in the New Covenant Church of God
According to the British-based Scripture Union which has as one of its chief objectives the reaching of children with the Gospel, 80% of church leaders come to faith in Christ before the age of 18 (SU Newsletter, 3 November 1997). This statistic has prompted me to do some research on how leaders in the Church of God can best be trained and what it is that qualifies men and women to be leaders generally.
The English Public School System
I am the product of a classical English public (fee-paying, independent) school education and whilst I am not an Úlitist in the sense that someone might consider public schools superior to state schools, I do believe the public school system has something important to offer potential leaders of the Church. In saying this I am not recommending that Christians send their children to public schools because there is much in that system which I definitely do not like. Rather, I would like to pin-point some of its strong points and apply them to a Christian context.
Whilst English state schools can successfully compete academically with independent schools, they do not seem to nurchure world leaders in quite the same way or to the same degree. Harrow School, for example, can name six British prime Ministers amongst its alumni, including the Indian leader, Nehru, Jordanian King Hussein and many others. It is widely perceived that public-school students are likely to possess a self assurance and confidence well in advance of their contemporaries in the state system. To identify precisely how this is achieved is not straightforward as there are a host of factors that contribute to this success. However, there are a number of features common to most schools and it is these which are most likely to contain ideas that are equally applicable in the training of Christian leaders outside such a system.
The young pupil entering an independent school like Harrow for the first time will be assigned to a boarding house. The division of the school into smaller units is a key feature of al boarding schools and is the backbone of the student's career at the school. If a student is to succeed in life as a leader, there is a very strong need to nurchure a competitive spirit. Without it, the desire to lead is likely to be absent and the student will be content to be a member of the crowd. It is important, in the public school paradigm, however, that competitiveness results in behaviour that benefits the team. A leader concerned only with personal success will eventually become isolated and ineffectual. With the "house" system, the young student is exposed from the start to a healthy inter-house rivalry where the success of the house takes priority over his or her own success. This competitiveness is not restricted to sport but can be found in music competitions, debating, art and drama.
The Spirit of Competitiveness
One may very well ask what such a system has to do with the Christian ethic which, it would seem, is anything but competitive. The word "competition" usually conjures up such thoughts as greed, lust for power and glory, and other well-known sins. Yet the spirit of competitiveness is strong within us. We love a challenge. Paul the apostle indeed compares life and salvation to an atheletics race with a crown of victory at the end of it. We are indeed in a competition, a rivalry, if you will, between good and evil. It is a constant struggle. The kind of competitiveness that drives children in public schools is not, I feel, inappropriate if placed within this context. We are in a race, and instead of the honour of a "house", we have a God, whom we desire to boast of and bring glory to by our works -- not for ourselves, but for Him, our Creator. Jesus Himself taught the disciples that their righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees.
The race, or competition, unlike the public school house-system is, however, a matter of life and death. We are all in it whether we want to be or not (though we did choose to be before coming here so we can't complain that this is all unwarranted and unwanted compulsion on the part of higher Beings). If we don't compete against the flesh, we will be dragged down by it, and become losers not in an event but in eternity. Therefore we ought to be even more eager than a public school boy!
The young student moving up the public school ladder, is given progressively more responsibility. The house system gives ample opportunity for delegation of duties to the students. At Harrow, for example, the second year student will take a new student under his wing and instruct him in the ways of the school and the house. The older boys may be given a corridor of new students and be responsible for ensuring lights at night are out on time and that they do not sleep in the morning. Being responsible for the behaviour of others at a young age is an invaluable experience. As the student gets older, responsibility and authority within the structure of the house and school increases. Indeed, there are many opportunities for students to help in the running of the school and in so doing, to learn the skills of leadership and administration and to develop some awareness of the great issues of corporate and personal responsibility. By the time of leaving the school, each student will have experience of exercising authority and should retain a clear understanding of what is required to be a successful leader and what is required to use power effectively.
Parts of the Body of Christ
The parallels with New Testament Church organisation are striking. As you read through the Bible, you will discover that the Body of Christ had many functioning parts which, according to Paul, needed to coordinate effectively for the Church to become something viable. Congregations were small (cp. the public school "houses") and had numerous officers -- pastors, teachers, deacons, administrators, missioners, stewards, prophets, and many more. According to revelation received by the New Covenant Church, each congregation should be no more than 144 baptised souls. Every person is a potential leader since, according to the New Testament, Christians are collectively a "royal priesthood", otherwise known as a "priesthood of believers". Everyone receives a calling the moment he or she is baptised and chrismated (confirmed), even if it is something very small like putting away hymn books at the end of a meeting or ensuring that the lights in the meeting place are turned off.
