The Golden Rule in the Church: “He who has the gold, rules”


(Submitted by an anonymous contributor and posted at our own risk)

Ephesians 4:11  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…

Currently within the Church the majority of Christ’s full-time servants are undoubtedly local pastors. This group has the dominant position within the Church in terms of sheer number and influence. Scripture, however, does not say that this must be the case. Pastors are but one of five offices the Lord gave for the body of Christ.

Why is it that—even combined—apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers are mute in comparison to the voice of pastors among God’s people?

Of course there may be those among us (especially cessationists) who teach that according to the Bible the offices of apostle and prophet are now defunct.

2 Corinthians 12:12  I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.

Since according to cessationists miracles wrought by the hands of apostles have ceased, their office must also have ceased.

1 Corinthians 13:8  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

According to cessationists this Scripture teaches that prophecies have also ceased. Consequently there are no more prophets.

However, even taking into account the presumed “ceasing” of these two offices, there remain evangelists and teachers whose voices are relatively silent compared to that of our local pastors who among their many other responsibilities provide direct spiritual sustenance for tens of millions of God’s people Sunday after Sunday in church facilities around the world.

But let us assume (not unreasonably) that all five offices are still valid in the Church today. Why is the pastoral ministry so visible and influential in the life of the Church compared to that of the other four offices even combined?

There is one factor which stands out, and can be summarized (albeit a bit indelicately) with “the Golden Rule”: He who has the gold, rules. (It was actually a pastor’s daughter from whom I heard this.)

Almost every pastor—very understandably—teaches tithing according to Malachi 3:10. There is of course debate whether or not tithing is actually a New Testament practice. But for a local pastor it makes paramount sense (especially economically) to teach tithing to the congregation. There are sizable bills to pay for and maintain the physical facility. Salaries must be paid to staff in order to continue ministering to the flock and discipling God’s people. Beyond that, missionaries, evangelists, and so-called “para-church” ministries can be supported. 

In some churches tithes (10% of income) are primarily to support the work of the church where every week the believers receive their spiritual nourishment. Over and above their tithes for the local body, believers might be encouraged to give offerings to ministries “outside” the local body. Typically this can amount to 5%, or one-half of the tithe which goes to the local church.

We can reasonably surmise that more believers tithe 10% to their local church where they receive personal ministry and attention than those who after tithing also support worthy “para-church” ministries outside of their local church—with a smaller amount of perhaps 5%. Local churches as a whole therefore receive far more in offerings than “para-church” ministries.

The result in general is that pastors are in charge of the preponderance of the offerings given by the body of Christ to the Lord. Being in charge of the “gold” pastors are able to “rule.” Apostles, evangelists, prophets, and teachers must depend on the kind generosity of pastors as well as believers who graciously give offerings to para-church ministries after having tithed to their local church. This is the reality faced by many apostles, evangelists, prophets, and teachers. In order to survive financially some of these have been forced to start a church where they can receive regular offerings. But since pastoring a church takes up much time and effort, they will suffer frustration since the Lord has actually called them to a different ministry, that is, as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, or as a teacher.

Allow us to make one more point.

The term “para” as in “para-church” is derived from the Greek which means “beside, near, issuing from.” Therefore “para-church” ministries by definition are secondary in the Church. Does New Testament Scripture support this?

Take the apostle Paul as one example. Was his evangelistic and church-planting ministry in any way secondary or issuing from the local church? Of course not. Paul was the one God used to father local churches. Could it be, in a wider sense, that today the father to some extent survives at the pleasure of the child?

The word “Church” in Scripture does not refer to the entire collection of local churches with their physical facilities as we have today. Rather it refers to the invisible Body of Christ consisting of believers universally. In this light the expression “para-church” can lose much of its meaning. Take the Great Commission—which Christ commanded His disciples to fulfill just before his ascension. Are ministries which focus on fulfilling the Great Commission (like that of the apostle Paul) “beside, near, or issuing from” the Body of Christ?

No!

The primary purpose of the Body of Christ on earth IS to fulfill the Great Commission—by preaching the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches—after which Jesus Christ will return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Our purpose on earth is not simply to enjoy God and His blessings. There is an extremely urgent rationale for God to bless His people on earth beyond their temporal well-being here, as we shall see below.

Sadly, the Great Commission to those who never heard has mostly been relegated to the back seat, treated in effect as an afterthought of which we remind ourselves once a year on Mission Sunday. Although we pastors recognize the paramount importance of the Great Commission, in our day-to-day ministries taking care of God’s people and addressing their various issues we do not really have the wherewithal to focus on the Great Commission. For sure there are churches in the West which do reach out with the gospel locally, but typically to communities which are for the most part already “christianized” and therefore yielding relatively sparse results—especially when compared to the great harvests we see in Acts. What about the gospel for the billions living in gospel-resistant regions on earth where it has never been heard even once?

We ought therefore to remind ourselves regarding the purpose of the five-fold ministry:

Ephesians 4:11  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…

For what “works of service” should the five-fold ministry equip God’s people? Is it building up the body of Christ so that believers and their loved ones can enjoy God’s multi-faceted blessings here in earth?

Well, no. We are blessed to be a blessing.

We should be building up the body Christ during these Last Days in order to fulfill the Great Commission to the billions of souls who never heard in accordance with Matthew 24:14—after which the end will come.

Matthew 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

This of course will be the much-awaited answer to what uncounted multitudes of believers are taught to pray every day: “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Conclusions

Ultimately, we may need to revisit the issue of tithing to the local church. It is this practice which gives local pastors the “gold” enabling them to “rule” within the Church. Being pastors of course they naturally feel they must focus their resources on the needs of their local ministry, where most immediate are the needs of their flock. One study estimated that well over 80% of offerings received by churches in America goes to cover the cost of maintaining the church and its local ministry. (A few enlightened pastors might not be doing this, but they are likely a very small minority.) Along with the practice of tithing, we might want to revisit the traditional structure of the Church itself. See “The Teaching of the Nicolaitans” down below.

The annual income of the Church in America is a good chunk of a trillion


We must also correct our understanding of “Church.” Though we might not want to admit it, we tend to see it as the collection of local institutions each having a physical facility where believers gather. Anything outside of it is therefore “para-church.” Outside ministries—like those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers—are therefore “beside” or “near” the Church, and not central to the Church.

This is a sad fallacy which has impeded the fulfillment of the Great Commission within the Church for centuries if not millennia.

The Teaching of the Nicolaitans which Jesus Hates

 

 

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