Samuel to tell Israel He was going to give them a king as they requested, that He said if they and their king would walk in His ways He would bless them….then went on to say, He was blessing them in spite of THEIR GREAT WICKEDNESS of wanting a king. Yes, He moves in many ways and forms; yes, He loves all; yes, He blesses but that doesn’t mean it is as He wants it. My dear friend, Megumi, prayed to ‘the gods’ in her Buddhist temple when the real and living God, Jesus, introducted Himself to her. She didn’t go on being a Buddhist because she met Him while she still was one, she left to follow Him. Seeking the ‘right way’ to meet or worship sets us up to find a ‘thing’, while seeking Him sets us up to find HIM……wherever He decides to show up. To make ourself a ‘servant of all’ so we can be great is still encumbered with the baggage of “I want to be great”…..???? Just my rambling thoughts…….”BK”

  10. Rich Chamberlin permalink

    Wow, good reaction to this one – yes house church does rebel against apostolic leadership model even without hybrid priest rabbi wannabes, AS a doer not just a talker, Gotta go with Mick on this -expect new church tree will have connecting branches – not just bunch of separate leaves – failling to the ground. Structure equals connection – that’s why we form clusters – WE NEED connection – just without domination-branch does not dominate leaves – rather holds them up

    • I believe the original 12 truly ‘got’ what Jesus was saying in Mat 20:20-28.

      Initially, the mother of the ‘sons of thunder’ was asking for a prominent position for her two sons, like any mother would do. (we all know what mothers are like)

      Jesus then challenged the two brothers re their willingness to give all for the kingdom’s sake and found they were up to the task. but explained that the Father had already put the name-tags on the tables at the upcoming wedding feast and that He (Jesus) had no say in that. (I remember my wedding… I was just a passenger in the proceeding and happy to be that and just ENJOY.)

      Now here is the interesting part, the other 10 of the 12 were ‘pissed off’ with the two loud mouth brothers, but Jesus gently reprimanded the other 10 and presented to them all (and to us all) a picture of how they, (and us) who desire to truly follow Him and be as effective (or even more effective than Him) in the Kingdom of God; a picture of how we all are meant to operate in the Kingdom of God. [wow that is an awkward sentence]

      Jesus explained that it is NOT wrong to desire to be very effective in the Kingdom of God, but to be so requires that you become a servant to the other servants within the Kingdom. (for we are ALL His servants)
      And if you want to be the most effective of those who serve my servants in the Kingdom of God, then you need be a slave to those who serve my servants.

      And then he put Himself forward as a Prime example of one who knew what it takes and had what it takes. AMEN.

      Mat 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.
      Mat 20:21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
      Mat 20:22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”
      Mat 20:23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
      Mat 20:24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
      Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
      Mat 20:26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
      Mat 20:27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
      Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  11. Zelos permalink

    True, it is our connectiveness and meeting together (assembly) that builds the Church. We should not be just a pile of stones, but stones fit together to form His Body. Conversation, community, sharing, praying, studying Gods word together, these things knit us together into a family. Sitting in pews staring at a man at the front does not knit us together, build relationships, or allow us to do anything we are told to do and show in scripture like care, concern, love, patience, reason, encourage, etc. and even warn and question behavior of friends if necessary. This only happens when we sit, walk and talk with one another.

    • Bible says we already ARE already perfectly fitted together and that it is the joints between us that supply everything that is needed, so all we need do is maintain and develop those relationships with the other parts of the body that are around us. I wrote something about that a while ago.
      Will try to make it and link it in somehow? Here is www link:
      http://witherdens.com/Gods%20Hand/Every%20Joint%20Supplies.html

  12. I am loving all of these comments, even the ones where we may disagree. Respectful exchanges even with passion are most excellent. It is wonderful that we can thrash things out with one another on the proverbial threshing floor. This is how the Body of Christ should operate with true love and concern for each other and the Truth in Love.

    • Mick Curran permalink

      The title of this piece serves to remind me not to be overly “dogmatic” in my sentences so in putting forward my idea of the “the best model” I should emphasize that it is no more than my opinion.

      Over the years I’ve wandered around a bit in Christendom—Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, United Methodism, Eastern Orthodoxy and, lastly, Quakerism, which is my current affiliation. I hesitate to declare anything negative about any of the Churches or faith communities in which I formerly spent time because those experiences, including the people I encountered (both the easygoing types and the sandpaper types) constitute an integral part of my formation. Nevertheless, the Religious Society of Friends gets my vote for providing the best model. And I suppose, given my lifelong propensity for wandering, I should suffix it and promote it as “the best model I’ve discovered to date.”

      There are two aspects of Quakerism that I think worth mentioning here.

      Firstly, whereas in most parts of Christendom one finds that churches insist new entrants must agree to accept at least a few externally imposed doctrines e.g. a “Statement of Faith” Friends do not. For Friends, faith is entirely a personal issue so imposing acceptance of dogmas and doctrines as a condition of entry/membership is “anathema” to use the language of many popes.

      Secondly, Friends in general do not favor the idea of a hierarchical leader. During their beginnings, back in Albion, the terms “hireling priest” and “hireling shepherd” were introduced into Quaker verbiage. The purists would have wanted to keep things that way but it didn’t happen and these days one wouldn’t have to go far in order to alight upon a Quaker meetings that supports a paid pastor. Nevertheless, the noble principle remains.

