Apostolic Church Pattern

"We have to lay aside all of our denominational concepts and go back of Protestantism, back of Catholicism, back of gentile theology, right back to the historical situation in the 1st century". Dr. Roy Blizzard

1st Century Church

The word “Church” is translated from Greek “Ecclesia” which means gathering or assembly.

In order to get back to or “reclaim” the 1st Century Church we must have a clear understanding of what the church was like almost 2000 years ago.  How it was organized, how it was governed and operated, what they believed and practiced?

The Bible of course is our best resource to answer all these questions.  The problem is that not everyone sees or interprets the scriptures the same, consequently, modern Christianity is literally made up of hundreds of different denominations each with their own set of beliefs or doctrines.

So how can we know what is really true?  The first thing we need to do is go back in time before much of Apostolic Christianity was altered.  Before the time of Constantine (272 to 337AD) and the first church theologians (i.e.Tertullian and Origen) who lived around 160 to 250 A.D., and Augustine (400 A.D.). Before the time when doctrines and traditions like trinitarianism, infant baptism, Sunday Sabbath day, exaltation of Mary the mother of Jesus, formalization of the Priesthood and church liturgy…before the construction of elaborate church buildings and the mixing of pagan symbols and holidays (Christmas and Easter) with Christianity.  Like peeling layers of an onion, we’ve got to remove layer after layer of man’s tradition and corruptive influence to get back to the Apostolic beliefs and practices as stated in the New Testament or Covenant.

To get a better understanding of the sequence of events that led to the present day confusion over what the original church doctrines were and still should be please read the following article by Dr. Roy Blizzard:

 http://www.biblescholars.org/2013/05/what-has-happened-to-the-church.html

 

The following poem written by Sam Walter Foss I think captures the essense of how the church arrived at where it is today.  It is a wonderful example of how something as simple as a Cow Path when reinforced by time and sheer numbers of unsuspecting pilgrims who just blindly followed the steps of their forefathers...can so profoundly impact the foundations of whole societies.

The Calf-Path

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

We begin our study of the 1st Century Church (Assembly) in the book of Acts which is a Biblical account of the birth of the Church and the words and Acts of the Apostles.

"The preaching of the apostles, as it has come down to us in the writings of the New Testament, is the original, fundamental testimony of Jesus Christ, valid for all time; being unique, it cannot be replaced or made void by any later testimony. Later generations of the Church are dependent on the words, witness and ministry of the first “apostolic” generation. The apostles are and remain the original witnesses, their testimony is the original testimony and their mission the original mission".  Hans Jung

 A quote by Watchman Nee:

We must return to the beginning, to the "genesis" of the church, to see what He said and did then.  It is there we find the highest expression of His will.  Acts is the "genesis" of the church's history, and the church in the time of Paul is the "genesis" of the Spirit's work.  Conditions in the church today are vastly different from what they were then, but these present conditions could never be our example, or our authoritative guide; we must return to the "beginning."

  The Book of Acts is the pivotal piece of information for New Testament believers.  It connects the Old Testament/Covenant (and everything it pointed to) with the New Testament (Covenant) that Jesus (Yeshua) brought forth (made possible) thru His death, burial and resurrection.  It is the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 and reveals the mystery that was hid in Messiah (Christ) from the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 3:3-6

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel

The book of Acts and later the Epistles provide that critical part of the foundation of the church (Body of Messiah) along with the Old Testament prophets with Yeshua as the chief cornerstone.  The book of Acts is a documentary of the birth of the church and shows how believers became a part of the Body of Messiah (church) thru the new birth (water and Spirit)...see Acts 2.

Acts 2:38-47

 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly[g] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church[h] daily those who were being saved.

This wonderful passage of scripture gives us a vital glimpse into what the 1st Century Church looked like when it was first conceived thru the Spirit of the Lord. 

From this passage we can see some of the fundamental elements of the early church:   

Those that gladly received the words of the Apostles repented and were baptized (by immersion in water) in Yeshua's (Jesus) Name and were being filled with the Holy Spirit just as the Apostles (120) were filled with the Spirit in Acts 2:1-4.

