Summary: This booklet covers some matters of radically biblical church polity and leadership. This is good for training or retraining leaders who have a heart to serve.
RESTORING THE LORD’S CHURCH IN EACH CITY
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
God has been dealing with many people over the course of many years with the theme of New Testament Order for the Church. In the Bible we see clearly that the first century church was set up around the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It was not set up around personalities or organizations. Leadership in the early church flowed from giftings, which were anchored in proper relationships. It was grounded in the servanthood of local brothers in Christ, whose lives were well known to the Church family in their city.
How the First Century Church was set up in each city
Reading through the New Testament, it does not take long to notice that the apostles founded churches according to a certain pattern. In each city where they went, they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They also healed the sick and cast out demons when they needed to. The combination of the word of God and the demonstration of God’s power and love always attracted many people. In each place, some of these folks became genuine believers in Jesus Christ.
The apostles would then begin to disciple these new believers. The I Corinthians 12:28 process would now take place. Known prophets would be brought in also, who would see certain things that God had in mind concerning the new baby Church. Proven teachers of God’s word would be brought in and teach in detail. The giftings and callings of God would begin to emerge and become known in these relatively new believers, as they became disciples. Soon the new church would have increasing ministry happening internally.
After two or three years of this intense process, apostles would return and would recognize those whom God was raising up to serve as the elders in the new Church. We get a really great glimpse into this final step in the setting up of new churches in Titus Chapter 1:5-9. Here, the imprisoned Paul gives instruction to Titus in written form concerning how to go about the process of setting in an eldership for each city’s Church. Timothy was doing something similar in Ephesus at about the same period of time. Paul, a wise master builder, also instructed Timothy in writing. Chapter 3:1-7 of I Timothy gives us the qualifications for any man if he is to qualify as an elder. Then chapter 5:17-18 shows us the elders’ primary work (ruling, preaching, and teaching) and how they are to be taken care of by the Church. (I Peter 5 speaks directly to the elders and commands them to shepherd the flock. (The people of the Church) Deacons (servants) would also be set in to deal with temporal matters in the church, so that the elders could be given over to the word of God and prayer.
Each city church would end up having an array of the Romans 12 motive gifts represented within its eldership. Teaching and preaching would come through several men who were submitted to each other. Together they would shepherd the flock. One might have an exhorter motive gift, another a prophetic motive gift, another a teacher motive gift, and still another, a mercy motive gift. (etc) The resulting flow of ministry would be very balanced, and would reflect the fullness of the Lord rather than the particular strengths, weaknesses, understandings, and blind spots of one man. Also, if one man began to get off base, or died, it would not throw the church into turmoil, because their security was in Jesus Christ himself, expressed through a plurality of elder/pastors. As pointed out in I Peter 5:4, Jesus is the senior pastor. (Chief shepherd) This title is His alone in the Bible. From 30 AD till about 125 AD, the whole Church knew and understood this.
As the decades went by, things started to get off track, a little at first, but then more and more, until by the mid 300s, the church set up resembled the Roman Empire’s government structure, with layers of authority at ever increasing distance from the local church, culminating in a Pope (the Caesar of the Church) in Rome. Rising through the ranks became a professional ambition, resulting in clashing of egos. The Bible was taken away from the people, and the priesthood of every believer was also denied. The curtain in the Temple that was torn in two by the very hand of God, at the moment Jesus died, was now figuratively sown back together by the new Roman Catholic Church. The people were told that they did not have direct access to God’s throne.
Fortunately, through God raising certain people up, especially around the year 1500, to stand against the false Roman system, there are today, many churches which have returned the Bible into the hands of the people. The priesthood of the believer is known and practiced in the true churches. Most such churches are free of prohibitions which have an appearance of godliness, but which have no real power to free from sin. (You can’t marry and still preach. Only eat certain foods. Men must have beards. Men must not grow beards. etc)