A note from the author:
Sadly, after the death of the apostles, the church began to leave Christ’s revealed will by inventing for itself a system of church care. Take that word ‘hierarchy ’, which we have already met, and which will come up again and again. There is, of course, a New Testament hierarchy in the churches of Christ. Within clearly defined limits, as long as the apostles were alive, they were over the entire people of God, over all the churches of Christ, with elders, overseers, bishops, leaders (as I have explained, the names are virtually synonymous), rulers over local churches.
Paul, writing to believers, spoke clearly about those ‘who are over you in the Lord’ (1 Thess. 5:12; see also Heb. 13:17). So there is, in this sense, a New Testament hierarchy. But in this chapter I am going to look at the Fathers’ corruption of the New Testament pattern, and one of the cardinal marks of their defection was the introduction of an unbiblical hierarchy, a worldly hierarchy. This was, and remains, abhorrent in the churches of Christ. So, when the word ‘hierarchy ’ appears in the rest of this book, the context must decide whether or not we are talking about its proper New Testament use, or the deformed – abominable – idea which has done so much harm to the church of Christ these past two millennia.
Chapter 3 is here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=116141043204
Chapter 2 is found here: http://defendingcontending.com/2015/11/19/the-pastor-chapter-2/
This teachings helps me answer a few questions that have puzzled me for sometime.
Why has 1 Cor. 14; 26-40 been so judiciously ignored? Paul tells us how to conduct ourselves when we assemble together. It reinforces the priesthood of all of the saints. The entire body is to participate. Paul instructs that there ought to be 2 or 3 prophets speaking forth the word, not one paid professional. Paul teaches that the one speaking should humbly step aside and to allow another to take over. Try that in a church today. It does great violence to the passage to imply that :40 negates everything taught all the way back to :26. It is going beyond what is written to say that this passage entirely ceased with the charismatic gifts. A few churches today rotate all of the elders. Every Sunday another elder teaches. They are paid a stipend.
( worthy widows were to be honored with a stipend. Elders were to be honored with a double stipend. Double then is twice the stipend of a widow not that of a CEO.)
I have wondered why the church handbook is consulted rather than the Holy Spirit as in Acts 15.
I have wondered why the Didache was shelved to collect dust for so long. Is it because it is so strident against professional prophets profiting for hire?
On the day of Pentecost 3000 souls were added. Added to what? Added to both the church universal and the church in Jerusalem. Yet nothing is ever implied or stated concerning FORMAL OFFICIAL church membership. Yet the saints submitted themselves to those in authority without it. Today this contrivance is a tool of power and control over the saints. It is a tool to used to defy the commands against showing partiality. Those who opt out are forbidden to exercise their spiritual gifts yet are expected to give our financial gifts to them.
What paid pastor is immune to the temptations of abusing his authority to maintain his job security. Seriously most pastors are not qualified to work in the secular world. Those who are could rarely attain the same pay and benefit level
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While we must not ignore 1 Cor 14, neither must we take it as THE authoritative and final word on how YHWH has established His body. He has give His people servants who are to lead. The problem is too many men drift into a worldly structure and order which displays a lack of trust in God. The pastoral epistles have to be taken into account as well so we have the biblical perspective on the structure and order for the local church.
Manfred, I always respect you and your insight. I wish that you had said that 1 Cor. 14 like all scripture is God breathed but it is not the ONLY authoritative pastoral passage. All pastoral passage can be and must be harmonized to establish a sound biblical practice. Pragmatism is not always virtuous.
Concerning formal official membership I have further thoughts. This long held pragmatic contrivance in practical terms seeks to justify what I call, Christian Dimmitude. Look if you will at all the things non-formal members are not allowed to do. In Islamic counties Moslems are first class citizens and all non-Muslims are second class citizens devoid of rights or respect or privilege. It can become a passive aggressive form of forced compliance. Many pastors form a team of like minded yes men around themselves. Being on Gods team and the elders team sadly is not always one and the same. Neither elders nor church handbooks are infallible. Look at the abuse by Rick Warren. Formal membership there requires unquestioned compliance. They simply toss out all who dare to question even one of their commands as dissenters stirring up strife.