In Acts 2:42 we see that the new believers continued "steadfastly" in the Apostle's Doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayer. 

In order to have a clear understanding of what the 1st Century Church was like and believed we need to understand what the "Apostle's Doctrine" was.  Here's where a lot of modern churches are missing the mark.

Ephesians 1:20-22

20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

 Believers continued in Apostle’s Doctrine - "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine...(Acts 2:42) – the foundation was based on  two main things

  • Relationship and intimacy with the Lord Yeshua
  • Apostolic doctrine or teaching, sound Biblical principles –
    • What is included in the Apostles Doctrine?
      • They preached Jesus – His death, burial and resurrection. Basically everything Jesus taught them (in gospels)…they carried forward…here are some of the basics:
      • New Birth – John 3; Acts 2:38 (repentance, water baptism in Jesus or Yeshua’s Name and receiving the Holy Ghost (for which there is visible/audible evidence)
        • What is key here is that the Apostles only preached one gospel message which can be seen throughout the book of Acts. There is not “another” gospel or plan of salvation in the epistles.  You cannot on one hand have Peter preaching Acts 2:38 and Paul rehearsing that same gospel message in Acts 19…and then turn to the epistles and find another gospel message in Romans 10 or Ephesians 2 that excludes baptism and Holy Ghost evidence.
      • They taught that God was manifest in the flesh (Jesus) and that all the fullness of God dwelt in Jesus bodily – see section on “Is Yeshua YaHWeH”
      • They obeyed & taught God’s commandments…not justification by the law but moral laws that Jesus also taught and expounded on…which were still binding on all Gentile believers.  Note: Acts 15 deals with ceremonial laws of Moses (i.e. circumcism) not eternal moral laws (Commandments) of the Lord which apply to all men for all time
      • Church Ordinances (Customs) – head-coverings for women (also role of women in the congregation – much has changed in this area), communion; modest dress etc.
      • They taught Holiness or separation from the world – includes traditions of men (see Colossians 2 & Galatians 4:8-10)
      • Spiritual gifts are for the edification of the Body; their administration and operation
      • They taught that the church or Assembly of Believers makes up the Body of Messiah with Messiah as the head
      • Qualifications of Bishops and Deacons (elders)
  • These are a just a few of the many things the Apostles taught. Really, when you get right down to it  – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Additional characteristics of the early church…and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42)

  • Fellowship with other believers is important!
  • Breaking of bread or sharing a communal meal together was a part of this fellowship - this is not referring to the Lord's Supper
  • Prayer is essential for our relationship with the Lord individually and corporately as a body

44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

The Tithe and New Testament Giving, sharing, supporting one another

See Subject Area Tab - What About Tithing?               

 

Organizational and Governmental structure

 What did the church look like in the 1st Century? 

 First of all, the church is not a building or organization, it is very simply an assembly of believers.  The word "assembly" is the Greek word "ekklesia." This is the same word that is translated "church" in other places.  These believers met in Jewish synagogue buildings, meeting areas within the Temple, outside, rooms/halls that were possibly rented and in the homes of people. They had "elders" or bishops which were called of God and given the oversight of the local congregation (Acts 20:28).

 Before we go any further, here are some scriptures we’ll be looking at: 

"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:  Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; NOR AS BEING LORDS OVER THOSE ENTRUSTED TO YOU, but being examples to the flock" (1Peter 5:1-3).  There were also “deacons” who helped with the practical tasks of the church…they were Assembly workers or servants.

 Ephesians 4:11-16 reads: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah.

 Also in  1 Corinthians 12:28:  "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations (governments or leadership), varieties of tongues."

The main themes I’d like to explore as brought out in the above scriptures are:  1)  that leadership in the early church (assembly) was of a unique nature and different from worldly leadership structures; elders (plural) led by example and not by positional authority 2) all believers had the opportunity to participate in edifying the Body…there wasn’t just one man standing in front of the congregation (typical of today’s church services) doing all the teaching, preaching, leading every aspect of the service.  There were multiple prophesiers, tongue speakers, interpreters, hymn singers etc. (I Cor 14:26).  The only time you may have had one man in front doing most of the talking was when Paul or other Apostles were teaching or preaching at a meeting specifically for that purpose – to convince unbelievers etc.  This “one shepherd/preacher/teacher to many believers” concept was not the way the typical Assembly operated.  There were other callings and gifts (other believers) that were allowed to be heard and demonstrated in an orderly way.

