On Church Leadership
- Saturday, June 28, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from On Church Leadership by Mark Driscoll (Crossway).
In the fall of 1996 we officially launched Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I was twenty-five years of age and had been a Christian since the age of nineteen. Our city was among the least churched in the nation, with more dogs than either children or Christians. Our church was about as big as a Mormon family. Our budget was meager. Our leadership structure was informal. And, as a result, our ministry was painful.
In the first few years our church experienced a great number of tensions. Many of them were about conflicting theological beliefs on everything from the Bible to Jesus, hell, women in ministry, mode of baptism, and the return of Jesus, which I hoped would happen soon so I could get out of the mess I had made by starting a church.
Without formal leaders and structures in place, it was not long before the most vocal, networked, and pushy people started asserting themselves as leaders of our little church and causing a great amount of division. Their varying demands quickly sidetracked the mission of our church to love our city and see it transformed by the power of Jesus. Our internal church strife quickly overshadowed our external cultural mission.
At the root of all of our troubles was the issue of authority. Our people, most of whom were young in both age and faith, did not have a biblical understanding of or respect for authority. The issue of authority begins with Jesus himself. During his earthly ministry, those who heard Jesus teach were astonished by his authority,1 which included the authority to forgive sins,2 cast out demons,3 heal sickness,4 and mete out our eternal judgment.5 After his resurrection from death, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."6
Today, Jesus is seated on his throne in heaven as glorious, exalted, and supreme King, Lord, and God in authority. There is not one inch of creation, one culture or subculture of people, one lifestyle or orientation, one religion or philosophical system that he does not possess full authority over. Jesus is in the place of highest authority, as Paul says, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority."7 The authority of governments and rulers,8 husbands,9 parents,10 bosses,11 and church leaders12 all proceed from Jesus.
Not only does Jesus possess all authority, but while on the earth he also gave us the perfect model of what it means to respect authority. On this point, 1 Corinthians 11:3 says, "But I want you to understand that the head of every man [or husband] is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." The meaning of the word "head" in this verse has been hotly debated. But its most common use in Scripture is in reference to a position of authority. Jesus is called the head of the church because he has authority over the church.13 If Jesus is not our highest authority, then who is?
Furthermore, Jesus is ruling today through the authority of both Scripture and
God the Holy Spirit, who has been sent to teach us Scripture and empower us for obedient, regenerated lives. Scripture itself claims to be God-breathed or inspired: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."14 Jesus himself also taught that "Scripture cannot be broken."15 This is because the Scriptures are from God and therefore come with his authority and power. Furthermore, the early church treated the apostles' New Testament teaching as authoritative, just as it did the Old Testament teaching of the prophets.16 Because of this we are told that the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles [New Testament] and prophets [Old Testament], Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone."17 Subsequently, Christians, including myself, rightly believe that Scripture (Old and New Testaments) is our highest authority, or metaphorical Supreme Court, by which all other things are tested.
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