After I started realising that the abuses in the Door were only possible because of the system, I started noticing how much and in what ways the biblical picture of leadership differed from the Fellowship’s.
I’ve heard many vitriolic references to ‘Elders’ in Mitchell’s sermons. He has often told how he couldn’t get cooperation from churches he pastored (before Prescott) because the church elders didn’t agree with him.
When the Fellowship was formed, the church structure didn’t allow any checks to leadership.
Actually, in the early days, sermons were more often about ‘restoring the dignity of the local church’. This was a common theme. Only gradually did it morph into being ‘Pastor centered’. In time, the only Pastor that mattered was Mitchell, and the local church lost all its dignity to the organization.
Generally churches refer to the “5-fold ministry” as the basis for leadership functions in the church. These are based on the well-known passage:
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους,
And He himself gave some, on the one hand, as apostles, and, on the other hand, as prophets, and still again some as bringers of good news, and finally, some as pastors who are also teachers,
However, the fellowship sees all the ministries as subordinated to the pastors, except for Apostles, which are seldom mentioned.
This is even more bizarre when you take the list given in 1 Cor 12:28, which doesn’t even include pastors.
1Cor 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28
Καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν.
And God indeed placed some for His own use in the Church, first apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then workers of miracles; then gifts of healing; also those whose ministry it is to help others; and administrators; and different languages.
Titles and positions are a common problem in churches. What the Bible describes are functions, and in the case of functions, you either do, or you’re not.
However, the Fellowship makes Pastors central to everything, and nothing is allowed to function without the “Pastor’s” consent.
There are many sermons about the authority of the pastors. Nearly all are based on Old Testament passages about the authority of kings, which explains a lot about how the fellowship (dis)functions. And, it’s based on an incorrect use of Bible texts.
Certain functions which are mentioned in the Bible are explained as actually referring to pastors anyway:
Act 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
Of course, the greek uses different terms in these passages, not “Pastor”, but in the Fellowship the pastor holds these functions automatically.
Ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Μιλήτου πέμψας εἰς Ἔφεσον μετεκαλέσατο τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους τῆς ἐκκλησίας.
And from Miletus, having sent to Ephesus, he called the elders of the assembly to himself.
1 Timothy 3:2
δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν,
It is necessary in the nature of the case, therefore, that the overseer be irreproachable, a one-wife kind of a man, calm, dispassionate and circumspect, sober-minded, one whose life is in accord with the position he holds and which is an adornment to it, hospitable, a skilled teacher
1Ti 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
is even used to justify ignoring complaints against pastors, although the text clearly says “elder”. This is because “elders” don’t exist in the fellowship, so they substitute “pastor” whenever the Bible says something about elders.
This is a blatant misuse of the text. This very same chapter says in verses 1 & 2:
1Ti 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
1Ti 5:2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
So the context proves this word does not mean “pastors”. And besides, since the Fellowship teaches that women can’t be involved in ministry, they would never give that meaning to verse 2.
All of this adds up to the situation where “pastors” are the only acknowledged authority in the Fellowship and that they are given the same degree of authority as an old testament king, with Mitchell at the top.
In fact, the bylaws that came out in 2004 even state that the pastors of local churches only hold the church for the Fellowship. They have no claim to anything in the church and function on the basis of derived authority.
What could possibly go wrong?