Social Cohesion

A number of modern trends have undermined the social cohesion of society.

Christians have focussed considerable energy on strengthening families, while being ambivalent about nationalism and government powers. Unfortunately, they have missed the piece in the middle.

In the biblical model for a healthy society, the "tens fifties and hundreds" are the glue that holds society together.

So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you-as heads of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. (Deut 1:15).
In this passage, Moses was setting aside men to be judges. These tens, hundreds and fifties and tens already existed among the tribes of Israel at the time of the Exodus. Tens, fifties and hundreds existed before Israel became a nation. They were important to the cohesion of the twelve tribes of Israel.


The world needs structures to prevent the strong and wicked bullies from seizing power and trampling over the weak and vulnerable. The powerful must be prevented from prospering at the expense of the weak.

Most Christians expect the state to provide this protection, but that hope has been illusory. At best, the state has distracted onto side issues neglects the weak and the poor. At worst the state becomes powerful and aggressive and plunders those who need its protection.

Libertarians suggest that protection could be provided by entrepreneurial businesses and insurance companies. Businesses can provide defence and protection services for local communities, but if business is the only source of these things, there is nothing to stop businesses from dominating people and morphing into a pseudo state.

In Moses day, justice, defence, welfare and education were mostly managed in a local community by the Tens and Thousands. Tens provide protection and defence and protection their members, without dominating or controlling them.


Society is made up of individuals. Most individuals are part of a family. They are the building blocks of society, but the relationships between them determine the shape and strength of society.

The Ten refers to a group of families living in close proximity to each other. The number is not the number of people in the family, but the number of men in the group of families who are capable of contributing to their protection. Most families will have just one adult male, but some with grown-up children may have several adult males who can share in the defence of their community. A Ten would be a group of five or six families that could produce ten adult men to serve their community. The numbers do not need to be precise.

In a rural situation, the families making up a Ten would all live side by side in the same village. Some would be related to each other as brothers or cousins.

In the city, the families would live in close proximity to each other in the same street. Some of the families making up the Ten might be linked by family ties, but often they would be bound together by a commitment to support and protect each other.

Participation in a Ten is voluntary for adults. If they do not like their Ten, they can move and join another, or remain in isolation. Children will have no choice, but to remain with their parents.

The Role of the Ten

The Ten has several important functions.

1. Defence - the Ten share responsibility for protecting their community.

Modern people tend to look to their government for protection from evil. This is a false hope. Governments continually fail to protect their people from home. Protection does not come from the top. Sound defence and protection must begin at the lowest level of society in the Ten.

2. Justice - most legal disputes will be resolved within the Ten.

3. Welfare - the Ten will provide support for members who fall into poverty.

4. Education - the Ten will assist families to educate their children.

Tens were the important and essential foundation for a just and caring society.

Leaders of Tens

Each Ten would have a person or a couple of people who are leaders of the Ten. The Leaders of tens have very little power and authority, because membership of a ten is voluntary. The main role of the leader of the Ten is to represent the Tens interest when dealing with other Tens or agreeing to participate in a Hundred. If the leader agrees to something that the Ten do not support, they will ignore their leader.

The leader must act as a servant of the Ten, or they will lose the respect of the Ten. They will be trusted by other members of the Ten, because they have watched out for them in the past.

Leading a Ten does not bring reward. The leader serves the others because they see the need. They will do this for no financial reward, because they know that they are safer in a Ten than standing alone.


The resources and capabilities of a Ten will be too limited to deal with many situations. A number of Tens will come together to deal with any larger threats to their community.

If all of the people in a village came together for a specific purpose, they would be a Fifty. If a number of Tens in a city came together with a common intention, they might be a Hundred. In what follows, I will refer to them both as Hundreds.

The Hundred derives its functions and authority from the Ten. Hundreds can only act, if the leaders of the Tens give permission.

The Role of the Hundred

The Hundred can be used for four main purposes.

