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Visible, Local NT Church Biblically Defended! VIRTUAL "Church" Debunked!

March 27, 2024, 12:55:24 pm Mark says: Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked  When Hamas spokesman Abu Ubaida began a speech marking the 100th day of the war in Gaza, one confounding yet eye-opening proclamation escaped the headlines. Listing the motives for the Palestinian militant group's Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, he accused Jews of "bringing red cows" to the Holy Land.
December 31, 2022, 10:08:58 am NilsFor1611 says: blessings
August 08, 2018, 02:38:10 am suzytr says: Hello, any good churches in the Sacto, CA area, also looking in Reno NV, thanks in advance and God Bless you Smiley
January 29, 2018, 01:21:57 am Christian40 says: It will be interesting to see what happens this year Israel being 70 years as a modern nation may 14 2018
October 17, 2017, 01:25:20 am Christian40 says: It is good to type Mark is here again!  Smiley
October 16, 2017, 03:28:18 am Christian40 says: anyone else thinking that time is accelerating now? it seems im doing days in shorter time now is time being affected in some way?
September 24, 2017, 10:45:16 pm Psalm 51:17 says: The specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook. It states: “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. “During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
September 20, 2017, 04:32:32 am Christian40 says: "The most popular Hepatitis B vaccine is nothing short of a witch’s brew including aluminum, formaldehyde, yeast, amino acids, and soy. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin that destroys cellular metabolism and function. Hundreds of studies link to the ravaging effects of aluminum. The other proteins and formaldehyde serve to activate the immune system and open up the blood-brain barrier. This is NOT a good thing."
September 19, 2017, 03:59:21 am Christian40 says: bbc international did a video about there street preaching they are good witnesses
September 14, 2017, 08:06:04 am Psalm 51:17 says: bro Mark Hunter on YT has some good, edifying stuff too.
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Author Topic: Visible, Local NT Church Biblically Defended! VIRTUAL "Church" Debunked!  (Read 14908 times)
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« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2016, 10:22:24 am »

The Offices of the Church


Another important and fundamental aspect of a local church are its various offices and roles.  God established and directed these offices by His wisdom; therefore, it is essential that a local church understand and fill these positions with qualified men and women.  A thorough study of the New Testament will reveal the following positions and roles, which we will seek to understand in this study:  High Priest, King, Head, apostle, prophet, teacher, minister, evangelist, elder, pastor, bishop, deacon, saint, and Christian.  As we will find, these labels serve more as a description of the work accomplished than as an actual title.

Christ's Gracious Gifts

As we observed in our study of the work of the church, Jesus provided the universal church with certain "gifts" to aid the completion of its work (Ephesians 4:7-16).  This gift is partly comprised by the abilities that are graciously given to those who fulfill the offices and roles described in verse 11:

    "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." Ephesians 4:11

However, as we read through the Bible, we run across other labels and special roles, such as; bishop, elder, minister, Christian, saint, prophet, High Priest, etc.  What do all these titles mean?

As we investigate and compile these various references, we will find that many of the labels are used interchangeably.  Many of the labels describe a unique facet of the office or role that they represent.  For example, Christians are referenced by many different names, each describing an different aspect of their lives.  Therefore, these titles serve more as labels, distinguishing the different works and roles rather than serving as a title.  However, some of these labels are indeed made in reference to a special office.  When we compile a complete list of the offices and roles found in the New Testament church, we discover the following list of offices in the church, along with the following synonyms:

    Apostle, ambassador
    Evangelist, minister,preacher, teacher
    Elder, bishop, pastor, shepherd, presbyter

    Christian, saint, priest, children of God

Of course, no study of the offices of the church would be complete without first examining the one who died for the church and by whose name it is called - Jesus Christ.  He alone holds all authority over the church, filling many positions:  Savior, High Priest, King, and Prophet.

The Head of the Church

The supreme office of the church belongs to Jesus Christ.  He is the one from whom all authority and revelation flows (Ephesians 1:20-23; < span class="ref">John16:13-15).  However, we see that Christ has submitted Himself to God the Father, and it is from the Father that Jesus received the message that He proclaimed  (ICorinthians 15:24-28; John12:49-50; Hebrews1:1-2).

The Bible uses several different terms to describe Christ's supreme position, each term illustrating a unique facet of His role.  The book of Hebrews speaks of Christ being our High Priest (Hebrews 7:26-8:6; 9:1-15) because He offered a sacrifice, Himself, for the sins of the whole world. His work in this regards is similar to that of the Old Testament high priests, who offered animal sacrifices for the whole nation of Israel (Leviticus 16:1-34; 21:10-17).  This explains His unique role in offering a sacrifice for all people and entering the "Most Holy Place" (which is in heaven, before the Father's throne) to make atonement for our behalf.

Further illustrating His ultimate position, Jesus is also spoken of as a King and His people are referred to as citizens of His kingdom (Colossians 1:3; John 18:33-37).  This reference denotes the authority of His position and office.  He is the ultimate authority for us today, therefore; it is imperative that we never disobey His directives at the beckoning of any other man.  Moreover, we must be vigilant to compare all human directives with the Bible - the words of Christ.

In the recordigns of Acts, Luke commended the people of Berea for their diligence in checking the teachings of the apostle Paul against that of the Old Testament scriptures (Acts 17:10-12).  Therefore, in our effort to obey Christ, Who is the head of the church, let us likewise "Test all things; hold fast what is good" and be sure that we "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."  (I Thessalonians 5:21; I John 4:1).   As head of the church, He is the supreme authority on all matters. This calls upon us to diligently study the Bible and adhere to Jesus' will, while bewaring the traditions of men that are substituted for God's Word (Matthew 15:1-14).


It is vital that we understand the various roles and offices that are a part of God's design for the New Testament church.  We must be careful that we do not become guilty of "adding to" God's pattern by adding creating more offices.  However, we must also fill the appropriate positions with qualified people, lest we be part of church that still has things "wanting" before God (Titus 1:5).  In addition to being disobedient to God's will, perversion of His pattern for the church generates additional temptation, pressures, and finally, corruption that would not be present if we would "build all things according to the pattern".

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« Reply #31 on: October 31, 2016, 10:29:35 am »


What is a "Church"?

The original word for "church" was an everyday Greek word, ekklesia, which merely meant a common assembly (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).   The word is sometimes used to refer to common assemblies of government (Acts 19:39) or even to a riotous mob (Acts 19:32, 41).  Other times it refers to the religious assembly, or group of God's people (Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 1:22).  However, the same word is translated as "church" when it is used in a religious context and as "assembly" when used in a common sense.

The Local and Universal Church

The Bible speaks of the church in two different ways.  Although it never uses the above references, it does speak of two distinct assemblies that are well characterized by the labels, local church and universal church.  Understanding the distinctions between these two assemblies is essential to understanding and finding a local church that is patterned after God's Word.

The phrase, "universal church", refers to the entire church at large, all saints - past, present, and future.  It is the body of all the saved, and it is always used in a generic sense.  The identity of each person is lost in the use of this phrase.  It always refers to the group as whole.  Jesus Christ used it when He said, "I will build My church" (Matthew16:18).

Paul illustrated the universal church through the symbol of a body, where Christ was the head, and the entire church was the body:

    "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:22,23

    "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling." Ephesians 4:4

    "For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body." Ephesians 5:23

The Bible never speaks of the universal church being organized to do anything.  While it is given a work and mission, the work is not carried out by any other organization than the distributed and autonomous local churches.  It has no committees, no overseeing boards, no organization - except what is seen in the passages above.  Christ is the head of the entire church, and it answers solely to Him.  It is merely the group of all saints, of which one must be a member to be saved (Ephesians1:3 ; Galatians 3:26-27).  It is God who places people in this body as they are converted and enter a saved relationship with Him (Acts 2:37-38; 47).

The phrase, "local church", refers to members of the church that assemble together in a given location.  Unlike the universal church, man has some control over who is a member of a local church.  Churches are commanded to withdraw fellowship from those who do not follow God's Word (I Corinthians 5:1-13; IIJohn 9-11).  This occurs on the local level, not the universal.  Christians may erroneously withdraw fellowship from someone who is still approved by God and a member of the universal church (III John 9-10).  Moreover, members of a local church may erroneously extend fellowship to someone who is excluded by God from the universal church (I Corinthians 5:1-13).  Therefore, the local church is a collection of Christians, overseen by fallible men, who work together to worship God and be pleasing to Him.

Since the universal church is made up of individuals, it is therefore not made up of local churches.  Local churches and denominations are not subsets of the universal church, neither are they saved as whole.  The Bible nowhere speaks of such a structure or system.  But, the Bible does speak of individuals being saved as members of the universal church (please read again Ephesians 1:3; Galatians 3:26-27).  The local church is simply a collection of people who are working toward this final salvation, while the universal church consists of all Christians, whose membership is controlled by God.

Outline of the Essential Characteristics

It is within this study of the "local church" wherein lies the answer to our question.  We should be asking ourselves, "What are the Biblical characteristics of a local church which will be approved by God?"

Using examples and commandments found in the NewTestament, we can establish a list of characteristics that are essential to a local church following God's pattern.  Some characteristics would be:

    The Work of the Church
    Offices of the Church
    Autonomy of the Local Church
    The Organization of theChurch
    The Name of the Church
    Various TeachingsEndorsed by the Local Church

Although many characteristics could be used to make up this pattern, we will use this brief list to help us identify and differentiate between many practices which are taught as God's will, but are in practice the doctrines and traditions of men .  Understanding the Bible teaching on these points will assist us in finding a local church that is in truth trying to follow God's pattern; however, it is by no means a complete or infallible list.  God's word in its entirety is the only standard for determining His Will and the pattern for a local church that is striving to obey it.


The difficult task is determining which characteristics are essential and which are not.  Obviously if we seek to please God, we must use the Bible as the standard to determine if a characteristic is essential.  This demands a diligent effort to study the Bible, an open mind, and constant attention to prayer.  Once we have established such a pattern, then we must compare the church that we now attend to the pattern.  If it does not coincide with God's pattern for a local church, then we must do one of two things, if we seek to be pleasing to God:  We must either seek a new local church that is following God's pattern, or we must try to reform the church with which we now attend.  How can we do otherwise if we love God and love our brethren?
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« Reply #32 on: October 31, 2016, 10:46:56 am »

The Autonomy of the Local Church



One of the most influential and far-reaching characteristics of the local church is its organizational structure.  Central to the Bible teaching on this organization is question of church rule.  The Bible answer is that the local church should be autonomous.  There is to be no earthly organization, oversight, or treasury beyond the autonomous local church.  However, before we study such an issue, we must first recognize that there is indeed a pattern for the church that God expects us to follow, and we must also understand some basic concepts about the church.

What Is Meant by "Autonomy" ?

The term "autonomy of the local church" refers to a method of determining the rule of church activities.  It is but one answer to the question of how local congregations should be governed.  Studying this issue will address questions of having a central board, convention, or any other body, to determine the beliefs and practices of a local church.  This article sets the foundation for answering other questions about the organization of the church, which includes cooperation among churches and the use of outside institutions.

A church is said to be "autonomous" if it is self-ruling, which is the literal meaning of the word.  This means that it does not answer to another church or organization for any of its decision.  Obviously, the church is not entirely autonomous because it answers to Jesus Christ who is its head (Ephesians 1:20-23).  So, the refined questions that we must study is, "What does the Bible teach about the earthly rule over a local church?"  "Does it include and allow denominational boards, conventions, etc.?"

The Heart of the Matter

Fundamental to this study is the proper understanding of New Testament examples in establishing authority.  Since most of the Bible commentary on church rule and organization are the examples of New Testament churches operating under the approval of God, it is imperative that we determine the authority that is inherent in these examples.   This article will adopt the conclusion that was reached in the writings on "Examples and the Pattern", which is that all examples are binding until sufficient reason is found for dismissal.

As we study the Bible to determine the nature of the church's organization, we will find the following reoccurring theme that is at the heart of this matter:  Organization of the church begins and ends with the local church, and it should be entirely autonomous of all other organizations, including other local churches.

Biblical Basis for Autonomy

When we read through the pages of the Bible in search of passages about the church and its relation to other organizations, we find no instance of the church answering to any other congregation or organization.  There is no reference to any kind of committees, boards, or conventions - not one.  Moreover, these type of organizations and structures become specifically excluded by the distinct organizational structure that we find in the Bible:

    "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"  I Peter 5:1-3

    "So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."  Acts 14:23

Although easy to overlook, these first two passages necessarily imply a specific structure and from which we can confidently draw definite conclusions.  First, we can observe that elders, who "see over" the local church (symbolized here as the flock), were distributed or appointed per congregation.  They were not appointed over a city, district, or diocea - but in every church.  Consequently, each church is equal to the other.  Moreover, these elders, or overseers, were instructed to tend "the flock of God which is among you".  Therefore, not only was each church on an equal basis with the others, but elders were to only tend over those whom they had been appointed (Acts 20:28), which was a single local church (Acts 14:23).  From this we can conclude that elders could not then, and cannot today rule over the affairs of other churches, because elders should be appointed in "every church" where possible, and each set of elders is to oversee the affairs of those that are "among" them.

Any boards, conventions, or even outside elders to which a congregation submits, either willingly or otherwise, is a violation of these teachings.  Such additions place the congregational rule under someone or something beside the elders "among" them, and it will violate the autonomy that is to be enjoyed by "every church."   Since each congregation should be under the oversight and rule of its own elders, then each church must consequently, be absolutely independent of any other church or organizations.

The Local Church Treasury

The idea of church autonomy and congregational independence can be observed in practice from passages about the church treasury.  A congregation's oversight and control would have to extend at least as far as their oversight and control over their own treasury.  But before we continue with this line of reason, let us first examine a verse about the control of personal contributions that are donated to the local church:

    "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.' " Acts 5:3-4

From this passage we learn that each person's contribution is their own and under their own control until it is contributed to the church fund.  However, a necessary implication from this verse is that once it is given, then this is no longer the case.  The gift comes under the control of the church.  When each member of a church makes their contribution, then he or she surrenders their control to the unified will and direction of the church who assumes control of the donated funds.

Similarly, if the church were to contribute to some kind of central collecting agency, church, or institution, the funds would also be under the local church's control until given to the institution.  At that point the institution would exert control and oversight and the local church's oversight and rule would end.  But, when we read through the scriptures, what do we actually find?

    "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me."  I Corinthians 16:1-4

Although the apostle Paul had the authority to order the Corinthian church to take up a collection, he did not exert control over their contribution.  Please notice two of the phrases from this passage: "whomever you approve by your letters" and "to bear your gift to Jerusalem".  At no point did Paul overtake ownership or control of the Corinthians funds.  The Corinthians had complete control over the choice of messengers to carry "their gift" to Jerusalem.  At no point did it become absorbed into a greater collective whole, nor did the Corinthians give up control or oversight of their contribution.  Even the great apostle Paul did not violate their autonomy, but he specifically recognized their authority in determining their own messenger to carry their gift to its destination.

Since the Corinthian church had complete control of their funds through their own messenger all the way to its destination, then their rule extended at least that far.  Each church had and has the authority, right, and organizational capacity to form their own contribution and have it delivered by the hands of their own selected messenger.  The example of this organizational pattern and the absolute silence for authorizing any other type of church oversight excludes all other forms of church rule and oversight - conventions, boards, central church, etc.

The "Convention" of Acts 15 ?

Recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts, a meeting, or convention of sorts, was held to determine a doctrinal matter.  Some believe this to be a pattern for holding conventions today to also determine doctrines and creeds.  However, there are many aspects of this "convention" that make it entirely unlike any conventions that are held today to vote upon creeds.  Let's first examine the background of this meeting:

    "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question."

    "So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.

    "But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."

    "Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter."  Acts 15:1-6

The issue of disagreement was whether the Gentile Christians should be circumcised and keep the other customs of the Old Testament.  In regards to our question, we can learn at least two things from this passage:  First and foremost, those attending this meeting were not representatives of many congregations who had come together to vote upon a creed or confession of belief, but it was made up the apostles, elders of the Jerusalem church, and Paul and Barnabas who had gone to learn why this false doctrine was coming out Jerusalem (vs. 4, 6).  Secondly, the reason for this meeting was not to poll the church population and vote upon a creed or confession of belief, but it was to express God's will and teaching for the matter.  The apostles were representatives of God who had come to express God's wishes.  This was the nature of their office.  The elders also had great need to be there, since it was their congregation that was at the heart of the trouble.  Most if not all of these men were inspired which made it completely different from conventions today.  Therefore, without having to progress further, we have already learned that this meeting is beyond application to us because of both its constituents and its mission.

If you continue to read the chapter, you will read of Peter's account of God's miraculous recognition of the Gentiles ability to be saved, and the numerous accounts of Paul and Barnabas working many miracles through them among the Gentiles, and finally of James' recognition of the prophecies which had foretold of the salvation of Gentiles.  Based upon these miraculous, inspired, and scriptural arguments, the apostles and elders decided a letter should be circulated to stop the spread and influence of the false doctrine.  From this letter and its circulation, we learn three more things that substantiate the previous statements and further separate it from the conventions of today that oversee church activities and beliefs:

    "They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

    "Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" -- to whom we gave no such commandment -- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,"  ...

    "We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:"  ...

    "So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.

    "Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words." Acts 15:22-32

First, substantiating the earlier point, the authority of this "convention" was the apostles and prophets who represented God.  Uninspired congregational representatives voting upon a creed or course of action are in no way parallel to this meeting that was guided by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Second, as mentioned earlier, the elders needed to be there since it was from their church that these false teachers went out spreading their doctrine.  Apparently, the false teachers used the Jerusalem church as some kind of reference or support, since the letter specifically clarifies that the false teachers had taught such without endorsement (15:24).  Thirdly, we again notice that it was the Holy Spirit who had inspired and endorsed the decision of this meeting.  This is evidenced by the following phrase from verse 28, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit" , and it is further supported by the prophets who traveled with the letter for first-hand miraculous endorsement of its teaching (Acts 15:32).

Therefore, modern conventions are entirely different from this "convention" of Acts 15.  It was different in its constituents - it was made up of inspired apostles and prophets who represented God and not congregations.  Second, it was different in its mission - they came together to determine God's will and not to establish a creed.  Consequently, Acts 15 is an example that should be dismissed and must not be considered as an authoritative example because of its limited application and the impossibility of its universal application. (There are no apostles or prophets alive today.)


The self-rule of each local congregation is one of the most important Bible teachings.  The acceptance or rejection of this Bible doctrine will influence all other decisions that a congregation makes because rejection of this doctrine turns over decisions of a local congregation to the will of a higher, earthly body.  This removes the congregations ability to pattern their local church after God's will and instead subjects it to the will of man.

The examples of New Testament churches are clear:  Each congregation was equivalent in rule and was to have elders, who were to oversee the affairs of their local church.  Moreover, each set of elders was limited to the oversight of the "flock among them".  The Bible offers no other method of church oversight beyond that of the local church and its eldersTherefore, any form of governing body beside the authorized and approved autonomous local church constitutes an "adding to" God's Word and is wrong by God's condemnation of any form of "adding to" or "taking away" from God's Word. (Please see Doing All Things According to the Pattern for scriptures on this point.)

Based upon this study, we will continue our study and examine how New Testament churches cooperated while maintaining their authority and God's approval.
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« Reply #33 on: October 31, 2016, 11:05:16 pm »

What About “Local” Church Membership?

“Is a person required to be a member of a local church?Can he not be just a Christian, without a ‘church’ affiliation?”

Before we address this question specifically, let us lay a broader foundation concerning the use of the term “church” in the New Testament.

The English word “church” is derived from the Greek kurikon, meaning “belonging to the Lord.”The actual word in the original New Testament text that stands behind the modern rendition, “church,” is ekklesia, signifying “called out.” It is now generally conceded that the basic sense of the term is “assembly” or “congregation,” while still retaining the suggestion of a “called out” assembly, i.e., God’s assembly.In a non-religious sense, the word was used of a public assembly (see Acts 19:32, 39-40).

In a spiritual sense, ekklesia is employed in the New Testament in three major ways, with serious responsibilities associated with each usage.

(1) “Church” is used of the people of God universally.This organism was equivalent to the “one body” (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18) for which the Lord died (Acts 20:28). When one is immersed in water for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), he automatically is “added” to that body of saved people who constitute the “church” (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13).There is no such thing in the Christian age as being “saved,” and not being a member of Christ’s spiritual body, the church. In Ephesians 5:26, Christ is described as the Savior of the body, which elsewhere is identified as the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24).Some religionists refer to “the church invisible,” but that is a non-biblical concept.The church consists of people, and they are not invisible.

(2) In the New Testament ekklesia alsorefers to the Lord’s people in a certain locale, e.g., in Jerusalem (Acts 5:11), in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2), or in some other city, such as the seven congregations mentioned in the early chapters of the book of Revelation (cf. 1:4,11).When Paul and his companions traveled about, preaching the good tidings regarding Jesus, wherever men and women surrendered to the truth in gospel obedience, local churches were established (cf. Acts 14:23).These new Christians banded together for the purpose of corporate worship and fellowship in serving their Master.This was not some optional plan improvised by the whims of the missionaries; it was a divinely orchestrated pattern of organization.

(3) The term “church” also may be employed of a body of people who have been brought together at a certain place and time for the purpose of worshipping God in the company of one another (1 Cor. 11:17ff; 14:34; 3 Jn. 10).Christians are admonished not to neglect these meetings if they would encourage one another toward love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25).

A Sharper Focus

In view of the question submitted, we must focus more closely upon the second usage of “church,” as sketched above.

It is a bit difficult to understand why the question would ever be raised – “Must I be a member of a local church?” – in light of the abundant information on this theme in the New Testament.Think about the following considerations relative to the local church.