Priesthood Responsibilities in the New Covenant Church of God
The life of a post-chrismated member in the Church begins in the Sub-Deaconate. A newly confirmed member immediately becomes a candidate for the Deaconate if he is living the Gospel (as he will be when he is confirmed). A Sub-Deacon is placed under the wings of a Deacon where he will be trained for the Deaconate and be given increasing responsibilities. Each Deacon, in turn, is under the leadership of a local Deacons' Council Presidency consisting of three senior Deacons, the President of which is the Second Counsellor to the Pastor. There are, moreover, four kinds of Deacon, the offices of which are assigned according on the Deacon's giftedness and call -- Pastoral Assistants (preachers), Teachers, Sub-Administrators, and Stewards. Some Deacons may hold more than one office in the Deaconate, and frequently do. The women also have their parallel offices and are organised in the same way. In this system everybody grows, becoming more and more responsible both for physical things and then, finally, for people, which is the main calling of the Elders and Eldresses. There is a calling for everyonewho desires it.
Small vs. Big Congregations
The size of congregations is an important factor, just as classroom size is important in the public school system. Public school classes are, on average, half the size of state school ones. This generous staff-student ratio allows much greater individual time with teachers. Students are more likely to achieve their individual academic ambitions and potential.
In the modern churches, size means everything, and we have witnessed in the last decades of the 20th century what I call the "super-congregation" consisting of thousands -- sometimes tens-of-thousands -- of members. There is no way that the individual needs of the saints can be met nor their potential as sons and daughters of God be realised in such "super-churches". These congregations are too impersonal and lack quality discipleship education. Teaching masses Ó la business conference style may be all right from time-to-time but for potential ministers to flourish they need more personal attention. In the New Covenant Church the ratio of pupil to teacher diminishes as one ascends the priesthood Orders so that finally, in the Patriarchal Order, teaching is one-to-one more often than not, or else in small groups of two or three.
Individual Care is Essential
To get the best from a school class a teacher must constantly praise, cajole and encourage the students. The successful leader must pay close attention to the needs of the individuals under his care and most human beings need and respond well to praise and encouragement. This is perhaps the single most difficult area of leadership. The skill comes more easily to the individual who has spent years in a classroom watching the teachers exhibit these very qualities than to the student who has merely spent time being lectured in a group. In other words, the student used to being treated as an individual within a group is in a far better position to imitate this behaviour as a leader. And in Oxford University, where I studied after moving from Craneligh (public) School, tuition was also one-to-one which, though it meant I had to work jolly hard and could never sit back and relax, nevertheless enabled me to make far greater progress than had I been tutored in a larger group, as is the case in almost all other British universities.
Good Training Required
Good leaders in the Christian Church are becoming fewer and farther between, and I blame this in part on a proper lack of training. The traditional churches still have a priest-layman divide which leaves ignorant, unmotivated and irresponsible masses by and large, and the newer ones who train everyone with only a smattering of discipleship in huge auditoriums where the personal touch is sorely absent. It is time to return to the New Testament and Sub-Apostolic Pattern as the New Covenant Church is seeking to do.
Eastern vs. Western Educational Systems
Though I am an admirer of Asian values I am not, I am bound to say, an always an admirer of the Asian educational system. For too long Westerners have looked on with admiration at the Orient where large class sizes have produced the well-educated modern citizens responsible for the construction of the most successful modern economies in the world. In view of this questionable economic achievement, it is perhaps surprising that those involved with education in the Far East are questioning their system. In Japan, for example, some blame the system imposed on them after the Second World War for the present economic malaise.
It is perceived that the driving force of their success over the last 50 years has been almost exclusively led by the generation educated before the War and that, as the next generation takes the helm, their ability to innovate and to lead is seen to be wanting. In a search for a solution to this deficiency, it is the "group" mentality inculcated by their culture and reinforced at school that is the target for their attention. Leaders and innovators are distinguishable from their peers by their ability to be individuals within a group.
Educationalists in the Far East now believe that by suppressing individuality they have smothered the leadership potential of their students and stifled innovation. So it is not suprising that in their attempt to find examples of schools that foster self-confidence and create an environment where the potential leader can prosper, their attention has returned once more to the British public schools so admired over 100 years ago.
Individual vs. Corporate Needs
Having recognised the importance of individuality and independence, let us not, however, swing in the opposite direction and supress the importance of corporate activity. The Japanese and other oriental systems do not so much need a replacement as an addition -- a balance must be struck. And the same is true of Christian discipleship and priesthood ministry. There must be room for innovation, imagination, creativity, and the like, but this must never be allowed to fly off into hyper-individualism (and ultimately, existentialism) which is the curse of the Western world, and the sorrow of the modern churches where rampant self-centredness is preventing people from working together as a Body and creating schism.
Home Schooling: Required in Pre-Tribulation Days
I have watched with some dismay as my own children, raised in the state system in Scandinavia, have had their creative impulses smothered by the misplaced philosophy that conforming to a hyper-individualistic stereotype is important, and where class sizes are too large. Added to this is the aggressive secularism which is constantly at war with Christian values. Accordingly I have decided that my own children will, in the future, be spared the debiliating effects of state (and, for that matter, public schooling -- N.B. in the USA "public schools" are state schools). The purpose of Kadesh-biyqah, and other colonies to be build worldwide, is to provide children with an alternative educational and cultural system that will foster Zionic ideals and create the next generation of Christian leaders who will face the brunt of the end-time persecutions, for whom leadership skills will be vital. May God grant that we achieve this goal. Amen.
This page was created on 12 April 1998
Last updated on 12 April 1998
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