1. Defence - sometimes several Tens will come together to deal with an external threat to their society.

2. Welfare - Financial support might flow from one Ten to another.

3. Justice - The relationships between the Tens that made up a Hundred will be important for resolving issues of justice.

4. Marriage - A young man will generally need to go outside his Ten to find a wife. He will have a better chance of finding a wife in one of the neighbouring Hundreds.

Ten Words

Christians frequently refer to the Ten Commandments. Our problem is that there are not ten commands, but only nine. We have to do a fiddle to make the nine commands into ten. The Roman Catholic Church splits out coveting your neighbour's wife, from other coveting to get the extra commandment (Ex 20:17). Protestants split off Exodus 20:4 and to make worshipping other gods different from crafting idols. This is dangerous, because it seems like physical idols are the only false gods. This is not true.

In the modern world, political powers and governments are the most serious false gods. From God's point of view, putting too much trust in the government is morally equivalent to carving a wooden idol to worship. Many Christians would not have a carving from Africa in their home, but they happily expect a new President or Prime Minister to transform their life situation.

Political rulers do not become false gods by the scope of their power, or expanding the size of their empire. The false god is created by the attitude of the people being governed. When people trust and worship political power, the government becomes an idol.

Words for the Ten

The Bible does refer to Ten Commandments, but uses the expression "Ten Words" in three different places to describe the words of the covenant written on the two tablets of stone.

Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant-the Ten Words (Ex 34:28).

My guess is that the reference is not to the number of commandments, but to the people who would use them most. Perhaps the statement should be translated as follows.

Moses wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant-the Words for Tens.

God's covenant was a covenant with the entire community, but the commandments written stone were most relevant to Tens and would be implemented by the Tens. The Ten Commandments are really Words for Tens.

Tens and Hundreds Destroyed

1 Samuel 8 is a really important passage. It describes how God's ideal government of judges and law came to an end, and were replaced with kingship, a model of government copied from the surrounding nations. This was a shocking change, as kingship is derived from Satan's method of control.

Samuel warned of another effect, which is not well understood.

This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers (1 Sam 8 11,13).

The king would take young people to serve in his army and palace. For a critical period during their growth to maturity, when they would normally be developing into a role in their Ten and Hundred, the young person will be taken out for a period of service to the king.

Loyalty to the King will replace their loyalty to their Ten and Hundred. They will lose respect for leaders of their Ten and may never be fully grafted back in. Their relationships with other young people in the king's service will be stronger than their relationship with leaders of their Ten and Hundred. Taking young people out of their local communities during their formative years undermines the structure of society.

Upside Down

Samuel warned of another serious consequence of the transition to kingship.

Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties (1 Sam 8:12).
The King will appoint some of the young people who have been conscripted into his service to be commanders over thousands and fifties. This was a radical change. Under the previous system, the leader of a Hundred was appointed by the members of the Tens who joined the Hundred. The leader of a Thousand was appointed by the leaders of the Hundreds, who agreed to participate in it during the season of threat. These leaders would have already established trust within their Ten and Hundred. Membership of a Hundred and a Thousand was voluntary, so if the Tens did not like the decisions of a commander of their thousand, they could withdraw. In this structure, leadership emerged from the bottom and submission to leadership was voluntary.

This is the way that leadership functions in the Kingdom of God. Leaders are given authority by people who voluntarily submit to them. If this authority is abused, voluntary submission can be withdrawn and the authority will evaporate.

The emergence of kingship turned this model on its head. Instead of leaders emerging from within, they would be appointed from outside by the king. The members of a Fifty or Thousand had to submit to the King's appointee, even if he was made foolish decisions. Refusal to obey the King's lapdogs would bring down the wrath of the king. Submission ceased to be voluntary.

The king would tend to appoint younger people who had recently been in his service, because they would be more loyal to him. These leaders would often lack experience in battle, so they would force the army to do foolish things. Authority imposed from above fosters foolishness.

