The Titled Aristocracy of the American Church

I ran across a pastor’s money blog the other day that was talking about (shrewd) techniques, (clever) schemes, and (subtly controlling) tactics to increase church giving because, as church leaders know, those headstrong, disobedient, and immature lay members are penurious and miserly little moppets. If you don’t watch them, they’ll go out and spend the little after-tax money they have on decent food, a package of new underwear, and maybe some extra gas for the car so they can take a Sunday drive. (Who are they to eat organic, when there are Adult Educational materials to be purchased? Boxed mac and cheese is good enough for the masses.)

Christ never called us to lord our skills, abilities, and influence over our brothers and sisters. Louis XIV King of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

Christ never called us to lord our skills, abilities, position, and influence over our brothers and sisters. Louis XIV King of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

What I enjoyed most about this article, which was, actually, very little, was the insight into Leadership’s brain: the writer described how, when regular giving took a slump (lousy economy, anyone?), he called all the titled members to a meeting to strategize and mobilize command.

(By the way, there’s a reason we increasingly use militarized and business terminology to describe actions taken by and within the establishment church. Are those people, still passive in the pews, comfortable with this?)

But back to the paragraph before the parenthesis: the concept of “titled members” was a new one to me, at least when one is (purportedly) discussing the (supposedly) egalitarian status of the body of Christ. Generally, the word “titled” is coupled with the word “aristocracy” or “nobility,” describing a set of people who presume the right to rule for no other reason than that they were born into a family that has already wrested enough power to do so.

A Spiritual Pyramid Scheme

And while we easily see this attitude within politics, finance, and even the national celebrity Christian scene (quick quiz: think of a celebrity Christian leader who has a relative following in his footsteps), I had not realized that the attitude of privilege and prerogative had so openly announced itself within individual church’s inner circles.

Light Reading inspirational original watercolor painting of woman reading book

While we’re all reading the same book, it’s amazing the different impressions — on major topics — that different people pick up. Light Reading, original watercolor painting by Steve Henderson

Who are these “titled members”? Even the most conceited and presumptuous of the leadership sect are reluctant to adopt titles like “Apostle” and “Prophet” (although we do, apparently, have some self-imposed modern-day ones), but “Pastor,” “Elder,” “Deacon,” who get extra points when they have “Dr.” in front of their names, come to mind along with “Administrative Head,” “Principal Worship Leader,” “Senior Associate Ministry Consultant,” and other such nomenclature that serves to divide the Do’s from the Don’t Do’s, or the Haves, from the Have Nots.

A Lead Deaconess or two may be allowed in the meeting as token representative of the ewes of the flock, but we all know that women aren’t really leaders. They are, however, excellent with children and sick people, as well as with all matters to do with cleaning, and we don’t want to infringe on their areas of expertise.

Whoever these titled persons were, they are called to do what titled persons in finance, politics, education, entertainment, and religion do on a national basis, and that is discuss how to push, prod, pull, and manipulate the untitled persons into giving, serving, submitting, supporting, and acquiescing because, as any leader knows, all pyramids have a big base at the bottom, and that base supports the top.

But is this how the body of Christ is meant to work?

All Are Called to Humility

Did the apostles — the real ones, not the ones on TV — see other believers as sheep and drones and recalcitrant children who had to be told, firmly but not necessarily directly, what to do, because if they weren’t, the lesser of God’s children are so stupid that nothing of worth would get done?

Is the kingdom of God set up like a corporation, with a few stockholders and CEOs, too much middle management, and a swarm of expendable workers?

Well, while the substitutionary kingdom looks, talks, and quacks increasingly like big business, the real thing, the kingdom with Christ at its head, runs on values that — quaintly archaic as they seem — are meant to work.

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” Jesus asked the disciples in John 13:12, after He had washed their feet.

“You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

Increasingly, within modern church aristocracy, there is little reluctance among leaders to adopt the title of “Lord,” in its more socially appropriate forms (Pastor, Reverend, Doctor, Evangelist), but that irritating little aspect of washing one another’s feet is far more difficult for men who love preeminence to accept. Surely Christ didn’t mean for all men, and women, to interact as true equals, as if hourly workers were on a par with salaried executives, or fishermen the same as a leader of the synagogue.

Or did He?

If you are a Christian who fancies yourself a leader, it would be wise to consult often with our mutual Father, asking Him for the vast quantity of humility necessary to lead, and teach, and shepherd, well.

And if you are one of the many untitled persons, or even one of a lesser title who battles feelings of insecurity about your allotted ministry, then do not leave your brain, and your right to self-govern, in exchange for the bulletin at the door.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where my prayer is that ordinary, regular, real Christians who have no problem recognizing themselves as such will wake up to the lies we are taught, and will quit making idols of mere men.

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Is Jesus the (American) Way, Truth, and Life?

Illiterate American Christianity

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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One Response to The Titled Aristocracy of the American Church

  1. Pingback: The Lost Christians of America | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

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