 So let’s look at these two points starting with the “one to many concept” which I’ll call the “one man show model” that is typical of the modern church and see how it compares with the 1st Century Assembly modeled in the New Testament. 

 The following is a quote from Howard Snyder (Christian Author):

“The New Testament doctrine of ministry rests therefore not on the clergy-laity distinction but on the twin and complementary pillars of the priesthood of all believers and the gifts of the Spirit.  Today, four centuries after the Reformation, the full implications of this Protestant reformation have yet to be worked out.   The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood.  It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the Kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only “holy men,” namely ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry.  In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity.”

Listen to what I Corinthians 14:26 & 29 (Amplified) says:  26 What then, brethren, is [the right course]? When you meet together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a disclosure of special knowledge or information, an utterance in a [strange] tongue, or an interpretation of it. [But] let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all.

29 So let two or three prophets speak [those inspired to preach or teach], while the rest pay attention and weigh and discern what is said.

Again, there were multiple prophesiers (preachers), tongue speakers, interpreters, hymn singers etc. (I Cor 14:26).  This “1 preacher to many believers” concept was not the way the typical Assembly operated.  There were other callings and gifts that were allowed to be heard and demonstrated in an orderly way.

I've had the benefit of being a member of a church that believes in the gifts and callings of the Lord, and did witness the manifestation of the gifts by a few members of the assembly usually after the preaching and singing and singing and singing (well you get what I mean)...but never did we just join together (to intentionally seek the Lord) as an assembly to give place for the Holy Ghost to move on or lead different individuals to use their ministry for the edification of the body.  The pulpit always seemed to loom over the assembly, as if the body could not operate without that one man ministry's say so.  Yes there needs to be order, but as in the early church, the Holy Ghost in many ways led the operation of the gifts as it moved upon believers in the assembly with oversight by elders.  There was more than one preacher (prophesier or evangelist) and the preacher was not necessarily a Pastor.

 Looking at the 1st Century church model, the leadership of the shepherd/Bishop/elder is most definitely supported by the Word, but there was normally a group of elders and deacons etc that helped oversee the activities of the church and the members of the assembly itself (see Acts 11:30, 14:23, 20:17, Phil 1:1, James 4:15).   There were also spiritually gifted people like Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, tongue speakers and interpreters etc that helped provide direction and contributed to the continued health of the Assembly.   Based on I Cor 14:26, these were all given the opportunity, when they assembled as a church body (in other words, as they were gathered together in one place…not in different Sunday school classes or outreach venues).  The assembly was intentional about allowing the Holy Spirit to direct and lead individuals to speak in tongues and interpret, preach, sing a hymn, reveal a Word to the assembly etc.  The prophets (inspired speakers…plural) spoke in turn and judged one another…the elders no doubt also helped keep order in the service (assembly).   Also note that administrations or governments (leadership) are listed separately from the other giftings and functional roles in I Cor 12:28…and they are not listed first, second or even third in the list.  Prophets did not necessarily fulfill a governmental or administrative role as it pertained to the whole Body.  Prophets were also not necessarily teachers.  Teachers here may refer to someone who is also a shepherd of the flock (see Eph 4:11), however, given governments are listed separately in I Cor 12:28 we can reasonably assume that the two functions may have been different individuals.  

Yet in today’s modern church, the Pastor (normally one man) is the administrative, governmental and spiritual leader as well as the main prophet or preacher and or teacher in most churches.  They are often regarded as the final authority in all matters regarding the church.  To even question a decision they have made is often seen as a form of contentiousness or open rebellion…not only against their leadership but against God Himself.  I’ve known some preachers to even quote the following when challenged on something:  Psalm 105:15 “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm.” 

