the remnant and leadership

Thoughts about the "remnant church" came back to me this week. I'm thinking about it again in preparation for teaching about Augustine and the Donatists this coming Sunday. For some reason, I connected these thoughts of the faithful remnant church within the church with the thoughts about church leadership and group decision-making that I've been struggling with for months.

If it is true that the "true church" is just a portion (or even a minority) of our organized church groups, then leadership and decision-making must be seen differently. The assumption, especially among "consensus decision-making" Christian groups, is that we are a community of people following the same Spirit, so we should be able to agree together and have some assurance that we are doing God's will. But this assumption does not hold if the reality is that only a portion of our groups are truly following that Spirit. This may explain why, in practice, consensus decision-making has such a hard time living up to its promises.

And if we add into the equation that the "faithful remnant" (who are the anawim, the poor of Yahweh) are the meek and poor and lowly among us, then it becomes even more unlikely that the ones in organizational leadership are the ones representing the true church. Those taking on the mantle of institutional power show by their actions that they are not the ones we should be following, if we want to be following those closest to Jesus' example.

Which doesn't mean that there is no true leadership in the church, no one to follow. It's just that we shouldn't expect to find our examples in the usual leadership positions. And we shouldn't expect to see the will of God discerned through popular vote (or even consensus). We need to find our examples among the anawim, the lowly among us, probably those on the outskirts of the church. And discern how the Spirit is working through his remnant people among us, rather than among those in office and in the organizational structures that usually fill the church news headlines.

One of my points this Sunday will be that "church history" is probably not a very good record of what God has been doing through his people. Because what makes history is the actions (and scandals) of the powerful and influential in society, and they are most likely not the best representatives of God's lowly remnant people. What happens among them, in the true church, is often not recorded. But I think we can find signs of it, if we look carefully.