What many people think of when they hear the word "church" is nothing like what local assembly was meant to be.
Local assembly as laid out by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ in the pages of the New Testament belongs exclusively to the Gospel of repentance and remission of sins -the Kingdom and is part of a complete package that is unlike anything this world has to offer. And yet, almost no one seems the wiser. Which is why this isn't something you can easily find. It is something people have to believe in enough to practice and create. It can only happen when people stop "going to church" and decide to "be the church."
The blueprint for local assembly, laid out by the apostles is cutting edge. It is first of all local which means it is in real life interaction and exchange with other locals who share a common bond like no other -a love of the truth. This is the only truly censorship free platform in existence and free of gate keeping within the intimate setting of brotherly(and sisterly) love. On top of this, Jesus gave specific instructions and the apostles built in -true accountability. There is nothing like it in this world for the few who are willing to forsake all to follow Him.
Oh how beautiful the Creator's design truly is. How unfortunate that so many do not see it. The good news is that once someone does see, really sees it, it can't be unseen.
JESUS preached and taught the exact opposite of a pagan, caste system or hierarchy. Jesus prayed to His God and Father that we would be ONE. He says it time and again in the Gospels how the Gentiles love to rule but that "It shall not be so among you." For those who can not hear this, JESUS says "Leave them alone. They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, they both shall fall into the ditch." The night comes when no man can work brothers and sisters. There are people who will hear it.
The solo pastor/priest model eclipses and overshadows the only true and rightful head of the body. Wedging anything inbetween the head and the body causes spiritual violence akin to what Christ suffered on the cross. It could be argued that the violence may be greater in that it is still going on day and night, all around the world. Speaking of driving a wedge between Christ and we who are His own flesh and bones, search "double wedge" images and compare the triangular shape to that of Roman catholic hierarchy. Is your church or organization modeled in the shape of a double wedge? The body of Christ is not. JESUS the CHRIST and no other man, is the prophet like unto Moses.
Disapproval is made explicity clear in Scripture regarding the deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans. Nikos meaning "to rule" laitan "the people" Revelation Chapter 2
We see the bad example of Diotrophes who "loved the preeminence."
Along with Diotrophes the apostles named other men who were being corrupted and corrupting such as Demas, Phygelus, Hymenaes, Alexander, Philetus and Hermongenes. Men were trying to make disciples to themselves and not really, truly, fully to CHRIST, very early on.
The beloved Paul, apostle of CHRIST, warned the elders of the early church "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of GOD, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among YOU, not sparing the flock. Also of your OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after *them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:28-31
Three years of tears while the apostle warned our brothers, sisters, elders and deacons. The faith's first martyr was a deacon and some would scoff at the idea of deacons today. Day and night Paul wept, warning you and I that "of your own selves" shall men arise and to take heed and watch. If the early church dealt with this issue, what would cause us to assume that all is well and less vigilance is needed today?
The LORD is specific and particular about patterns He has laid out. "See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern..." There is no example in scripture of the apostles ordaining one man to be the head of a local assembly. Although the word pastor, singular, cannot be found in the King James version, the translators use Bishop and Elder interchangeably which confuses and obscures the clarity of sound church structure. Comparitively, search the New Testament for the word "elders" and see for yourself how many times "they" being a plurality of watchmen of souls are found in scripture verses the hierachical solo pastor. The word pastor, singular, cannot be found. The plural form "pastors" can be found but once.
Everyone seems to have a different idea of what they call eldership, just the way everyone has their own ideas about everything and people want to say that all paths lead to God and other such imaginings. This is why we so desperately need teachers who love truth and are willing to labor in the Word and in doctrine. Many will be quick to claim that they indeed do have elders but oftentimes what they mean is that they have some older men who assist(and too often are simply yes men to) the solo pastor. While we desperately need the wisdom of elder men who are in the faith, elders who labor in the word and in doctrine are not just a sidekick to the solo priest/pastor position but his replacement and cure. Elders and deacons must meet specifics that are spelled out in scripture.
Local elders are not in subjection to a far away council unknown to the local assembly or any other unsound form of church structure. Every local assembly is autonomous. There is no true accountability when men live hundreds of miles apart and rarely see one another, not being a regular part of one another's lives, locally.
We have so many wonderful things to discover in scripture as well as safeguards to practice. Until the doctrine of the rightful headship of JESUS is established and scripturally qualified elders and deacons, ordained, wheels will spin and souls will be lost. The following portions of scripture allow a glimpse into some of what we might be missing out on in not doing things God's way: I Corinithians 14:29-31 or I Corinithians 14:36 Sirs, we would see Jesus.
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42 All believers have a personal responsibility to practice what is written and help make it a reality. The institutional church, will never change and thus the LORD calls "Come out of her *my people."
Almost 2000 years ago, Paul left Titus on an island with a mandate to "Set in order the things that are wanting" and ordain elders(plural) in every city(singular). Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23 Almost 2000 years later, things are still wanting. Who will attempt to accept personal responsibility and love the Gospel enough to do what you can to set them in order?
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