(1) In the early chapters of Acts, following the establishment of the church, there are numerous references acknowledging the “togetherness” of the early saints (2:42,44,46; 4:23-24,31-32, etc.).God never intended for Christians to function as isolated “islands” in a sea of worldly-oriented people.The body is not “one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:14).It would be very difficult to miss Paul’s point of emphasis when he spoke of the spiritual body of Christ as being “fitly framed and knit together through that which every member supplies.”He takes note of the cooperative efforts of individual Christians “according to the working in due measure of each several part” for the increase of the body “unto the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16-17).This divine goal can hardly be achieved if children of God meander about with their congregational membership in their pocket!

It is not without significance that when Paul came to Jerusalem, following an escape from a dangerous circumstance in Damascus, he immediately attempted to “join himself to the disciples” of that city.And once their initial fear of him was alleviated, he was accepted (Acts 9:26ff).

(2) Various New Testament texts make it clear that the early disciples assembled together as a body of people for the purpose of worship on the Lord’s day (Acts 2:42; 20:7-12; 1 Cor. 11:17ff; 14:1-40; 16:1-2).How could a Christian ever be admonished for forsaking an assembly (Heb. 10:25), if he is not even obligated to be a part of a local church?

(3) God structured the individual congregation around an organization plan.Christ is the head of his church wherever it exists (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), and so, ultimately, he is the head of his church in every city throughout the world.Further, however, in local churches, where qualified men exist (1 Tim. 3:1ff; Tit. 1:1ff), the group is supervised by “elders,” known also as bishops/overseers or pastors/shepherds.

The members are to submit to their overseers in matters of expediency (1 Thes. 5:12; Heb. 13:17), and regard them highly for their work’s sake.While these shepherds are prohibited from arrogating themselves to the position of “lords” over their flock (1 Pet. 5:3), their exemplary leadership is to be revered and followed.

Serving under these men, in special areas that implement other important tasks, are deacons, teachers, evangelists, etc.If Christ did not intend for his people to be a closely-bonded Christian family, why did he organize the local body in such a fashion?

Why Do Some Resist Local Membership?

Occasionally there are those who are not affiliated with any local group of saints.There may be, under unusual circumstances, some rationale for this. Frequently there is not.

(1) It may be the case that a Christian has moved into an area where there is no local congregation of the Lord’s people.In that event, where such is feasible, he may need to drive to a city of reasonable proximity where he is able to locate a good church.

If one is not able to pursue that procedure, he should worship on the Lord’s day in his home, and then seek to win others to the truth, thus establishing a new church in his town as soon as is possible.The same plan may have to be initiated if there is no faithful church nearby, i.e., one with whom he can worship and work conscientiously.

(2) Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find maverick disciples who simply do not wish to identify with any local church.Reasons for this neglect may be varied.

Some folks are so inflexibly opinionated that they cannot tolerate being in proximity with any Christian who does not yield to their every dictum.Leave such to themselves; it is better that they are isolated.

Not infrequently is the reality that some do not wish to be held responsible for their conduct.They desire to come and go at will.They do not want to be accountable for faithful attendance, consistent giving, or any other responsibility.The do not intend to have their lifestyle monitored.They repudiate the idea that they should be under the oversight of elders.

In a word, they want the “name” of being a Christian, but without the commitment that goes with such.And perhaps most of all, they do not intend to be in an environment where they might be subject to the discipline of the local congregation.

Such folks may entertain the illusion that they are serving God; they are not, however. Such ones have failed to comprehend one of the most fundamental aspects of Christian service.
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« Reply #34 on: October 31, 2016, 11:09:03 pm »


According to Scripture, why should every Christian join a church?

Every Christian should join a church because Scripture requires it. Granted, there is no direct command in Scripture that says, “Every Christian must join a local church,” but two factors in Scripture indicate that every Christian should be a member of a local church.

    Jesus established the church to be a public, earthly institution that would mark out, affirm, and oversee those who profess to believe in him (Matt. 16:18-19, 18:15-20). Jesus established the church to publicly declare those who belong to him in order to give the world a display of the good news about himself (John 17:21, 23; see also Eph. 3:10). Jesus wants the world to know who belongs to him and who doesn’t. And how is the world to know who belongs to him and who doesn’t? They are to see which people publicly identify themselves with his people in the visible, public institution he established for this very purpose. They’re to look at the members of his church. And if some people claim to be part of the universal church even though they belong to no local church, they reject Jesus’ plan for them and his church. Jesus intends for his people to be marked out as a visible, public group, which means joining together in local churches.

    Scripture repeatedly commands Christians to submit to their leaders (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13). The only way to do that is by publicly committing to be members of their flock, and saying in effect, “I commit to listening to your teaching, following your direction, and to submitting to your leadership.” There’s no way to obey the scriptural commands to submit to your leaders if you never actually submit to them by joining a local church.
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« Reply #35 on: November 01, 2016, 09:49:54 am »

Eleven Reasons Why Home Fellowship Groups Usually Fail

The need for effective small group ministry is implied in the New Testament. If the local church is to truly develop the spiritual gifts of its members, and mobilize the terrific power of the Holy Spirit to work through a trained and experienced laity, if it is to facilitate true relationship-based community, it will need to organize smaller groups where these can be fostered.

Xenos Fellowship, an independent church in Columbus Ohio, has centered it's ministry in lay-led, small home group ministry since it's beginning in 1970. Using this focus, Xenos has grown from a handful in 1970 to well over 3000 today. Their small group ministry has also resulted in good morale on the part of the 400 lay home fellowship leaders, all graduates of the 2 year graded training course for leaders.

Because of this success, other pastors often call on the Xenos staff to consult regarding how to establish and/or manage small group lay ministry in their own churches.

Through these consultations, we have discovered that small group ministries are not a novel idea at all. In fact, most evangelical churches seem to have tried to establish a network of small groups at one time or another. At the same time, most of these efforts are disappointing to some degree; Leaders often ask us, "What have we been doing wrong?"

The problems encountered when trying to establish a home group ministry sometimes include a lack of participation and interest on the part of the members of the church. Sometimes a small minority of the church struggles along, unwilling to admit failure in the program, and developing a "faithful remnant" theology which justifies, on theological grounds, the lack of growth and lack of participation by the other members. Church division is also a possibility, although we have not seen very many cases where this occurred.

We think these frequent failures are not the result of divine opposition to the idea of small groups, or the fact that, "our kind of people aren't right for this sort of thing." Instead, we think there are a number of good theological and practical reasons why these groups usually fail.

1. They are often not based on New Testament theory

Both New Testament example and principle argue for small home-sized groups as a key feature of the local church. In the area of biblical example, Acts 2:46 states that the Jerusalem church met "in the temple" and "from house to house . . ." Concerning the meetings in the Temple, we know that Solomon's portico was probably quite large, and could have accommodated even the several thousands that were a part of the Jerusalem church. Thus, in Jerusalem, they held both large and small group meetings.

Clearly, they did not feel the large meetings were enough by themselves. It should be obvious that an impersonal atmosphere will result if we only hold only very large meetings. The local church should encourage a network of close relationships in its congregation because real community must be based on close relationships. Smaller group meeting formats such as those described in this passage would be ideal for fostering such relationships.

In another case, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had exhorted them both "publicly and from house to house." (Acts 20:20) In this passage, "publicly" probably refers to the school room of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). But Paul did not limit his speaking ministry to the large meeting place, even though one was available. He also worked “from house to house.”

Paul apparently refers to several home churches in the city of Rome (Romans 16: 4, 10, 11, 14, 15,). In I Cor. 14:35 he mentions “churches” in the plural, after having already referred to “the church of God which is at Corinth,” (I Corinthians 1:2) in the singular.

It seems clear from these and other references that operating a cluster of home churches in each city was common practice. These home groups continued to work together under the same elders. It is probably significant that no church buildings have been found from the earliest period of the church (33—150 AD.), and even those from the second century were homes with a large room built in. Every church with a building faces the challenge of resisting people's tendency to view the building as the church. At Xenos, we have refused to build or to expand our building until we see a high degree of involvement in home groups.  Otherwise, by expanding the building we would only worsen the problem of superficial involvement in the local church. Currently, the elders at Xenos set a goal of 80% involvement in home groups, and so far, God has allowed us to maintain that rate of incorporation.

New Testament principles surrounding the issues of body life, spiritual gifts, and the fact that real spiritual ministry is the business of every member in the local church can not be effectively brought into practice in a large group setting. (see Rom. 12; I Cor. 12,14; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 2:19) The church must provide smaller group settings where relationships can grow between members so they will be able to discover each other's needs. Only then will they be able to meet those needs on an individual level.

Unfortunately, when churches attempt to initiate a small group ministry, they sometimes fail to teach and persuate their people that the purpose of the meeting is to practice these biblical principles. The result is sometimes a wrong impression on the part of most participants. Members often feel that the meeting is primarily intended as a social gathering, a support group, or a place where “my needs can be met,” rather than “a place where I can develop a ministry.”

The first order of business in beginning this kind of ministry is to launch a teaching offensive in the church. The goal would be to establish an understanding and a vision of the New Testament model and the spiritual goals associated with lay mobilization in the minds of the participants.

2. The wrong criteria are sometimes followed for the selection of leaders

The Bible teaches that spiritual criteria must be used to select leaders. The qualifications of a deacon (I Tim. 3:8-13) would serve well for the initial selection of leaders of home fellowship groups. Too often, however, the church will designate men and women for leadership on the basis of secular abilities, job status, levels of financial giving, or seniority in the church. The result is usually a meeting that is not very spiritually edifying or appealing.

After leaders have been selected on the basis of character and knowledge, they should also be evaluated on the basis of actual function, or role. When Jesus says “my sheep hear my voice,” he is giving us a basic way to recognize a good shepherd. A Christian's leadership cannot be authenticated until someone is willing to follow him/her.

In many of our churches, it may be very difficult to determine who our authentic leaders are. This is because they have not had ample opportunity to try their hand at leadership. In these cases, we will have to pick leaders on the basis of the best criteria possible. Later, when lay-led groups are in place, it should be possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the work done by the more committed members of the group. Other things being equal, the more effective workers should be the first to be moved forward.

3. Frequently, insufficient authority is given to the leaders

If the home fellowship is to be fashioned after the Biblical examples of house churches, then the leaders of the groups should be allowed to run their groups the way the leaders of the New Testament house churches ran theirs. Since the New Testament instructs readers to respect their leaders and to follow their lead in the running of the home church, we can assume those leaders had many decisions delegated to them. (I Corinthians 16:16; Hebrews 13:17; I Thessalonians 5:14)

Sometimes, churches impose a structure upon the small group that is too restrictive. This structure may include a pre-planned curriculum for study, and a long list of policy restrictions. The effect is usually to stifle initiative and sap motivation. The leaders realize very quickly that they are functioning as agents for the existing leadership of the church, but that they themselves are leaders in name only. When the church requires the home group leaders to check in on virtually all decisions, it clearly suggests that they are incompetent to make their own decisions. Sometimes they are incompetent, but the church must see the challenge in this, rather than accepting the status quo.

Similarlly, pre-planned curriculum often actually scripts the meeting and requires little creativity or expertise on the part of group leaders. Indeed, the main reason for scripting the meeting is usually the feeling that group leaders have no expertise of their own. Such lack of expertise points in turn to a weak equipping ministry in the church. Failure to train leaders to a sophisticated level results in leaders who must be led by the hand at all times.  When this happens, leaders (often highly competent and educated at their secular jobs) realize that anyone could follow the simple script, and consequently, they are not challenged. They lose interest in leading, and begin to call on the leadership to be passed around the group. They fail to take possession of the role of home group leader as a worth while life goal. We believe churches are often too impatient when trying to move from a program-based model to a home group model of church life, and therefore they grossly underestimate the level of training and equipping needed to develop effective leaders. Impatience may also signal lack of commitment, because in-depth equipping is expensive in both dollars and man hours for the church's leaders. See #7 below.

We don't believe the central leadership of the church should forsake all control over the actions of home fellowship leaders, because lay leaders are usually not as well trained as seminary graduates, or as experienced as the church's top leadership. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully weigh which areas are left to the discretion of the home leaders, and which areas need to be cleared with the higher authority of the church. The point in making this decision is to arrive at a balance that will prevent serious errors from occurring (even though we never have a guarantee that all problems can be prevented), while delegating real decision-making authority to the home fellowship leaders.

4. The groups may have an unhealthy inward-focus

Small groups are often set up with the ultimate goal of fellowship or personal support rather than evangelism or mission. While quality fellowship and support is one of the rewards of small group ministry, it is an inadequate basis. If we have only fellowship as our goal, the group is corporately self-centered, or self-focused. Thus, it's no surprise that such groups are prone to division and discontent. This is because outreach and mission are the natural context within which fellowship should occur.

When a group of people occupy themselves with each other to the exclusion of the outside world, discontent is sure to follow. We should be unwilling to consider the option of handling outreach at the large meeting and limiting small groups to a fellowship role. The group may not engage in outreach at its weekly meeting, but they have to work together and pray together on some shared mission.

Acts 2:46 says that the Jerusalem church was "breaking bread from house to house" but does not mention evangelism. However, this is a moot point, since the passage does not mention where evangelism did occur. On the other hand, in I Corinthians 14:24, Paul clearly contemplates "unbelievers" entering a meeting which is an interactive meeting-- apparently a home church (see vs. 26,34).

5. There is often no provision for church discipline within the small group

In cases where home fellowships are set up with no provision for church discipline, a very distressing and familiar pattern emerges. Some people are attracted to small groups for the wrong reasons. There are those who come to exploit others, or simply to use the group to become the center of attention.

The impact of such people is greater in a small group than it would be in a large meeting. As a result, the whole character of the group can be altered to such an extent that it becomes difficult to attract new people, or even to hold the interest and loyalty of the productive members.

The New Testament provides a solution to this kind of situation. Those members who are willing to damage others or themselves are to be confronted in love about their attitude and/or actions (see I Thessalonians 5:14; Matthew 18:15). If they are not responsive, a legitimate amount of pressure can be applied—even to the point of removing them from the group.

According to the Bible, this kind of discipline in love should be normative (I Corinthians 5). The application of discipline should be gracious and suited to the needs of the individual as well as the group. In order to prevent abuses or legalism, the eldership should be consulted in cases where an ultimatum may be issued.

Churches worry about angering people if they practice discipline. This concern is legitimate. But while we will anger some by exercising discipline, we endanger all by failing to exercise it. Worst of all, those being disciplined miss out on one of the important provisions for growth in the New Testament.

Small group attendance is a privilege in the church. Participation should have conditions attached, such as no anti-social or disruptive behavior. Otherwise, the small groups become soft, unruly, and unappealing.

6. All groups may be the same, rather than diversified and matched to their members

For some reason, churches generally devise and execute a plan for small groups that features only one kind of group. We did this too. But not any more! Now we see that family aged people need a different type of group than students or singles, etc.

Why should a large church (or even a small one) have only one type of group? Creativity on the part of leaders and planners could result in a number of models for meetings, featuring different sizes, different formats, different purposes, and different commitment levels. Every church should be different.

7. There may be no adequate equipping offered to would-be leaders

The Bible does not allow the local church the option of telling its people to go away for their training. According to Ephesians 4:11,12, it is the responsibility of the leadership of the local church to provide quality training in Christian work ("the work of service") to its own people. When the leadership of a church decides not to have a small group ministry because its "laymen" are too ignorant, this is not an excuse - it is an admission of guilt!

For many churches, the first step toward a successful home fellowship ministry would be to establish a full year-long course of in-depth theological and practical ministry training for the proposed leadership group. We find that most churches try to get by with a five or ten week training series which is inadequate for sophisticated leadership responsibilities. People will take longer training courses if they can break up the training into modules, and if they view taking these classes as fun. This is why we need to put our best communicators and leaders in as teachers in this training.

If a church already has an adequate supply of leaders who have some biblical knowledge, it would be preferable to hold this training while small groups are in progress, so they can immediately use the knowledge they learn. This prevents the accumulation of "dead knowledge" and also avoids creating the impression that Christian work is more difficult than it really is.

At the same time, we should be clear that completing the training course will not necessarily result in an assignment as a home group leader. That decision will have to also depend on other considerations such as character development, and a record of self-sacrificing service to others.

Finally, aside from classroom training, each home group should develop it's own program of personal discipleship and ministry training (Matthew 28:18-19, I Timothy 2:2). The classes should be viewed as supplemental to the grass-roots discipleship practiced at the home group level.
8. The church may set no multiplication goals, and may have no good plan for multiplying home groups

In many cases, a home fellowship's existence is viewed as an end in itself. As mentioned earlier, this lack of mission-mindedness has a negative effect on the group. In order for groups to be spiritually healthy, they need a purpose greater than themselves. On the other hand, good small groups tend not to stay small. Thus, when a house fills up with people, much of the interactive character of the group is lost. In addition, outreach tends to dwindle because there is no room for new people.

In cases like this, it is natural to divide the group in order to preserve the small size of the group, while at the same time, reaching more people

Unless the church propagates a vision and a plan for planting new groups which encourages outreach, discipleship, and equipping, home fellowships tend to resist multiplication. The status quo is always more comfortable than the change and risk that come with growth.

We should establish ground rules that help to insure success for both newly planted groups, with a minimum of disruption to the relationships that have been developed. Otherwise, the system will tend to stifle initiative and punish success. In other words, the view of the leaders might well be, "the faster our group grows, the sooner we get to part ways with the close friends we have made so far."

Good planning should make it possible for close friends to stay together most of the time, thus minimizing the disruption involved in planting new groups.

9. Small groups are sometimes viewed as peripheral rather than central to the life of the church

In some churches, the large worship meeting and/or teaching meetings are viewed as essential, but the home group is considered an option--helpful to some, but not necessarily normative for healthy involvement in the local church.

As pointed out earlier, this view ignores the Biblical point of view that the local body depends on the individual function of each and every member (Ephesians 4:15,16). We need to resist the temptation to dilute this teaching (for instance, teaching that giving money on Sunday, or serving as an usher could fulfill the intent of this passage). If we allow this kind of superficial understanding of church life predominate, there will be no strong motivation to exercise real spiritual gifts, or to make small group ministry succeed.

If the church fails to establish a vision in the minds of its members for full involvement, the result will likely be a very poor level of participation in the home fellowship program. Often, only those with little to do will spend the time it takes to become meaningfully involved. To obtain the help of our most gifted members, we will need to teach that involvement in home mission and fellowship is an exciting opportunity to finally realize the full extent of normal Christian experience.

The leadership in the local church must cultivate a mentality, or consensus in the church which places an appropriate emphasis on this kind of ministry. Such a consensus can be created without resorting to legalism. The leadership must truly believe in the concept themselves, and be willing to teach and practice it in their own lives.

10. They are sometimes viewed as a threat by the pastor(s) of the church.

Pastors might fear home groups for several reasons. False teaching is always a danger, but this is why the Bible teaches the need for "overseers" or elders. The elders should also train the "lay" work force so that they will be able to teach sound doctrine. Pastors also worry that a small group network may not be effective, thus leading to disappointment in the church. The record of home fellowships in recent years has been mixed, and somewhat disappointing. But we can see from this list some reasons why.

Some leaders may prefer the control that they have when they are the only leaders in the church. This feeling is understandable, especially when a pastor is already having trouble controlling the situation in the church. However, we need to see at this point, that a quality small group ministry would not increase the work load of the pastor in the long run. The key to maintaining quality ministry even for a growing church, is to delegate work to other members. Pastors who succeed in establishing a successful and vital small group network do not see their own leadership eroded at all.

The man or woman of God must pass judgment on his/her own attitude, admitting that a willingness to inhibit others' ministry for the sake of establishing his/her own is most censurable. The fact that we may feel threatened in our position in the church is no excuse! We have been placed where we are in order to facilitate others' ministry, not to inhibit it.

11. Home groups are often introduced in a programmatic, not a natural way.

One church after another has reported that they formed a plan, presented it to the church, started a dozen home groups and got dismal results or even strong resistance from the congregation.  We suggest not approaching home groups this way, because it is unnatural. Home groups should grow in an organic way, not be thrown into existence through a massive program. Instead, the best way to introduce home groups in our opinion is:

    Identify a handful of people who understand and hunger for the vision of home-based fellowship. This could take some time, as leaders may have to persuade some that this approach is biblical and exciting.

    Once that group is identified, the leaders of the church should begin meeting with them in the first home group. Usually, a single home group is preferable, as the future opinion leaders in the church need to get on the same page about what a home group is and how it works.  Plead with the senior pastor to be a part of this group. Planning meetings are not the answer here. Only meeting together and trying different formats and approaches will lead to the consensus you need. Group members should be encouraged to share with non-members their experiences and vision for these kind of groups. If the group is full and others are unable to join, their frustration will actually serve as motivation later when more groups are available. Calling on people to wait will not hurt the project, especially if you make it clear that they are welcome and you are eager to work them in as soon as possible. Keep a waiting list.

    During this first year, the leaders should devise and implement a series of courses for future home group leaders. People waiting to joing a home group should be urged to take advantage of the classes while they wait. If you have a lengthy waiting list, explain that those who take classes will be the first to qualify for participation in home groups. During this period, the church should come to realize that participation in home groups is not a duty or an added burden, but a priveledge.

    When the first group is full and people are ready (this could take months or a year or two) the group should divide and plant another group or groups. Then others can be again invited to join.

    We believe the natural pattern for adding members to existing groups is personal relationships, not geography. Churches that base home groups on geography usually find that the groups lack cohesion because people don't know each other. Allow people to invite their friends and relatives to their own group, regardless of where they live in the city.