The point is, a Pastor (shepherd or elder) may or may not be a prophet (gifted preacher) and also, all of God’s people are anointed…that’s what the term “Christian” means – to be like the “anointed one”.  If the Lord can only speak thru the Pastor/Chief Elder in regards to a local church, then the rest of us might as well not even seek the Lord for greater revelation etc – how could we dare even speak a prophecy or bring a revelation to a Pastor (especially one that may contradict existing church doctrine) let alone to an open assembly.  In the one man leadership model, other giftings and callings are generally overlooked (or down played) when it comes to most major decisions and operations within the church.  Again, I believe this model goes back to the Priest – laity setup we see in the early Catholic, Lutheran and other Protestant churches.  We as modern day believers have never quite shed the hierarchical leadership monstrosity which infiltrated the body of Messiah over 1500 yrs ago and had a major hand in leading it into gross corruption.  The priest was seen as acting in God’s place, the voice of God to a congregation…and was part of a special class of people separate from the laity. 

Jesus said in Mark 9:35 “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” And in Mark 10:42-43 - 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.

Hebrews 13:17 (KJV) says:  “Obey those who rule over you…”yet the literal version and primary definition of the Greek word used there has a meaning more in line with Jesus’ statement in Mark 10.  The primary meaning of the word is not “rule” but  “lead”.  No man in the assembly should have “rule” over any other believer…only the authority given to him by the Holy Spirit (based on his good character and ability to teach) to lead as it were “by example” other believers.  A better way to look at the role of leadership in the New Testament, based on Jesus’ statements in Mark 9 and 10…is that they are actually serving other believers and the Lord in their leadership role.  Paul confirms this kind of leadership when he calls fellow workers - servants of the Lord (2 Cor 4:5, Phil 1:1), and servant of the assembly (Romans 16:1), fellow-prisoners (Romans 16:7), fellow-laborers (Phil 4:3).

The main point here again is that the modern Pastor – laity setup can and very often does limit the Holy Ghost led demonstration of the spiritual gifts of 95% of the members in an assembly.  No wonder there’s so little appearance of the spiritual gifts …the whole modern church model of one man speaking to rows of believers sitting in pews is not conducive to the involvement of other members …nor does it encourage the development and demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit for the edification of the whole body.  When time is given to allow the gifts to come forth (usually when there’s a lull during the worship), most are not prepared or again not confident enough to allow the Spirit to use them. 

Because of his special position, the Pastor (shepherd/preacher/teacher) is expected to perform consistently at a certain level, to be all things to the congregation, and this is just not supported by the scripture…it is too much pressure and in many cases, “authority/power” for one man.  In conversation, I’ve often heard Pastors refer to an assembly of believers as “their” flock, “their” church (with emphasis on my) or “their” people again revealing the division between themselves and other believers.  

In summary, the advent of the professional clergy or careered clergymen has had a marked impact on how a Christian Assembly operates when gathered together.  They’ve become like “super” believers who are paid a salary and are expected to be involved with just about everything in the church…to teach or preach just about every service.   Again detracting from the original intent of bringing the body together…which was so I Corinthians 12:28 could be demonstrated for the benefit of the whole church body as they are led by the Holy Spirit.   The New Testament and the pattern of the Synagogue overwhelmingly support the “multiple” elder/leader concept, not the monopolized authority of one man who normally is a salaried, professional minister;  not a governmental hierarchy as you see in worldly authority structures where one man or special class of believers have unconditional “positional” authority over other believers.  But rather a leadership structure that is based on mutual respect and love, servitude versus Lording-over.  Unfortunately, much of what we see in church organization today is a hold-over from the traditional concept of the separation between priests/ordained ministers and the laity.  Even the arrangement of pews all directed at the podium in front in a typical church demonstrates this separation.  One man speaks and everyone else listens…a clergy - laity scenario.  This, brothers and sisters, was never meant to be.

