Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is today's church the church of the New Testament?

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -Ephesians 4:11-16

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. -1 Corinthians 12:28

If there is a hierarchial outline of what a church should consist of ...these statements are it. For starters ...let us not forget "whose" church it is. It is Jesus' church. He established it. This statement also shows "who" the church is. The church is made up of the Believers, the Followers. We are "the Body".

At first glance ...this looks very much like the church (certainly the Protestant church, to some degree the Catholic Church) today. But I believe a closer review of the New Testament church and the church, today, reveals a different story. Far too many "Christian churches" are headed up by what is, effectively, a CEO type of leader ..the "pastor". Depending on what translation of the text that you read ....the passage in Ephesians may even say "pastor" (the only place you'll find it). But the same Greek word is used elsewhere as "shepherd". Splitting hairs??? I don't think so. Over time, the pastoral role has taken on that of a CEO type (at worst) and a designated, trained "preacher" (at best).

"So what's the point pointing that out?" may ask. The point is that you and I need to be very investigative of what the original "church" was, and ask ourselves if the church "today" should model it. Personally, I believe it should most card-carrying Christians would agree. Whether or not there is a "paid pastor", to me, is the least of concerns for the modern church ....even if we can conclude, and I believe we can, that the New Testament church had no such role! Shepherd for certain ...lead-dog, head-man-in-charge ...certainly NOT!

It is Jesus' church! He is the HEAD of the BODY. Jesus Christ, alone, is "Pastor" of His church. So, should we give every modern day pastor the boot ...kick 'em out on the curb? I can think of many Scriptual, and common-sense, reasons to the contrary. But what is the harm, the damage of perpetuating this? In brevity .....a high volume, and great risk, of "dumbed-down Christians". A tilt toward fair-weathered, easy-believism ...that can completely skew a new follower's view of who he / she is as "Christian". THIS is the tragedy in perpetuating the modern model of the church. The writer of this article was, in fact, a "dumbed-down" Christian. This wasn' my pastor's fault. It wasn't, altogether, the church's fault least not the people in it. But "the church" was, and still is, perfectly structured so that you and I may, far too easily, simply fall in line, and fall in the cracks. Without accountability to "learn" God's word ..we too often depend on others to spoon-feed it to us. While that is / was nobody's fault but mine ....what if I were in an environment that made it crystal-clear that growing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord was, primarily, my responsibility?

Do I believe every church with a designated / for-hire "pastor" is mis-lead, or not useful to the Kingdom?? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! My own "membership" (membership=that's another article, for another time) is with one of those churches. Our "pastor" is a humble man, not self-seeking nor self-serving. He strives toward the mark of the high-calling of Christ Jesus. He vehemently denies absolute leadership of our body of Believers, and ascribes Lordship to Jesus Christ alone. I love my pastor. He is, in fact, a dear friend. He seeks the Lord in any decision. And can he be blamed if congregants and members do not grow in the word and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus? Surely not!

But..... does, even our fellowship's, model of "church" tend to continue to feed the notion that the pastor preaches and leads, and we simply sit and soak it all up? I fear so. I can say that, humbly, because I honestly believe my church is an exceptional church. There are, in fact, many Sunday morning services where our pastor's teaching / preaching doesn't dominate the time together. Sometimes, it is the Believers who share scripture. Often, we have spent all of our time together praying, and sometimes even singing. It is as close to "organic" as I've been a part of.

But how long do we go on .....ignoring the elephant in the room? If the Lord prompted me (and He has many, many in today's culture) to start a fellowship could not include the modern-day role of "pastor". It WOULD include shepherds (those who care for, encourage, and lead the fellowship). It would include evangelists. It would include elders (called out of the body, with the great responsibility of leading the body). It would include equipping the saints for the work of the ministry and building up the body of Christ.

This is nothing "new". If you google "house church", "simple church", "organic church"'ll see there are many folks desiring to get back to the church of the New Testament; the one Jesus pastored, and the one His own disciples propogated.

If you are involved in a fellowship where the pastor holds the reigns for all the decisions being made for the church ...I would encourage you to leave quickly. If, on the other hand, you belong to a fellowship where the pastor simply desires to serve the Lord Jesus, and desires that the body of Christ also carry out the work, by the unified leadership of the Holy Spirit ....I would encourage you enjoy it, but to see the church's ministry through the lense of Jesus Christ as told in the New Testament. Realize that you have a specific role, which only you can discern through leadership of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement and guidance by fellow Believers.

If you're where many other Christians are ...and you feel that it's time to deliberately, and intentionally, return to the simple model of a fellowship of Believers, who literally places Christ as the Head, and at the center, of all things.... I would encourage you to do some research. Investigate "organic church". Beware of wolves, bathe in prayer, and ask the Father, through the person of the Holy Spirit, to show you the way He would have you go.

The "message" of God's word has not changed. Who Jesus Christ is has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The times we live in, to quote an old song, they are a-changin'. We must be all things to all men, that by all means ....some might be saved! I'm open to doing that through a big church (though I have great concerns over what kind of disciple it creates), and even more open to following His will through a small fellowship ...that can live, eat, breathe, make decisions, and be flexible God leads.

Wrestle with this. It is a good wrestling match. The questions will cause you to seek Him. And I believe He will reveal Himself if you seek Him with all your heart -Jeremiah 29:11-13

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