At the dawn of human history we have the story of the tower at Babel. Here we see man’s ingenuity and unity used at cross purposes to God’s plan. God wanted humanity to spread out over the earth, but mankind centralized in order to build a name for themselves through their city and tower to heaven. This is part of the corrupted human nature; to use people for projects, like city and tower building, instead of releasing people to fulfill God’s plan for their life.
This project had many earmarks of godly motivation. After all, the tower’s destination was heaven. It was a product of unity - they had all agreed to build it together. Additionally, mankind would be in community; it would be a unified community project building a tower to heaven. Everyone would want to stay here because we have the only tower to heaven on earth. Why not? If we became rich and famous in the process, who could blame us?
The Church has never been free from the influences of human nature. As much as we like to talk about the moving of the Spirit of God in and through God’s people, the corrupted version of human nature has never been far away. Because of this, how we have done ‘church’ has also been influenced by this vision of Babel - to build a name for ourselves as we build a tower to heaven. The ministries of the church have come under this same influence. After all, what is ministry but the serving of the people of God to help in the fulfillment of the purpose of the church?
To the extent our vision of church is conditioned by Babel, to the same extent the ministries of the church serve to help centralize power and use people more and more efficiently in accomplishing this purpose. To the extent that our vision of the church is conditioned by the command of God to go into all the world, to the same extent our idea of ministry is releasing and expansive.
Jesus made this distinction when he spoke of the kind of leadership that is to be in the church. In Matt 20:25-28 Jesus said "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them. But among you it should be quite different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians the he did not “lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” (2 Cor 1:24 NIV) And Peter wrote once to the elders that they should ”shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3NASU)
Over and over again the Bible says serving as an example is the type of leadership that is to be in the body of Christ.
Knowing that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, Jesus gave some people as gifts to the church. Ideally they are both examples and instructors of how to follow Christ. They are our leaders. If we want to know how to follow Jesus, we can look at the pictures God has given. I feel that ordination is how we, as a group, identify those people who are given to us by God to be that picture of how to follow Christ. They have the responsibility of informing us, by word and deed, what it means to be a follower of Christ.
The danger has always been that these leaders would use their position of influence for their own gain, or that they would want to build a city and a tower. No part of Christianity has been immune from this. But here, at Tree of Life Church, we hope that we see enough of the problem to avoid some of the pitfalls. How it will look in the final analysis we have yet to see.