Recently we posted on a local forum on the topic of "nepotism" as we observed it so often in the "church" world we left behind. A bit of research from Wikipedia regarding the term "nepotism" yields the astounding revelation that the practice itself was begun in "Christianity"!
What is "nepotism"? "Nepotism is the showing of favoritism toward relatives, based upon that relationship, rather than on an objective evaluation of ability or suitability."
Where did nepotism originate? From Wikipedia: "Nepotism gained its name after the church practice in the Middle Ages, when some Catholic popes and bishops — who had taken vows of chastity, and therefore usually had no children of their own — gave their nephews positions of preference such as were often accorded by fathers to sons. Several popes are known to have elevated nephews and other relatives to the cardinalate."
Nepotism is one of the meeting places where historical practices from Catholicism and the modern denominational/ institutional church world shake hands. Having "respect of persons", position and title seeking are exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught His followers, as illustrated in Matthew 20 when the mother of "the sons of Zebedee" lobbied for some special position for her two sons:
"And he said unto her, What wouldest thou? She saith unto him, Command that these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy kingdom."
And in Matthew 23 HE strictly admonished His disciples in regard to title seeking : But all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 and love the chief place at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called of men, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and ALL YE are brethren. 9 And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even the Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.
In looking back at our church-world sojourn, we now realize how thoroughly the Institutional Church is permeated with nepotism and gives the common folk yet one more reason to examine the lack of difference between the church and the world. And one more reason to leave.
It is common practice, especially in the church world for a family to run a "church" and pass it along to their children like any other family business. We observed this many, many times. Family members and favored persons are put in postions, given titles, and treated in a manner suggesting they have special status.
Many "preacher's kids" are ruined by this practice. They are marked for special and extra attention by reason of their family's role in the oversight of a "church"; many are groomed for the professional ministry and many become jaded by what they witness behind the scenes of "church" life.
It is typical of church members to give special treatment and consideration to the children of church leaders, sometimes in an effort to gain favor from those leaders. There are also more than a few "leaders" that take lingering offense when their children are corrected or admonished by someone in the church.
Rather than following the scriptural teaching of Jesus in regard to true servanthood, a pastors' family becomes "king, queen, prince, and princess" as they serve themselves of the people. This is exactly what the apostate kings of Israel did and indeed they are the scriptural role models for the kingdom of pastor-run churches today. (The majority of "Godly" kings of Israel transferred their kingdom to their children who usually fell away from following the LORD).
In denominational circles with families that have generational "roots" in the organization, it is common for these families to take on an air of royalty within their denomination. One may gain access to position and status within denominations when marrying with "name brand" families, and the majority of denominations, Bible Colleges, and Big Name ministries are filled with this SOP. (standard operating procedure).
Many times a lucrative church (one that has great people and cash-flow) are looked upon and desired as inheritable assets. We saw and heard of many examples of this while we were in the institutional church system and we knew many people that thought nothing of doing things this way. "Their" churches, populated by loving, trusted people, were as much family run enterprises as they were "churches".
New converts are the innocent fair game for "their" ministries. The typical new convert is usually more interested in spiritual matters and easily manipulated by the professionals behind the pulpit who wrestle Bible verses to justify their unscriptural practices. For 24 years, as loyal, loving, members we also accepted these practices without scriptural scrutiny.
We remember two particular examples where a pastor died or retired and intended to pass the mantle of his office and administration to his son or daughter and son-in-law. But those churches did not cooperate with the pastor's desire to pass along the family-run church and the children felt great rejection and robbed of their inheritance.
Another area church pastor retired and installed his son-in-law into the Senior Pastor position and thus protected his retirement benefits and continued to pull strings from behind the scenes while he and his wife led a comfortable life of travel as retirees.
These are shepherds who do not know what it is to live the faith they say they proclaim, instead relying on their own ability to provide themselves security through "bigger barns", medical insurance, life insurance, and a slice of the church financial pie.
BTW, the church is given the loving instruction to care for it's members and have "equality" and NOT through mandated, corporate contractural arrangements which are now SOP for the priviledged clergy.
In the business world of the local church (many of which are yoked to the government through 501c3 IRS law), pastors appoint yes men, business people, and relatives to their *church boards in order to maintain control. (just google 501c3 churches for an eye-opener!) This insures and facilitates that the "ministry" staff is benefitted by perks such as housing, education expense, travel, conferences, insurance, and retirement packages. These become un-scriptural binding contractural obligations levied upon the body of Christ. BTW, Paul admonished the overseers of the churches he ministered in to work and support the weak and needy.
Jer. 50:6 My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray; ...
Here are a few Nepotistic examples:
1. A pastor's wife is appointed either co-pastor or has a title such as "Pastor Betty".
2. A pastor's son is appointed as a Youth Pastor, Music Director, or similar.
3. The pastor gives postions and titles to family, financial supporters, or other favored folk. Novices, young converts, and naturally gifted people are put in ministerial offices which is directly contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
4. Church finances are closely controlled, guarded, and administrated by the pastor's family.
5. The mangement of the "church" is kept within a family and their children are groomed to take over their church when they are old enough and trained. (This may or may not include Bible College where numerous classes are offered on church financial and business management).
6. When the "senior" pastor retires, his son or son-in-law takes over the "church".
Retirement "benefits" are usually part of the package as they seek the security of temporal provision.
7. A senior pastor appoints a family member, relative, or a hand-picked "yes-man" to a church board or other position of church oversight. (the recent financial house-cleaning at ORU illustrates this)
The list above are all symptoms of an apostate "church" that has no example for such in the New Testament. No pastor has any God-given authority to name his wife "Pastor" or treat God's people like a family business. Yet when the mask comes off, this is what we find despite the protestations, justification, and affirmations of love and loyalty.
This is simply the sad truth of what we observed in 24 years of church life and we observed this in our own assemblys, those in the fellowship we were part of, and the system blinded both them and us.
These are the things that breed "respect of persons", create carnal authority, sustain the hated "Nicolaitane error", and corrupt the majority of those that God has called to serve.
The "Eli" ministry of old Israel so aptly illustrates church nepotism. Eli, out of favoritism and his position with God's people, allowed his two sons to take privileges. Like the blind, apostate ministers of our day, blind Eli was acting contrary to God's command and respected his family relationships more than he did the Word of the Lord. (1Sam 2). A 55 minute audio teaching on the Eli-Saul Ministry is here: and is well worth the time to listen to.
What we saw and heard over the course of 24 years as we sat in on board and staff meetings, as we listened to conversations of church leaders, and observed the lives of church leadership is now, frankly, astounding to us. In the name of Christianity, the churches we were part of were in reality family owned business' and/or denominational franchises.
As outsiders we now look back and recognize that the church world we left is exactly what Jesus observed when He said:
"For this people`s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them."
The glory of God departed from the apostate leadership of Israel for departing from God's Word, so history repeats as God's glory and power has, and is departing from Christianity's apostate leadership in our day.
*church boards: an unscriptural term and practice that is a common part of many churches corporate business structure that conforms them to IRS rule, regulation and reporting. This is a literal "married to the world" practice common in the Institutional Church of today. If you attend a church with a board, you are supporting an apostate institution.