    At first, the leadership may want to supervise additions to home groups. Later this will be unnecessary. The point is to try to assure success by getting the best people into home groups in a mix that promises success.  Avoid filling groups with only hard cases.

    Using a system of collegiate review, allow and encourage groups to plant other groups when they are ready. Group leaders should participate in some type of oversight system. Avoid pressuring groups to move too fast, but also refuse to accept a mentality that says "We're satisfied staying the way we are."

    Through multiplication of home groups you can see large numbers of groups formed within a few years. The larger congregation will naturally want to participate in something they hear others are enjoying. Have members of successful groups share their testimonies at your worship service and elsewhere. Build excitement gradually for the home group project. Give people a sense that they have arrived once they get to join a home group.
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« Reply #36 on: November 01, 2016, 10:21:41 am »

Who Should Run the Church? A Case for the Plurality of Elders

Many churches today have a pastor and several deacons.  This is based on a model of ecclesiology in which it is assumed that there was one elder in the ancient church.  But even those churches that have more than one elder (the pastor being one of them) usually regard the pastor as the de facto head of the church.  This is due to two basic reasons: (1) he is the one with biblical training, and (2) he is the one who speaks before the entire congregation every Sunday.

It seems to me that this model (either the philosophical single-elder model or the pragmatic single-leader model) misses the mark of the New Testament teaching on this topic.  The early church had, I believe, multiple elders.  The pastor would have been counted among them, but was not over them.  Indeed, all would have taught, not just one.  If we can get back to this model, I think that churches will be stronger in many ways.  They will be less idiosyncratic, less dependent on one person,1 more accountable.

The case for plurality of elders can be argued along four lines: biblical, historical, theological, and pragmatic.  At bottom, I would say that the reason the scriptures teach multiple eldership is at least twofold: (1) mutual accountability is necessary if leaders are to avoid falling into sin; and (2) a church takes on the personality of its leader/s: if there is just one leader, the church will inevitably take on that man's personality, including his quirks and faults.  But if more than one person leads the church, there is the greater chance that the church will be balanced.2

I. Biblical Arguments

A. For Multiple Elders

The argument from scripture is in fact so strong that most commentators today assume it.  But it is well-articulated in G. W. Knight, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992) 175-77 (the section called "Excursus: Bishops/Presbyters and Deacons: 3:1-13").

The following points are relevant for our discussion:

(1) Presbyters (also translated "elders") and bishops (also translated "overseers") were apparently the same individuals.  That is to say, the two terms were synonymous.

Note, for example, Titus 1:5 ("appoint elders"), followed by v. 7 ("for a bishop must be blameless").  The very fact that the sentence in v. 7 begins with a "for" shows a connection: bishops are elders.  Otherwise, why would Paul mention the qualifications of a group that were not whom Titus should appoint?  In Acts 20:17 Paul calls the "elders of the church" of Ephesus together for a final meeting.  Then, in v. 28 he addresses them as "overseers" (or bishops).  Thus, any passage that deals with bishop is equally applicable to elders.

(2) The leadership of the church from the earliest period always had elders, even if it did not have deacons.  Young churches only had elders; more mature churches had both elders and deacons.

This can be seen by a comparison of Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Tim 3:1-13: the Christians in Crete (where Titus was ministering) were relatively new.  The qualifications for deacons is not mentioned because only the top level of leadership needed to be established in such a situation.  But in Ephesus the church was well established (where Timothy was ministering).  Consequently, Paul not only gives instruction to Timothy about both elders and deacons, but also says that the leaders should not be recent converts (cf. 1 Tim 3:6 [for elders] and perhaps implied in 3:10 for deacons).  But no instruction is given to Titus about new converts because that was the only pool from which he could draw.3  Thus, for young (and presumably small) churches, the leaders would do the work of both elders and deacons.4

In sum, a church must have elders, but not necessarily deacons (at least at first).

(3) Elder and pastor are not the same thing in the NT. "Elder" refers to the office one holds by virtue of appointment or election; "pastor" is a spiritual gift that one is given by the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:7-11).  One can have the gift of pastor without being an elder; and one can hold the office of elder without having the gift of pastor.

(4) For elders, the one qualification that is other than moral is the ability to teach.  Note 1 Tim 3:2 ("able to teach" [διδάκτικος, didaktikos]).  Titus 1:9 expands on this: "he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."

There is much confusion about what this means.

This does not mean that an elder must have the gift of teaching, for the NT is very clear that all believers should be able to teach.  Cf. Heb 5:12 (the definition of a spiritual meat-eater is one who is able to teach [5:11-14]; the author indicts his entire audience for not yet being able to do this); Col 3:16; Titus 2:3.5

"Able to teach" does not mean seminary-trained or one skilled in the biblical languages.  This is evident from the fact that Gentile Christians were among the first elders (cf. Titus 1:5-9).  These men would not have known Hebrew.

It is recognized that some elders would be gifted as teachers and would especially exercise this gift (1 Tim 5:17).  Thus, the implication is that not all would teach equally.  (Personally, I see in this text justification for some of the elders to be pastor-teachers.  Further, those especially gifted in this area would want to hone such a gift by learning the scriptures as diligently and rigorously as they could.  Hence, there is justification for having seminary-trained teachers.  But, at the same time, it is evident that not all elders had this gift.)

The basic thrust of this qualification is that elders would hold to pure doctrine in guiding the church.  In other words, they would be mature men who could sniff out heresy and steer the church in the direction it needs to go.  Certainly in some especially delicate matters these leaders would defer to others who had the gift.  But the elders needed to make the final decisions about the direction of the church.

Pragmatically, one of the ways in which such teaching could be accomplished would be for the elders to oversee different home Bible studies.  Nowadays "mini-churches" are very popular.  Such mini-churches are actually very biblical.  The early church met in homes during the week.  Each home would presumably have its own elder. Thus, at least in the context of a small gathering, the elders should be prepared to teach.

Teaching also occurs in another, less visible context.  When the elders and pastor meet together, the elders should have the freedom to state their opinions freely.  To be sure, the pastor is usually better trained in the scriptures, but this in no way gives him the right to demand allegiance to his viewpoints.  He must demonstrate that his views are biblical and submit them to the leadership.  At times, his case will not convince.  (Each one of us is responsible to know the scriptures and to examine the evidence for our beliefs.)  Further, many if not most issues to be decided by an elder board allow for a great deal of flexibility.  Two positions could equally be in line with scripture.  At that point, the collective wisdom of the leadership needs to reign supreme.6

(5) The consistent pattern in the NT is that every church had several elders.

Note the following texts (where either elder or bishop is used):

Acts 11:30--elders at the church of Antioch

Acts 14:23--Paul and Barnabas appoint "elders in every church"

Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4--elders at the church in Jerusalem

Acts 20:17, 28--elders/bishops at the church of Ephesus (v. 17--"elders of the church")

Acts 21:18--elders at the church in Jerusalem

Phil 1:1--the church at Philippi has bishops and deacons

1 Tim 5:17--elders at the church of Ephesus

Titus 1:5--Titus is to appoint elders in every town7

Jas 5:14--"the elders of the church"

1 Pet 5:1-2--"the elders among you"8

In every one of these texts the plain implication is that each church had several elders.

Note also that other more generic terms are also used of church leaders.  The pattern once again is that there are several leaders for each church:

1 Thess 5:12, 13--the congregation is to respect its leaders9

Heb 13:7, 17--heed the leaders of the church, "for they are keeping watch over your souls" (v. 17)10

The evidence is overwhelming.  So strong is it that Knight, after carefully evaluating the evidence, can argue:

An analysis of the data seems, therefore, to indicate the existence of oversight by a plurality of church leaders throughout the NT church in virtually every known area and acknowledged or commended by virtually every NT writer who writes about church leadership.   . . . [For example,] Every church in which leadership is referred to in Asia Minor either under Paul and his associates or under Peter's ministry has a plurality of leadership . . .11

B. For Single Elders

If the case is this strong, why then do some argue for a single elder?  The basic argument for this position is theological and historical, rather than biblical.  But biblically, there are five texts which seem to suggest a single elder.  We will look at these not in canonical order but from the weakest arguments to the strongest.

(1) Revelation 2-3--there is one "angel" over each church.  The word angel (ἄγγελος, anggelos) is sometimes translated "messenger" in scripture.  Hence, perhaps the single "angel" over each church is the single elder (pastor), rather than an angel.

The problem with this view is manifold: (1) ἄγγελος (anggelos) is used 67 times in Revelation.  If we exclude the references in chapters 2 and 3 for the sake of argument, we see a remarkable thing: every instance of ἄγγελος [anggelos] refers to an angel.  (Unless of course pastors can fly!  cf. Rev 14:6). (2) Even if Rev 2-3 were an exception, "messenger" is hardly an appropriate term for a pastor.  Pastors were, in NT times, restricted to a certain locale geographically.  But a messenger is one who moves about.  (3) The genre of the Revelation fits what is called "apocalyptic."  In apocalyptic literature there is a strong emphasis on angels.  Among other duties, they are responsible before heaven for groups of godly people.  Thus, when the Lord says, "to the angel of the church at _______, write" we have apocalyptic symbolism and imagery occurring.  Angels are evidently in view, not pastors.

(2) 2 John 1, 3 John 1--the "elder" writes to the elect lady and to Gaius.  Some argue that John describes himself in these two little letters as "the elder" because he is the lone elder at the church.  There are a few problems with this view, however.

First, the author is writing to two different people at apparently two different churches.  Would he be their elder?  If so, then we have an anomalous situation unparalleled in the rest of the NT: a single elder for at least two churches.  If not, would he perhaps be the elder at the church of Ephesus writing to Christians at other churches?  That too is doubtful, because (a) why would he not mention which church he was elder over? and (b) if he were the elder at the church of Ephesus, what business does he have meddling in other churches' affairs?12

Second, suppose that John is actually writing to one and the same church in 2 John and 3 John.  If so, couldn't he be their elder?  Not only is there, at best, a very slim chance that only one church is being addressed,13 but such a hypothesis produces a very large problem for itself: this lone elder apparently is an absentee elder who gives no certain evidence that he will even visit the church, let alone teach there!  (Although this is clearly his desire, he refrains from absolute certitude.)  Notice 2 John 12: "Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete."  Likewise, 3 John 10 says "if I come [to the church]" and v. 14 says "I hope to see you."

Third, the apparent meaning of "the elder" in these two little letters seems to be the equivalent of "the old man."  The term used, in fact, can only be given a technical nuance in contexts that seem to demand it.  Πρεσβύτερος (presbuteros) is a word which frequently meant simply "old man" (cf. Acts 2:17; 1 Tim 5:1).  This fits well with the probable authorship of these letters (namely, John the apostle).  By the time he had settled in Asia Minor as the last living apostle, it would be quite appropriate for him to take on a term of endearment and affection: "This letter is from the old man."

(3) 1 Tim 3:2 (cf. Titus 1:7)--"bishop" is singular, while "deacons" (1 Tim 3:Cool is plural.  This would seem to argue that there was but one bishop/elder per church, while there would have been several deacons.

Again, such an argument has very little substance.  First, it is unlikely that only one bishop is in view because otherwise it is difficult to explain 1 Tim 5:17 ("let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor") and Titus 1:5 "appoint elders in every town").14

Second, it is likely that the "bishop" in 1 Tim 3:2 is generic.  The article is used this way in Greek very frequently.  That is, the singular is used to specify a class as opposed to an individual.  J. W. Roberts, a Greek grammarian, pointed out along these lines: "A case in point where wrong use has been made of the generic article is in reference to 'bishop' in 1 Timothy 3:2.  This has often been used to prove the existence of the monarchal bishop at the time of the writing of the Pastorals.  A majority of the commentators, however, agree that the usage is generic."  Cf. also Matt 12:35; 15:11; 18:17; Luke 10:7; John 2:25.  The generic article is actually used thousands of times in the NT.

Third, further evidence that "bishop" is generic in 1 Tim 3:2 is found in the overall context.  (Keep in mind that the NT had no chapter or verse divisions originally.  These were inventions of later centuries.)  Notice the context in which behavior in the church occurs: 1 Tim 2:8-3:13.  In 2:8 Paul addresses "the men."  In 2:9-10 he addresses "the women."  Then, in 2:11-12 he says that "a woman should learn quietly . . . I do not permit a woman to teach . . . a man."  Paul is not here speaking of a particular woman (otherwise he would surely have mentioned her by name), but women as a class.  In 2:15 he says "but she shall be saved . . . if they continue."  Thus, there is a free exchange of the singular and the plural here.  Immediately after this Paul speaks of "the bishop."  Then, in 3:8 he addresses "the deacons."  The overall context is very clearly dealing with classes of individuals.  The only time it is not, in fact, is when Paul speaks of Adam and Eve (2:13-14), yet even here he quickly gets into the relevance for his readers in v. 15 ("she . . . they").

C. Summary

The biblical evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of multiple elders.  The few passages which might otherwise be interpreted certainly do not have to be so interpreted and, in fact, most likely should not be.  This fact illustrates a fundamental principle of biblical interpretation: do not follow an interpretation which is only possible; instead, base your convictions on what is probable.

The rest of our arguments are presented here very briefly since the basic one, the biblical argument, has been addressed at some length.

II. Historical Arguments

In Ignatius (an early Christian writer who died in c. AD 117), at the beginning of the second century, already a monarchical episcopate exists.  It is interesting that Roman Catholics especially appeal to this as a model for their practices (since they rely on the tradition found in patristic writers like Ignatius far more than on divine revelation).  Those who deny the Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles (i.e., 1-2 Timothy and Titus) also see the pastorals as reflecting a one-elder situation (=monarchical episcopate) because they regard the pastorals as having been written during the time of Ignatius.  But evangelicals should not consider arguments from either camp as weighty.  In particular, if we equate either what the early church fathers practiced or believed as totally in line with the New Testament, then we have some significant retooling to do in our churches today.  Some examples:

Didache (c. AD 100-150)--gives several regulations about baptism and fasting, much of which is pure legalism.  (For example, in one place he says, "Let us not fast as the Jews do, who fast on Mondays and Thursdays.  Instead, let us fast on Wednesdays and Fridays."  In his discussions of baptism, he argues that cold water is better than warm, etc.--all arguments that have nothing whatever to do with the biblical revelation).

Most early church fathers (i.e., 2nd-3rd century AD) didn't have a clue about grace, eternal security, the gospel.  The church very quickly degenerated into basic legalism.  It was not until Augustine that the church recovered some of this.  But then it fell into the dark ages, waiting for a young monk from Germany to nail his protests on the door of the Wittenberg Church.  Dr. Ted Deibler (former chairman of Church History at Dallas Seminary) used to say, "the one thing we can be certain of learning from church history is that we learn nothing from church history."  He meant by this that we are on very dangerous ground if we assume uniformly correct theology from the church fathers.

Allegorical interpretation and eschatology: Origen and his school in particular promoted a view of scripture which was quite fanciful.

In sum, the argument for a single leader of each church is especially persuasive to Roman Catholics because it did occur throughout church history.  Yet, such traditions can never replace the Word of God.  In fact, with the birth of the Reformation came a renewed understanding of the priesthood of the believer which, in turn, moved away from the notion of a single leader at the top.

III. Theological Arguments

The quirks of personality: a church becomes like its leader (a student becomes like his teacher [cf. Luke 6:40]).

The emphasis in scripture on doing the work of the ministry in company with other believers: e.g., Paul never went on a missionary journey by himself (Barnabas, Silvanus, Sosthenes, Timothy, Luke were especially his traveling companions).  Paul even included his companions' names in the greetings to various churches.  In fact, he regarded them unofficially as apostles (not holding the office, but certainly functioning in that capacity).  Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two.  (This is not to say that individuals are paralyzed and can't do anything--cf. Philip ministering to the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul in prison ministering to Caesar's household, etc.  But the ideal is ministry by community.)

This same principle is taught in John 13:35.  (Knowledge of Jesus comes through his disciples in a community effort, that is, in their love for one another.)

Accountability and our sin natures (see opening paragraph at the start of this position paper).  Each leader knows that he lacks complete balance, that there are things he continues to struggle with.  Further, even beyond the sin nature factor is the personality factor.  Some pastors are detail men; others are big picture men.  Some love music, others have gotten little from music (C. S. Lewis was one such man).  All of us together contribute to the way the body of Christ works.  But a church that follows in lock-step with the personality and foibles of one man will always be imbalanced.

IV. Pragmatic Arguments

Even if there were no decisive arguments for plurality of elders, the preponderance of evidence is decidely on the side of this view.  Further, in consultation with others (especially church historian, M. James Sawyer at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary), the following principle seems to be true: Churches that have a pastor as an authority above others (thus, in function, a monarchical episcopate) have a disproportionately high number of moral failures at the top level of leadership.  In other words, it is less likely for a pastor to fall into sin if he is primus inter parus ("first among equals" in the sense of his visibility and training, not spirituality) than if he is elevated above the rest of the church leadership.

Thus, the case of multiple elders in the local church is solidly based on biblical, historical, and pragmatic reasons.  By having several leaders, the church is more able to take on the personality of Christ rather than the idiosyncracies of any one man.

1 One of the measures of how mature a church is is what happens to it when the pastor leaves.  If it continues to grow, there is an underlying network of mature leadership.  If it shrinks, this may well suggest that much of the size of the church originally was due to the magnetism of a single person.

2This is actually quite similar to the "checks and balances" in the U.S. Constitution.  This document was written with a heavy input from Christians who understood depravity.  They recognized, I think, that the best form of government was a benevolent dictatorship, and the worst was a malevolent dictatorship.  With dictators, there is no guarantee.  Hence, the second best form of government is one in which no single branch of government and no individual is given too much power.  This Constitution was written after the Articles of Confederation (inspired especially by Deists who believed in the inherent goodness of humanity)--which were very weak on checks and balances--failed.

3That these lists were a bit different on this point (and some others) indicates an extremely important point: Much of the instruction given about church order is ad hoc rather than of universal principle.  It is our duty to discern which is which.  For example, I have no strong opinion about how the leaders of a church are to be appointed, because the NT seems to be flexible in this regard (e.g., some churches did it by congregational vote, others had appointments from apostolic delegates).  The NT is flexible on areas that are not consequential.

4The normal understanding of the difference in function of the two groups is this: elders are primarily concerned with the spiritual welfare of the congregation, while deacons are primarily concerned with the physical welfare of the congregation.  Thus, elders would oversee the direction of the church, work with the pastor (or pastors) on the spiritual needs of the church (what they should be fed, etc.).

5The fundamental principle of discipleship is the passing on of truth in the context of love to faithful individuals, who in turn would do the same thing (2 Tim 2:2).  The ideal is for every member of the church to carry on this task.  It is obvious (from 2 Tim 2:2) that discipleship and a teaching ministry were not to be restricted to just pastors or those with the gift of teaching.

6 One of the first churches I was in that was run by a plurality of elders had a rather mature pastor.  He was one of the brightest and godliest men I've ever known, thoroughly saturated in the Word of God.  Yet, he did not even have a vote on the elder board.  The elders frequently asked his opinion.  But he also respected their leadership.  He told me once that having the elders run the show gave him a greater measure of freedom, for it allowed him more time to work on his messages.  He didn't have to wear several hats and therefore did not get burned out in the ministry.  Further, he noted that the elders had maturity of years over him and collective wisdom that he wanted to learn from.  The man had a Th.M. degree and a Th.D. degree from a leading seminary, yet he eagerly bowed to the leadership and wisdom of the elder board!  That was humility!  In fact, every year he submitted to a rigorous personal evaluation of his life by the elders.  They asked him the tough questions, such as faithfulness to his wife, what he read, saw, participated in, and what he did with his money and his spare time.  This was not a 'big brother is watching you' lynching; it was something this pastor volunteered for.  The church grew quickly and profoundly because of such accountability at the top levels.

7The early church had but one church in each city or town.  Hence, Paul's instruction to Titus is to appoint multiple elders in every church.

8That each church to which Peter is writing had multiple elders is likely from vv. 2-3--"Tend [ποιμάνετε, poimanete--a plural verb; thus, "you elders"] the flock [singular] of God that is your charge . . . by being examples [plural] to the flock."  Thus, multiple elders are linked to a single flock each time.

9It is most likely that only elders are in view.  The reason for this is that, as we have argued above, young churches did not have deacons but did have elders.  Paul had spent only about three weeks with the Thessalonians.  But he appointed leaders before his departure.  Thus, it is likely that he appointed only elders.  In the least, there is not even a hint in this text that only one elder and several deacons were appointed.

10Since the duties of the leaders are described in this manner, it is obvious that multiple elders are in view (since deacons were not responsible primarily to keep watch over the souls).

11Knight, Pastoral Epistles, 177.

12 Some denominations have a bishop over several churches and an elder at an individual church.  But John is called an elder, not a bishop.  Thus, these denominations have a difficult time basing their view on scripture.

13In fact, many today see three churches addressed: 2 John has one in view; 3 John seems to have Gaius' church and Diotrephes' church in view.  I am presently undecided on this issue (that is, whether two or three churches are envisioned).  One of the fundamental arguments against 2 John and 3 John being addressed to the same church is that the situations are radically different: 2 John addresses the problem of heretics outside the church attempting to get in; 3 John addresses the sin of pride already within the church by an orthodox leader.  Thus, 2 John has to do with doctrine and 3 John is about ethics and holiness.  Hence, in the least two churches are in view in the Johannine letters, and perhaps three.  Is John the elder of all of them?

14Recall that "elder" = "bishop" and that each town had but one church.
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The apostle Paul warns the Christian community against the evil of judging one another concerning certain doubtful or debatable practices151 where one Christian holds one opinion and another a different opinion. He then concludes this portion of his argument with a reminder of every Christian’s accountability at the Judgment Seat of God. He writes:

But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or again, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:10-12)..

