The Organization Of The Church
“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Timothy 2:13
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How do we determine what’s practiced in the Lord’s church? I mean, what determines how the church is organized, how we worship, and the things that we do? The Bible does, of course. God instructs us that everything we do must be done in the name of the Lord (Colossians 3:17).
Barnes’ commentary notes that do all in the name of the Lord in Colossians 3:17 refers to: “Do it all because He requires and commands it, and with a desire to honor Him. His authority should be the warrant; His glory the aim of all our actions and words” (Barnes).
So, the way the church is organized should be done as Christ commands and requires. We are under His law (Gal. 6:2) and it’s His last will and testament that we follow – the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15-17).
“He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.” – Colossians 1:18
Christ has laid out how the church is to be organized. He is the head of the church (Col. 1:18). There is no one man or woman who is to lead the church. Christ leads the way. In many churches among Christendom today, that is not the case. Congregations have a pope or a pastor – one man or woman leading the group.
That is not part of the pattern that Christ has designed for us to follow. Pope means papa, and Jesus said, in regards to religion, to call no man on earth your father (Matthew 23:9). So, there is no scripture that gives us the authority to have a pope or to call anyone Papa, in the religious sense. I know that people try to use Matthew 16:18 to say that Peter was a pope, or the first pope. But, that argument just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Besides that, Peter had a wife (Matt. 8:14). There’s just no biblical authority for having a pope.
Again, most congregations today have one man, or woman, who leads the church and also is the main preacher. Christ’s pattern was not designed in that way. Pastor is just another name for shepherd, bishop, or elder. Strong defines the Greek word for pastor as “shepherd”; the word for bishop as “overseer or bishop, a leader in a local church, an extension of one who guards, supervises, and helps,” and; the word elder as ” usually an official leader in the church” (Strong). We’ll see that they are often used interchangeably in the scriptures.
Preachers and pastors(elders) are two different things. A preacher can be an elder, and an elder must be able to teach the word. Also, the type of bishop that is part of the Catholic church is not the same as the shepherds of the church in the first century – as we can see in the New Testament. Frank Viola wrote a book, Pagan Christianity, that details how traditions of Roman government crept into the church and resulted in what we know of today as the Roman Catholic church.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-12
The word pastor is actually only found in the New Testament once in Ephesians 4:11 (note: we do not have modern day apostles or prophets as the early church did). But we do know that the early church had leaders who shepherded the church. The New Testament church was made up of elders and deacons. Anywhere we see them mentioned, there is a plurality there – meaning, there is more than one (Acts 5:6; 14:23; 20:16-38; 1 Tim. 5:17).
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.” – Titus 1:5-6
Paul commanded Titus, the evangelist, to appoint elders in the church (not just one person) and he gave the qualifications that must be met in order for one to be an elder (Titus 1:5-11). The parallel passage where the qualifications for elders are given is 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
“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; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” – 1 Peter 5:1-2
We see from the above verses that the elders (or pastors) are to shepherd the flock. We also see that Christ is the Chief Shepherd. No one else should operate as such. Christ designed the church so that the only hierarchy there would be is Him at the top. Churches should not have just one pastor, with one person making all the decisions.
Note that bishops are to be men, not women (Titus 1:6). They are to be married – the husband of one wife, and they must have children and rule their household well (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Elders must also be hospitable, able to teach sound instructions, and sensible.
The church is also to be made up of deacons, and the requirements for being a deacon are similar to those of elders (1 Timothy 3: 8-13). Deacons must be men who are married and have children. The Bible does not speak of deaconesses, so there is no scriptural basis for having women deacons – as there is no scriptural basis for having women pastors. I know some people won’t like to hear that, but it’s not coming from me; you see the scriptures. That’s just the way God designed it.
“Deacons must be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves, and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 3:12-13
I think God organized the church in that way – with Christ as the head and a plurality of elders and deacons – to keep from giving one person too much power or control. That way, problems with egos and opinions of one leader can be avoided, among other things.
Is the congregation that you fellowship with made up of multiple elders? Or is there just one person who is designated to be the pastor? Are there deacons in that congregation? And do they meet all the qualifications as laid out in the Scripture? If not, then the pattern that Christ laid out is not being followed, and a decision needs to be made to change in order to be aligned with the Lord’s commands.
If you are not a member of the Lord’s church, He will add you to it if you believe in Jesus as the Christ, confess His name, repent, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. That’s the pattern He’s laid out for salvation. Let’s hold on to the pattern.
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