Egalitarianism is an Aussie virtue; one to be esteemed and valued. Egalitarianism is an idea found in the Bible (and absent from most other world-views and religions, although not all) - All human beings are equal, man and woman, black and white, Jew and Gentile, etc. And yet, an unbridled egalitarianism can lead to a destruction of personhood and roles in society and home.
This over-the-top egalitarian attitude is evident in our politics and how the public speak of and speak to those in Government. A visitor to Australia might be forgiven for thinking that Julia Gillard was a local hair dresser, not our Prime Minister. It is also evident by the way school students relate to teachers and children relate to elderly people. I'm not suggesting we reintroduce Sir/Madam and Mr & Mrs, although perhaps we should, but my point is we have become so flat-lined in our ethos that we want to smooth over any hint of superiority or position, but in doing so we are hurting ourselves.
The Bible acknowledges sameness and difference, equality and inequality.
For example, the Bible calls us to honour our leaders and to submit to them. The Prime Minister is one of us and equal to us (being human and having 1 vote) and yet the PM is above us:
1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Romans 13)
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (1 Peter 2)
To my main contention: I believe that in our churches we are becoming too egalitarian in our thinking (not just on the women's issue but in terms of leadership). There are times when we wrongly think in dichotomies, it's either submit to the Pastor as Pope or treat him as a peer. But the Bible doesn't teacher either position.
Paul said to the Ephesian elders,
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20)
The Pastor (s) is accountable to God. He will have to explain to God on the day of judgement the whys and hows and whats of his ministry. Generally Pastors are conscious of this and it weighs heavily on them.
1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3)
The Pastor(s) is also accountable to the Elders. If your church doesn't have Elders then fix it. A plurality of Elders is biblical and sensible. It is the role of the Elders to meet with the pastors (by the way at Mentone we see elders and pastors as being synonymous in Scripture) regularly for prayer and bible study and personal accountability.
The Pastor(s) is accountable to the Church. The Pastor serves the Church but the Church isn't his master; Christ is. And yet, it would seem in the NT that Churches have a role in both the calling of pastors and in rebuking them when necessary (1 Tim 5:19-20).
How should Churches relate to their Pastors?
- remember their teaching (Heb 13:7)
- consider their way of life and imitate their faith (Heb 13:7)
- Obey them...so that their work is a joy not a burden (Heb 13:17)
- pray for them (Col 4:2-4)
- encourage them (see how Paul encouraged Timothy)
- pay them well (1 Tim 5:17)
- respect them (1 Thess 5:11-13)
- don't entertain an accusation without warrant with witnesses (1 Tim 5:19)
Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying, Church leaders also have a responsibility in the way they conduct themselves before God, the Church and the world. Theirs is a duty of immense weight and not to be assumed lightly, but the pastor's job is not the subject of this post. It's important that we keep on critiquing culture outside and inside the church and keep on bringing everything to bear in the light of God's word. So think, are we becoming too egalitarian in our churches?
12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. (1 Thess 5)