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02.03.2011 / jontettleton

Does Jesus know anything about Church?

Of course, if you are a follower of Jesus, you’ll probably respond to the title like, “Duh! Jon, sure he does.” My follow up response is then, “How much should Jesus’ teaching inform our ecclesiology (church government/structure)?”

Soothing presumptions: First, let me say that disagreement is expected and encouraged, for the sake of the Gospel. I’m not mad at the Church or any local expression of it. That would be sad, because I belong to her. I love the Church. She’s the Bride of Christ and I’m so stoked that we are invited, as part of New Creation, to reconcile humanity (and other non-living things) to God by the Spirit. I don’t consider myself to be emerging in my theology, even though I went to school on the west coast. Most days, I’m still plagued with some carnage from seminary. If you’ve been, you know what I mean. I believe that the Scriptures are a critical part of the Word of God (even the black-lettered parts) and ought to shape every part of our lives!  I enjoy being a part of a local church body, and I’m especially fond of the churches that have helped our team get where we are today! I know next to nothing about the following matter, but I have opinions and thoughts that need shaping. So I’d love your help?

The argument: I want to argue that we subtly ignore Jesus as it regards ecclesiology. We would never admit this, but the trend of our modern/late modern, evangelical church models are to consult Peter and Paul (Ephesians, 1&2 Timothy, 1&2 Peter, Titus) assuming that we are consulting the whole council of Scripture. It is after all logical that we read Titus when we are thinking about how to choose elders, since Paul is explicit. But, is that all the Bible has to say about leadership or governance? Most church planters quickly discuss roles like “lead pastor” or “worship pastor”, create hierarchies of ministry (not unlike the early church), and assign non-pastoral roles to fulfill the activities that don’t require teaching/shepherding. I don’t believe these steps are bad or even wrong, but I do wonder why these are the most visible issues that we need to address? I keep coming back to the question, “Does Jesus know anything about Church?”

My Hope: Was that too bold? Probably so. The heart of my question is not to be reactionary for the sake of simply owning my postmodern viewpoint, but I do want to unashamedly ask us to let Jesus speak to our ecclesiology as much as we let Paul or Peter. I hope that at the foundation of my reaction is the Gospel, not nothing. As our team develops our ecclesiology it is my hope to ask a few questions that still end up with a Gospel-centered answer, and also honor the heritage of faith that gave/gives us the support we have today:

  • How do the red letters influence our leadership structure?
    • What if our qualifications for leadership were also based around the Sermon on the Mount, instead of only Titus and 1&2 Timothy?
  • Do we see Jesus as the ethical/moral strategist and Paul as the church strategist?
  • Do we need to bridge the gap between Pauline talk and Jesus talk or simply acknowledge their differences?
  • Was Jesus “seeker-friendly”? If so, what should that do to our gatherings?
  • Is church something we do or is it something we are?
  • Is there even such a thing as a “church-planter”?
  • To what extent should 1st century ecclesiology inform 21st century ecclesiology?
    • Are you being unfaithful to the Scriptures by even asking that question?
  • Can we allow the teachings of “the Kingdom of God” to be predominant in our governance/structure & polity and actually gain traction with the broader culture?

Well, those are some off-the-cuff questions for your chewing and perhaps your spitting out…I’d love to hear your thoughts, because we are in the fire as we speak. We are praying and seeking wisdom from almost anyone. I write as a freshman, who just walked through the high school doors, not a senior walking out of them. So, what thoughts does this question/post spark in you?

Prayer Requests for us:

  • Gospel steps in creating structure/model.
  • Not being reactionary for the sake of it.
  • Being faithful daily.


Leave a Comment
  1. Ross Wheaton / Feb 3 2011 3:34 pm

    Great food for thought brotha.

    My 2 Cents: I think the Lord elicits all we need to know about faith and practice within the scriptures. They, in their entirety, are the measuring rod for every decision we make in this life.

    In John 10 Jesus talks about how we (idiot sheep) hear his voice, and we know that it is him. Likewise, He protects us, goes out before us, leads us into pasture, knows us by name, etc. In my experience, I’ve come to find that I hear Jesus’ voice whisper to me just as clearly when I read the black as I do when I read the red. Regarding ecclesiology (or anything else for that matter), I gotta believe we should consult all of scripture regarding the issue. That includes the most explicit teaching (for idiot sheep) AND the more abstract teaching / actions (for smarter but still pretty dumb sheep) in other parts of scripture.

    In other words, I think Paul saying “The qualifications for elders are as follows: blah, blah, blah, blah and blah” should be accepted and practiced. However, in concurrence with that, we should also accept and practice the way Jesus lead, governed, and taught his misfits (and onlookers) as well.

    Regarding the Jesus v. Paul strategy question I find peace in this: I think Jesus is the only strategist. Paul’s teaching is merely tactical. It’s not strategy. The strategy is simple: Lose yourself, and love everyone around you like a freight train. The tactical is more difficult: Once we love them, how can we as a growing (cuz it’s gonna grow) community care for them? That’s where I see “roles” become necessary.

    For what it’s worth, I grow tired of the term “church-planter”. Mostly, because I suppose if that is a real term, then it is only designated for a select few who decide to “start” a community somewhere that there is not an existing one. I’m going to start saying “gospel-planter”. What is a gospel-planter? Someone who preaches the gospel. Someone who prays for a friend. Someone who counsels a marriage. Someone who blesses someone musically. Someone who adopts an orphan. Someone who helps a stranger. Someone who gives a gift. Someone who speaks faith into another persons’ life. I like gospel-planters. There are lots of those.

    I pray our ecclesiology doesn’t venture from 1st century.

    Oh, and should you teach and dwell on the the Kingdom of God? It allows me to live without a fear of death. It gives me urgency. It crushes anxiety. It helps me love harder. Some might say those who dwell on the Kingdom of God have a brightness about them that is contagious. I’m jealous of someone who goes “home”, embraces Jesus, joins in the prayers of the saints, rests in the arms of the King..


    • jontettleton / Feb 4 2011 1:56 pm

      Thanks, Ross! Dig it. We’re down with “gospel-planters” too. Love your thoughts and challenged by the “lose yourself” reminder.

      Much love.

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