Continuing through our Foundations Material today with some information on the Apostle's teaching and what we believe is the best course when it comes to accountability in the church. After reading this I have some updated information on both the HeartLink Network, and the church to give you at the end. So, please read it all the way through.
Foundations Material - The Apostle's Teaching - Pastor Gerald Martin
When it comes to the Apostle’s teaching we must understand that there is more to consider than the mere words of the message. Along with the words there was a spiritual authority that was recognized by the church. Since I already addressed the authority of the word in an earlier chapter I want to focus this chapter on apostolic authority and how that influences the way we function as a church.
A Common Misunderstanding
First, I want to clarify a common misunderstanding. Even though both come from the same root word, authority and authoritarianism is not the same. Authority is delegated from God and is absolutely necessary in order for a church to be in spiritual health. On the other hand authoritarianism will do great damage and cause weakness and even death to spiritual life. Spiritual authority is only received as one comes under authority and it never demands others to submit.
In contrast to that, authoritarianism places itself over others and demands blind submission and absolute, unquestioned obedience from others. Religious systems tend to become authoritarian in their approach to ministry when leaders lose their spiritual authority. It’s important to understand that while it is not always easy to know where the line is between the two, our purpose and intent has been to function under spiritual authority without becoming authoritarian.
To claim that we have been fully successful would no doubt be an overstatement. However, we believe that God has honored our decision to not shy away from spiritual authority for fear of becoming authoritarian like so many churches today have done. Because of past experience of authoritarian leadership, some pastors are so afraid of being labeled authoritarian that they go the other extreme and refuse to exercise any authority.
From my observation the end result has been spiritual anarchy, everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, where those who have been given the responsibility to lead and oversee the church shrink back from taking a clear stand even on issues that threaten the spiritual life of the church. The error of abusing spiritual authority is exceeded only by the error of exercising no authority. Neither extreme is pleasing to God. What we have tried to do as a church is to restore the Biblical understanding of authority and make practical application.
Relationships and Voluntary Accountability
Second, spiritual authority can only be properly understood in the context of relationships and voluntary accountability.The early church was relational rather than organizational and inspirational rather than institutional. It wasn’t until several hundred years after the church was founded that it became an organized institution. When that took place much of the spiritual dynamic that was present in the beginning was lost.
While the shift was gradual and took place over a period of years it was consummated in about 300 AD when the Roman emperor, Constantine declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. This was followed by a thousand year period known in history as the dark ages. During this time the institutional church became rich and powerful and as noted by St Francis of Assisi, could no longer say like Peter, “silver and gold have I none,” but then neither could it say, “in the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk.”
In spite of the protestant reformation of the 16thcentury the institutional church has made little if any progress toward the recovering of New Testament spiritual authority even to this day. But God has always had a people. There has always been an inspirational church along side the institutional church. From about 100 AD to the present there have been over twenty different renewal movements, often labeled as heretics and persecuted for their radical faith. We study these movements in the History of the Radical Church course we teach at Cornerstone Bible Institute.
The point I want to make is that apostolic spiritual authority for the most part flows out of the inspirational stream of the church where brothers and sisters relate to one another in mutually accountable relationships under the Lordship of Jesus. Jesus demonstrated it for us in the way he related to his disciples. While he had many disciples, he chose twelve to pour his life into. He lived with them. He modeled a lifestyle of love, acceptance and forgiveness. They took trips, went boating, camped out and by spending time together in the presence of Jesus, they were shaped into a community.
It wasn’t easy. They struggled, competed and tried to gain position over one another. But slowly recognizing their need to give up their competitive life styles they learned that to be a leader was to be a servant. They learned that true worth was not in what they did but in who they were in relation to Jesus. They went out two by two preaching and casting out demons. They were amazed and came back rejoicing that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus told them that instead of rejoicing about that they should rejoice that their names were written in heaven.
The Key to Having Authority
It became clear that the key to having authority was being under authority.One day a centurion came to Jesus requesting that he heal his servant. When Jesus offered to go with him he insisted that would not be necessary saying that he too was a man under authority and could simply speak a word and it would be done. Jesus declared that he had not seen such faith in all Israel. Before the man returned home his servant was healed. Being under authority is an expression of faith that releases the power of God.
Sometimes we speak of having a spiritual covering. While the Bible doesn’t use that specific term it is certainly implied in the concept of being under authority. If you are under something it stands to reason that you are covered. Like an umbrella that covers you from the rain, as long as you are under or covered you stay dry. Get out from under the covering and you get wet. In a similar way spiritual authority is a covering. Stay under authority and you will have authority, otherwise it will be lost.
Someone may say, “I don’t submit to anyone but God.” Such a statement reveals a gross misunderstanding of spiritual authority and how it operates. Claiming to be under God’s authority while circumventing His delegated authority is a contradiction. While it may sound spiritual it is nothing more than saying, “I’m my own authority.” There are many illustrations in Scripture that indicate that the way we practically submit to God’s authority is to submit to those in authority over us. When Israel rebelled against godly leadership it was the same as rebelling against God.
Everyone is Accountable to Someone
We believe it is important that everyone is under proper spiritual authority and that no one serves as his own authority.Everyone is accountable to someone. For us it is more than just something we say. We have adopted a system that makes it very practical. It’s one that connects the whole ministry together from the most recent newcomer in one of our local churches to myself as the senior apostolic leader of the whole Cornerstone network. We do this through our system of cell groups.