The stark reality of Scripture is that every person, Christian and non-Christian, is accountable before a sovereign God (see Rom. 3:9-19) and will one day have to bow before Christ (Phil. 2:9-11). Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked” (Luke 12:48b). Many reject this declaration of Scripture by all manner of human rationalizations and bias, but their rejection cannot alter the reality of accountability.

Jesus emphatically taught that a day of judgment is coming when every person will have to give an account. For instance, in a context where the Pharisees had spoken evil of Jesus by attributing His miracle to Satan, Jesus condemned them as a brood of vipers who could never say anything good since their hearts were evil. He then went on to make the point that people are responsible for all their actions and words, which will acquit or condemn them on the day of judgment. In Matthew 12:36 He said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak.”

Unfortunately, however, man is a rebel who wants to do his own thing without any or very little accountability for his actions. Since the fall of man (Gen. 3), this has been the case, but a worldwide phenomenon of our day is a defiance of any form of established authority whether religious or secular, social or political. This sad reality has colored the beliefs and actions of our present society worldwide. Without a sense of accountability to a sovereign God, the world can quickly gravitate in the direction of the ruthless acts and tyranny of people like Hitler. When God either does not exist in the beliefs of men or when the truth about God is distorted into man’s own image of who and what God is like, everything is permitted, morally speaking.

Today, we live in a time when, having fundamentally rejected the absolutes and clear teachings of Scripture, man seeks to make God accountable to him for his comfort and pleasure. Thus, people are not only doing what is right in their own eyes, but the prevailing attitude is ‘Do your own thing. You are only accountable to yourself and your own self-fulfillment.’ This is a shift from a God-centered perspective of life to a man-centered perspective. This is all part of man’s attempt to dismiss any accountability to God. The reality is that when men seek to ignore accountability to God and others, they leave themselves vulnerable to the cold misery of slavery and eventually to the menace of a dictator.

Accountability to God and to one another according to the directives of Scripture is the foundation for freedom and liberty. But what is true freedom and wherein lies its source? Freedom is not the right to do as one pleases as a capricious child. Certainly it means the capacity to exercise choice, but never so that it is devoid of responsibility or accountability. Freedom is both the responsibility and the ability, by the grace of God, to do what is right according to the absolute and righteous standards of truth as given to us in God’s Holy Word. Many see freedom as the right to abandon accountability to God and men in order to do what they please in the promotion of self gratification. But that is not freedom. It is slavery, or at least leads to slavery. Speaking of false teachers who either twist Scripture to their own self-centered objectives or deny its authority altogether, Peter writes, “…promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19). Beliefs or one’s world view always has consequences. It is like a train which is free to do what it was created to do as long as it is on its track.

Accountability is one of the means God uses to bring about solid growth and maturity with the freedom to be what God has created us for. But as we’ve just stressed, the problem is that we live in a society that has become very individualistic. The prevailing attitude is be your own man or woman, do your own thing, be your own boss, and often this attitude is promoted or stated in a way that undermines accountability to God and others. The Bible in no way denies our individualism. Indeed, it promotes it, but in a way that holds us each accountable to others. Proper individualism leads to a certain amount of inventiveness, ingenuity, and freedom, but it can also breed license and irresponsibility without accountability. The fact is you can’t make disciples or produce growing and mature Christians without accountability.

So again, true freedom is not the ability to do as one pleases, which is license, but the power by God’s grace to do as one ought. But what do we mean by accountability?

The Meaning of Accountability, What it is

By accountability, we are not talking about coercive tactics, the invasion of privacy, or bringing others under the weight of someone’s taboos or legalism or manipulative or dominating tactics. Rather, by accountability we mean developing relationships with other Christians that help to promote spiritual reality, honesty, obedience to God, and genuine evaluations of one’s walk and relationship with God and with others. We are talking about relationships that help believers change by the Spirit of God and the truth of the Word of God through inward spiritual conviction and faith.

Being what we are, sheep that are prone to wander, accountability to others is simply one of the ways God holds us accountable to Him. Left to ourselves, there is the great temptation to do mainly what we want rather than what God wants and what is best for others. So what is meant by accountability? We are talking about teaching, exhorting, supporting, and encouraging one another in such a way that it promotes accountability to Christ and to others in the body of Christ, but never by manipulation or domination.

The Necessity of Accountability, Why we need it

In his book, The Disciple Making Pastor, Bill Hull writes about the need of accountability in the disciple-making process. He says,

To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead and army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.152

So, what are some of the reasons for establishing some form of accountability?

(1) Accountability is an essential part of a functional society. But even more importantly, the prototype for it is the Triune Godhead itself. Though the members of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are co-eternal and co-equal, each being God of very God, Scripture gives evidence of an accountability that exists within the Godhead. From the standpoint of the Holy Spirit, this is seen in the truth of the procession of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father through the Son to believers (see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). The Spirit accepts His role as the Enabler or Comforter to come and indwell believers of the church age. As to the Son, He accepts His role as the suffering Savior of the world first by becoming true humanity that He might die for our sin and then as our Advocate sit at God’s right hand, etc. (see Phil. 2:5f; Heb. 10:5-10; Rom. 8:34f). But this accountability of the Son is also seen in Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:3, and 15:24-28.

And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

This in no way implies that the Son is inferior to the Father. Rather, it shows that when death is conquered at the close of the Millennium, then all things will come under the administration of the triune Godhead. This concept is illustrated in a corporation in which there are three equal owners, but for the sake of the orderly function and effectiveness of the company and by the agreement of each partner, one is elected president of the company with other two serving as vice presidents. Each has different roles and responsibilities and the things they are accountable for.

(2) Accountability helps to promote biblical controls or checks and balances. It provides the necessary discipline and support needed to see people reach godly goals. While we are all ultimately accountable to God, as stressed in Romans 14:7-12, God has established other levels of accountability to aid us in the matter of control, support, and growth.

God has given the Word and the Holy Spirit as His agents of control to help provide direction and controls on our lives, but accountability to other believers becomes another key instrument to aid in bringing about self-discipline and inner controls.

(3) Accountability is necessary because like sheep we tend to go our own way. We are all self-willed. We want to protect our comfort zones and avoid having to deal with certain issues that are important to becoming obedient Christians, which is one of the goals of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Making disciples means teaching others to obey the Lord and this is very difficult without some measure of accountability. Accountability is part of the means God uses, as will be demonstrated below.

(4) Accountability promotes servant-like leadership in keeping with the pastoral mandate to watch over the flock (Eph. 4:11f; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). One of the key requirements of a servant leader is faithfulness to the things entrusted to him (1 Cor. 4:1-2). So, in 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul told Timothy to entrust what he had learned to what kind of men? To faithful men. The fact he was to selectively train only faithful men suggests accountability. Is it not a strange paradox that we generally accept accountability in most aspects of life as something which is necessary, but when it comes to the body of Christ, many fight accountability, especially, if it begins to affect their comfort zones or their self-willed agendas.

(5) Accountability is protective to both leaders and to the flock. The biblical model for church leadership is a collective leadership of elders which provides a structure for genuine accountability.

Shared, brotherly leadership provides needed restraint on pride, greed, and “playing,” to quote Earl D. Radmacher,… Human leaders, even Christian ones, are sinners and they only accomplish God’s will imperfectly. Multiple leaders, therefore, will serve as a ‘check and balance’ on each other and serve as a safeguard against the very human tendency to play God over other people.”153

Shared leadership provides close accountability, genuine partnership, and peer relationships—the very things imperial pastors shrink from at all costs.154

As to the flock, Hebrews 13:17 tells the flock to submit to their leaders because they keep watch over the souls of God’s people. People too often understand this primarily in a negative way, but keeping watch not only means correcting people when they fail to walk with the Lord, but helping them to do so. As will shown below, the goal of accountability is not riding herd over people like a task master—something completely contrary to Scripture. Rather, the goal is to help people grow in Christ and learn to find Him as the source and force and course of life.

The Justification for Accountability, It is biblical

There are numerous New Testament passages which teach the concept of accountability of the flock to the leaders (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 3:1-5; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 5:2-3). But the elders are limited in their capacity to effectively promote accountability throughout the body of Christ. As the Lord was focused on only a few, the twelve and then the three, so the leaders should follow his example. The need for accountability goes beyond the leadership and falls into the realm of the “one another” concept of the New Testament.

Ephesians 5:21

and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

First, it should be noted that “submitting” is the fourth in a series of adverbial participles. These can be detected in most translations by words that end in “ing” beginning with verse 19. These participles are best understood as expressing the results of the filling by means of the Spirit (vs. 18). Submission, which certainly includes accountability, is applied to the whole body of Christ as a Spirit-produced and mutual responsibility to promote obedience to Christ.

“Submitting” is hupotasso, a military word used of soldiers submitting to their superior or slaves submitting to their masters. In the middle voice as here, it carries the idea of voluntarily submitting or subordinating oneself. As a specific application of the various areas of accountability, hupotasso is applied in relation to God in 1 Corinthians 15:28, Hebrews 12:9, and James 4:7, to Christ in Ephesians 5:24, to wives in Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1, to parents in Luke 2:51, to masters in Titus 2:9 and 1 Peter 2:18, to secular authorities in Romans 13:1, and in a general sense of a voluntary submission to others in the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 16:16, 1 Peter 5:5, and here in Ephesians 5:21. Included in the word ‘submission’ are the ideas of authority and accountability to another. “In Scripture it appears in contexts describing servanthood, humility, respect, reverence, honor, teachableness, and openness”155 and I might add, accountability. But we should quickly add that such submission or accountability is to bring about greater and greater obedience to the Savior as those first and foremost accountable to Him.

1 Peter 5:5

In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

In 1 Peter 5:5 we again meet with the word hupotasso. Here it is applied to younger men with older men of wisdom. But if accountability is going to work, there must be genuine humility toward one another (vs. 5b). Further, accountability with humility is related to humbling ourselves under God’s authority—its goal is becoming accountable to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.

Verse 11 uses two more terms which show the emphasis in the matter of accountability as believers minister to one another. “Encourage” is the Greek parakaleo. It means “to call along side to help, to enable, to comfort, exhort, encourage.” It is the verb form of the word used of the Holy Spirit as the comforter, encourager, helper, enabler, but the verb may also contain the idea of “exhort, appeal to, or challenge” to a certain behavior as in Romans 12:1; 15:30; 16:17. “Build up” is oikodomeo, “to build up, edify,” or “to restore, repair.” Accountability to one another always has as its goal the restoration and edification of others in their relationship with the Savior because we are all accountable to Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 (see also Heb. 13:7, 17)

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.

Verses 12-13 naturally point to a dual accountability. First, there is that of the leadership whom God holds responsible to care for His flock (Heb. 13:17). Then there is responsibility of the flock to submit to the leadership. These leaders, like shepherds, are responsible for the spiritual well being of the local church.

Verses 14-15 move us to the whole body and point to three methods by which we may help one another remain accountable to the Lord: by warning, encouraging, helping, and to three distinct need groups: the undisciplined, the discouraged, and the weak. From these verses we see how accountability has many faces or aspects as we learn to reach out to one another, but the goal is being accountable to the Lord by helping one another relate our lives to Jesus Christ by faith. Finally, this entire passage which deals with accountability concludes with a general application to all, “be patient with all men” followed by a warning in verse 15 that includes the goal or objective, seeking the good of others.

As seen in the previous study on Teamwork, 1Corinthians 12:20f teaches Christians are members of one body, not independent agents. In that regard, we are responsible to each other within certain limits. The Lord is the head of the body and that includes each member, but He works through the various members of the body and accountability to one another is one of the ways He holds us accountable to Him.

Illustrations and Types of Accountability

Within the church, the body of Christ, their are a number of illustrations of the form in which accountability make take shape in the process of making disciples.

(1) Paul with Timothy and Titus. If we each had a Timothy or a Titus, someone we are giving ourselves to, someone we are helping to grow, someone we are responsible for and who is responsible to us, certainly we would see a great deal more spiritual maturity and obedience.

(2) Paul and Barnabus. Paul had a Barnabus (a son of encouragement) with whom he could identify. Paul could go to him with problems and discouragement. He was someone with whom he could pray, or from whom he could get counsel, guidance, and encouragement. He was someone to give another viewpoint or perspective. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

(3) A team or small group. This is not just a prayer group or a Bible study, but a small group of men or women with whom to interact, share ideas, pain, burdens, and victories. It is a small group like the disciples of the Lord or like a board of elders, those with whom we can pray and discuss the Word together without fear of rejection.

(4) Marriage illustrates another place where accountability takes place. If we are married we need to develop our relationship with our spouses so we can share our problems and concerns with each other, discuss them, and get honest input without fear of rejection.

(5) The local church. The local church consists of overseers, those who are to be responsible for and accountable to the flock, and there is the flock, those who are to be accountable and responsible to their leaders as Hebrews 13:17 teaches.

(6) The Godhead. Finally, The Son Himself, though God of very God, is subject to or accountable to the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 3:23; 15:24-28).

With this in mind, it would be well to think about how one can implement this more in one’s own ministry. Mini-flocks provides an opportunity and team training another, but surely we need more accountability. One method is the buddy system where believers divide up into smaller groups of two or three who regularly meet for fellowship and input together.

Biblical Ways to Promote Accountability

An important question is what happens (or should happen) when a small team meets together?

Goals and objectives to promote Christ-like growth in measurable ways:

Meeting together is not just a time when good old boys meet to talk about fishing, football, or chew the fat. Here are some suggestions.

(1) Study: Part of the time should be spent around a portion of the Word, thinking together about what it means and how it applies.

(2) Prayer: This means it will be a time when the team shares needs and concerns. Pray together when you meet and covenant to pray for each other during the week.

(3) A schedule: Develop a schedule to give guidance in the use of time with the Lord, family, church, the team, etc.

(4) Report: Part of the team’s time should be spent sharing how each member has been doing—the battles, victories, problems, temptations, etc. How each one has been able or not been able to keep to their schedule, prayer time, study, etc.

Some guidelines and warnings:

(1) Be honest and humble about struggles. Watch the tendency to protect those comfort zones and layers of self-protection.

(2) Be patient, and understanding. Don’t come across as condemning. Maintain a spirit of acceptance of the other person. This does not mean there can’t be challenge, exhortation, and even rebuke, but it must be done in love and with patience and acceptance.

(3) Guard your tongue. In keeping with the biblical goal, guard against gossip and being critical. What is shared must be kept in strict confidence. Each person needs to know they can trust the others. (Prov. 16:27; 17:4, 27; 18:8, 21; 21:23; 26:30).

(4) Be faithful or dependable. Do the study or other assignments, show up, follow through.


It was Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who said, “Every man should have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.”156 Naturally, this is applicable to both men and women, but for reasons of maintaining moral purity and to avoid temptation, such should be of the same sex. Hendricks continues:

A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses—everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate.

A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!”

A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protg—affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying.

Do you have these three guys in your life?157

In view of the fact the Christian life is a spiritual warfare, the following is a great illustration of the importance of having someone to accountable to.

In 1967 we were at war with Vietnam. And there I was, at the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was brutal.

I can still hear the raspy voice of the sergeant: “We are here to save your lives. We’re going to see to it that you overcome all your natural fears. We’re going to show you just how much incredible stress the human mind and body can endure. And when we’re finished with you, you will be the U.S. Army’s best!”

Then, before he dismissed the formation, he announced our first assignment. We’d steeled ourselves for something really tough—like running 10 miles in full battle gear or rappelling down a sheer cliff. Instead, he told us to—find a buddy.

“Find yourself a Ranger buddy,” he growled. “You will stick together. You will never leave each other. You will encourage each other, and, as necessary, you will carry each other.” It was the army’s way of saying, “Difficult assignments require a friend. Together is better.”

Who’s your “Ranger buddy”?158
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« Reply #38 on: November 02, 2016, 11:55:55 am »


A Theory Without A Leg To Stand On

    One of the most widespread theories of this day is the theory that the church that Jesus founded was not a local, visible assembly, but a Universal Invisible Church to which all believers belong, and of which they were made a part through a mysterious, mystical Holy Spirit baptism. It will be the purpose of the author to show the fallacy of this theory in this book.

    Most heresies have plausible arguments to justify them. Scriptures are taken out of context and made to bolster up error, or else ignoring the uniform teaching of the Scriptures concerning a certain thing, certain verses are pressed into use to make a false teaching seem reasonable. But the heresy of the Universal Church, doesn't really have anything to back it up. It simply will not bear honest investigation. Yet, the Universal theory is one of the most popular, and one of the most commonly held of all teachings. Liberals and Conservatives alike make use of this false doctrine. Indeed, it is a doctrine that is fundamental to many of their other beliefs. Many otherwise orthodox writers assume the Universal Church theory as a matter of course, and so popular is it that the correctness of it is seldom even questioned. Only a wise and wily Satan could have put over this doctrine so skillfully. But let us remember that Satan is the great counterfeiter. He has a counterfeit for every true doctrine of the Bible. I taught in a Bible school for young ministers for some years, and I challenged my classes to name a single doctrine of the Christian faith that Satan has not devised a counterfeit for. Every student pondered my challenge, but none were ever able to mention any doctrine for which Satan has not devised a counterfeit.

    Why have so many able preachers come to hold the doctrine of the Universal Church? Most of such have just adopted it without careful examination. It is a part of the current theological jargon of the times, and they have swallowed it down unthinkingly. The writer is a Premillennialist - and without apology, but he has heard many a Premillennial speaker ring the changes on the "CHOORCH" as they pronounced it. Over and over again they spoke of the "Rapture of the CHOORCH," yet the Scripture they referred to, says nothing about "The rapture of the church," Look at I Thessalonians 4:15-16. What does it say?

    "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

    Note that there is no mention of the CHURCH. It says "The dead in Christ," and "We which are alive and remain." The word church is not used. Reference is to believers. "Oh,' says someone, "but it means the Church." That is pure assumption - that is part of a theory. All believers are NOT members of the genuine church - the one that Jesus started. This I shall prove as I go along.

    I am writing as one who was once addicted to the Universal theory, and the word "addict" properly expresses it. That theory was a part of my theological thinking. Where did I get it? I got it from two sources - the Scofield Bible notes, and the Scofield Bible course. Let me pause to say that generally speaking, I consider Dr. Scofield a great Bible scholar. A Bible scholar today is often thought of as a man who is a critical researcher into such questions as "did John write the Apocalypse, or is it a forgery;" "were there three Isaiahs or one?" Their knowledge is not of the Scriptures, but of critical theories that seek to discredit the Scriptures. Dr. Scofield was a student of the Bible itself. He and his associates did a colossal work in preparing the Scofield Bible. I like the arrangement of that Bible very much and would not take $500. for my copy, if I could not buy another. Dr. Scofield had a Bible correspondence course on the market for about twenty-five years. At his death, the Moody Bible Institute took it over, and it is continued until this day. I took this course, which was designed to cover a period of two years study, and I had the distinction of completing the course in the shortest time of any student who had taken it up to that date. So- what I am saying is that I had a thorough dose of Scofieldism, most of which was helpful, but I became thoroughly inoculated with the Universal Church theory. At a Baptist associational meeting I heard a staunch Baptist preacher bring a sermon in which he combated the Universal theory, and presented the view that Baptist churches have had continuous history from the days of Christ, and are to be identified with the church which He started in the days of His flesh. I went away from the meeting very angry, and determined to write a booklet such as to refute the views that I had listened to. But honest study along that line is fatal to the holder of the Universal theory. I spent several months collecting data concerning the history of Baptists and others, together with a study of the Universal theory. The result was, I discovered to my chagrin that the preacher who had so angered me was right. Out of my study developed my book, "The Church That Jesus Built," which has gone through some ten editions and has never been refuted. Incidentally, the preacher who had angered me, liked my book very much and bought and circulated many copies.

    I was a great admirer of Dr. Scofield, as I have already indicated, but no man is infallible. We should not follow any human teacher with such blind adulation that we fail to search the Scriptures for ourselves. Dr. Scofield was as far from the truth on the church question as it is possible to get. The Bible doesn't indicate that Jesus is the author of but one kind of church, but Scofield has several kinds of churches in his writings. He writes to the "church visible", "the church local", "the true church" and so on. As I examined the Scriptures, I had to take what God says rather than what Scofield and others say. I wonder how many who read this book will be willing to take the same step I took when I renounced my precious Universal theory? I wonder how many will throw aside prejudice such as to face the fact that the Universal theory is utterly without Scripture backing, and is the author of some of the worst heresies that we know anything about.

    Baptists didn't use to fall for the Universal theory. The staunch old Baptist scholars and historians of the past were believers in the perpetuity of Baptist churches through the centuries, back to the days of Christ. But we are in a liberalistic, ecumenical period, when Baptist teachers in our schools and seminaries are loose in their views. They want to fit in with what is currently popular, so many of these have espoused the Universal theory.
Why And When This Theory Started

    There is no mention of a Universal Church in the Bible. The warmest advocates of the theory will of necessity admit that nearly every instance in which ecclesia, translated church, is found, reference is to an actual, local, visible church. The other few times ecclesia is used, according to the laws of language, the term is used in a generic or abstract sense, and does not at all refer to an all-inclusive Universal, Invisible some thing. This will be dealt with later.

    Not only does the New Testament know nothing of a Universal, Invisible Church, Christians of the early centuries knew nothing of such. I have read rather widely in the writings of the early church fathers - the writings of the Christian leaders who lived in the early days of Christianity all the way from Polycarp who knew John the apostle, on down. In their writings they don't speak of an all embracing spiritual Universal, Invisible Church. Doubtlessly they would have been amazed at such a doctrine. They speak of church and churches -  never of a vague Universal, Invisible monstrosity composed of all the saved everywhere. They knew the Greek language too well to try to use the term ecclesia in such a sense anyhow.