Special Note:  there is a wonderful article at http://www.godward.org/archives/Special%20Articles/influence_home_synagogue.htm  ...that shows the profound influence the home and the synagogue had on early church structure.  It only makes sense that the early church would pattern its organization after the synagogue since it was the only pattern of worship and assembly they knew as practicing Jews. A MUST READ!  It clearly shows how that each Jewish synagogue always had multiple elders with definite functions...no one man had a monopoly of authority over an assembly.

 

So how does the Body of Messiah fix this…there’s really only one way -

the whole clergy (one man) – laity model must be changed and traditional church operations and roles need to be examined thoroughly against the Biblical standard.  Instead of one man preparing a sermon or message, and everyone else coming to listen, the whole body should be encouraged to pray during the week and come expecting the Holy Spirit to use them for the edification of the body.  In other words, we should all seek to bring something to contribute to the assembly.  Elders should be appointed (from the congregation normally) to help oversee and ensure order is maintained in the assembly…using Paul’s instructions in I Cor 12 – 14.  Prophets speak in turn, if someone has a revelation the one speaking should give way, tongues should be accompanied by interpretation, inspired singing should be accepted as led by the Holy Ghost…etc…etc. This should be intentional and no one person should be allowed to dominate an assembly unless it is for a season to bring forth special teaching or preaching…where one or two people may have specific understanding and knowledge in an area the church needs.  Different ministries could be supported by the assembly if warranted, in other words, if it requires someone to spend a significant amount of time in a church function, then some compensation would be in order…but only as necessary for the continued operation and functioning of the assembly.  It should not be a positional thing…as in taking care of the salary of one man simply because he holds the position of Pastor or shepherd…an offering may be order especially for those who labor in the Word…or a special evangelist etc.  We need to break the traditional clergy to laity mindset…and get back to the original design or model of the assemblies of believers.  Additionally, emphasis should be placed on providing resources for genuine needs of the assembly (or other assemblies) and renting space if necessary instead of spending 100s of thousands of dollars on a church building. Smaller groups may also meet in homes (see Romans 16:3,5) so that renting space can be kept to a minimum.  Above all – the Holy Spirit should be given priority to move and lead the assembly as our hearts are yielded more and more to the Lord.  Lastly, there should be a continuous effort to ensure the Word is being obeyed and that every believer and the assembly as a whole is growing in understanding and in the truth.  If there is a question of doctrine or standards, it should be addressed, discussed by elders and then with other believers in the assembly.   

Special note:  every believer has a responsibility to ensure the Word is being followed in the church.  No church or religious organization has God's authority to direct believers to obey it or recognize it as their authority to any further degree other than directing them to follow the scriptures. The word of God is one's authority, not the church organization.  If a believer sees something that they know is in error they should bring it to the attention of an elder (entreating him as an elder, showing then respect)…the elders in turn have an obligation to patiently address the believer’s concern and provide evidence from the Word as to why they agree or disagree.

These are just some things offered as general guidelines based on this study and comparison of the 1st Century Assembly with today’s modern church model. 

Is your church in line with the examples of Leadership and organization given to us in the Bible?  Something to think about.

Here are some of the resources I used in my search to discover/uncover the differences between the 1st Century church and the modern church - most of the quotes came from one of these sources:

Books -

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola

Organic Church and Pagan Christianity also by Frank Viola

Note:  though I don't agree with all Mr. Viola says in his books, I believe he makes some very good observations regarding the modern church model.  Again, it's all about reclaiming that which has been lost after centuries of man's corrupting influence upon the original church model and beliefs.

 

Some personal concerns about the "one man to many ministry to model" in today's church:

Because of this “one man model” loyalty to the Pastor is seen as the primary attribute required for ministry leadership – which I believe is important also (the Bible says “submit to your leaders”) but with the caveat - as long as what the Pastor or Elders perceive to be truth coincides with scriptural truth and Biblical principles.  For example, if a Pastor has a personal conviction that he feels so strongly about that he elevates it to church doctrine, the end result may be that anyone who does not share the same conviction is seen as a trouble maker or even worse “a rebel” in the eyes of the rest of the assembly.  Paul tells us how to handle/view convictions in Romans 14…and also says:  follow me as I follow Messiah!  The fact is the way disagreements are handled within a church has a lot to do with the leader’s personality.  If he is sincerely seeking the will of God, then truth usually will find a way to shine thru, but if he is domineering, controlling, insecure or has a unquestionable loyalty to the organization (that believes the same) he’ll feel threatened or challenged and will probably close the door on any further discussion.

