Inherent in the American system of government is a basic mistrust of people who hold authority or responsibility. This mistrust runs deep through our psyche as a people. Once, I did a consultation for a church of 2,000 in Madison, Wisconsin that was changing its bylaws. The senior pastor offered some perspective on the culture surrounding his church: "What you have to understand is that in this community, there is huge mistrust of anyone in authority. Everyone here wants to be in on decisions because they don't trust leaders."

Unfortunately, those attitudes often carry over into our churches. But the church is not the local government, and healthy leaders in the church are to be trustworthy and followed. The writer of Hebrews goes so far as to say, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17)."

The New Testament clearly vests the senior leadership of the church with authority and responsibility in the context of a leadership for which they are ultimately accountable to God.

Ironically, when church governance is established as a checks-and-balances system, mistrust is not only built-in but is also actively fostered. The very basis of the governance system of checks and balances implies that we should question and limit one another. When authority is meted out to different groups, in the best-case scenario there is the opportunity for misunderstanding; in the worst-case scenario there is outright conflict. Here, you not only have tollbooths that decisions must pass through, but you also have the added frustration of dealing with mistrusting tollkeepers!

The church needs to see a new renaissance of trust among its people. Trust between paid staff members and boards, between boards and congregations, and between congregations and staff teams. We need to teach our people that trust is a biblical concept unless it has been violated. When violated, we need to work hard to restore it.

A mistrust of each other may reflect our society, but it does not reflect our theology.
  • Jan 26, 2013
  • Category: News
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