Personal Impression to the Three-Lens Metaphor and its Implications
One of the doctrinal beliefs that makes a Christian a true follow of Jesus Christ is the inerrancy of the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). This contains instructions to lead people. For example, Hebrews 13:7, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). It contains examples of the leaders of nations, including the nation of Israel. Their examples in the Scriptures show how healthy leaders lead, and how unhealthy leaders cause pain and suffering to their own people. It also contains congregational commands and instructions by which a group of people can live a healthy and prosperous life:
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, NIV).
This means no matter the culture or time period a leader or a congregation lives in, when they desire to honor God by following the Scriptures as the living Word of God, they experience God’s presence and promises. They transform into the image of Christ. It might be a better idea to shuffle the sequence of the three lenses (depicted in chapter 1, figure 1) by putting history on the top, followed by culture, then followed by Scripture. When leaders observe a particular history and culture, for “without an ongoing understanding of the way people think, feel, and function in a given culture, it’s impossible to both interpret Scripture properly and to apply biblical principles in various cultures of the world” through the lens of the Scripture which has its own worldview leaders can be challenged as they read the Bible “through the lens of history to consult those who have gone before us.”
Fundamentally, “All spiritual leaders should make sure they manage and shepherd the church well” however, what constitutes managing and shepherding the church well has to be determined by the local body of believers and their leadership. The list of six priorities, “teaching the Word of God, modeling Christlike behavior, maintaining doctrinal purity, disciplining unruly believers, overseeing the material needs of the church, and praying for the sick” is a good overview of the priorities that elders should have, but in the Bible the apostolic eldership exemplifies their own priorities. For example, Acts 6:3-5 says, “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (ESV). The following verse says, “this proposal pleased the whole group” (Acts 6:6a). This indicates that the congregational or plurality of leadership made a decision to gather as to the most important priorities of the eldership. Also, it is equally important that the elders are exemplifying Christ. Today, many leaders are able to teach the Word of God and maintain doctrinal purity, but they are not modeling Christlike behavior at home, work, and in their churches. In my church, there was an elected elder who perfectly followed the list of priorities mentioned above, but failed to model Christlike behavior. When the plurality of elders unanimously asked him to step down from his role and commit to prayer and the Word of God, he took the church to the court, which cost the church headaches, division, and over $100,000 in legal fees. Therefore, the first three priorities in my local church context would look something like this:
- Modeling Christlike behavior
- Living in the Spirit of prayer (that he is devoted to prayer)
- Studying the Word of God rigorously and teaching it to others in meekness.
The list is sufficient in its coverage of the biblical mandate for elders with the exception of empowering, preparing and mentoring younger men for leadership. If they model Christlike behavior, they will invest significant time in mentoring other men for ministry leadership. This is what Jesus shows in the Scriptures. Jesus mentored and prepared His disciples and commanded them to “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT). Jesus was committed to prayer and to the duty of preaching the Word of God. Also, when elders model Christlike behavior, they experience all the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Also, they do not abuse their power because they know it comes from above (1 Peter 5:11-13; Matthew 28:18).
Getz, Gene A. Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan for Leading the Church. Chicago: Moody, 2003.