As a planting Pastor, the question of accountability is huge for me. As a visionary, I understand that church planting is about Kingdom-building and not Kwesi-building. This understanding leads me to want to protect the church that is planted as a separate and independent entity from me. That is simply to say, I want the church we plant to outlast its planters. Being serious about this causes me to want to put processes, procedures, and people in place to ensure that we, (1) stay focused on the vision and, (2) that the ministry stays above reproach.
Pastoral Rule — As with almost all things ecclesiastical, there is more than one point of view. First, there are those who believe in what is called Pastoral Rule. In short, Pastoral Rule says that the Pastor is the final authority and is to be obeyed and never questioned.
Those who insist that this is biblical use Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17, instructions to church members, that they should obey those who rule over them. They often ignore Matthew 20:25-27, Mark 10:42-44, Luke 22:25-26, and 1 Peter 5:3, where pastors are specifically forbidden to exercise lordship over their members.
Ironically, those pastors who choose this paradigm are most often those aggressively opposed to being subject to any oversight. There is often no independent board as expected by the powers granting non-profit status to the church in the first place. (“Independent” here means that the board is not influenced by the church leaders, nor has any other conflict of interest with that specific church organization.) Habitually, any who ask the “wrong” questions, (questions of accountability), are hastily rebuked, removed, or renounced as trouble-making, rebellious and disloyal. On January 18th 2008, just this sort of thing was reported on by the Wall Street Journal. In this case, a 71 year-old member of the church, who simply asked for the by-laws to be followed, was rebuked, removed from membership, and upon returning to worship, she was arrested because the pastor called 911. For the full story click here. (Listen to the 911 call)
On February 21st 2008, this was the headline of the Dallas Observer: “Pentecostal Preacher Sherman Allen Turns Out to Be Reverend Spanky.” The article goes on to explain that, “The Fort Worth preacher is accused of beating, threatening and assaulting women for more than 20 years.” How was this allowed to happen!? He convinced some in the congregation that he had the authority to spank girls, women, and in some cases, grown men. (Full story here)
Finally, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley wants to know how these servants of God end up enjoying the trappings of a billionaire lifestyle. He wants to be certain that televangelists’ donors and church members, many of them tithers, are not being exploited. In response to this request for accountability, many of these “billionaire ministers” are crying foul. Wait, how is this above reproach? What is there to hide?
The arrogant response is basically the same. We are Pastors, men and women of God; we don’t have to answer to anyone. Is this acceptable to you? Do you think Pastoral Rule is Biblical?
Congregational Rule — This is where the people elect the leaders of the church. I’m not sure that there is any biblical basis for this practice. Simply put, I think to have the pastor’s job on the line based on the satisfaction of the people only opens the church up for more politics, division and favoritism. Can you imagine campaigning to be a pastor? Can you imagine the scene after a close vote that keeps the pastor in his post? Click here for such a story.
Elder Rule — In the midst of the Ted Haggard debacle, I found myself really proud of New Life Church. What could have been a church split or never-ending saga and embarrassment to the Church was handled with precision and pose. The story went public, the independent board of pastors and ministry leaders gathered from around the country, and within a matter of days, they made a decision.
“We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard,” a statement from the church said. “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.”
With that, the leadership and guidance needed in such a time was in place and fully functional. Instruction from the by-laws, stating clearly what would be done in a case like the one they experienced, was disseminated to the congregation. Even in crisis, there was decency and order.
Different people call these independent boards different things. Stewardship Teams, Overseeing Boards, Board of Elders, and Trustee Boards. No matter the name, the functions remain similar: provide protection for the church and her members and accountability for its Pastor.
As a church member, do you care what type of accountability is in place for your pastoral team and leadership? What happens if your pastor can no longer lead the church? Have you ever seen your church’s by-laws or financial statement? Should you?
Think about it.
All comments, question, concerns, criticisms and critiques are welcome. You can feel free to respond anonymously if you desire.
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