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Friday, December 9, 2011

Doug Comments on the Church (Part One)

Doug, a friend of mine wrote the following comments in a couple of recent emails and gave me his permission to use his comments here. Doug currently serves as a deacon and teacher in a church whose location and denomination need not be disclosed:
I have been thinking a lot about church too, but for different reasons.  I am teaching through Acts and though it is a transitional book, I find that there are some "traditions of men" that are tied back to Acts 6.   I have yet to find other solid passages in scripture that teach that the "congregation" should be electing its overseers/shepherds/elders etc. The idea of (our denomination’s) congregation rule is a biblical stretch at best. It seems scripture supports elders (qualifications given by Paul) overseeing the church and maintaining adherence to the truth of scripture.                                         
How can a congregation be in submission to an overseer/pastor/bishop/ elder/shepherd that they elect and can throw out if he preaches the stuff they don't want to hear?   Excellent point, Doug!  I agree entirely. There can be no genuine following of a shepherd by the sheep who have hired him and have the ability to fire him!  But an excellent example of biblical and godly leadership and how believers are to respond to it is found in the case of Stephanas’ house and Paul’s counsel to the Corinthian saints regarding them. 1 Corinthians 16:15)  I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) 16)  That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

How can any one man - certain (denominations and associations) tout "one man" / God's man as a pastor - have all the gifts mentioned in scripture?  No man has all the gifts, therefore all members of the body are needed.  If Christ is the HEAD, then all the other body parts have a function and make up a complete and functioning organism (not organization).   You are absolutely right on this as well, brother!
I think my next step is to draw up a graphic picture (I am a visual learner) of what I think a "church" should look like as I see things depicted in Scripture.   However, if there is ONLY one way for a biblical body to function, then I believe Christ would have made it very clear in scripture through the Holy Spirit.    But, like other truths that appear to be the mysteries of the word, maybe it is there, but we just don't want to accept it because we have our traditions we are comfortable with...   ya think?”  Doug, I do think that the Lord Jesus has given us just one way for a biblical church to function. The apostle Paul taught that one way consistently in all the churches. The only reason why we find it so difficult to recognize that one way is that we have all been raised in a religious system which presents “church” as a smorgasbord.  (If you don’t like “church” as it is served up in one place you can choose any of a multitude of different options offered down the street or in the next town! There are a wide of “worship styles”, “music styles”, “programs” and “doctrinal statements” which are offered.  But the following are traditions which were integral to the religious experience of almost all of us:
- pulpit ministry/monologue preaching is the centre piece almost everywhere,  (If you didn’t hear a “sermon" most would not believe you had been to church!) 
- a clear distinction between a clergy class of ministers and the laity is also almost universal. (If the group you are part of doesn’t have some form of “full-time Christian worker” with “credentials” to prove it, your “group” cannot possibly be a church! 
the ownership, or at least the regular use of a large building (with a sign!) in which meetings are convened is considered to be an absolute essential if you are going to “have church”! and  
- the regular receiving from the congregants of monetary collections which are used mainly for  maintaining the buildings and supporting the “full-time ministers”.
But, not one of these traditions were  received from the Lord Jesus or His apostles and biblical churches today function quite well without any of them!
Here’s another perspective on the issue of whether there is ONLY one way for Biblical churches to function…..
I recently received an invitation to a gathering of people “interested in doing church differently”. The invitation did not specify from what these folks were interested in differing as they did church.
Certainly there are many Christians and others who have been hurt, disillusioned, abused, bored or dissatisfied with whatever their previous experience of “church” has been. It is understandable that such are looking for a change!  It reminds me of a very similar situation with marriage in our culture! Many whether still married, separated, divorced or not yet married are very dissatisfied with what they have experienced in their own marriages or have observed in those of others. It is understandable that such are looking for a change!
But as Christians, born again believers in Jesus Christ who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, what would or should be our response if we received an invitation to a gathering of folks interested in doing marriage differently??   Do we not recognize that marriage was God’s idea and that there is one way to “do marriage” and that that one way is now prescribed by a few basic non-optional, transcultural and universal traditions from the Creator?  I might very well be sorely criticised by some for being so “narrow” for saying so, but I firmly believe the following about marriage:                                                                                                                  
- It is a human relationship, (ruling out bestiality)
- It is a heterosexual relationship,   (ruling out sodomy)
- It is a non-incestuous relationship,  (ruling out incest)
- It is a non-adulterous relationship,  (ruling out adultery)
- It is a marital relationship  (ruling out pre, post and extra marital relationships)  and
- It is a monogamous relationship, (ruling out polygamy)
In like manner, why should it seem strange to us that when it comes to “church” that God should also have some basic, non-optional, transcultural and universal traditions by which all churches which own Christ as their head should follow?
Some more of Doug's comments and my responses in the next post. Now it's YOUR turn! What are your thoughts, experiences and conclusions from your own study of scripture? You can comment below or send an email to me at

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