Thursday, December 20, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 16)

Read the entire series of posts here.

I'm taking a slight detour from the train of thought on pastors' responsibilities and commenting on a very important bible passage that I included in Part 15:

The Apostle Peter exhorts church elders and says, "...shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:2-3.)

The phrase "those allotted to your charge" is vitally important in establishing the who and how of pastors' responsibility, but most important of all it establishes how membership is established and Who establishes it. Notice very carefully the grammatical structure of this phrase. "Those" are the sheep. "Your" is a possessive pronoun that indicates that it is the elders (pastors) who have the charge . "Allotted" is the verb that ties the sheep to the shepherds' charge.

Now, it is not possible from the grammar - as the elders of Grace Community Church wrongly claim when they say, "those who have submitted themselves to the care and the authority of the elders" are the ones they have responsibility over - it is not possible that the sheep are the ones who do the allotting. The sheep are allotted to the charge of the pastors. The allotting is passive - it is done to them. If it were the sheep that did the allotting, as the Grace elders claim, then the verse would read, "those who have allotted themselves to your charge." It doesn't say that. The sheep are not the ones who allot, they are the ones who have been allotted.

Also, it is not possible from the grammar that the pastors/elders are the ones who do the allotting. Otherwise the verse would read, "those whom you have allotted to your own charge." It doesn't say that either.

The only possibility from the grammar is that the object that does the allotting is neither the sheep nor the shepherds. So Who is the one who allots?  The bible tells us:

"For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." (1 Cor. 12:13)

"But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired." (1 Cor. 12:18)

"But God has so composed the body..." (1 Cor. 12:24)

The answer is God. He allots sheep to the charge of shepherds. This He does by assembling the sheep. It is God's assembly, not the shepherd's assembly.  The elders of GCC have made a large mistake in how they view relationships in the church.  Their teachings on the matter are widespread.  It is no great task, then, to realize that large problems can result from large problems in how one views the church.

Part 15 . . . . . . . . Part 17


  1. My response to this from an Anglican point of view (or a Catholic or Orthodox one for that matter) is that the pastor is the bishop (oversser) of the diocese and you are under his charge simply by the fact that you like in his diocese.

    The diocese was traditionally a significant city with the surrounding rural environs, though today especially there are some very large dioceses in terms of territory because there are few Christians.

    The pastors/elders/priests at the various congregations are simply helpers to the bishop as he carries out his oversight of the ministries in his diocese.

    Does this seem like a reasonable way of applying this verse to you?

  2. Maybe they think God allots the sheep to their charge via the membership system that seems wise in their eyes.... Otherwise the sheep are refusing God's allotment and I guess they must think either the sheep stymie God or they are rebellious sheep because they don't allow God to allot themselves to the shepherds. Hmmm how the sheep hold back God's hand from allotting them is another argument! :-p Or they could be wolves in sheep's clothing since they refuse the allotment that is their due.

    What do you think... take a pick. I think we should draw lots!

    The whole thing is pretty sad actually.