    As time passed, Satan managed to introduce heresies and perversions among the churches. These eventually produced the Roman Catholic Church. Bear in mind that Roman Catholicism did not spring full grown into the world. It is the product of error and false doctrine accumulated over a period of several centuries. Dr. R. K. Maiden, former editor of the Word and Way, of Missouri, has the following to say about the rise of the Universal Church theory:

    "The conception and adoption of the Universal Church Theory, is the parent heresy in ecciesiology. How and when did this theory originate? The change from the idea of the individual, self-governing church, to the Universal Church had its origin in one of the most colossal blunders of all Christian history - that of making 'ecclesia' and 'basileia' identical. So far from being identical, the difference between 'church' and 'kingdom' is so great as to require that they be contrasted rather than compared. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament never confused the two terms. The taproot of the Universal Church theory is the identification of the church and kingdom, making the two coincident, coextensive and coterminous. The theory of the identity of church and kingdom and of the universality of the church were twin born. New Testament writers knew nothing of a world church. As nearly as can be determined, the first formal, official identification of church and kingdom was projected when the Roman Empire became nominally Christianized, about the time of the consummation of the great ecclesiastical apostasy. It was the Ecumenical Council of Nice, called by the Emperor Constantine, that affirmed and projected as its creed the idea of a 'Catholic' World Church. From then down to the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century, the universal VISIBLE theory of the church held the field, except for the scattered, comparatively obscure, hunted and persecuted little churches known by various names at different times - churches of the New Testament type in doctrine and polity. Following the Reformation period and born of the Reformation movement, there emerged a new theory of the church - the UNIVERSAL, INVISIBLE SPIRITUAL THEORY."

    The Universal Visible Church theory is an utter necessity of the Roman Catholic Church. There is not the slightest resemblance between the simply organized, self-governing churches of New Testament times, and the great, complex hierarchical pope dominated institution that we know as the Roman Catholic Church today. Conditions in that church became so intolerable that they produced the Protestant Reformation. Let it be remembered, and never forgotten that Baptists are NOT Protestants. They existed long before the rise of Protestantism.

    When the Protestant reformers split the Catholic world, they did not make the radical changes they would have made had they gone back to the Bible as their standard of life, and doctrine, and conduct. They of necessity rejected the Roman Church as the Universal Visible Church, but they did not go back to the New Testament Church type. What would they do? With what would they replace the doctrine of the Universal Visible Church? They solved the problem by coining the doctrine of the Universal INVISIBLE Church. So the Universal, Invisible, spiritual theory of the church WAS INVENTED! Such a thing didn't exist for over fifteen hundred years after Christ started His church! But this is now the working theory of all Protestantism - and sad to say many Baptists have unwittingly been snared by this theory.


   Down in Florida where the writer lives, we often have severe hurricanes, and sometimes these spawn a whole bunch of violent tornadoes. They literally spin off of the parent storm. This same thing is true of the mother heresy, the Universal church theory. She spawns a lot of other heresies. The Church Branch theory is a case in point. Some years ago there was a preaching mission sponsored by the Federal (now National) Council of Churches. Dr. E. Stanley Jones acted as a special spokesman for the Council, in an attempt to keep it and its aims before the people. Dr. Jones advocated the formulation of a kind of super church entitled "The Church of Christ In America", formulated by all the denominations. He said, "The figure that I have in mind is that of a tree, with many different branches adhering to the central trunk - "The Church of Christ In America ..."

    Dr. W. L. Poteat, a former president of Wake Forest College, and a very loose Baptist, in his book entitled, "Can A Man Be A Christian Today," in referring to organized Christianity calls it, "The Christian Church." Dr. Marshall, teacher of McMaster's University, is quoted as saying in a sermon, "Baptists do not regard baptism as essential to membership in the 'Christian Church' - the church universal - even though they insist on immersion as a condition of admittance into the BAPTIST SECTION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH." The National and World Council of churches operates on the theory that all of the churches of different and even conflicting faiths should be united into one big world church, with the leaders, the "Big Boys" directing its course. Beyond this seen conglomeration however, is the Church Universal concept, the mother of the smaller church heresy.

    SUMMARIZING: The Universal, Invisible theory is unknown to the Bible; is unknown to the writings of the early church Fathers who lived back near apostolic times; was unknown during the centuries when Roman Catholicism dominated Europe, and when the Universal Visible theory was in vogue. It is AN INVENTION of Protestantism designed to take the place of the Catholic Universal Visible theory. No one who seeks to follow the Bible should adopt as an item of doctrine an unscriptural invention of men.
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« Reply #39 on: November 02, 2016, 12:22:44 pm »


What's Wrong With This Theory?

    The answer to the heading of this chapter is, EVERY THING IS WRONG WITH IT. Some teachings while predominately false contain elements of truth, but this Universal Church theory is wholly false. It is completely man invented; is wholly unscriptural and anti scriptural, and well nigh constitutes blasphemy against the church that Jesus started. I shall seek to enlarge upon these statements in this chapter.

    First, I wish to make the statement that the Universal theory PERVERTS THE MEANING OF THE WORD ECCLESIA, which is translated church. The word ecclesia was not a word coined by our Lord for the institution that He established. It was a word in common use. Overby, in his thesis on "The Meaning of Ecclesia In the New Testament," aptly expresses the meaning of the word when he says:

    "The Greek word ecclesia signified primarily the assembly of citizens in a self governed state, being derived from Ekkaleo, to call out; i.e., out from their homes or places of business, to summon as we speak of calling out the militia. The popular notion that it meant to call out in the sense of separation from others, is a mistake."

    This last statement is in accord with Dr. John A. Broadus, in his "Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew."

    Those who want to bolster up the Universal theory try to make the word mean "called out," and that only, but there was always attached to the word the significance of "assembly." In other words, organization and locality inheres in the word.

    The idea of a Universal, Invisible something that has neither organization nor locality - that doesn't assemble and never has, is completely foreign to the meaning of the word.

    Simmons, in his "Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine," (Page 349 4th Edition) expresses himself in full accord with what has just been said in these words:

    "Ekklesia comes from 'ekkletos' and this latter word comes from 'ekkaleo', to call out or forth. But ecclesia does not mean the called out. Let this statement be pondered well. Usage, not etymology, determines the meaning of words. For instance, 'prevent' by etymology, means to anticipate or precede. But usage has made that meaning archaic. By usage, 'prevent' means forestall, frustrate, circumvent, hinder.

        Ekklesia had its original application to a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into a public place. (Thayer). Then it came to mean any assembly of people or gathering or throng of men, even when gathered by chance or tumultuously. (See Acts 19:32, 39, 41). The resulting meaning is 'assembly.' The word never did mean simply 'the called out.' It always implied that the called out ones would gather or assemble. Thus according to culmination, the word always did mean assembly, and later came to mean this alone."

    Dr. B. H. Carroll in his book, "Ecclesia - The Church" has the following to say:

    "The primary meaning is: An organized assembly, whose members have been called out from among private homes or business to attend to public affairs. This definition necessarily implies prescribeid conditions of membership.

    (1) This meaning applies substantially alike to the ecclesia of a self-governing Greek state (Acts 19:39),
    (2) the Old Testament ecclesia or convocation of National Israel (Acts 7:38), and
    (3) and to the New Testament ecclesia.

    When our Lord says: 'On this rock I will build MY ecclesia', while the 'my' distinguished His ecclesia from the Greek state ecclesia, and the Old Testament ecclesia, the word naturally retains its ordinary meaning."


    The meaning of the word ecclesia is all important in considering the question that we are dealing with, for the advocates of the Universal Church cannot justify their theory if the word means a called out assembly. The limited meaning of ecclesia simply ruins their theory.

    The Bible in use during New Testament times was called the Septuagint. Was the word ecclesia used in any looser way in that version, than I have indicated? The answer is a positive NO! H. E. Dana of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (A Manual of Ecclesiology) says, speaking of the Septuagint, "In it ekklesia was used to translate the Hebrew word qahal, which means an assembly, convocation or congregation." I could go on almost indefinitely quoting things to prove the truth that I have just stated, but it is unnecessary.


    Is the word ecclesia used in classical Greek to indicate a vague unassembling universal something? The answer is again NO! Dr. B. H. Carroll published a splendid and unanswerable booklet entitled "Ecclesia - The Church" In this he examines the word ecclesia as used in the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, classical Greek, and the New Testament, and he shows that never is the word used to represent a universal unassembling something such as indicated by the Universal Church theory. The investigation in the field of classical Greek was made by Dr. George Ragland who was at that time professor of Greek in Baylor University, and who later became the same at Georgetown College. Dr. Ragland was a close friend of mine, and we discussed the Universal Church theory many times. He assured me that the term ecclesia as used in classical Greek, never means what the advocates of the Universal theory try to make it mean.

    Edward H. Overby, a college professor and author of several books, made a painstaking search into the meaning of ecclesia. From that search, he prepared a thesis and it is my privilege to have a copy in my possession. He sums up the results of his research in the following statement:

    "What does the word ecclesia mean in the New Testament? This is the question we have sought to answer in this thesis. The word church is the usual translation of ecclesia in the New Testament. It is not a good translation since church has a host of meanings today that no one claims for ecclesia. We must bear this in mind as we study the word lest we be misled. Ecclesia means assembly in the classical Greek and in the Septuagint. In approaching the New Testament we see that the word is admitted by all to have this meaning in about ninety places. The other times it is used there is a difference of opinion. Some contend for assembly, others for a new meaning best described as the universal invisible church. How can we tell which is correct? The principle is used that says the common meaning must be accepted in every place it makes sense. Only when the common meaning will not make sense are we permitted to assume it has a new meaning. Following this principle we find that the word assembly makes sense in every contested passage, so that any new sense must be rejected. To say it has a new meaning in the face of this evidence is to follow a false way of interpreting that could make the Bible meaningless and could undermine a person's duty to the local church."


    In the King James Version of the Bible, ecclesia occurs 115 times in the Greek text. 112 times it is translated by the term church, and three times by the word assembly (in Acts 19). Let us note some of the typical passages in which the word church and churches are used.

    1 - Matthew 16:18 - "I will build my church."

    All kinds of efforts are being made today to make this passage refer to the Universal Church. It does nothing of the kind. The word is used here in an institutional or abstract sense. That He did not refer to a Universal Church Jesus made plain in His very next mention of the word church (Matthew 18:17) where He counseled "tell it to the church." How could they tell something to a Universal, Invisible spiritual Church? Absurd!

    2 - Acts 8:1 - "the church which was at Jerusalem."

    3 - Acts 9:31 - "Then had the churches rest."

    4 - Acts 20:17 - "called the elders of the church."

    5 - Romans 16:4 - "All the churches of the Gentiles."

    6 - I Corinthians 1:2 - "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth."

    7 - I Corinthians 6:4 - "Least esteemed in the church."

    8 - I Corinthians 7:17 - "So ordain I in all the churches."

    9 - Galatians 1:22 - "I persecuted the church of God."

    10 - Galatians 1:2 - "Unto the churches of Galatia."

    I could go ahead and list scores of Scriptures like the ten just given in which the term church and churches occur but it would be a waste of time and paper. You don't doubt I am sure that around 90 of the instances in which church or churches occur, reference is to the local, visible assembly. If you do, just get your Bible and investigate for yourself. Is it not utter presumption to ignore the plain meaning of church as demonstrated by around 90 instances of use, and after the plain meaning is established, to seize upon a handful of Scriptures and seek to make them teach something entirely different? Yet many - yes all who hold the Universal theory are doing that very thing. That Universal Church theory is so precious, and so necessary to their religious sentimentality that they will go to almost any length in order to hold on to it.


    Church unionism largely exists because of the Universal theory. I have known big union meetings to be held, when some of the leaders were not even in agreement on how to be saved. Suppose that during such a revival, a seeker comes forward and asks, "What must I do to be saved?" Several preachers are down front, and a Baptist replies in the words of Paul (Acts 16) "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." A Church of Christ preacher speaks up immediately to say "There's more to it than that. You must be immersed in order to be saved." A Methodist pastor speaks up and says, "Pardon me, but sprinkling or pouring will do just as well." "And don't forget," says a minister of yet another faith, "You will be saved only until you sin again. You have to hold out faithful to the end to be saved." The poor penitent becomes utterly confused as the contradictory arguments grow vehement. Finally, one of the preachers dowses water on the fire by saying, "Well, we don't agree on some things, but our differences relate only to our little local churches. Let us remember that we are all members of the big, Universal Church."
    The service ends with all singing:
                    "We are not divided,
                    All one body we."

    Yes, the Universal theory is directly involved in church unionism, in which conviction is thrown aside and the truths of God's word are sacrificed.


    The ecumenical movement, which is the most Satanic movement in all Christian history is likewise a product of the Universal Church theory. Many of those involved in this movement have repudiated almost every item of the Christian faith. An ecumenical convention was held in Florida and some one made a poll of the beliefs of many of the delegates. This poll revealed that a large number of those questioned did not even believe in a personal, living God. The leaders of this movement seem to be willing for the different denominations to be absorbed back into the Catholic Church. The writer of these lines believes that we are witnessing the beginning of events foretold in the Book of Revelation, where the ecumenical movement shall form the Anti-Christ's Church.

    And remember! The ecumenical movement is largely the product of the Universal Church theory.
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« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2016, 10:12:16 am »


What is the Church of Jesus Christ?

The church was established by Christ (Matt. 16:18) to accomplish God’s redemptive purposes in the race. The church preaches the eternal message of God’s love for the world (John 3:16), supplies workers to accomplish the harvest (John 4:35), fulfills the obligation to teach doctrine and the biblical principles needed for a successful Christian life. And, finally, the church is an instrument to keep Christians consistent in the faith.

Entrusted with the message

The church is entrusted by God with the story of his love for mankind and his desire to save them. The history of the Bible shows that it was organized groups of Christians that collected the gospels and epistles and gave the Bible to both Christians and the lost. In spite of the tremendous opposition to it, the Bible has survived these many years, usually preserved by the church. Jesus said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). The “keys” is the message of redemption that was revealed to man from God by the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:29).

It is this message that looses man from sin; when it is rejected, man is bound in his sin. This promise, given to Peter, was tied to Jesus’ promise to “build my church” (Matt. 16:18). This authority was later given to all the disciples in the upper room (John 20:23). This group represented the church in its embryonic form. This did not give the church or leaders of the church authority to forgive sin, but rather acknowledged that only as the church was faithful in the proclamation of the gospel could people enjoy the assurance of salvation.

As the church faithfully preached and taught the Scripture, people heard and believed the gospel. If a church is not a witnessing church, it is as if it were locking the door to heaven, forbidding the members of their community the gift of eternal life.

An assembly of workers

Jesus told his disciples, “Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38). It is the desire of Christ that Christians be engaged in his work. One of the reasons God established the church was to assemble his workers into a team that could get the job of evangelism done. Some people think pastors, teachers, and evangelists are responsible for doing the work of God. While they are the leaders in the church, in another sense we are “full-time Christian workers.” We should all live for God at all times and serve him also at all times. The Book of Acts records that everyone, not just the apostles, were engaged in evangelism.

When the persecution in Jerusalem resulted in the death of Stephen, the Christians were scattered into other towns and cities. Only the apostles remained in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). As Christians and the apostles had been evangelizing Jerusalem, the practice of evangelism continued in their new towns. The Bible says, “Therefore, they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). God still has a work to be done. The gospel story of the death and resurrection of Christ is the catalyst that draws the church together and is the power that sends it out to serve him. God gave the Great Commission and the responsibility to win souls to his church.

A place of Christ-centered education

The third benefit of the church from God’s point of view is to provide an educational institution to train Christians concerning the things of God. Part of Christ’s commission to the church included: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). When Barnabas went to Antioch to establish the church, he got Saul from Tarsus and “he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that for a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people” (Acts 11:26). The first church to be labeled “Christian” was a church that was characterized by training people.

The Berean church was identified for its nobility. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Bible study and teaching characterized the ministry of the apostles and the early church. The gift of teaching is one of the abilities that God gives to his pastors who lead the church (Eph. 4:11).

A place to build up believers

Because instability is so characteristic of our lives, God established the church to help us live more consistently. We often quote the first part of Hebrews 10:25 when we exhort others to church attendance but neglect the latter part of the verse and the purpose of church attendance. The complete verse reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:2,5).

The reason we assemble together is to exhort each other to keep on serving the Lord. The writer of Hebrews introduces this challenge by touching on the real problem, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23). Many people will walk down the church aisle to be saved but comparatively few may The living for God six months or a year later. Those that are baptized and become faithfully involved in the church are more likely to “hold fast.” We need others’ encouragement to live for God which we receive in a church. The church is God’s way of providing stability in our lives.

The Church’s Purpose

Every institution can only justify its existence as it accomplishes the purpose for which it was established. The church’s purpose is found in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Often, the Great Commission is applied to foreign missions but neglected at home. Actually, the task of making disciples needs to be accomplished both at home by involved church mem­bers and abroad through the missionary outreach of the church.

At the heart of the Great Commission is the task of making disciples (Matt. 28:19). Therefore, evangelism is more than decision-making, it is disciple-making. Evangelism may be de­scribed as communicating the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to unconverted persons at their point of need, with the intent of effecting conversions and involving them in the church. Some people consider any Christian presence in society as an expression of evangelism.

Oth­ers define evangelism in the context of preaching the Gospel. While both of these are important, they are only steps in the process of persuading people to put their faith in Christ as Savior and follow Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.

Jesus described three steps which are necessary if the church is to be successful in fulfilling her mission.

    The church must take the Gospel to the people (Matt. 28:19). The goal of this step is to bring people to the point of making a personal decision for salvation.
    The next step is described by the verb “baptizing” (Matt. 28:19), which involves assimilating the new believer into the life of the church. The task of baptism results in bonding or identification.

Every institution can only justify its existence as it accomplishes the purpose for which it was established. The church’s purpose is found in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Often, the Great Commission is applied to foreign missions but neglected at home. Actually, the task of making disciples needs to be accomplished both at home by involved church mem­bers and abroad through the missionary outreach of the church.

At the heart of the Great Commission is the task of making disciples (Matt. 28:19). Therefore, evangelism is more than decision-making, it is disciple-making. Evangelism may be de­scribed as communicating the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to unconverted persons at their point of need, with the intent of effecting conversions and involving them in the church. Some people consider any Christian presence in society as an expression of evangelism.

Oth­ers define evangelism in the context of preaching the Gospel. While both of these are important, they are only steps in the process of persuading people to put their faith in Christ as Savior and follow Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.

Jesus described three steps which are necessary if the church is to be successful in fulfilling her mission.

    The church must take the Gospel to the people (Matt. 28:19). The goal of this step is to bring people to the point of making a personal decision for salvation.
    The next step is described by the verb “baptizing” (Matt. 28:19), which involves assimilating the new believer into the life of the church. The task of baptism results in bonding or identification.
    The task of teaching results in new believers being trained in the Christian life and witness (Matt. 28:20).

Church Creeds

Church creeds, such as the Apostle’s Creed, are simply statements (confessions) of basic Christian beliefs. Christian creeds include the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. These creeds are summaries of the most fundamental beliefs held by the Christian church which made the Christian faith different from Judaism, from pagan religions, and from the religion of the Roman state (emperor-worship).

The creeds were generally developed from confessions of belief used wherever a person had declared his faith publicly and was baptized. In fact, the word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe.”

The Apostle’s Creed is the earliest and best known of all the Christian creeds, not because it was written by the apostles, but because the early church believed it summed up the apostle’s teaching. The earliest creeds were known to have been used at the end of the second century (Eerdman’s Handbook To Christian Belief, pages 19-21).

It should be noted that no formal creed, such as the Apostle’s Creed, is to be found in the New Testament. The creeds were formalized by the early church fathers and were integral ingredients in church liturgy, known as creedal authority. The Apostle’s Creed was recognized as a basic statement of faith by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and by the Anglican (English) Reformers (ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA, Volume VIII, page 169).

The Greek word ekklesia, translated “church” in the New Testament, was widely used in the first century to describe a group that was called out from the larger community for a specific purpose. In this general way, the word is used to describe a trade guild (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), a general gathering as in Israel in the wilderness (Acts 7:38), and a synagogue meeting (Matt. 18:17). But the word is also used in a more technical way to describe the gathering of the early Christians.

Ekklesia – Church “a group of called-out ones”

    Called from the former life
    Called for a purpose

A local church is more than just a gathering of Christians.

It must assemble for the right purpose, have the right authority, reproduce itself, have the right organization, and have the seal of God on its existence. A church may be described as an assembly of professing believers in whom Christ dwells, organized to carry out the Great Commission, administer the ordinances, and reflect spiritual gifts under the discipline of the Scriptures.

A local church needs to be organized to accomplish its function.

The nature of church life is described in the experience of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 2:41-47). These functions can be described using the acrostic WIFE which stands for Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, and Evangelism. An easy way to remember this is to recall that one of the biblical pictures of a church is that of a bride. Every bride wants to be a good wife, therefore, every church should be organized to accomplish these functions.

The Functions of the Church – W.I.F.E. (Worship Instruction Fellowship Evangelism)

The early church was a worshipping church, constantly engaged in “praising God” (Acts 2:47). Many evangelical churches today describe their Sunday morning service as a “worship service.” When we worship God, we seek to serve Him with our praises thus inviting Him into our midst in a unique way (Ps. 22:3). Worship also helps us by meeting our needs with God’s sufficiency.


The early church was involved in instructing people in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42). Today, churches organize to accomplish this function through a Christian education board or discipleship training ministry. Such organizations help insure the church’s success in instructing its members.