Extra biblical is not always unbiblical but it is always extra biblical and it is going beyond what is explicitly written. To incorporate any such extra biblical activity remains suspect at best.
The church belongs to God not to Caesar. The unnecessary 501c3 legal status yokes Gods church with Caesar. This pragmatic yoking is pushed by lenders and lawyers and accountants but is also dangerously extra biblical. Churches, I fear, will by positive case law lawsuits, be forced into either bankruptcy or compromise. Let us tear off these fetters and loose ourselves from Caesar.
T.I. Miller – since all Scripture IS God-breathed, and we understand and accept that as Truth, I didn’t see the need to reiterate it in that comment. But I thank the Lord for you coming here and being part of our dwindling virtual fellowship.
While we see some instruction on the order and structure of the local church in God’s holy Word, we will also see imperfect implementations thereof as men are sinful. I have studied church membership and see the other side of that coin clearly in Scripture, where people are thrown out of local churches for various unrepentant sins. This shows there is something of a “list” and requirements for staying on it.
However, this does not give a green light for any elder to wrap himself in self-importance and determine extra-biblical rules for membership – such as full subscription to the 1689 LBC.
And it also does not provide cover for men who love the world’s hierarchical system and prop up “pastors” with all sorts of titles and positions of administrative authority as if Moses or GE were their model.
On the national level, no church is required to file under 501(c)3, but some states may make it “convenient”. I don’t see having a 501(c)3 status as necessarily compromising the church, although it does do that for some who do not know to Whom the church does belong.
Blessings in Christ, my brother. To Him Who sits on the throne be honor and glory and power and dominion forever and ever!
I have seen a great many hard working and well respected official formal church members suddenly renounce it and leave for personal subjective trivial reasons. Rarely if ever are their reasons for leaving based upon the elders swerving off of the narrow path. Their signed oath it would seem is of little consequence in their decision. I have also rarely observed elders practice biblical church discipline. I also observed a church hire an associate pastor. The elders boasted of their strenuous screening process taking weeks and weeks. All well and good but in the end they later had to fire him. Shortly after his hiring I met with him over coffee. In 30 to 45 minutes I determined that the elders were as blind as bats about this man. These same elders had expressed their dislike for me. It seems that I did not always have their back and I was too well studied. (but they gladly took my donations)
At the time of the epistles there was no church down the road to go to. How can genuine church discipline be carried out when church B welcomes in the member church A tossed out?
501C3 status makes it easy for the Federal government to file discrimination cases on behalf of pseudo Christians. What is happening to places like Hobby Lobby is coming soon to a church near you.
John 15: 18-19
I believe your comments are spot on; many use their title as a means to fleece. We have forgotten how the early church worked – they laid their money at the Apostle’s feet – it was then distributed among the poor. Try that in today’s ‘church’.
I also have questioned for quite some time why one must become a ‘member’ of man-made denominations/non-denominations that call themselves ‘church’. Brick and mortar buildings are not churches, they are buildings and nothing more. To call them ‘churches’ is unscriptural, for we are the church. Lastly, I already am a member of the church of Christ, and I didn’t become a member by my own doing or by going before mortal men.
I recently visited a church and was reading the bulletin, in it was a financial update. They needed just over twenty nine thousand dollars to meet November’s expenses. I was floored! There was not one mention of helping those within the church who may be struggling financially. The preaching was so shallow, I wondered what this church was paying this pastor for. He obviously was not spending his time during the week in deep study of God’s word, so why can’t he work during the day like the rest of us and study the word in his free time? I feel many so-called pastors are using this title as a reason to become lazy and complacent. As a result, weak man-centered preaching fills the pulpits because they are terrified of losing their financial cushion.
Celebrity pastors make big $$$ and surround themselves with ‘yes men’ that ward off any who may call into question their erroneous teachings or behavior. More often than not, family members are given positions within the church, positions that pay very well. This isn’t just about men like Rick Warren, this includes well known preachers that many would defend to the death. All the more reason to shun much of what labels itself as ‘Christian’ in our day.