Temporary to Permanent

Membership of a Thousand had been temporary. When the threatening army was defeated, the Thousand would be disbanded and the people would return to their homes (Jos 22:6). The only social structures with a permanent function were the Tens and Hundreds, and participation in them was voluntary.

Under the kingship, the Thousand ceased to be a temporary and voluntary force that was called up to deal with a particular, external threat. They become a permanent tool for imposing the king's control over society. The members of Tens lost their freedom of action and came under the permanent control of the king. An authority that arose from the bottom of society through submission was replaced by control from the top.

Chinese Counterfeit

An example of Tens and Hundreds being used for political control can be found in the history of China. During the imperial period, China was divided into eighteen provinces and 1,300 districts. These districts were too large for a magistrate or governor to control, so a system of surveillance was introduced.

Households were organised by the thousand and then subdivided into sub-groupings of hundred and then ten. Headmen kept a register of everybody in each group, recorded comings and goings, and reported offences to magistrates. Villagers were required to tell the headman of any illegal behaviour they encountered-failure to do sow was a crime (Jonathon Fenby, The Penguin History of Modern China, p.6).

The Chinese Tens and Hundreds were not voluntary associations that emerged in society, but were imposed from the top to achieve control over society. They are a fulfilment of Samuel's prophecy. These counterfeit Tens and Hundreds were not a source of cohesion, but a tool for control.

Evil is never original. It copies and distorts the real thing.

Justice Collapsed

The rise of kings destroyed the system of local judges that emerged in Moses time. By the time of David, the people of Judah were unable to get justice within their Tens and Hundreds. They had to go to Jerusalem and seek an audience with the king, who had usurped the local judges' role. David was a military leader, God had not made him a judge.

Absalom gained popularity by courting people who had been unable to obtained justice from the King.

Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?". Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you." And Absalom would add, "If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice" (2 Sam 15:2-4).

Absalom gained respect by offering justice to people who could not obtain it. When the administration of justice is centralised, justice disappears. David was a good man, but he could not provide justice for everyone. He simply did not have time to investigate and judge every case.

People had to travel to Jerusalem to get their case heard. This was costly because while they were waiting for their case to come up, they would have to pay for accommodation in an expensive city. They would also be neglecting their family and farm left at home. Only those with power, privilege and money can gain access to a king's justice.

Permanent kingship requires heavy taxation, and taxation soon became a cause of injustice. A king would always side with his tax collectors, so a king cannot administer justice fairly.

The justice provided by Tens and Hundreds had disappeared, by the time Israel had its second king.

Modern Society

Tens and Hundreds formed naturally in tribal societies through family connections. Industrialisation and urbanisation have eliminated these links from modern society, so that individuals and families live in isolation from each other.

The collapse of community is greatest in modern cities, where migration and urbanisation have broken down traditional community relationships. Social mobility prevents stable relationships from developing and family life is breaking down. People feel like cogs in a machine and life is characterised by loneliness and personal insecurity.

Modern suburban culture creates barriers to communication and encourages individualism. As communities are breaking down and fear is rising, high fences are going up between houses isolating people from each other. This isolation means that most people do not belong to the community where they live.

This isolation and dislocation of urban society has been accompanied by the aggregation and accumulation of political power to the modern state. We now face the bizarre situation where needs are concentrated in individuals, but power and money are concentrated in the national state. This leaves families and individuals powerless before a faceless government. Justice, defence and welfare come from the top, whereas they are best provided at the bottom.

To restore the cohesion of our societies, Tens and Hundreds must be restored to our communities, but it is not clear how this will happen. Politicians have an inbuilt tendency to push power and money to the top, so they will always weaken society at its lowest level.

The Modern Church

The church should be strengthening the foundations of society, but this is not happening in the modern world. Western society has been shaped by the automobile and the church has gone along for the ride. The car has brought great freedom, but we have paid a huge price in loss of fellowship. A church has become something that we drive to, not something that shapes the community where we live. This severely weakens the relationships between Christians, so most modern churches are almost as socially fragmented as the rest of society.

