Among the ecclesiastical fraternity there is a new crop of fly-by-night briefcase preachers. The majority of these zealotic roving preachers are of no fixed abode and are not accountable to any Church establishment. They freely churn out their sermons to unsuspecting listeners and the social media is giving them publicity because their genres are in line with popular religion. Their preaching is devoid of hermeneutical tools of rightly dividing the word of truth let alone homiletical standards of presenting the Gospel. What is attractive in their sermonising are jokes, illustrations, stories, community gossip and insinuations of anti-establishment. One of the popular genres these preachers capitalise on is to venomously attack structures and systems of established Churches. However this article is not there to cover up any evil things which may be happening in the Church. Truth be told, there is no perfect Church or perfect system. Somebody said that if there is a perfect Church, do not join it because you will contaminate it.
Of late there has been an onslaught attack on the electoral process by which Church Officials are elected. They dismiss this practice by arguing that Jesus Christ was not elected but appointed by God and that the twelve disciples were also appointed and not elected. This is a clear belief in the autocratic system of governance as opposed to democracy. I have yet to see a Church which does not have the electoral process unless its a newly formed Independent Ministry run by the founder. Its true that our Lord Jesus Christ was not elected but appointed by God. From a sociological point of view he used Charismatic authority to run his newly founded Christian Movement better known as the Church. When Jesus Christ died, rose again and ascended to heaven, he left his disciples to continue with his mission. The Church continued to be run on Charismatic authority under the tutelage of its key eyewitnesses (Disciples) but reality on the ground demanded a gradual shift to the need for the electoral process. This shift begins with the replacement of Judas Iscariot by Mathias (Acts 1:21-26) and the appointment of seven deacons to serve on tables (Acts 6:1-7).
The electoral process led to the development of Bureaucratic authority whose authority is position or office-based rather than Charisma-based. The Early Church believed that the electoral process was God-ordained hence an elected officer was deemed to have been appointed by God. The Early Church put prayer first before casting lots and the qualities of contestants to be nominated were clearly stipulated. The struggle that exists in the Christian community comes from newly founded ministries. A founder of a ministry carries Charismatic authority hence he has the autocratic power to appoint leaders below him usually without using the electoral process. He does not only have the power to hire but also to fire and his decision is final, RIGHT OR WRONG. Such authority does not exist in an established Denomination which has clear guidelines on the electoral process and regulations on disciplinary matters. Pastors operating in denominational settings are sometimes tempted to emulate Charismatic authority vested in the founder of a ministry. However, Charismatic leaders and founders of ministries do not live forever hence each ministry will always evolve from Charismatic authority to Bureaucratic authority.
The case of the founding of the Apostolic Faith Mission (to which this writer belongs) is unique in that it did not necessarily evolve from Charismatic authority to Bureaucratic authority, neither did it evolve from autocracy to democracy. The determining factor of this is that the AFM was founded by a team of five Missionaries who encountered the Azusa Revival in Los Angeles, USA. They did not come with positions in mind. It was only plausible to apply the electoral process to elect a chief leader among equals in order to establish accountability protocols. But even within a system with bureaucratic authority, there are some individuals who have higher levels of charisma than others hence the existence of tensions between the two forces in play. This is also true of John Graham Lake who is more celebrated as the founder of AFM compared to his older counterpart and team player Thomas Hezmalhalch. But Church archival records show that the first Chairman and President of the AFM of South Africa was Thomas Hezmalhalch followed by John Graham Lake.
While the electoral process is the most democratic system of appointing leaders, it is imperative for the Church to continually have checks and balances so that this noble process does not mirror corrupt tendencies happening in the world. Well-meaning and God-honouring elections can easily be manipulated by both insiders and interested parties from outside. Manipulation of the electoral process by insiders or outsiders is evil because it hijacks a godly practice thus make it an abomination to the Lord. In conclusion I can safely say that free and fair elections in the Church are a means by which God appoints Church leaders into positions of responsibility. Therefore the electoral process exists to confirm those whom God appoints.
Tag Archives: autocracy