Headship in the Church

I will state my testimony right up front. It is this. The one to whom I belong before and above all others is Jesus Christ. There are really only two places to belong, and I choose Jesus (Romans 6:16). Belonging to Jesus is what thrills me and brings me joy that far supersedes whether I have an emotional sense of belonging here at any human church. This is the message I bring you today. You can belong to Jesus. You can have an intense emotional connection to Jesus, and then all other belongings fall gently into place. This is the gift I pray will come upon each of us. I belong to Jesus first and foremost. I dare not let any other relationship compete for first authority.

Jesus is the head of the church, so if I belong to Jesus, I will also seek a place to belong in the church. That is why what we’re doing in church is important. We are members of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the head of the church and we are all members together of His body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). No human can be the head of this church. Authority is spread across all of us. If any of us abdicates his or her personal authority under Christ into the hands of some human leader then the safety of all of us is endangered. If we together abdicate our authority under Christ into the hands of some human leader, then we will have made a king or a pontiff in the place of Christ in His church.

There is no place here for a separation between church leaders and church members. We are all many members of one body (Romans 12:4), servants of one another. Whatever leaders we have are all servants and ministers to the body of Christ. We all together belong to each other.

There is no place here for clever use of power or popularity, no room for dominance or coercion, no call to convince, control, or compel. Jesus is the head of the church. When I belong to the church, I belong to Jesus. Jesus is the head of me. Jesus holds veto power over whatever I do or decide.

How It Works

“The church is Christ's body. It is filled by Christ. He fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23, NIRV). Christ is present with every one of us. As a local group together, we are Christ’s body. He fills us. He fills everyone of us. He fills every decision we make by listening to all our parts.

That’s why it’s so important that you, that I, be present when decisions are being made. We are His church, His body. Christ’s position is the head. No one else dare take that position. All the rest of us are servants to Christ’s body. Sometimes the hand serves the foot. Sometimes the eyes serve the fingers. Most astonishing, the head serves the body. Jesus came not to be ministered unto but to minister. Christ gave himself for the church. (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:25)

So the primary way of relating in the church should be as servants listening to each other. All decisions we make should be lifting up the authority of whole body of Christ. There is no room for dominance or coercion one over another. There is no room for shutting off any channels for listening.

But we give up our authority all too easily. We find closed ears and we leave or shut down. We meet subtle sanctions against saying this or that, so we comply. This abdication happens not only in the church but in our nation and in any system that starts out trying to keep the power with the people. History attests this tendency to consolidate power in a few at the top. Soon there’s a king and courtiers rather than a shepherd and sheep. Soon all the communication goes mostly up through confessionals or spies, rather than communication going freely all ways. Soon the people are charged with making things safe for the leaders, rather than the leaders with making things safe for the people.

But because Christ is the head of the church and ruler over all kings, he refuses to let the church take on irretrievably the “power-over” ways of his enemy Satan. He will heal this church of gossip and talebearing so all can feel free and uncoerced to tell their own story.

Christ is head of the church.