Don’t ask me why, but most Christians are somehow fundamentally beguiled by the idea of someone controlling a physical space such as a rented or purchased building, as if this is some kind of great accomplishment or astonishing feat of talent. Yet almost any average middle class person or businessman, believer or unbeliever can rent or build a building. So what’s the big deal? I really don’t know. I think it has something to do with how deep false traditions have become ingrained by being so heavily promoted and modeled from the pulpits over so many years. But I can tell you that I marvel at this eerie and incredibly perplexing phenomenon in the church, a phenomenon that transcends all logic and common sense.
Here’s how it pretty much goes. An ambitious salesman-like preacher gets some people together to rally around his vision for grandeur. He rents a space to incubate interest in his personal plan for greatness. He correctly quotes a few Scriptures here and there but misquotes and misapplies many others. (But nobody notices. They are far too busy going along for the ride to even care.) He claims that God told Him to do what he is doing. But no one can verify his story. No one even tries.
Many unwary people are impressed with his charismatic personality and with his steadily increasing number of followers. They are even more enamored with the fact that he controls and presides over a room or set or rooms and because of all this they show inordinate interest in what he has to say. They begin to look up to him in an inappropriate way and the transfer of power begins (or continues if it has already begun).
Once firmly installed in his rental space, over time, the average professing Christian preacher goes on to fast-talk enough money out of “his” people for a large enough down payment to hopefully inspire a bank to lend him a huge sum of money for a permanent free standing church building. Of course this is unbiblical because it is totally contrary to what the Bible teaches about going into debt, but regardless he gets the loan and starts building his dream building anyway.
Once completed, decorated and outfitted with the latest high tech gear or other coveted paraphernalia, he takes his “rightful” position on the throne as the king of the building, just like he was king of the rented space. This new building is just an extension and progression of the budding kingdom that he enjoyed previously in the rented room. He then goes on to pound on the congregation almost continuously for money to pay the daunting monthly mortgage payment for his new palace.
It doesn’t stop here. Lust has no limits. These men are often extremely greedy (see 1Cor 5:9-13) and therefore they are never satisfied with what they have. Because of this they will usually almost immediately begin making plans for an even larger building or facility. And on and on the never-ending cycle goes. Christians are continuously robbed as they keep paying the bill for the silly circus that has come to town.
Now here’s my main point:
Suddenly out of absolutely nowhere men like this gain what I call spontaneous authority in the eyes of many of the naïve people who join or visit the spaces that they control.
That means that a man who had no previous power over someone suddenly now has power to control him or her. Now we would be remiss if we did not ask what this preacher has really done to truly earn him the right of such power over people, the right to control them spiritually, emotionally and financially? Let us review.
He claims that God told Him to do what he is doing. Of course he has no proof, evidence or eyewitnesses to support his claims. It’s all self-generated hearsay. He is the only one who can verify his own story. But you can find a kook on almost any corner who will claim to have heard some unbiblical nonsense from God. So what?
He rallies some support and assembles a constituency. The political machine is forming fast. Well, any politician in the world can do that.
He quotes and misquotes some Scriptures and so to the gullible he appears to be an expert on the Bible. But the devil also quotes and misquotes the Scriptures.
He has what some people call a dynamic personality and so he impresses his listeners by speaking with charisma. But the same thing can be said of virtually any motivational speaker in the world.
And again, here’s what seems to be the real kicker, the point that seems to be the biggest hang-up of all for most Christians: he controls a building or physical space.
Not one of these is a Biblical requirement of an elder. I urge you to read the real Biblical requirements of an elder such as wee see in Titus 1:7-9. Keep in mind that the words elder, pastor and bishop are pretty much used interchangeably as synonyms in the New Testament. These terms do not represent a stacked hierarchy or chain of command.
7For a bishop [elder, pastor] must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. Titus 1:7-9
Now, just where do we read here that a bishop, elder or pastor must be a dynamic speaker and fast talker, able to rally and convince people to follow their grand plans, claiming that God told them to pursue their dreams? Where do we see that an elder must be in control of a building or physical space?
Yet, I suppose if someone demonstrates these worldly “qualities” and displays the incredible finesse and “great skill” to obtain and control a room, then I guess we should all just drop our guard, follow them and let them control us as well. Right? Wrong!
Let me ask this question: Are the unbelievers of the world so foolish as to make a mere charismatic proprietor of a building a spiritual authority in their lives, just because he or she can talk fast and control a building or physical space? Not usually. The world is usually much smarter than that. But this happens ALL THE TIME in professing Christian circles.
The world usually requires that a person first be a movie star, rock star or sports star before they will ascribe such ridiculous importance to them or look up to them that much and give them that much respect and power. But there are exceptions. Some people in the world do make gurus out of everyday people. Christians do it all the time. Jesus told us that the world is wiser with money than Christians are. It seems that the world is also wiser in these matters as well.
Not surprisingly, the average “pastor” fully believes in and also relies heavily on this allusive out-of-nowhere false power in order to get whatever it is that they want out of people, which is usually money and volunteer time. They almost constantly remind their congregations about their alleged authority and why everyone should submit to their whims. They play a lot of games and make a lot of claims to try to uphold this power. They twist Scriptures, quote verses out of context and make wild assumptions about authority in the church all in a vain attempt to try to support why they should be king.
Beware of the error of spontaneous authority in the church. Authority and the power to control does not suddenly appear out of nowhere. It rests firmly in the hands of Jesus Christ the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The Bible says that all authority had been given to Jesus Christ. No churchman has the right to control God’s people. The only authority that we as Christians have in the church is the authority to uphold the authority of Christ and His written Word and to try and convince (not force) other Christians to follow God’s commands. That is where our authority begins and that is where it ends, in Christ who is the beginning and the end. Those who do not know this or who refuse to accept this are prey for the swarm of predators that have descended upon our land.