  13. 2trakmind permalink

    I think one of the major struggles we face in reading the Bible is that it is nearly impossible to remove ourselves from our own context when reading it. Unfortunately, our modern context is all we can really comprehend. As much as people want there to be, we really don’t have a Biblical mandate for what church “should” look like in the Bible. We do have hints of what the early church looked like, but the very reason there is so much debate is because we were not given a structure, and I think that is intentional. Structures become idols to us, and before long, what we’ve structured ourselves around gets shoved out the door, so as not to interfere with our precious program. No matter how much we argue and debate it, there really is no “Biblical model.” We do know that each member has gifts that they should be welcomed to use within the body. No one person has all the gifts, and no gift is greater than another. When it comes to a hierarchical model, however, we do have some pretty critical words from Jesus regarding the temple structure, which our own institutional model seems to be modeled after. As such, I think a pretty strong argument can be made against the predominant model we have today. Not saying that everything about it is wrong, but it is in desperate need of dismantling and being prayerfully rebuilt with some of the final words of Jesus in mind. “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

    • Mick Curran permalink

      The point about context is well–made and I agree the reality is that no biblical model can be found. The model that is easily identifiable is the hierarchical model, which is based upon tradition. I daresay most objective analysts would categorize it as “tradition by default,” given that there was no mechanism available in the Early Church that could be used effectively to oppose authoritarianism other than the odd solitary voice or small group—the tradition of Sola Scriptura being, at that time, but an unknown futuristic feature.

      While it might seem attractive to the imagination to see set in motion yet another reform process, the practical application would require somebody to step up, assume command and dictate the terms—an action that would paradoxically be seen by many as acting like a pope. So even with best of intentions anybody who set out to “right the wrong” could attempt it within the accepted parameters only by adopting the maxim that “two wrongs do in fact make a right” and in applying that notion would suddenly morph into the mirror image of that which he or she was attempting to defeat.

      I think it’s a case of being stuck with what we’ve got and to recognize that while the muddle may provide an engaging talking point the only realistic approach and overview is to accept that to err is human, as the diminutive English poet once declared, and work within the framework handed on down.

      • Mick, the wind of the Spirit blows where it wants to and thus fits into no “framework” whatsoever except following the moment by moment leading of the Spirit.

      • Mick Curran permalink

        It seems that I sounded too dogmatic. Apologies. I did not intend my suggestion to work within the framework to be taken as a dogmatic statement promoted for universal application. I tender it as an opinion and a possibility since it’s the subjective approach that I take. And I did not suggest, nor would I suggest, that the Holy Spirit fits into the framework. Rather, I would very gently opine that unless one feels led to don the mantle of a “Lone Ranger Christian” the Holy Spirit may be found within the framework that’s been handed down i.e. the Church as it is today, warts and all.

  14. Mick and all, Of course the Spirit of Christ is always there when 2 or 3 gather in HIs Name no matter what format or framework they gather in. However, some ways of gathering are just more excellent and profitable than others. Hierarchical “frameworks” IMHO inhibit our ability to truly BE the Church for Christ, one another, and others. The traditional/institutional “church” operates by the ways of “man” rather than the ways of Christ leading to factions rather than the true unity that Jesus prayed His BOdy would have.

    • Nathan Lambshead permalink

      The early believers did not gather in buildings nor under a pyramid shaped hierarchy. They met in homes, in small groups. Somehow this fact is lost in the fog of time under the Roman religious structure people think is ‘Gods’ church. Just a fact of humanity, how we operate.

  15. John Contabile permalink

    I don’t think the Bible needs to be read as a rule book, or even to specifically look for models for church practice. [Which, as an aside, doesn’t require it to be inerrant/infallible…but that is another topic.]

    As I read it, the whole of the Bible speaks quite clearly: God will lead, but men/women fail to allow it in one way or another.

    Clearly, Jesus’ emphasis was that the Spirit would lead us. In reality, that is all we need, and if we are willing, can do much more than we can on our own. And that goes for setting up church hierarcy and systems especially!

    Ezekiel 34 – One Pastor (Pope, if you must) – Jesus!!!

  16. Rich Chamberlin permalink

    Oh Mick don’t whimp out on me! Dogmatic is vital – but ONLY on apostolic points – instead of man made. See mikes comment on JC view of greatest and lease in Kingdom system – certainly not equal – but inverted, Godly measure – how LOW CAN YOUR EGO GO?

  17. Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope go to the bathroom in the woods?

  18. Mercy fulgencio permalink

    Titles and heirarchy in traditional/institutional church make one proud and eventually become an icon.

    • "BK" permalink

      This is a beautiful statement and I am going to repeat it, “Titles and heirarchy in traditional/institutional church make one proud and eventually become an icon.” Amen. As far as ‘apostolic’ views go I have a different ‘take’ on the ‘model’ left us right after the day of Pentecost. It says the believers went from house to house and ‘fellowshippped the apostles teaching….’. I don’t believe they fellowshipped ‘words of teaching’ but rather the WHAT of what they said….Jesus is in ALL and ALL hear His Spirit and share Him to build up the body. They practiced DOING, not repeating words spoken. Hope I’m making sense here, “BK”

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