Though many Pastors are willing to listen patiently to the voices of other leaders and members of the congregation, because of the modern Pastor (shepherd) – congregation (flock) structure, the voice of other church callings is often severely limited.  Most modern Pastors have been to some kind of seminary or college (sponsored by their respective denomination – which we’ll discuss further) to learn how to be an effective Pastor (or other ministry leader) within this modern church structure – and I believe it’s possibly this skewed view that is presented at these “Schools of Ministry” (as to what a Pastor should be to a church) that makes most “under shepherds” view their role as being all-encompassing just like a Bedouin shepherd would lead and relate to a literal group of sheep.  (This analogy is Biblical without question, the key difference is that ultimately the individual is responsible for his/her relationship with the Chief Shepherd Yeshua (Jesus)...not another man).  A modern day Pastor needs to be all things to all men (not in the same sense Paul spoke of) – encourager, teacher, preacher, prophet, evangelist, administrator, overseer, spiritual leader, possess a good sense of humor, be charismatic, decision maker, caregiver etc to a body that most of the time consists of men and women with specific callings and equal or better skills in one or more of these areas.  In this environment, even the wisest of leaders who listen to and use the skills of other people within the church…are careful to continue to observe the organizational separation between himself (the Pastor) and his flock. 

The inherent problem within any church organization (denomination) and their respective Ministry schools is that if there is doctrinal error at the top it is promulgated to every district and local fellowship that is affiliated with it.  That is why it would be a good practice if every church organization (i.e. Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Catholic etc) would hold an Acts 15 conference at least annually to sincerely seek the Lord for guidance and direction for continued defining and refining church doctrine, standards, traditions to ensure they line up with the Word of God. 

Especially in this Internet Age where volumes of historical (Biblical and secular), Bible commentary and Lexicons are available making it easier to rightly divide scripture and get at the root of its meaning….of course all the while being directed by the Holy Ghost.  I mean let’s face it, not every Christian denomination can be right given the major differences (even in regards to the gospel message) that exist between church organizations.

Another limitation of modern church organization is that it is nearly impossible for anyone at the local church level to initiate any type of critical discussion involving church doctrine let alone a change…even if there is ample evidence and reason to take a closer look.  This is because organizations are for the most part self-preserving and its leaders tightly knit. One of the main duties of the Pastor or leader of a local church is to support upper leadership and protect against any challenge to church doctrine…case closed.   A local Pastor’s allegiance to an external church hierarchy can be so strong that it prevents him from continuing to search the scriptures (especially when it comes to church doctrine) for himself and for the benefit of the local assembly.   Consequently, the discussion and change must come from above…which also has similar restraints. The most common result is that people with these unresolved, unanswered questions leave to go to another Christian church that believes more like they do or they start their own fellowship in their home or rented area…which leads into a whole other topic…home based Assemblies/Meetings.

All of this, in my opinion, reaffirms the fact that "one man" or ministry (Pastor) in today's church has almost complete control over most issues concerning a local body of believers.  This again, according to the Biblical account of the early church, was never meant to be.  There was a plurality of elders to oversee church affairs (see Acts 11:30, 14:23, 15, 20:17, Phil 1:1) and who were to be character examples (see 1 Peter 5:3) to the local assembly. 

 

 

 

 

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06.11 | 21:23

Thank You for your comment Don, I’d be happy to discuss the Oneness of God with you. My email is bruce.laplante@yahoo.com

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06.11 | 15:43

Do you have an email to which we can discuss the subject of God who is one? To 1982/1983 I was spiritually brought Eze 33:8-9 which then manifests to God as one

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17.10 | 17:11

Love this Article of the Beard....

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16.07 | 10:12

Thanks Pete for your comment. I agree, we have to go where the Lord leads. There is so much of God's Truth that is not being taught in main stream churches.

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