Fellowship was the third significant activity of the early church (Acts 2:42, 44). God has recognized from the very beginning that people need people (Gen. 2:18). One of the unique functions of the church is to provide opportunity for Christians to interact with one another informally as a means of motivating one another in their Christian life (Heb. 10:25).


Evangelism was the fourth function of the early church. This church began with an evangelistic thrust in which three thousand people were saved (Acts 2:41). Evangelism continued to be an integral part of church life resulting in others being converted to Christianity daily (Acts 2:47). Before long, their aggressive witness for Christ “filled Jerusalem” (Acts 5:28) and turned their world upside down (Acts 17:6). They believed in using every available means to reach every available person at every available time with the Gospel.

Obviously, not all of these functions can be accomplished in the same way. In the New Testament, the church met in smaller cells to accomplish ministry (Acts 12:12) and larger gatherings for celebration (Acts 3:11). This pattern has been followed throughout church history by growing churches. Today, many churches gather in a large worship service for celebration, but also gather in smaller Bible study groups such as Sunday School classes, home Bible study cells or specialized ministry teams for personal growth and ministry.

Understanding The Purpose of the Church

Every institution can only justify its existence as it accomplishes the purpose for which it was established. The church’s purpose is found in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). Often, the Great Commission is applied to foreign missions but neglected at home. Actually, the task of making disciples needs to be accomplished both at home by involved church mem­bers and abroad through the missionary outreach of the church.

At the heart of the Great Commission is the task of making disciples (Matt. 28:19).Therefore, evangelism is more than decision-making, it is disciple-making. Evangelism may be de­scribed as communicating the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to unconverted persons at their point of need, with the intent of effecting conversions and involving them in the church.

Some people consider any Christian presence in society as an expression of evangelism. Oth­ers define evangelism in the context of preaching the Gospel. While both of these are important, they are only steps in the process of persuading people to put their faith in Christ as Savior and follow Him as Lord in the fellowship of His church.

Jesus described three steps which are necessary if the church is to be successful in fulfilling her mission.

    First, the church must take the Gospel to the people (Matt. 28:19). The goal of this step is to bring people to the point of making a personal decision for salvation.
    The next step is described by the verb “baptizing” (Matt. 28:19), which involves assimilating the new believer into the life of the church. The task of baptism results in bonding or identification.
    Third, the task of teaching results in new believers being trained in the Christian life and witness (Matt. 28:20).

Church Ordinances

God has given the church two symbolic rituals to increase our understanding of our relationship to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye … keep the ordinances [traditions], as I delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). Part of the traditions was clearly the Lord’s Supper but it probably included also the meaning of baptism (Rom. 6).


The first ordinance of the church is baptism. It was practiced by the church with every believer, as far as we know. As people were baptized, they were symbolically identifying with the church (Acts 2:41) and their Savior (Rom. 6:37; Gal. 2:20). Usually baptism was an evidence to their friends and neighbors that they were serious in their decision to follow Christ. It became known as a “badge of discipleship.”

Lord’s Supper

On Jesus’ final night with his disciples, he observed the Passover and ate the Passover meal. After dinner, he gathered his disciples around to initiate the second ordinance of the church. The Lord’s Supper is practiced by a church as a constant reminder of Christ’s death on Calvary. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The observance of this ordinance also provides an opportunity for self-examination (1 Cor. 11:28). God provided this ordinance as one means whereby he could keep his church pure and separated from the world.

Finding a Church Among Denominations

It is true that the various denominations and churches across America can be confusing to any people. This is especially true when each one claims to be the true church and all others false.

To help unravel this confusion, we need to understand what the Bible says about the church. The word “church” is used in the scriptures in two senses:

    The universal sense
    The local sense.

In the universal sense the church consists of all those who, in this dispensation, have been born of the Spirit of God and have by that same Spirit been baptized into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is simply His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins and our justification before God (I Corinthians 15:3,4). The blood of Jesus Christ actually cleanses an individual from his sins (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14, 20-22; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:12-14; I John 1:7). When an individual believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invites Jesus into his heart as his personal Savior by faith, that person automatically becomes a part of the universal church.

The second sense in which the word “church” is used in the Bible is in the local sense. That is, a local church is a group of professed believers in any one locality. We use the definition that a local church is a group of born again believers who have been baptized and have banded together to carry out the Great Commission. Thus, we read in the Bible of the church at Ephesus, the church at Corinth, the church at Galatia, the church of the Thessalonians, the church in Jerusalem, and so forth.

In other words, once an individual accepts Jesus Christ into his heart as his personal Savior, it is God’s plan that that individual joins a gospel preaching, soul-winning, local church in his own area. This teaches us that Christians all around the world are a part of the universal church which the Bible describes as being the body of Christ or the bride of Christ or sometimes uses the expression “building of God.” Yet, at the same time, the Lord wants us to unite with a good local church in our area.

Problems with Denominations that Cause Confusion

There are two major problems that have developed which have caused confusion to those who do not know the Bible.

First, those people who have genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, interpret certain passages, excluding those concerning salvation, in a way different from other Christians. Therefore, they have started their own denominations.

Secondly, there are any people who have added other books to the Bible and have completely changed God’s Word, including what the Bible teaches concerning salvation, and have therefore started their own “church.” These types of “churches” are referred to as cults and they always claim to be the one true church. However, these people substitute the teachings and doctrines, of men for the teachings and doctrines of the Word of God. Though they refer to themselves as the church, and perhaps lead clean, wholesome lives, they, nevertheless, have no part of the body of Christ.

There are True Christians in Many Denominations

It is possible to have genuine, Christian fellowship with people from other denominations who are, themselves, Bible-believing, soul-winning Christians, and who believe the great fundamental truths of God’s Word, such as the verbal inspiration of God’s Word; the deity, virgin birth, and sinlessness of Jesus; the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus; the premillennial return of Christ; the reality and everlasting, conscious torment in Hell for all those who die without Christ; and direct creation rather than evolutionary development.

Let’s stand together with our fellow believers and LIFT UP, not tear down.

Finding a Church

The Bible exhorts us to attend a church where we can be blessed and in which we can serve the Lord.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is…” (Hebrews 10:25).

It is important to find a church true to the Bible’s teachings, active soul-winning, and one which gives you the spiritual food you need.

In Acts 2:41 and 47, the Bible says God Himself added to the membership of the church at Jerusalem. As people were saved, they were added to the congregation. As a Christian, it is a duty as well as a privilege to become a member of a good, fundamental, Bible-believing, soul-winning, Bible-preaching church.

There are a few guidelines which may be helpful when we are trying to find God’s will with respect to membership and service in a church.

Guidelines for Finding a Church

    Is the church under consideration a Bible-believing church? Does the leadership in that particular church preach and teach the verbal inspiration of God’s Word; the deity, virgin birth, and sinlessness of Jesus; the substitutionary death and literal resurrection of Christ; the return of Christ; the reality of Hell where all will spend eternity in conscious torment if they die without Christ; and the errors and fallacies of evolution.

    In addition to the doctrinal position of a church, it is very helpful to know the position of the church with regard to a separated, dedicated, Christ-like life. Most churches being greatly blessed of the Lord take a loving, but firm, stand against, dancing, tobacco, alcohol, immodest dress, and other types of worldliness which would grieve the Spirit and harm their influence. The Christ-like position is not to be negative only, but to be against those things which the Bible is against and to be for those things which the Bible is for.

    Is this a strong, evangelistic work of Christ? It is important to train those who are already saved, aid to mold and motivate them for Christ. However, it is also very important constantly to be on the outreach for others, to bring them to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

    Finally, is the leadership as a whole (pastor, deacons, staff workers, Sunday School teachers, and other workers) setting the pace of dedication, doctrine, and fruitfulness? Are the youth of the church being motivated to go out for Christ? Are there adequate facilities for the children and all age groups among the adults?

The Meaning of Church Membership

The doctrine of the church is not some abstract teaching which has little or no relevance to the Christian life. Rather, the church ought to have a central place in the life of every believer. Often, people come to faith in Christ through a church-related ministry. As the new believer struggles to grow in his or her new life in Christ, church ministries and individual church members play a key role in helping him or her experience success. The church is where we find ministry opportunities that enable us to use our spiritual gifts to touch other lives.

Church membership is an expression of belonging

When people join a church, they are telling others they feel at home in that church and want to be a full participant in the life of the church. Therefore, church membership involves more than just adding your name to the role. It is an expression of your desire to be enfolded into the church family. It provides you with the opportunity to be involved in the lives of others.

For many, church membership has lost its meaning. The Bible teaches that every Christian is “baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). This refers to the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which all Christians are one in Christ. But the Bible also uses the expression “body of Christ” to describe the local church (1 Cor. 12:27). Therefore, when Christians are baptized and join a church, they demonstrate outwardly what has already happened inwardly. Because they be­come a part of the body of Christ by receiving Him as Savior (John 1:12), they want to become an active member of a local church which is a local expression of the body of Christ.

When a Christian moves into a new community and begins to worship at a new church, it is only natural for him or her to want to change church membership. Just as people change their address and phone number when they move, so they should also change their church membership (their spiritual home) when they move.

Some Christians have not yet taken the very natural step to become a member of the church. When Paul described the church as a body, he reminded us that each of us is an important part of that body. We use terms such as handicapped, disabled and disadvantaged to describe a physical body which is missing an eye, ear, arm or foot. These terms could also be applied to many churches which are lacking parts because of the reluctance of some Christians to become involved.

Joining a church places us under the discipline of the Scriptures – the Word of God. God gave us the Bible to help us grow spiritually (1 Peter 2:2), achieve victory over sin (Ps. 119:9­11), see our prayers answered (John 15:7), develop strong character (1 Cor. 3:3), and grow in our ability to believe God (Rom. 10:17). As we hear the Word of God preached and study the Scriptures with others in small groups, we can begin to experience these benefits in our own life.

God made us to need relationships with others

Becoming a part of a church provides us with the opportunity to encourage others and be encouraged by others (Heb. 10:25). In the New Testament, those who received Christ as Savior quickly chose to become part of the church (Acts 2:41). As they interacted with each other on a regular basis, they were able to build a steadfastness into their life in various spiritual disciplines (Acts 2:42). Becoming ac­tive in the life of a church is one way of insuring personal success in your Christian life.

Evangelical Christians look to the New Testament to determine what is involved in join­ing a church. In the New Testament, church membership was related to four conditions. First, no one joined a church until they had first received Christ as personal Savior (Acts 5:13-14). Second, Christians were baptized as a profession of their faith prior to joining a church (Acts 2:41). Third, Christians remained members of a church only as long as they remained in agree­ment with the church’s doctrinal beliefs (Titus 3:10). Fourth, church members were responsible to live moral lives so as to not hinder the corporate testimony of the church (1 Cor. 6:9­11).

Just as the parts of your physical body work together in harmony to enable you to do things, so church members need to work together to enable the church to accomplish its min­istry. There are several ways church members can invest in their local church. They can make a special effort to give time to church services and ministry projects (Eph. 5:16). They can use their spiritual gifts as ministry tools in the church (Eph. 4:12). They can consistently give to the church to underwrite the costs associated with the church’s ministry (1 Cor. 16:2). They can help build others in the church (Heb. 10:25). They can use their influence to help others receive Christ as Savior and become a part of church life.

Joining a church is more than adding your name to the membership list

By joining a church, you indicate your desire to be involved in the life of the church, and to have others in the church involved in your life. You become part of a family. As such, you are entitled to all the privileges associated with family life and assume the responsibility of making that family work.

The subject of eating and serving dinners in a church is dealt with in 1 Corinthians 11.

In the early church, the Lord’s Supper was commonly preceded by a fellowship meal, later known as the Agape Feast. Eventually, so many problems accompanied these feasts that at the Council of Carthage (AD 397), they were strictly forbidden. And such was the case at Corinth. The Apostle Paul noted that in their coming together, they were not eating together; hence it could not be called a communion, as their behavior was so dishonoring to the Lord, it could hardly be called the Lord’s Supper. Some were actually getting drunk in the church.

The Apostle Paul’s indictment to the Corinthian believers was actually twofold.

    They disgraced the Lord’s house
    They embarrassed the poor in their midst who were not invited to participate in the fellowship dinner.

The Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthian church in order to correct these abuses. His statement, however, should not be taken as a prohibition against eating any food at all in the church (LIBERTY BIBLE COMMENTARY, Vol. II, pp. 448-449).

It should be understood that church fellowship dinners may be allowed within the church sanctuary (a fellowship hall, cafeteria, or any place other than the sanctuary itself). The intent of the fellowship dinner served within a church should be to promote the Christian love and fellowship for each other. Thus, the fellowship dinner may indeed be to the glory and honor of Christ. In this sense, a fellowship dinner is advisable for churches.

It should be recognized that the real mission of the New Testament church is to not only provide edification and fellowship for the believers, but is to be used in reaching the world with the Gospel of Christ. God has entrusted the church with the story of His love (the Gospel) for mankind and his desire to save mankind. The mission of every local church is to share the good news of salvation and to set the example of righteous living within their community.

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« Reply #41 on: November 04, 2016, 01:48:54 pm »

'House churches' keep worship small, simple, friendly

DALLAS (AP) — To get to church on a recent Sunday morning, the Yeldell family walked no farther than their own living room to greet fellow worshippers.

The members of this "house church" are part of what experts say is a fundamental shift in the way U.S. Christians think about church. Skip the sermons, costly church buildings and large, faceless crowds, they say. House church is about relationships forged in small faith communities.

In general, house churches consist of 12 to 15 people who share what's going on in their lives, often turning to Scriptures for guidance. They rely on the Holy Spirit or spontaneity to lead the direction of their weekly gatherings.

"I think part of the appeal for some in the house church movement is the desire to return to a simpler expression of church," said Ed Stetzer, a seminary professor and president of Lifeway Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. "For many, church has become too much (like a) business while they just want to live like the Bible."

House church proponents claim their small groups are sort of a throwback to the early Christian church in that they have no clergy and everyone is expected to contribute to the teaching, singing and praying.

They are more commonly seen in countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion. Organizers say they're just starting to take off in the U.S.

A study by the Barna Group, a firm specializing in data on religion and society, estimates that 6 million to 12 million Americans attend house churches. A survey last year by the Pew Forum found that 9% of American Protestants only attended home services.

"The only consistent thing about house church is that each one is different," said Robin Yeldell, who, in 2006, left a traditional church where he was a missions committee chairman.

The gathering at the Yeldell's home is a lively, sometimes chaotic event, with noisy and mostly happy young children flitting about.

After a time of fellowship, everyone gravitates to the kitchen table to observe the Eucharist with prayer, pinched-off pieces of sourdough bread and red wine in plastic cups. There's grape juice for the kids.

The celebration continues with a potluck meal. When they return to the living room, one member picks up a guitar to strum praise-and-worship songs that others softly sing.

Sparked by a previous discussion about whether they should start collecting an offering for the needy, Yeldell shares a Power Point presentation he created about "corporate giving" on his big screen TV.

The majority seems averse to a regular offering, preferring to take up a collection only when a need or charitable cause arises.

As if on cue, Sean Allen, a laid-off welder who is now homeless with health issues, joined their gathering late. The soft-spoken 39-year-old said he had been sick and struggling to pay some bills.

"I'm just here," Allen told fellow worshippers. "Do what you want. Let the Lord lead your heart."

Allen, who recently converted to Christianity from Islam, said a friend at a traditional church introduced him to the house church, which he prefers and occasionally attends because "they're more down to earth."

A few people agreed to write checks directly to the companies Allen owes while some debated whether money is the best way to help the man. A couple with five young children told him they couldn't afford to assist financially but he was always welcome to join them in their home for meals.

"I'd say the vast majority of house churches we know are Christians honestly trying to live 24-7 for Jesus," said Tony Dale of Austin. He and his wife, Felicity, are pioneers in the American house church movement which is also referred to as home church, organic church or simple church.

There aren't any signs out front so house churches are difficult to find. Prospective worshippers usually locate them by searching the Internet or through word of mouth.

Members rotate the services from house to house and take turns facilitating the gatherings. Anything more than about 15 people and the small group loses its ability to interact with each person, churchgoers say.

When they get too large, they divide and multiply.

"We view it as natural to grow, flourish and disband into three or four new ones," Dale said. "Not everything multiplies. Sometimes it shrinks and dies."

Sometimes congregations with diverse religious backgrounds break up over doctrinal issues or personality conflicts, moving on until they find or create a better fit.

In Texas, home to several megachurches, the house church movement is beginning to catch on, judging from the chatter on social networking sites and interest in a national house church conference organized by House2House Ministries held in the Dallas area in recent years.

"Often when you see a trend (like the growing number of megachurches) you see a counter-trend, like the proliferation of micro-churches," Stetzer said.

The Dales are among those actively working to bring mega- and micro-churches together.

Tony Dale cites the Apex Community Church in Dayton, Ohio, and The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin as examples of the complementary approach. They operate a network of dozens of small house churches, which can band together to become big.

Some who embrace the concept "have become kind of disillusioned, maybe bored with what's going on in traditional church and looking for a way to be more passionate in church," said Dale, who co-founded House2House magazine.

Bill Benninghoff of Arlington, a former pastor of charismatic churches in Texas and North Carolina, has been attending house churches exclusively since 2005.

"You get to know people in their good and bad times," said Benninghoff, a software engineer. "You get to pray with one another and have an incredible sense of camaraderie and community."

Benninghoff said he and his wife "felt lost in the big church on Sunday."

Reggie McNeal, a church leadership consultant based in South Carolina, said many people experimenting with house church have been doing so "under the radar," especially in Bible Belt states.

"It's kind of seen as an alternative or radical kind or approach," he said. "An increasing number of people are saying that they don't want to go to (any) church so there better be a way for church to just be where people already are."

Although house churches emphasize shared leadership and lack hierarchy, there doesn't seem to be a backlash from accredited seminaries devoted to training clergy to take leadership roles in traditional churches.

Dr. Nancy Ramsay, executive vice president and dean of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth said interpreting Scripture for people of faith is an important responsibility but they respect those who see it differently.

"I wouldn't want to say that we feel threatened by that," Ramsay said. "We are concerned."

She stressed that a greater challenge for various denominations is being able to financially support a full-time religious leader during these tough economic times.

House church advocates say that's not an issue for them because they don't have paid professional leaders.

"You don't have to be dependent upon someone you hear at church to translate for you," said author Neil Cole, who directs Church Multiplication Associates in Southern California, which has helped start hundreds of organic churches in the U.S. and abroad.

"God is capable of speaking your language and talking to you where you live and I think that's attractive to people," Cole said.
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« Reply #45 on: November 07, 2016, 09:32:47 pm »

I didn't read all of it (hence typed more, meaning that's where I stopped) - but nonetheless this is a very good read.

Frank Viola and the Organic Church

The “organic church” is a concept promoted by Frank Viola and his associates. Part of the larger house church movement, it has been called “church with little organization, little structure, and loose doctrine,” which is true and would be dangerous enough in itself; but there is far more to the organic church than that, and the “far more” is insidious.

A major principle of the organic church is that every member has equal authority and there is no office of pastor or elder. It is defined as “Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership” (Viola, Pagan Christianity). Each member, male or female, is encouraged to contribute to the services as “the Spirit moves.”

Viola has promoted the organic church in popular books such as Jesus Manifesto (2010, co-authored with Leonard Sweet), Pagan Christianity (2002 and 2008, co-authored with George Barna), Reimagining Church (2008), The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, Revise Us Again, Finding Organic Church, Rethinking the Wineskin, and So You Want to Start a House Church.

Having become increasingly aware of the growth and influence of “the organic church,” I read the first three of these books as research for this report, in addition to extensive online investigations.

The organic church claims to be geared toward putting God’s people under the headship of Christ, but in reality it woos them out from under the protection of God-called leaders, affiliates them with bogus “apostles” and “prophets,” and thrusts them unwittingly into the treacherous waters of end-time apostasy.


There are many reasons why the organic church in particular and the “house church” concept in general are spreading.

One is apostasy and compromise. Some of the criticisms of “traditional churches” are legitimate to various degrees in far too many cases. It is not wrong to reject human tradition and spiritual lifelessness and church growth techniques that have transformed churches into well-oiled machines in which the individual is a near meaningless cog.

A second reason why the organic church concept is growing is the abuse of pastoral authority. Some churches are not merely pastor-led; they are man-venerating cults. We have often warned about this error which exists far too commonly among fundamental Baptist churches.

Another reason for the rapid growth of the organic church is the “me” generation’s rebellion toward authority, which is prophesied in Scripture:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves...” (2 Timothy 3:1-2).

Another reason for the growth of the house church movement is the lack of education in so many churches. The people aren’t grounded Biblically and aren’t educated sufficiently about doctrinal error. They aren’t taught how to interpret the Bible for themselves and how to deal with the abuse of Scripture by heretics. Thus they aren’t able to recognize and deal with the error represented by the house church movement. The average member of a professing Bible believing church comes into contact with heretics through Internet blogs, Christian bookstores, Christian radio, the influence of Christian friends, etc., and he isn’t able to deal effectively with the error. He is impressed with the false teacher’s use of Scripture, not understanding how they take verses out of context and otherwise abuse the Word of God.


Some things about the organic church COULD be a challenge to a New Testament church, though that is not what the organic church is intended to be. I want to deal with these, though, for the sake of individuals who might be tempted to joined an organic church or something like it.

The organic church teaching could be challenging in its emphasis on the “one-another ministry” which should characterize a New Testament church.

“admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14)
“by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13)
“bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)
“forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:2)
“forgiving one another” (Eph. 4:32)
“comfort one another” (1 Th. 4:18)
“edify one another” (1 Th. 5:11)
“exhort one another” (Heb. 10:24)

The church is not just a head; it is a body and each member is a necessary member. The New Testament church is a temple, and each member is a spiritual stone (1 Cor. 12:12; 1 Peter 2:5). Ministry-gifted men--pastors, preachers, teachers, evangelists--are given to the churches to prepare the members for the work of the ministry and to protect them from the winds of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16). A godly pastor is not in the church to hinder the Spirit’s working through the body of believers by exercising an oppressive type of “pastoring” that cripples godly vision and initiative on the part of members in the body. His role in the church is rather to build up the body so that it propers spiritually and all of the various gifts are functioning within biblical boundaries and Christ can be Lord throughout the entire body to freely accomplish His work. Godly pastors have the goal of maturing the flock so that they can participate in the work of the Lord to the fullest extent possible. They do not want to tie the saints down but to liberate them to their greatest potential in Christ. Pastoral authority is “to edification, and not to destruction” (2 Cor. 13:10). Too many pastors are so jealous of their authority that they hinder and cripple the work of God by turning the ministry of the Lord into a near “one man show,” and the people rise only to the level of being the servants to his vision and never mature to the true liberty in Christ that we see in Scripture. Brethren, these things ought not to be. (See “The Pastor’s Authority and the Church Member’s Responsibility,” which is available from the Way of Life web site -- wayoflife.org.)

The organic church COULD also be a challenge to a church to re-examine itself in light of Scripture and to refuse to follow any tradition merely for tradition’s sake. We need to do this because it is so easy to mistake tradition for Scripture and to get into a rut. We Baptists say, “The Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice,” but all too often we fight for things that are mere human traditions (e.g., soul winning techniques, youth ministries, Sunday School programs, Vacation Bible School, Bible Colleges, Mission Boards) as fiercely as or even more fiercely than we fight for faith and practice based on solid Scripture.

The fact is that much of what we do in church is a matter of soul liberty and a matter of practicality rather than spiritual law. As for Sunday School or VBS or a children ministry or a youth ministry or a seniors’ ministry or a college & career ministry, the Bible says nothing about these one way or the other. The churches are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, to teach God’s people “to observe all things whatsoever I have taught you,” and to train faithful men (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20; 2 Tim. 2:2), and largely it is up to each church to determine how to get this job done within the boundaries of Scripture. Sunday School is neither scriptural nor unscriptural. It is simply a program that can be used to accomplish the Lord’s Great Commission or it is a program that can be a waste of time, depending on whether it is Spirit-empowered and Bible-based and taught by the right people or whether it is a lifeless religious ritual that bores people to tears. I have seen Sunday Schools that are operated both ways. The same is true for VBS and youth ministries and other sorts of “programs.”

Many “home church” or “family church” people who have rejected Sunday Schools and youth ministries are as tradition-bound as those who use these ministries. They avoid these ministries “out of conviction,” claiming that it is only the job of families to teach children and youth; but there is absolutely nothing in Scripture that forbids churches from teaching them. In fact, the churches have a commission from Christ to teach everyone. Christ put no limitation on the Great Commission as far as the age of those who are to be taught the gospel and discipled in the “all things” that Christ has delivered to us in the canon of the New Testament faith. Thus, it is not only the job of parents to teach children and youth; it this also the job of the churches, and if they decide to do this though a Sunday School or a biblically-operated youth ministry of some sort, no one can say it is wrong and no one can rightly condemn it. While it is wrong to have a worldly, entertainment-oriented youth ministry, because such a thing has no authority in Scripture and in fact is condemned in Scripture (e.g., “be not conformed to this world,” Romans 12:2); it is not wrong to have a “youth ministry” as such if it is designed and geared toward fulfillment such commandments as Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:19-20. The same is true for Sunday School.

I have attended several “family home churches,” and I have always been impressed with two thoughts: First, it is a good thing that these families are doing with their own families. To “focus on the family” in the sense of building a godly home and a strong marital relationship and raising children as disciples of Christ is a wonderful thing. It is very important. It is very scriptural and right. But the second thought I have been impressed with is that these families aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission. What about all of the children and youth in the community that don’t have the advantage of living in a godly home? What is that “family home church” doing for them? What about the needs of children even within the membership of the church? Are they all being properly taught at home? Is every one of the families attending the “home church” really doing an effective job? Usually not. There are usually some families that have their “stuff together,” and there are families attracted to that type of church that are very weak.

I think about our church plants in South Asia, where we have been missionaries since 1979. Take our youngest church. There are about 60 adult and teen members. Many of the families are broken. There are men whose Hindu wives left them to raise the children. There are women whose husbands are unsaved. There are teens whose parents are unsaved. There are unmarried young people. The church does everything it can to disciple the various groups of people who exist in these imperfect situations. We don’t get young people together to play soccer; we get them together to learn God’s Word and to show them how to find God’s will, and we have authority from Christ to do this. There are also children who live near the church and who attend the services. If the church didn’t provide Sunday School or children’s Bible classes of some sort, who would teach those children? Someone might say that the church families could teach them. Sure, they can if they have a desire to do so, and more power to them if they want to do this type of thing. But the church can also teach them! In fact, in light of Christ’s commandments, the church must teach them.

Returning to the theme of soul liberty (referring to things not specifically forbidden in Scripture) and practicality, most of the things we do in church services fall into the realm of practicality. We are told to do all things decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40), but we are not given a specific “order of service.” We are told to pray, but we are not told specifically to have a Wednesday evening prayer service. We could have a prayer meeting on Friday or on every day of the week. When we do meet for prayer, we can meet for prayer only or for a combination of prayer and teaching and preaching and whatever. It’s not spelled out in Scripture. Each church makes those decisions before the Lord in light of its particular situation, and when the church leaders make that determination the members obey because that is what God tells them to do, as long as the activity is not contrary to the Bible’s teaching (Heb. 13:17). (The Bible’s silence on something is not a law against it.) We are told to preach and teach the Word, but we are not specifically told to have a preaching service on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesday evening. Those are issues of practicality that each church decides before the Lord. All too often traditions that start right deteriorate into empty lifeless rituals, and we need to guard against this.

Thus, for a church to analyze what it is doing in the light of God’s Word and by seeking the Lord’s guidance is important. Times change. Cultures change. Neighborhoods change. A church’s composition changes. We are foolish just to continue doing something because “we have always done it.” That is a recipe for lukewarmness followed by spiritual death.

At the same time, church traditions are not wrong in themselves as long as they are not contrary to the clear teaching of God’s Word.


I want to hasten to say, though, that the organic church is not intended to be a challenge and help to a “traditional” Bible-believing church in any sense. Its object is not to help revive churches but to replace them. The organic church’s criticism of Bible-believing churches is not intended to be constructive. John Beardsley rightly observes that the organic church’s criticism of churches is “propaganda to mislead the reader for another agenda” (“Doctrines of Devils and Men,” Aug. 30, 2011).

In fact, the organic church is a vicious attack upon every Bible-believing church. It is an attack upon the office of pastor/elder, an attack upon owning a building, an attack upon having a church larger than 20 or 30, an attack upon preaching, an attack upon having the Lord’s Supper less often than weekly and as a “ritual” as opposed to a full-blown meal, an attack upon restricting the woman’s ministry, and many other things.

Frank Viola makes no secret of the fact that he wants to encourage people to leave “traditional” Bible churches.

Consider some statements from his writings:

“We are making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does” (Pagan Christianity, location 110).

“Let’s suppose the authors of this book attend your church service. And let’s suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ puts something on our hearts to share with the rest of His body. Would we have the freedom to do so spontaneously? Would everyone else have the freedom to do it? If not, then we would question whether your church service is under Christ’s headship” (Pagan Christianity).

According to Viola, if your church has appointed leaders who wield authority and who would not allow anyone to speak out at any time, then your church is unscriptural and should not exist.

Consider Viola’s description of one of his “organic church” services:

“A Christian sister began the meeting by starting a song. And everyone sang with her ... a sister stood up and began sharing. ... two other sisters interrupted her and shared insights out of their own experience ... a brother stood up to speak ... He spoke for several minutes, and then a sister stood up and began adding to what he had shared. ... no one was leading this gathering” (Reimagining Church, pp. 69, 70).

Viola is wrong in claiming that no one was leading this gathering. In fact, the gathering was obviously being led by the most forward, outspoken women!

And Viola is hypocritical in his claim that a church must allow anyone to speak out. As we will see, he hates dispensational theology and separatism, and if a dispensational fundamentalist were to attend one of the organic churches that is under his “apostleship” and try to speak out on the imminency of Christ’s return and the necessity to win souls before it is too late and to urge the people to separate from every form of end-time apostasy, such an individual would soon be shut down!

Viola’s organic church principle makes much of 1 Corinthians 14:26 -- “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”

Let’s consider the context of this verse, which is the first principle of sound Bible interpretation. Paul was not saying that this is to be the standard pattern for every church service in every congregation throughout the age; he was simply stating that this was the pattern for the services AT CARNAL CORINTH WHERE SPIRITUAL GIFTS WERE BEING ABUSED.

Paul was not writing to encourage them to continue what they were doing; he was writing to correct what they were doing! He didn’t say, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together LET EVERY ONE OF YOU HAVE a psalm, have a doctrine...” He didn’t write this as a commandment. Rather, he simply described what they were doing in the context of correcting it. He corrected their practice by limiting tongues speaking in two ways (verses 27-28) and by restricting both tongues speaking and prophesying to men only (verses 34-35).

Paul further stated in the same context that both tongues speaking and prophesying were temporary gifts that would vanish away (1 Cor. 13:Cool. The book of Acts tells us that this happened even before the death of the apostles. Tongues speaking is only mentioned three times in Acts: on Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4), at the conversion of Cornelius and his friends (Acts 10:46), and at the baptism of Apollos’ disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:6). That’s it for tongues! About A.D. 58 is the last time tongues speaking is mentioned in the divinely-inspired history of the early churches.

It was about that time that Paul wrote his first epistle to the church at Corinth to correct their abuse of the spiritual gifts. Tongues aren’t mentioned in any other New Testament epistle. Paul explained that tongues speaking was a sign to the unbelieving Jewish nation that God was doing a new thing (1 Cor. 14:20-22). The tongues were a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 28:11-12, where the prophet said that though God would speak to Israel in other tongues, they would not hear. This is exactly what happened. With the establishment of the first churches and the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the need for the sign was finished and church history tells that both tongues speaking and prophesying (in the sense of imparting new revelation) vanished except among heretical cults. Tongues ceased because their function as a sign to Israel was no longer needed, and prophesying ceased because the canon of Scripture was completed and the only type of prophesying that is needed now is the proclamation of Scripture.

We have testimony times in our churches, when the men are encouraged to share things with the congregation. We also allow the women to give testimonies in some services and to share prayer requests as long as they don’t teach. But none of this replaces the authoritative preaching and teaching of God’s Word by the pastors and other ministry-gifted men, which is specifically commanded in Scripture (e.g., 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:15; 1 Peter 4:11).


The organic church is preeminently an attack upon and rebellion against the office of pastor/elder.

Consider the following quotes from Frank Viola’s writings:

“The pastor is an obstacle to every-member functioning” (Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity).

“There is not a single verse in the entire New Testament that supports the existence of the modern-day pastor” (Pagan Christianity).

“Pastor is not an office or a title” (Pagan Christianity).

“Up until the second century, the church had no official leadership. ... The Christians themselves led the church under Christ’s direct headship” (Pagan Christianity).

“In the first century, the laying on of hands merely meant the endorsement or affirmation of a function, not the installment into an office or the giving of special status” (Pagan Christianity).

“First-century elders were merely endorsed publicly by traveling apostolic workers as being those who cared for the church. Such acknowledgment was simply the recognition of a function. It did not confer special powers. Nor was it a permanent possession” (Pagan Christianity).

“We believe the pastoral office has stolen your right to function as a full member of Christ’s body” (Pagan Christianity).

“The one who plants a New Testament-styled church leaves that church without a pastor, elders, a music leader, a Bible facilitator, or a Bible teacher” (Pagan Christianity).

“Nowhere in the New Testament do we find grounds for a church meeting that is dominated or directed by a human being” (Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, p. 53).

“First-century elders were simply spiritually mature men” (Reimagining Church, p. 171).

“... the New Testament knows nothing of an elder-ruled, elder-governed, or elder-directed church. And it knows even less about a pastor-led church. The first-century church was in the hands of the brotherhood and the sisterhood. Plain and simple” (Reimagining Church, p. 187).

“All in all, the New Testament knows nothing of an authoritative mode of leadership” (Reimagining Church, p. 198).

“... the Bible never teaches that God has given believers authority over other believers” (Reimagining Church, p. 214).

Viola goes to great lengths in his attempt to prove the previous statements, but in the process he twists Scripture out of context, abuses “the Greek,” and ignores the plain meaning of God’s Word in the most frightful, heretical manner.

The fact is that the terms “pastor,” “elder,” and “bishop” are used interchangeably in Scripture and refer to the same office in the New Testament church (1 Timothy 3:1). The terms emphasize three different aspects of the church leader’s ministry. As pastor, he is a shepherd; as elder, he is a mature example; as bishop, he is an overseer. The pastor/elder is not merely a spiritually mature church member. He must meet certain specific qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) and must be ordained (Titus 1:5). The apostle Paul set the pattern for this with the ordination of elders in the churches he started on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:21-23). And there is no hint that the elders were ordained as some sort of temporary function.

While elders are warned not to abuse their authority (e.g., 1 Peter 5:1-3; 3 John 9-11), they do have authority and will be held accountable to God for exercising it in a godly manner. The believers are to obey them that have the rule over them (Heb. 13:17), and that verse means exactly what the King James Bible says it means. The Greek word for “rule” here (hegeomai) is also translated “chief” (Acts 14:12), “governor” (Acts 7:10), and “esteem” (1 Thess. 5:13).

There are certain men in the churches with ruling authority, and the saints are to submit to them as long as they are leading according to God’s Word. Their authority is not their own opinion; their authority is God’s Word (Heb. 13:7). God’s people are to honor them that are “over you in the Lord” (1 Thes. 5:12-13). Obviously not every member has the same authority. Elders who “rule well” are to be given double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). Obviously elders are rulers.

These passages are unambiguous and totally refute the “organic church” premise and no amount of wolfish Scripture twisting will change this fact.

At the same time, self-willed men who exalt themselves and rule according to their own thinking rather than God’s Word and who are proud, demanding loyalty to themselves rather than to Christ and refusing to allow the people to prove all things by God’s Word, are not Scriptural pastors and are not qualified to lead God’s people.

Frank Viola further says it is wrong for a church to support a pastor financially.

“... the clergy salary has no New Testament merit ... it runs against the grain of the entire New Covenant” (Pagan Christianity).

“Paul waived this right because he didn’t want to burden any church financially while he served it” (Reimagining Church, p. 180).

In fact, God’s people are instructed to give double honor to elders who rule well and the context makes it clear that this refers to money (1 Timothy 5:17-18). Paul taught that “the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). Paul received support from churches (e.g., Philippians 4:14-16). At times he refused to accept support, but this was not because it was wrong for a preacher to be financially supported; it was because in certain situations it would have been detrimental to the ministry to have received support (1 Cor. 9:15). Paul did urge the elders at Ephesus to work with their own hands (Acts 20:33-35), but this does not contradict what he wrote in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 9:14 and elsewhere. Pastors should not serve Christ for money and should guard against covetousness in their daily lives; they should always be ready to “work with their own hands” and to do whatever is necessary to further the gospel. I know many godly pastors who work a second job and live very frugally in order to carry on the ministry, and I know many godly pastors who are rightly recompensed “double” by flocks who are capable of doing so. Both of these scenarios are Scriptural.

The bottom line is that the office of pastor/elder is a biblical one and an essential one in the New Testament church and God’s people should show great honor to those who are doing the work of God in a humble, godly manner.

The issue of prophets and apostles is an issue of charismatic heresy. There are no apostles today in the sense of men who wield authority over the churches as the Lord’s apostles did in the first century. Those were men who had been individually appointed by Christ and had seen the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1). They had miracle signs to authenticate their office (2 Cor. 12:12). Together with the prophets, those apostles laid the foundation of the church, completed the canon of Scripture, and when they died those offices ceased. The Bible tells us that there are only 12 apostles in this sense for ever (Rev. 21:14).

The Greek word “apostolos” is also used in a general sense to describe men who are messengers of the churches, and in this general sense there are “apostles” today. They are also called “missionaries,” but they do not hold the office of a sign-gifted apostle and cannot be called the “apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14). They have no authority over the churches beyond the congregations that they actually plant.

The charismatic “apostles” are self-deceived impostors who are building the end-time harlot church.

As for how many pastor/elders a church must have, the Bible nowhere says. It should therefore have as many as it needs and as many as the Lord calls. And as for how pastor/elders share authority when they are in the plural, that too is not spelled out in Scripture and is something that each church determines before the Lord and in light of its particular situation. Viola claims that “a senior pastor” is unscriptural, but he cannot prove that. It is something the Bible is silent on, and the Bible’s silence is not a law. In fact, a multi-headed body is a strange thing and in strictly practical terms it is more natural and reasonable that one man will have more authority than others.

Viola has no right to interfere with the business of churches by making laws where the Bible is silent.


The organic church is also an attack on preaching. This makes sense, as the organic church is an assault on authority in the church, and biblical preaching is an authoritative ministry. Consider the following quotes from Viola’s writings:

“The Christian sermon was borrowed from the pagan pool of Greek culture” (Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity).

“The sermon preserves the unbiblical clergy mentality” (Pagan Christianity).

“The sermon often stalemates spiritual growth. Because it is a one-way affair, it encourages passivity” (Pagan Christianity).

“The Barna Group has shown that sermons are generally ineffective at facilitating worship, at drawing people closer to God, and at conveying life-changing information to those in the audience” (Pagan Christianity).

Mr. Viola and Mr. Barna are wrong. God has ordained authoritative preaching and teaching.

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).

Speaking as the oracles of God refers to speaking with the very authority of God’s Word itself (Romans 3:2).

The organic church wants to replace authoritative preaching with non-authoritative “sharing.” A dogmatic “thus saith the Lord” is replaced with an anemic “it appears to me that this is the meaning, but what does the passage say to you?”

Along this same line, Viola and Barna claim that the pulpit itself is pagan, which is nonsense. The pulpit is simply a lectern for preaching and teaching. Viola and Barna complain that “the pulpit elevates the clergy to a position of prominence.” Maybe that is true in the Catholic Church, but it is not true in a Bible-believing church. In a Bible-believing church the pulpit does not exalt a man; it exalts the Word of God that the man is preaching. The preacher is to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (2 Timothy 4:2). Preachers are to speak as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). Preachers are to “speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). The God-called preacher who is proclaiming the Bible faithfully is God’s mouthpiece, and it is wise to honor this position and activity in the house of God.


There is an entire chapter in Pagan Christianity on the supposed “error” of church buildings.

“The first churches consistently met in homes. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as churches” (Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity, location 333).

“All the traditional reasons put forth for ‘needing’ a church building collapse under careful scrutiny” (Pagan Christianity, location 596).

“There does not exist a shred of biblical support for the church building” (Pagan Christianity, location 602).

While it is true that Rome’s doctrine of “sacred” church buildings and cathedrals is unscriptural, this does not mean that there is anything wrong with a church having its own building. Viola is again making a law from the Bible’s silence, which he has no authority to do. Nowhere does the Bible forbid a congregation to own property or to have its own building.

Even if it were true that churches didn’t have buildings before the third century, this means nothing. Further, it is an argument largely from silence since most of the record from the first two centuries has not survived. Prior to the reign of Constantine, churches were generally not welcome in the Roman Empire, and the believers were bitterly persecuted. Under such a circumstance it would not have been practical for churches to have their own buildings. During our first ten years as missionaries in Nepal, it was illegal to preach the gospel and to baptize, so churches had to operate underground without drawing attention to themselves. In those days, most churches met in rented houses and did not have their own buildings. After the laws changed in the 1990s and there was more freedom, churches began to purchase property. It was a simple matter of practicality.

The bottom line is that nowhere does the New Testament indicate that it is wrong for a church to rent or own a building. If a church needs a building, let it have a building. It’s none of the business of Frank Viola or George Barna or anyone else.

Where a church meets is irrelevant. It can meet in a home, a barn, a store front, or its own building. Oftentimes new churches start out in homes and then move to their own building as they grow. It’s a simple matter of practicality, and to make a doctrine about buildings is to make laws beyond Scripture, which is true Phariseeism.

Viola and Barna also claim that the order of service itself is pagan. While an order of service can be a vain ritual, such as in Roman Catholic and some Protestant terms, an order of service itself is nothing but an order of service! We are commanded to do “all things decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). An order of service as such is a simple matter of practicality.

On the basis of the Bible’s silence, Viola further condemns Sunday Schools, tithing, dressing up for church, altar calls, and other things, none of which are forbidden by the Bible.


In reality, the organic church is a sheep stealing movement. When a so-called organic church is started, it isn’t usually started by winning the lost to Christ and discipling them by God-called preachers. An organic church is started by people who pull out of “traditional” churches and think they have the authority to be a church simply by meeting together with a few other people.

The organic church is more than a sheep stealing movement, though. It is a movement that is led by self-appointed “apostles.”

Frank Viola calls for a “paradigm shift,” which is a term used by emergents and New Agers to identify the type of dramatic change they are trying to instigate. It refers to replacing something old and established with something new and different. Viola writes:

“To borrow a term from scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn, we need a ‘paradigm shift’ regarding the church before we can properly rebuild it. ... in my personal judgment, the church doesn’t need renewal. It needs a complete overhaul. That is, the only way to fully renew the institutional church is TO WHOLLY DISASSEMBLE IT AND BUILD SOMETHING FAR DIFFERENT” (Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, pp. 272, 276).

