About Jesus Steve Sweetman
listening to some messages by a local pastor on "submission and
authority" and "spiritual fathers", I write the
following. I write as one
who has experienced these things and have spent much time in the
Scriptures studying these things.
the 1970's and 1980's I was involved in "submission and
authority". In that era
we were taught to submit to the authority of our shepherd.
In the 1990's I was in a church that adopted the teaching on
"submission and authority" as well, but in this instance we
were taught to submit to an apostle.
Now, in the 2000's I hear the words "submission and
authority" again, but in this latest instance, people are taught to
search out and submit to a "spiritual father".
I wonder what will come next. I
could write a whole book on these issues, but I won't, at least not for
the risk of being branded a rebel, I'd like to point out a couple of
things. One tendency of the
church throughout history has been to doctrinalize and formalize things
that were never meant to be doctrinalized and formalized. I
believe "spiritual fathering" is an example of this tendency.
Another tendency in the church throughout history has been to
structuralize the church to death. When
it comes to "spiritual fathering", I think it's a departure
from New Testament thinking to formalize it into a doctrine of church
apostle Paul did call himself a father in the Lord to certain people. (1
Corinthians 4:15) You might
say that he "birthed" these people into their new lives in
Jesus. So, in that sense of
the word, he was a spiritual father to some believers.
That being said, no where did Paul make this special relationship
that he had with certain people into a formal doctrine of the church.
No where did Paul teach Christians to seek out and submit to a "spiritual
father". Like so many
things in the church, we've taken Paul's personal experience, turned it
into a formal doctrine, and then incorporated it into the structure of
my early years as a Christian I had a spiritual father, although he was
not formally designated as such. Eventually
we should all grow up in the Lord. Once
a son matures, he leaves his father and mother and builds a life for
himself. Yes, he will always
be a son, but the father child/relationship turns into a relationship
based on mutual respect. This
has been true with my biological sons.
They are now older and live away from home, experiencing things
I've never experienced, and never will experience.
They're now teaching me things.
What once was a vertical relationship – father instructs sons,
has become a horizontal relationship – father and sons instruct each
other based on mutual
15:14 reads, "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you
yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to
instruct one another." (NIV)
Note the words "competent to instruct one another".
Christians should grow up and become "instruments of
instruction", but that's not always the case.
We leave such instruction to the pastor, and in the process
ignore our brothers in the Lord.
KJV uses the word "admonish" instead of the word
"instruct" in Romans 15:14.
According to the Greek word "noutheteo" that is
translated as "instruct" in the NIV and "admonish"
in the KJV, the sense is more than simply teaching facts.
It is helping someone to be steered in the right direction based
on certain facts, and in this case Biblical facts.
Romans 15:14 Paul teaches us to be "instruments of
instruction". This was
both the practice and the doctrine of the early church.
In the process of structuralizing the life out of the church,
we've forsaken this practice and doctrine.
For the most part, instruction now flows from the pulpit to the
pew, negating what Paul tells us. If
someone in the pew does have the opportunity to instruct, the teaching
is passed down to him from the pulpit, with strict instructions to teach
exactly what has been passed down.
15:14 clearly shows the importance of horizontal relationships in the
Body of Christ. We should
place great value on these relationships.
I'm not against the pulpit ministry, even though I do believe
we've emphasized it way out of proportion.
I'm just promoting our Biblical mandate to function in the Body
of Christ, part of which is to be "instruments of instruction"
to each other.
pastors purposely keep their people ignorant of Biblical issues in the
hope of maintaining an unhealthy control over their congregation.
Concerning what I call "secondary Biblical issues",
these pastors refuse any opposing viewpoint to be taught in the church.
This encourages the congregation not to grow up and think for
themselves. This hinders the
individual from becoming an "instrument of instruction".
They're just a dispenser of one brand of thinking.
Paul spoke well of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 because they studied
the Scriptures for themselves. He
also told Timothy to consider what he said and the Lord would give him
the understanding he needed. (2 Timothy 2:7)
That suggests Timothy was to learn to think for himself.
the 1970's my pastor friend told people he wanted to work
his way out of a job. His
point was well taken. Paul
held nothing back from those he taught so people could grow up in the
Lord to become "instruments of instruction".
Note what Paul says in Acts 20:20.
"I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you". (KJV)
Note also Acts 20:27. "I
have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
(KJV) If a pastor can
successfully follow Paul's example, he does well, but might work his way
out of a job in the process.
not discounting church leaders. They
have their place in the
church. I'm emphasizing the
responsibility of each and every individual in the Body of Christ to be
"instruments of instruction".
Let's take personal responsibility to function in the Body of
Christ as we were meant to function.