Unfortunately, most people do not see the modern church as an answer to their heart's cry. It is seen as another institution that meets personal needs with programmes run by professionals. The megachurch model does not develop community, because it just replicates the national state model of concentrating power and delivering services from the top to the bottom.

Jesus Restored Tens and Hundreds

Jesus first step when he began his ministry was to form a Ten.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him. These are the twelve he appointed (Mark 3:13-16).

By the time of Pentecost, the new church had become a Hundred.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) (Acts 1:14-15)

When the church expanded quickly, they continued to share in Tens and Hundreds.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46).

The early church undertook many of the roles that had been undertaken by Tens and Hundred in Moses' time.

1. Welfare - the church provided support to people who fell into poverty.

2. Defence - the church provided protection for their community.

3. Justice - the new church implemented biblical justice.

A Church of Tens and Fifties

Following Jesus example, the church should have an important role in restoring Tens and Hundreds in the places where we live. Every church should be attached to a particular locality. Ideally, there should be one Church at each location and each location should have one Church.

In my book, Being Church Where We Live, I described how a church should function as a local community. Each church should be led by four or five elders, each with a different gifting, submitting to each other to produce unity. Each elder would provide oversight for about five or six families. If all the families overseen by one elder lived close to each other in a local community, they would become a Ten. This group of connected families would be able to fulfil all the functions of Tens, as described above.

If the church had five elders, each providing oversight of a Ten, the entire church would be a Fifty. If specific needs arose, a couple of local churches could link through their leaders to become a Hundred. The leaders of the Hundred would ensure that the justice, protection and welfare are provided to everyone living in their community.

If Christians moved Back to a more biblical model of church, Tens and Hundreds would be restored Back to our communities. However, we would have to get out of their cars and auditoriums and move closer together.

Gospel Model

The New Testament provides a method for spreading the gospel, which will also restore Tens and Hundreds to our community. Luke 10 describes how church and gospel spread in five important steps.

The Church View

From the church perspective, the first group started will look like this.

The letter A indicates an elder with pastoral gifting. At the beginning of the process, this would be one of the pair who came into the neighbourhood. When the original pair move on, the elder will be someone from within the group, possibly the person of influence.

The elder has a strong relationship with each person and would help build strong relationships all the members of the group they watch over. These relationships are represented by the lines. They are the leader of a Ten.

The Neighbourhood View

A view of the neighbourhood looks like this.

Christian A moved into A Street. He knew that P was a person of influence, so he rented the house next door to him. When P's crippled daughter was healed, he and all his family decided to follow Jesus. Everyone in A Street saw the dramatic change in both P and his daughter. When they asked what had happened, he blurted out the entire story with the gospel sprinkled in between. Those living in the blue houses chose to become Christians. A watched over them to ensure that none got side-tracked. He also worked hard on building relationships between them. The activities of this Ten are centred on P's house.

This is only part of the story. When A moved into A Street, he did not come alone. His friends R and E had moved at about the same time. They had served together in the church that they came from and knew each other well.

The faith stirred up following the healing of P's daughter led to the healing of a couple of other seriously ill people at the other end of the street. E shared the gospel to many others living in the street, and some came to believe. He took responsibility for those living in the houses shaded in green and built relationships between them. R focussed on those living on his side of the street. Three Tens have come into existence in A Street.

Moving Out

P grew to maturity quickly, so A was soon able to leave him to look after the blue houses. Person A moved his family to a house in D Street and next door to a Christian who was already a part of the blue group. This person believed that many of his neighbours were interested in the gospel, so A came to give them a hand to get things started.

E stayed in the same house, but left B to exercise oversight over the Christians in the green houses. They were all doing well and did not need much help anyway. E switched his attention to some people at the other end of the street and started building relationships with a group of believers connected to the person in the green house in D Street. Before much time passed, people living in the orange houses were seeking to follow Jesus and E was helping them get connected to each other. The neighbourhood now has five Tens.