Here we see Viola’s true objective. To BUILD something requires BUILDERS. It requires LEADERSHIP and CONTROL. Something like this doesn’t just happen on its own “organically.”

At its heart, the organic church is not a “people’s movement”; it is a heretical “apostolic movement.”

Viola is part of a network of self-appointed apostles who are building the new paradigm. The organic church is just another plank in the large house of end-time apostasy.

“Every church in the first century had at its disposal an itinerant apostolic worker who helped navigate it through common problems. ... Present-day workers give similar guidelines to churches that are having difficulties in their meetings” (Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, p. 65).

“I had just spent a year and a half ministering Jesus Christ to this group in biweekly ‘apostolic meetings.’ The goal of that ministry was to equip this new church where it could function on its own--without any human headship” (Reimagining Church, p. 69).

Integral to the organic church philosophy is the doctrine that there should be only one church in each town or city. And guess what “church” this will be? And guess who will be in control of this church!

“God’s people have splintered themselves into masses of disjointed, unconnected congregations all operating independently of one another ... During the New Testament era, each church was completely unified. All the believers in a specific locale lived as members of one family” (Viola, Reimagining Church, p. 129).

The existence of “masses of disjointed, unconnected congregations” is both an issue of New Testament polity and a product of apostasy. Each church is supposed to be autonomous under its one head Jesus Christ. That’s what we see in Scripture. Thus, the fact that churches are “disjointed and unconnected” in polity is not a matter of concern; it is what the Bible demands.

Further, churches are instructed to hold to and contend for the one New Testament faith (Jude 3). They are to “allow no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3), and they are warned that apostasy will explode at the end of the age, and this requires that Bible-believing churches be “disjointed” in fellowship from the majority of churches that are moving with the apostasy. Again, this “separatism” on the basis of doctrine is not a matter of concern; it is faithfulness to God’s Word.

Further, it was not true even in the earliest days of the churches that “all the believers in a specific locale lived as members of one family.” This statement ignores the fact that there were many false teachers and heretical sects even in the days of the apostles. They are mentioned and reproved in passages such as Acts 20; 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 11; Galatians 1; Philippians 3; Colossians 2; 1 Timothy 1, 4 and 6; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 2; 1 John 4; 2 John; Jude; and Revelation 2-3. Some denied Christ’s deity; some denied the resurrection; some denied the doctrine of godliness; some preached a false gospel, a false christ, or a false spirit; some abused the law. Some corrupted the Word of God (2 Cor. 2:17) and wrested the Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).

This tells us that professing believers were far from united in the first century. Paul and Peter and John specifically warned the brethren to mark and avoid those who taught heresies. That means that they were to stay away from them. They were to be “disjointed and unconnected” from them! Paul even warned about many of the leaders of these sects by name (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:17-18).

Since that was true in the first century, how much more will it be true today in the midst of the apostasy predicted for the end of the age! Paul warned that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). This describes the course of the church age in terms of the growth of apostasy.

Only heretics and ecumenists who want to create an unscriptural unity fret about “disjointed, unconnected congregations” more than about heresy and apostasy.


The effect of the organic church movement is to stir up dissatisfaction with “traditional” New Testament churches and to lead people into the treacherous waters of apostasy. There is no solid commitment to sound Bible doctrine, no protection from God-called pastors, just the vague “oversight” of mystical “apostles” who are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The waters of the organic church are treacherous indeed.

In just one of his books -- Jesus Manifesto -- Viola introduces his readers to a virtual who’s who of ancient and end-time heretics: Karl Barth, Thomas Aquinas, Origen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Henry Newman, Sören Kierkegaard, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas à Kempis, E. Stanley Jones, Roger Schutz (founder of Taizé), the “Cappadocian Fathers,” Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Reinhold Niebuhr, to mention a few. All of these are quoted favorably without a hint of warning about their rank heresies.

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« Reply #46 on: November 09, 2016, 10:26:12 am »

This passage proves right here that local, visible NT churches ARE scriptural!

Eph 4:11  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4:12  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph 4:13  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Eph 4:14  That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Eph 4:15  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Eph 4:16  From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
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« Reply #47 on: November 10, 2016, 01:11:14 pm »



BOD'Y, noun

1. The frame of an animal; the material substance of an animal, in distinction from the living principle of beasts, and the soul of man.

Be not anxious for your body

2. Matter, as opposed to spirit.

3. A person; a human being; sometimes alone; more generally, with some or no; as, somebody; nobody.

4. Reality, as opposed to representation.

A shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Colossians 2:11

5. A collective mass; a number of individuals or particulars united; as the body of mankind. Christians united or the Church is called the body of which each Christian is a member, and Christ the head. 1 Corinthians 12:12.27.

6. The main army, in distinction from the wings, van or rear. Also, any number of forces under one commander.

7. A corporation; a number of men, united by a common tie, by one form of government, or by occupation; as the legislative body; the body of the clergy; body corporate; body politic.

8. The main part; the bulk; as the body of a tree; the body of a coach, of a ship, etc.

9. Any extended solid substance; matter; any substance or mass distinct from others; as a metaline body; a floating body; a moving body; a light body; a heavy body

10. A pandect; a general collection; a code; a system; as a body of laws; a body of divinity.

11. Strength; as wine of a good body

12. Among painters, colors bear a body when they are capable of being ground so fine, and of being mixed so entirely with oil, as to seem only a very thick oil of the same color.

13. The unrenewed part of man, or sensual affections.

But I keep under by body 1 Corinthians 9:27.

14. The extent; the limits.

Cause to come here on such a day, twelve free and lawful men--from the body of your county.

BOD'Y, verb transitive To produce in some form.

Imagination bodies forth the forms of things.
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« Reply #48 on: November 11, 2016, 07:42:17 pm »

Should only pastors be ordained?

q.gif (1639 bytes)    Why do some preachers believe that a man called of God should not be ordained until he is called to pastor a church?  They also exclude evangelists from being ordained because they are not called to be pastors.  Ephesians 4:11-12 clearly states that Evangelists are also placed in the ministry of God just like the others that are listed.

a.gif (1659 bytes)        Ephesians 4:11, 12 says, “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 Christ.”

Titus 1:5 says, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ORDAIN ELDERS in every city, as I had appointed thee.”  The term elder is not an office to which a man is elected or chosen, but a term which describes a man who is spiritually mature.  The term was also used in the Old Testament, like in Numbers 11:16, 17, and is a strikingly similar situation to that of deacons in the New Testament.  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, WHOM THOU KNOWEST TO BE THE ELDERS OF THE PEOPLE, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.  And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.”  Moses felt that he needed some helpers, and so God told him to choose out 70 men that he KNEW to be ELDERS.  It was not a position or office to which men had been elected, but simply a description of spiritually mature men.  And from the spiritually mature men in the congregation, Moses was to choose 70 of them whom God would then spiritually empower to be his helpers.

In the New Testament, there also arose a need for helpers for the leaders — this time, the leaders of the church.  Acts 6:1-6 says, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.   And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:  WHOM THEY SET BEFORE THE APOSTLES: AND WHEN THEY HAD PRAYED, THEY LAID THEIR HANDS ON THEM.”  The laying on of hands is common terminology in reference to ordination.  The phrase “look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” is describing what elders are — spiritually mature men that are capable of fulfilling a position within the church.

When Titus 1:5 gives instructions to ordain elders in every city, it is referring to ordaining elders (spiritually mature men) to the positions of pastor and deacons.  Notice in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, how all terms in relation to the bishop (meaning, overseer) or pastor (meaning shepherd) are singular; but all references to the deacons are plural, in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.  “This is a true saying, If a MAN desire the office of a BISHOP, HE desireth a good work.  A BISHOP then must be blameless, the HUSBAND of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  ONE that ruleth well HIS own house, having HIS children in subjection with all gravity;  (For if a MAN know not how to rule HIS own house, how shall HE take care of the church of God?)  Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride HE fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover HE must have a good report of them which are without; lest HE fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”  Now, notice the immediate change to everything being plural, in  verses 8-13 dealing with the deacons:

“Likewise must the DEACONS be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;  Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.  And let THESE also first be proved; then let THEM use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.  Even so must THEIR WIVES be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.  Let the DEACONS be the HUSBANDS of one wife, ruling THEIR children and THEIR own houses well.  For THEY that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

The distinction is important, because many liberal pastors of our day teach the plurality of elders in the sense that a church is not a scriptural church, unless it has more than one pastor.  1 Timothy 3 shows that teaching to be in error.  A scriptural, fully-functioning local church will have elders (spiritually mature men) from which can be chosen a pastor and some deacons, to lead and care for the flock.  The scriptural teaching is that these elders, who are chosen to be pastor and deacons, are to then be ordainedThese are the two offices of the local church (see 1 Timothy 3 again, and notice how both positions are referred to as offices).

If the first deacons were ordained (who were chosen to help in the daily ministration of feeding the widows), then there is no question as to whether evangelists should be ordained.  It is very troubling that many churches are holding evangelists and missionaries to a lower standard when it comes to their testimony and moral record, and their marital status.   A church I attended in my Bible College days had one of their pastors fall into immorality.  They removed him from his position as one of the assistant pastors, but then gave their blessing upon him as an evangelist.  How hypocritical and dangerous!  As a traveling evangelist, he would be staying in many motels and homes of people, and away from his wife.   If he fell into sin at his home church, and living every day with his wife; how much greater would be the temptation to sin when in a different city each week away from his wife?  Deacons were chosen to help feed the widows, and God said they must be of the highest spiritual integrity.  Are we to then allow evangelists and missionaries to be sent out who do not at least meet the same criteria as that of the deacons (which is the same for pastors)?  No, we should not send out evangelists and missionaries unless they meet the same high standards.  They should all be elders of the highest spiritual caliber.

Many churches and mission boards (mission boards are a man-made position which are doing the work that local churches should be doing for their own missionaries sent out of their churches; and because of it, the mission boards are taking on an authority over missionaries of which they have no scriptural right), are sending out missionaries who have been divorced and remarried.  They think that because the missionaries are not serving in their homeland, that they are not held to as high as standards as a pastor.  The Bible does not make a distinction between pastors and missionaries, because they do the exact same thing, only in different countriesPaul and Barnabas were what we would call today, missionaries.  They were ordained and sent forth by the local church.  Acts 13:1-4 says, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL for the work whereunto I have called them.  And when they had fasted and prayed, and LAID THEIR HANDS ON THEM, they sent them away.  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.”  The missionaries were ordained, just like the pastors and deacons were ordained in the Bible.

Philip is called an evangelist, and we know that he was ordained when he was chosen to be a deacon (Acts 6:5).  Acts 21:8 says, “And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.”  Pastors are also to do the work of evangelism.  2 Timothy 4:5 says, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST, make full proof of thy ministry.”   Pastors and evangelists should be held to the same high standards, and should be examined as to their doctrines before being sent forth to do the work of the Lord.

Pastors, deacons, missionaries, and evangelists should all be ordained to fulfill their positions in the work of the ministry.
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« Reply #49 on: November 12, 2016, 02:53:00 pm »

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« Reply #50 on: November 18, 2016, 01:10:52 pm »

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« Reply #51 on: November 18, 2016, 01:50:41 pm »

Simply Church - A Plea For a Simple Church Model
 9/3/2012 (MON)

Audio: http://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/playpopup.asp?SID=11201482435
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« Reply #52 on: November 19, 2016, 07:57:16 pm »

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« Reply #53 on: November 24, 2016, 01:41:00 pm »

Psalm 131:1  A Song of degrees of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Psa 131:2  Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Psa 133:1  A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
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« Reply #54 on: November 25, 2016, 07:25:20 pm »

Lone Ranger Christians and Other People’s Churches
Posted on May 5, 2013   by lucysixsmith

“Don’t be a Lone Ranger Christian,” they said. I can’t remember who exactly, but more than one of the various pastors and preachers I’ve heard teaching that you can’t be a Christian on your own. ‘Get connected into a church,’ they said, or ‘get stuck into a church’, depending on denomination—each group having its own particular lexicon of phrasal verbs, so that some Christians stand on the word while others sit under it, and so that different ones at different times pray about, into, over or through things. They all seem to agree, though, about not being a Lone Ranger Christian—1 Corinthians 12:12-27 being the obviously relevant Bible passage.

Yet somehow I’ve been in a new city for months, decidedly not connected or stuck into a local church, feeling a little foolish, with the phrase ‘Don’t be a Lone Ranger Christian’ occasionally echoing round my head.

This accidental experiment in not going to church has yielded some interesting results. It turns out that the sun does not explode, nor do floods and earthquake strike, if you don’t go to church of a Sunday morning. Faith does not immediately crumble away. Adaptation is possible, to some extent: instead of churching on Sunday and fretting on Monday about Sunday’s accidental faux pas, you make the most of random conversations, exchanges on Facebook, and suchlike, wasting a lot less energy on social embarrassment.

The problem with churchless Christianity, in my experience, isn’t that you wake up one morning and find that you’re not a believer any more. The problem is just that it’s more boring. Even if I suddenly became amazingly disciplined in Bible reading, prayed much more often and figured out how to strum a guitar upwards as well as downwards, private worship would still only go so far. Working out a vision and purpose for your own life individually can feel less worthwhile than sharing a vision and purpose with others. You feel you could pray more confidently for cities and nations if you were doing it with other people. Christian life, it seems, would just be more fun and interesting done corporately, with people different to you.

The problem with that, of course, is that most people are really quite astoundingly different to you, so when you go to a new church you don’t find yourself suddenly Connected—you feel more like an alien, not knowing the language, not agreeing with one thing, not understanding another, not quite relating to another, not having a clue whether or how to try to chat to people when the meeting ends. You try to focus on God, but you also query the theology behind the elaborate offering routine, spot genitive plurals here and there, and wonder how long it took to sound-check such a large band. You remember that big established churches tend to be busy pursuing a vision in well-established ways, that no church will be exactly the way you’d like it to be, that joining any church will probably make your life more complicated rather than less, that none of all that is necessarily a reason not to try it, that this isn’t the first time you’ve wished God would shout down out of the clouds telling you what to do, and that shouting down out of the clouds doesn’t seem to be His customary practice.

Anyway, at some point during all this I realised I didn’t actually know what the Lone Ranger reference was all about, and looked it up on Wikipedia. This, as everyone else probably knows very well, is the Lone Ranger.

From the Wikipedia page I discovered that even the Lone Ranger wasn’t in fact entirely lone. He had his horse, for one thing. He also had a sidekick, Tonto. Apparently Tonto was originally created because a radio hero in particular needs someone to talk to, and “the portrayal of Tonto has been seen by some Native Americans and others as degrading”. Still, the church as an extensive network of mutual sidekickery in the fight against injustice is quite an attractive idea. I’m quite happy to be a Lone Ranger or a Tonto if we’re all kicking along together.

But Wikipedia has more to say about the Lone Ranger. Here’s the first of several “guidelines that embody who and what the Lone Ranger is[citation needed]”:

    The Lone Ranger is never seen without his mask or a disguise.

The second is like it:

    With emphasis on logic, The Lone Ranger is never captured or held for any length of time by lawmen, avoiding his being unmasked.

Was that what the pastors and preachers meant all the time? Was the point about the Lone Ranger not about church attendance, but about honesty, integrity, diversity and real relationships? How many people regularly attend church, but go masked? Even as I write, this strikes me as being standard preachers’ fare: the importance and challenge of being our real selves in church, not our church selves.

The reassuring point is that if there are lots of us, in and out of churches, in some danger of being lone rangers, then maybe we have quite a good chance, in and out of churches, of helping each other not to be.
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« Reply #55 on: November 25, 2016, 07:31:36 pm »


Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together

This seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish notion, that a number less than ten, is not a congregation F1; whereas, though the number is ever so few that are met together to pray to God; or to hear his word, attend on his ordinances, or do the business of his house, or transact any affair that is for the glory of God, and the good of souls, in my name, says Christ; that is, by his authority, depending on his assistance, calling upon his name, and making use of it, and seeking the glory of it:

there am I in the midst of them;
presiding over them, ruling in their hearts, directing their counsels, assisting them in all they are concerned, confirming what they do, and giving a blessing and success to all they are engaged in. The Jews, though they say there is no congregation less than ten, yet own that the divine presence may be with a lesser number, even as small an one as here mentioned F2.

``Ten that sit and study in the law, the Shechaniah dwells among them, as it is said, ( Psalms 82:1 ) . From whence does this appear, if but five? from ( Amos 9:6 ) , from whence, if but three? from ( Psalms 82:1 ) , from whence, if but two? from ( Malachi 3:16 ) , from whence, if but one? from ( Exodus 20:24 ) .''

And again F3,

``two that sit together, and the words of the law are between them, the Shechaniah dwells among them, according to ( Malachi 3:16 ) , from whence does it appear, that if but one sits and studies in the law, the holy blessed God hath fixed a reward for him? from ( Lamentations 3:28 ) .''
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« Reply #56 on: November 25, 2016, 07:37:54 pm »

This from Matthew Henry. Kind of what I thought too - Matthew 18:20 isn't necessarily a gathering of 2-3 people to fellowship, per se, but we MUST look at the verses AROUND IT to get the CLEAR context of it!

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
18:15-20 If a professed Christian is wronged by another, he ought not to complain of it to others, as is often done merely upon report, but to go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him his conduct. This would generally have all the desired effect with a true Christian, and the parties would be reconciled. The principles of these rules may be practised every where, and under all circumstances, though they are too much neglected by all. But how few try the method which Christ has expressly enjoined to all his disciples! In all our proceedings we should seek direction in prayer; we cannot too highly prize the promises of God. Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us.
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« Reply #57 on: November 25, 2016, 07:45:50 pm »


Matthew 18:20
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

20. For where two or three are gathered together in my name—or "unto my name."

there am I in the midst of them—On this passage—so full of sublime encouragement to Christian union in action and prayer—observe, first, the connection in which it stands. Our Lord had been speaking of church meetings before which the obstinate perversity of a brother was in the last resort to be brought, and whose decision was to be final—such honor does the Lord of the Church put upon its lawful assemblies. But not these assemblies only does He deign to countenance and honor. For even two uniting to bring any matter before Him shall find that they are not alone, for My Father is with them, says Jesus. Next, observe the premium here put upon union in prayer. As this cannot exist with fewer than two, so by letting it down so low as that number, He gives the utmost conceivable encouragement to union in this exercise. But what kind of union? Not an agreement merely to pray in concert, but to pray for some definite thing. "As touching anything which they shall ask," says our Lord—anything they shall agree to ask in concert. At the same time, it is plain He had certain things at that moment in His eye, as most fitting and needful subjects for such concerted prayer. The Twelve had been "falling out by the way" about the miserable question of precedence in their Master's kingdom, and this, as it stirred their corruptions, had given rise—or at least was in danger of giving rise—to "offenses" perilous to their souls. The Lord Himself had been directing them how to deal with one another about such matters. "But now shows He unto them a more excellent way." Let them bring all such matters—yea, and everything whatsoever by which either their own loving relationship to each other, or the good of His kingdom at large, might be affected—to their Father in heaven; and if they be but agreed in petitioning Him about that thing, it shall be done for them of His Father which is in heaven. But further, it is not merely union in prayer for the same thing—for that might be with very jarring ideas of the thing to be desired—but it is to symphonious prayer, the prayer by kindred spirits, members of one family, servants of one Lord, constrained by the same love, fighting under one banner, cheered by assurances of the same victory; a living and loving union, whose voice in the divine ear is as the sound of many waters. Accordingly, what they ask "on earth" is done for them, says Jesus, "of My Father which is in heaven." Not for nothing does He say, "of My Father"—not "YOUR Father"; as is evident from what follows: "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name"—the "My" is emphatic, "there am I in the midst of them." As His name would prove a spell to draw together many clusters of His dear disciples, so if there should be but two or three, that will attract Himself down into the midst of them; and related as He is to both the parties, the petitioners and the Petitioned—to the one on earth by the tie of His assumed flesh, and to the other in heaven by the tie of His eternal Spirit—their symphonious prayers on earth would thrill upward through Him to heaven, be carried by Him into the holiest of all, and so reach the Throne. Thus will He be the living Conductor of the prayer upward, and the answer downward.
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« Reply #58 on: November 25, 2016, 07:51:17 pm »


For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Ver. 19,20. Most interpreters agree there is a connection betwixt these verses and those immediately preceding, as if it were a further confirmation of what God had said concerning his binding and loosing in heaven whatsoever they should bind or loose on earth; and say, the asking mentioned in this verse supposes that no church will adventure upon so grave an act as excommunication, without asking his direction or counsel; nor undertake such a thing as absolution, without the like serious asking of God pardon for the repenting sinner. Now, saith he, let the church be never so small that so joins in prayers on this occasion, what they ask of God shall be done. Whether it hath any such reference or no, or be an independent promise of Christ’s presence with his church, I shall not determine. Those who think this text hath such a particular reference, yet do also grant it a more general promise of Christ’s presence with his people. Whenever they are met by his authority, or upon his account or command, whether it be for counsel, or judgment, or prayer, or the celebration of any sacred institution of his, he is in the midst of them, to protect and favour them: what they ask shall be done for them; that is, provided the thing asked be good, Matthew 7:11, and for a right end, Jam 4:3, and in a right manner, Luke 18:1 Jam 1:5-7. Christ in this text establisheth the duty of prayer in communion with others. He doth not only require of his people secret prayer, Matthew 6:6, but also praying in company with others; the gathering together of his people for prayer, whether in private families or more public congregations.
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« Reply #59 on: November 26, 2016, 12:31:20 pm »

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Heb 11:2  For by it the elders obtained a good report.
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