Cell members are accountable to their cell leader. Cell leaders are accountable to their congregation pastor. Congregation pastors are accountable to the senior pastor/elder of a given location. The senior pastor/elders are accountable to the senior apostolic leader.Each level of leadership represents delegated authority. But since it involves human beings it should never be considered as absolute authority. If a cell leader gets out of line, cell members can appeal to the congregation pastor. If a congregation pastor gets out of line the cell leaders can appeal to the senior pastor/elder. If a senior pastor/elder gets out of line the congregation pastors (leadership team where there is only one staff pastor) can appeal to the senior apostolic leader.
You may wonder what happens if the senior apostolic leader gets out of line. As a ministry we have chosen three men from outside the Cornerstone ministry to serve as spiritual advisors. Should the senior apostolic leader get out of line the senior pastor/elders could appeal to the spiritual advisors who would come in to help resolve the situation. In addition to these spiritual advisors Cornerstone belongs to the Association of Radical Church Networks (ARC Net). This is an association of church networks similar to Cornerstone. The leaders of these networks meet together twice a year for teaching, fellowship, worship and prayer in mutual accountability. So everyone is under authority, including the senior leader. However, it is not something that is demanded. Submission to spiritual authority is always voluntary and involves the freedom to choose. Otherwise it becomes authoritarian.
Since multiplying Cornerstone Church & Ministries International in 2011 to 9 networks and CCM becoming a part of the HeartLink Network of Cornerstone Churches things are a little different than what Pastor Gerald has shared above. The foundations are the same but the application is slightly different.
This is especially true in the area of accountability for the Senior Apostolic Leader of the network. At this time Pastor Greg Mayo is accountable to the Apostolic Counsel of the HeartLink Network. These men are Pastor Steve Rose, Kenny West, Ken Gonyer, and myself. As an Apostolic Counsel we have access to Pastor Gerald Martin if we need him for any reason.
For me as your Senior Pastor, I am first directly accountable to Pastor Greg Mayo, and then the Apostolic Counsel. So, if the Elders as a group, deem it necessary they contact Pastor Greg and the Apostolic Counsel for support and assistance in those areas. It is important to note, that any action in this area is taken as a group of elders, and not individually. It is each elders individual responsibility to share concerns with all the elders, and to hear from all the elders, and then move only when the group of elders has come to a place of peace as a group in the Lord. Just as it is possible for an Apostolic Leader or a Sr. Pastor to begin to function in an authoritarian way, it is also possible for an elder to also act in an authoritarian manner.
What about New Creation Group leaders or ministry leaders? At this time here in CCM when the New Creation Group leaders come on board for their term of service they are accountable to Pastor Marty Joe, then to the elder team, and the Sr. Pastor after that. That level of accountability is only applied as long as they are leading a New Creation Group. All other ministry leaders are directly accountable to the Sr. Pastor of the church, and then to the Elder team through the Sr. Pastor.
So, in review and so that you can get a good picture of what this looks like practically.
* Church members are accountable to their New Creation Group leaders, and to any ministry leaders in whose fields they may be functioning. If they are not functioning in any of those areas they are accountable to the elder team, and pastoral staff of the church.
* New Creation group leaders are accountable to Pastor Marty Joe, the elder team, and the Sr. Pastor.
* Ministry Leaders are accountable to the Sr. Pastor, and then the elder team.
* Elders are accountable to each other, to the Sr. Pastor, and to the Apostolic Counsel of HeartLink since they are ordained as elders of the HeartLink Network.
* Pastor Marty Joe is accountable to the elder team, to the Sr. Pastor, and to the Apostolic Counsel of HeartLink since he is licensed/ordained as a pastor in the HeartLink Network.
* As the Sr. Pastor of CCM I am accountable to the elder team, and to the Apostolic Counsel of HeartLink since I am ordained as a Sr. Pastor in the HeartLink Network.
* Pastor Greg Mayo is accountable to the Apostolic Counsel of HeartLink, and also Pastor Gerald Martin if needed.
One key to accountability in the church is that accountability is always relationally voluntary in nature. What this means is that we never demand obedience, but we will also address things that need to be addressed. It is not healthy for the church as a whole, if someone is blatantly being rebellious towards biblical accountability, and as elders and pastors we will address that with people if we need to.
The other key is that if there is a problem, the person with the problem should always share up. What this means is that if you have a personal problem share it up to your accountability. As an example; if you have a problem with your New Creation Group leader share it with Pastor Marty Joe first. Don't share it with people in the group who have no authority to do anything about what you are sharing. That only brings confusion and hurt. Once Pastor Marty Joe has the information he will process that though his accountability channels and action will be taken as needed from that point.
If we can keep those two things in mind, relational accountability & sharing up to our accountability as we consider accountability we will find ourselves in a very healthy place as a church.
I know that this may seem confusing, and it is a lot of information. However, it is very important information, and I want to be able to answer all of your questions. Like before please do not hesitate to drop me a note or give me a call, and we will sit down face to face to discuss this further. I would very much love to hear your hearts on any of this, and would relish the opportunity to sit and discuss it with you.