The Wider Church View

Looking from the church perspective, we have something like the following diagram. Five groups of Christians are each overseen by a Christian elder (A, R, P, E. B).

These elders have strong relationships. They draw all their people together in one body to be a church. Many of these people knew each other well already. The elders work together to strengthen these relationships, so it looks like this.

The relationships between these people are as important as the people. They look something like this.

Tens and Hundreds

An effective church has started in this neighbourhood, but something else that is important has happened. Five Tens have formed. The members of each Ten know each other and trust each other. They will also have established good relationships with the people in the white houses that live around them. Each Ten has at least one person with some leadership skills that are available for service in the wider community.

Together these Tens make up a Fifty. This Fifty has strong leadership. Everyone in the neighbour would look to them and respect if a tough situation. If the growth process described above was repeated, the Fifty would grow into a Hundred.

Welfare and Protection

Something else important happens in this neighbourhood.

Serving the Neighbourhood

The Tens living in A Street will serve everyone in their street.


Apart from the family, the lowest and most important unit in society is the neighbourhood. In the modern world, many factors are tearing the neighbourhood apart. The local church would be a unifying factor, if Christians were to form Tens and Fifties in the neighbourhood where they lived. These Tens would return cohesiveness to the neighbourhood.

The Kingdom View

Authority is the heart of the Kingdom of God. The defining quality of a king is authority, so understanding the nature of authority is essential for understanding the Kingdom of God. Jesus' prayer defines the Kingdom of God.

Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).

The Kingdom of God comes when God's will is done. God's kingdom comes into being as his authority is widely accepted and obeyed.

Authority, not geography, defines the boundaries of a kingdom. A kingdom extends as far as the authority of the King is accepted. The Kingdom of God is defined in terms of attitudes to the authority of God. It extends wherever his authority is accepted. Every person living under the authority of God is part of the Kingdom of God. Every aspect of life that is submitted to the authority of God is part of the Kingdom of God. Tens and Hundreds turn authority upside down and bring the Kingdom of God into being.

Kingdom and Tens

If the Ten serves really effectively, the local people will participate in some of their activities, especially those that advance justice, protection from crime, welfare and defence. When the non-Christians in the neighbourhood participate in the activities of the Ten or Hundred, they will have to compromise with their standards of behaviour:

To participate in activities organised by the Ten, others will have to fit with their lifestyle. They will compromise their behaviour gladly, because they will see the benefits the Tens provide in their neighbourhood. However, they will not feel forced to change, because they remain free to opt out at any time

Christian leaders will not control Christians in their care, but will see to serve them. They will also seek to serve the other people in their street. Most people living in the street will respect their leadership because they will have observed their kindness and love. Anyone who does not like their leadership will ignore it.

Something interesting has happened in A Street.

Taken together, this means that most people in the neighbourhood will be submitted to God, so in a sense, the Kingdom of God has come to A Street.

Principalities and Power

Spiritual power and political power go together. The reason is that the leaders of a nation have authority to enforce their will on any citizen of their domain. Everyone living in a nation must accept the authority of their king or president. The mayor, the council and the council officers have authority to act on behalf of anyone resident in their town or city. This power and authority creates a serious spiritual problem, because these political leaders are vulnerable to spiritual attack, and any attack on them is not just personal, but affects everyone under their authority.

Spiritual power always follows authority. When a political leader is influenced by demonic powers, the people under his authority are vulnerable to a similar attack. When we submit to political leaders, we open ourselves up to spiritual forces at work in their lives. When demonic forces attach themselves to a king or president, they become "principalities and powers", because they now have authority over many of the people in that nation (Eph 6:12).

Political leaders will come under immense spiritual pressure, because they hold authority over the people in their city or nation. If the enemy gets control over these leaders, he gains spiritual access to everyone under their control. The enemy concentrates his forces against those with political power, so he can win an easy victory over everyone under the authority of the leaders who fall into his hands. When a powerful leader falls into sin, then everyone in their realm becomes vulnerable to the same spirit.

