Monday, March 01, 2010

Watch your tone young man!

Reformation21 puts out some interesting stuff. Something that was published today just got my dander up. The post in question, The most broken vow of all, suggests that the most commonly broken vow is perhaps not one you expect:

The most broken vow is almost certainly that by which church members submit to the authority and teaching of the elders in the church. It is as solemn and serious as any other vow one might take -- marriage, baptism, an oath in court -- and yet what does it mean? How many truly think about the implications? How many truly act as if the vow really meant something? The vows are voluntary, but once taken, they are serious and require focused commitment and a particular pattern of behaviour. Yet members feel free to speak as they wish to, and about, church leaders; they move from church to church as, so some say, the Spirit leads them; and they trample their vow to submit again and again.

Huh? Now I don’t find formal church membership to be Biblical. At all. I hold that there is no mandate for it nor example of it in Scripture. I do understand why some churches have formal membership rolls, for whatever the purpose. But to suggest that church membership involves a vow of obedience to elders? That is so outside of the picture of the church as to boggle the mind. This is Reformed?

I especially was perplexed by this statement: Yet members feel free to speak as they wish to, and about, church leaders; I understand not talking about the elders in your church in a slanderous or gossipy fashion. You shouldn’t speak about any brother or sister in that way. But how are we to “speak to” our elders that is different from how we speak to one another? With our eyes averted? In hushed, reverential tones? Last time I checked, the elders in our churches are not royalty. We are not their vassals. They are no more above reproach than any other Christian. The elders are no more deserving of being spoken to in love and fellowship than any other Christian.

Man, that just really rubbed me the wrong way. Must be my inherent rebelliousness against authority.

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James said...

That is called "Oppositional Defiance Disorder." According to the DSM-IV your code is 313.81

Have a nice day. $99.00 Please..Thanks.

Henry Neufeld said...

Rebellious against which authority? You're citing one (the New Testament) in response to another. :-)

Does obeying one make you a rebel with reference to the other?

Anonymous said...

Obviously you aren't one of the elect.

Aussie John said...


You are speaking about one of my pet aversions. It saddens me greatly to see this appearing more and more amongst brethren who call themselves Reformed Baptists.

Steve Scott said...

Henry brings up a great point. The man-made "formal" membership system sets up a false dilemma: either obey the bible or obey the elders. Either way, you're a blatant trespassor, and somebody is going to point out your sin.

"Must be my inherent rebelliousness against authority."

Suggested revision: "Must be my inherent rebelliousness against authoritarianism."

Anonymous said...

You are heading down a slippery slope, my friend!
As a fellow questioner of such issues, I have ended up being called many things over the last few years. I have been branded as 'having a problem with authority', 'disobedient', 'unpastorable', 'trouble maker', 'divisive'and other similar slanders, all by Elders with whom I had different views or convictions.
It's not always easy, but you just have to keep on loving them all the same!

Bethany said...


There is such a thing as spiritual abuse. And, if someone is in a church/fellowship where you are not permitted to speak to an elder, or against him (if he is in the wrong) - that is likely a church where there is spiritual abuse going on... and all too often it is happening in Reformed churches. This same mindset will not allow for someone with a legitimate concern to leave the church without a load of guilt (and perhaps some slander against themselves).


Joe VonDoloski said...

Though probably most here are going to be persuaded even if one rises from the dead, what about that verse that says,

"Obey those that have the rule over you." ?

What about the terms bishop, overseer, elder etc.

Just because some men abuse the concept and are sinners (well documented in the blogosphere and in many of our experiences) But @ what point do those verses mean anything?

Joe VonDoloski said...

What about:

"Obey those that have the rule over you?"

This isn't a license for anything goes, but to what degree do we acknowledge this to be part of Scripture and not a passage where,

"The best manuscripts do not contain this verse due to scribal error and it is believed they have been inserted"

Steve Scott said...

For me, I think all the more important to not make such a vow. He did say they were voluntary, didn't he?

Arthur Sido said...


There seems to be a difference in submitting to leaders (which based on the preceding verses is not the guy hired by the local church to be the pastor: Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7)) and having to swear oaths and speak in a deferential way to elders.

Alan Knox said...

"Obey those that have the rule over you"...

One of the worst translations of a Greek text ever.


Joe VonDoloski said...


Thayer Definition:
1) to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants)

2) metaphorically to yield to authority and admonition, to submit