Every Sunday or Saturday morning depending upon the sect, thousands upon thousands of Christians go to a building known as church to hear sermons, sing songs, perform religious duties, and meet with other like-minded members. This ritual is performed every week in a nearly identical manner that goes something like this:Prayer or Song Scriptural Reading or Teaching Offering Announcements Song Sermon Holy Communion (usually once per month) Altar Call Benediction
Of course, there are many variations of the church service across denominations and individual churches, but the essence remains the same.
Most Protestant churches revolve around a single personality whether his/her title is Pastor, Bishop, Reverend, Apostle, or whatever. Then there is some form of leadership usually consisting of Elders and then perhaps Deacons. Then there are the members. Many members do nothing but attend, sit and listen. Many members are completely passive and uninvolved in the life of the church. Then, there are the members who are active in some form of ministry. It is usually the person at the top or a small group of leaders who decides the vision of the church and determines what God wants to be accomplished. That person or persons then decides how to delegate the responsibilities to those who are under them. Like worker bees, the orders are then carried out usually without question.
Most of the organized church functions in a top-down system much like the business world or military. Is this really how Jesus’ church is supposed to function? Do you see something wrong with this? Jesus does and so does Paul who was used by God to establish the principles of how the church should operate. Let’s examine a few scriptures that illuminate the true structure of the church.
But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
How can Jesus have preeminence in the lives of His people when they have subjected themselves to the dictates of their Pastor? Jesus states very clearly that his people are to have no one lording over them in authority. Jesus is the lone authority over His church. He shares that responsibility with no one!
Take a look at the following charts to see the difference between the church depicted in the New Testament versus the church that is visible today.
The world operates on the principle of authority from a vertical chain of command. Every business, government entity, or military branch in the world functions on these principles. If the person or group of persons at the top are corrupt or deceived, then it will trickle its way through the entire organization. Most of the world’s suffering and many of the atrocities committed throughout history is a result of this type of authority structure. Why are Christian Pastors and leaders functioning like CEO’s in the church? Will you obey man over obeying God? A word of the Pastor is not necessarily a word from the Lord. This is why we as believers in Christ are to have our own relationship and be obedient to none other than the one who purchased us with His own blood.
For Christians to submit themselves to an authority in the church other than Christ is an abomination! This is not a matter of opinion, but truth. Let’s examine a few more scriptures that clearly illustrate that today’s organized churches are not functioning properly.
But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor. Amplified Bible
1 Corinthians 1:11-13
For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters. Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
I Corinthians 3:21-23
Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Jesus said that we only have one teacher: Himself! He was not just saying this to the twelve. This principle was to be laid as part of the foundation for building His church. This is why the people of God were said to be peculiar. They did not function like the rest of the world’s religious organizations and political or business entities. We as believers are all brothers (and sisters of course). Why do we call Jesus Lord and do not do what He says? Because most believers are following the traditions of men and have made God’s word void. Most are mere hearers of the word, but not doers. Many are ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Why are there so many denominations and variations of what is known as “church”? It is because most believers are carnally (pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual) minded. There is only one Good Shepherd and we are to follow Him. Paul says that the one who plants and the one who waters are one. It is God who calls men into His service and provides them with spiritual gifts to benefit everyone in the church. Only God can give the increase. Only God can teach us and lead us. The various ministers God has placed within the church are responsible to point man back to Christ. Much of the church as we know it is nothing but a mere cult of personality with men glorifying themselves and making themselves more preeminent than Christ!
I have often heard the saying “there is no perfect church” when people have expressed some sort of discontentment with their particular place of worship. The reason there is no perfect church is because it is patterned after the world and not after the blueprint laid by the Apostles after Jesus’ resurrection. If the church is not built on the proper foundation then everything that emanates from it must be carefully scrutinized for error. Pay close attention to the warning John the Apostle gave through the urging of the Holy Spirit.
I John 2:26-27
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. NKJV
Here’s the same scripture translated into modern English.
I’ve written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they’re no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ’s anointing, no less! You don’t need any of their so-called teaching. Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught. The Message Bible
If you are relying on a man/woman or group of leaders to consistently feed you the truth then there is a good chance you are being deceived. Of course God uses men to instruct us according to His word. But after we have been taught the basics of the faith we must all go on to maturity. The only way one can grow to maturity is by allowing God to be their teacher. All of the twelve disciples were personally taught by the Lord, do you think He desires any less for us today? God gave us His precious Spirit, that we all may have His very life dwelling within us to lead and guide us into all truth. The preacher who preaches and the pastor who teaches are merely our brothers and co-laborers in Christ. They are not in direct authority over anyone in Christ’s body.
We are to esteem each member of the body better than ourselves. We are to honor those men and women in the Body of Christ who are called to service. We are to respect the gifts that God has endowed His people with so that we may be edified. We are to be of one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, under one Lord.
In closing, I would like to offer a few quotes from an article by Rudy Ray entitled, “Authority and Ministry in the Local Church.” In it he states the following,
“The N.T. knows nothing of a church with “a” pastor. The N.T. always speaks of oversight in terms of plurality, not singularity. We must give heed to this.”
“The idea of a sustained period of time in a local church with one pastor is unknown in the N.T. Most churches in our day have a man in the church they call “the pastor.” But this is a long-standing tradition, not a Biblical teaching. The practice of a one-man elder, pastor or bishop only facilitates the danger of imposing on Christ’s headship.”
“It may often be the case that one brother will have more spiritual influence in the assembly. Peter often “spoke” for the twelve, but even he designates himself as a “fellow-elder” (sumpresbuterous, 1 Pet.5:l). There is no doctrine in the N.T. of “the pastor,” or “chief elder.” If one brother happens to have more spiritual influence because of his gifts and experience, then let it be so. Plurality does not mean that all elders are to be equal in their spiritual influence. This is absurd and impossible. The one with more spiritual influence should be the servant of all, NOT the head-honcho.”