Centralised political or religious authority is dangerous, because it makes principalities and powers possible. Once the enemy gains control over those with power and authority, he has easier access to all those under that authority. As a political leader accumulates more authority, the principality or power that controls him gains greater power over more people. This is how principalities and powers exercise power (Dan 10:13). (Centralising control of a megachurch in a super pastor has the same effect).

Tens and Hundreds beat Principalities

Jesus destroys principalities and powers by removing the centralised political and religious power structures that support their power. Wherever emperors, kings and presidents have seized or been give authority, evil spiritual forces can attach themselves to that authority. When political power evaporates, principalities and powers are reduced to being common evil spirits beaten by the cross. They gain spiritual power by taking advantage of political power, so the collapse of power and authority leaves them with no place to stand.

Tens and Hundreds are the solution to spiritual protection. In the Biblical model, authority is concentrated at the lowest level in the Ten, and that authority remains miniscule, because membership in a Ten is voluntary. A little bit of authority is passed up to the Hundred, but it can be easily withdrawn. During a crisis, some authority may be extended to a Thousand, but this authority is always be taken back, if the leader loses the plot, or when the crisis ends. This diffusion of authority foils the plans of the enemy. Evil spirits can no longer concentrate their attacks on a few powerful people, but have to spread themselves thin. As they disperse to deal with authority that is diffused throughout society, they become fragmented and powerless.

Many Christians have an overinflated view of the enemy's power. They believe that our struggle is against spiritual forces that are almost as powerful as the Holy Spirit. The truth is that Satan's power is an illusion. Evil forces have leveraged their power by gaining control over political and religious leaders with authority over many people.

Political and religious power has magnified the authority of spiritual evil. If an evil spirit gains control over one person, he can make that person's life miserable. If the same spirit were to gain control over a king or president, he can make a nation miserable. If that spirit gains influence over a megachurch, he can lead a thousand people astray. When political and religious control collapses, demonic power will be greatly diminished. When confined to a one-on-one battle, they will be easily defeated. When Big Government collapses and Tens and Hundreds rise in their place, a great spiritual victory will occur.

Tens Provide Spiritual Protection

Tens will provide spiritual protection for their communities by standing together in unity. They will watch over each other and stand together to resist the power of the enemy. When people love Jesus and walk in the Spirit, the enemy will have no grounds for attack.

Other people in the neighbourhood will continue to sin and some may allow evil into their lives. The difference with respect to protection from evil is that none of these people have authority over anyone else in their community (except in the rare situation where one is employed in the business of another). This limits their ability to expose others to the spirits that influence them.

The only people in the street with authority over others are the elders. They are submitted to each other, so their authority is constrained. The elders will be watching over each other, so if one comes under attack or falls into sin, the others will deal with the issue to get victory over evil.

Tens and Hundreds provide spiritual protection for each other and the people in their neighbourhood.

A Street has become an authority-lite zone, making it a relatively a demon-free zone.

Advancing Ten by Ten

The Kingdom of God grows organically, like yeast spreading through a loaf of bread. The reason is that society must be changed from the bottom up.

The Kingdom of God advances slowly, street by street and village by village.

Time of Distress

Ordinary life faces now many new challenges. The world is getting increasingly violent and unstable and individuals and families struggle without the support that used to come from Tens and Hundreds. We may be going into a time of trouble, distress and judgement. Christians should be prepared for troubled times. To cope with the disorderly world that is merging, Christians and their families must get together in Tens to provide support and protection for their communities.

Leaders of Tens will establish relationships with other tens to share in protection and support.

When society disintegrates, state power will fall apart. Social welfare system will collapse and justice will fail. Christian Tens and Hundreds will be needed to fill the gap. This will be a massive opportunity for the gospel.

Return to Keywords.