Top-Down Leadership in the Church

The debate continues to go on over at the GLCC Alumni Forum concerning the role of leaders in a church.

After much thought and some searching of Scripture, I can't find anything that states that leadership should be done in the top-down way in established churches. If you know of verses that state it should be, I would love to see them. Please post a reply and share.

I am under the idea that the church should be involved in the process of decision-making and vision casting. These are not things that we should leave in the hands of one man or four people. I think that is very dangerous. We need to allow the Spirit to work in the body and, hopefully, bring us to concensus. The same God who is convicting the "leadership" to go in some direction would be at work in the body to head in that same direction.

I have seen far too many examples of a leader who feels he has a vision for a church and tries to convince the church to head in the direction he feels they should go. Now that I have been on the other side, I see that God is lays a vision on the hearts of members of a church. Sometimes that vision is even different than the one person who is the pastor. What happens in that case? Frustration and, sometimes, pastoral burnout. He has to convince the body that his vision is where God wants them to go. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in manipulation.

Multiple people on the GLCC alumni forum have mentioned to me the example of Acts 15 as the basis for top-down leadership. Acts 15 is great, but are we willing to say that the leaders in the church have the same authority of the apostles?

Also, we see in Acts 15:22 that even these apostles included the "whole church" in their decision making.

I think we operate under the premise that leadership makes decisions and then convinces the members that their decision is the right one. I don't see that portrayed anywhere in Scripture. Can someone show me that happening?

Another guy on the forum told me to reread the Pastoral Epistles.

The pastoral epistles might have been written to the leaders but look at the other letters Paul wrote. He actually wrote them to the churches and not to the leaders. I find that interesting because most of the issues addressed in those letters would be kept behind the closed doors of an leadership meeting. These were issues that Paul opened up to the whole body. Why don't we do the same with major issues? Are we scared of what the body of Christ might come up with?

Just from reading chapter one from I Timothy I see that this is an extreme situation. I would definitely say that a leader should come in and fix heresy. I thought we were talking about basic vision casting for the church and not correcting false doctrine. Ephesus appeared to be even more messed up than Corinth.

2 Timothy seems to be a letter encouraging someone who is burnt out or who has even fallen to the side of the heretics. At the end, he calls Timothy to come visit him. He is removing this leader from that body. This might be because Timothy needs correction himself.

As for the letter to Titus. Titus was not a localized minister. I think the role of a church planter is different than the role of elders. One needs to be a top-down leader because he is in a group of uneducated people. The other is the leadership in a body of educated followers. The letter to Titus is explaining to Titus how to set up a church. Paul is also trying to protect Titus from false doctrine. Like Timothy, in the end he is calling Titus away from them.

Maybe I missed something in these letters or oversimplified them, but it seems that they aren't a case for top-down decision making in an established church.

We are a priesthood of believers. The heirarchy of the Catholic church is the reason I am not a Catholic. I said I would share the reason some day. Maybe I will share more another day. Because we are the priesthood of believers, God can and will work through all of us. We are each filled with the Spirit. We should all be capable of discerning God's will. The Kingdom of God has only priests with one King. Vision casting and decision-making should not be held in the hands of a few but should be done through the prayers of the body of Christ.

Watch out for the potholes.