Summary: Part 7A - Introduction to the functions in the first-century church and how the earliest Christians were empowered to perform them.

This 13-part series of classes has been many years in the making. About 25 years ago I began in earnest to examine the features, character and characteristics of the church as it existed in its earliest years. As I sometimes do, I kept my notes all along the way, and this series of classes is to a large extent the product of those years of on-and-off studying the subject. Several things in my experience contributed to my interest in making this 25-year study which I will mention along the way, and those go much further back.

There may be some difficulty in using the individual parts of this series separately, although viewer are free to do so if it serves their purposes. But to those whose interest is in knowing what the church was like in its earliest years, I recommend starting with Part 1 - Introduction to the Church of the New Testament and proceeding through the parts consecutively.

I have prepared some slides that I used in presenting the series in a classroom setting before adapting it to use as sermons. I have left my cues to advance slides or activate animations in the notes as posted on Sermon Central. If anyone is interested in having the PowerPoint files with the slides, I will be happy to send them. Send me an Email at and specify what part(s) you are requesting. Be sure that the word “slide” appears in the subject line. It may take me several days to respond, but I will respond to all requests.



I. Introduction

II. The Origin of the Church

III. What is the church?

IV. The First Christians

V. Authority in the First Century Church

VI. Problems in the New Testament Church

VII. How the Church Functioned

A. Introduction to Functions

B. Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers

C. False Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers & Various Gifts and Functions

D. More Gifts and Functions

E. Evangelists, Preachers, and Ministers, Servants and Deacons

F. Pastors, Elders, Bishops, etc.

VIII. How the Church Worshiped


VII. How the Church Functioned

A. Introduction to Functions

This section is about the functions of the members of the church insofar as they are recognized in the New Testament. We will study them in some depth – to assist in comparing the way we describe, organize, assign, and compensate those who perform the work of the church, to that in the New Testament. It is not an indictment of any person or congregation for doing what they should not, or for not doing what they should, but rather an examination of what we do, who does it, and how it is done, in comparison to the way those things are commanded, encouraged, or referenced in the New Testament.

The second purpose is to consider whether the things the first Christians emphasized are the same as those that we regard as important today. Originally, this inquiry was undertaken in the belief that in addition to conformance to the commandments of Jesus and the apostles, the

church’s acceptability to God was further predicated on adherence to the same procedures, practices, and methods the first century Christians used. But over the years, my intermittent study of this subject has shown me that we fare poorly in that comparison, and so my studies moved to a comparison to the New Testament not merely in the early Christians’ procedures and forms, but the early Christians’ priorities, deployment of human resources, and the way in which they used methods that were well adapted to meeting the challenges that confronted them–some of which were peculiar to their generation--and the dedication with which they went about their duties.

I have said that we are not just like the New Testament church in forms, procedures and methods. But I do not argue that we are astray, and neither do I deny that there is value in seeking to be like the New Testament church. The question this series considers is “in what ways should we be like those first Christians?”

In the last 150 years, the emphasis has shifted away from the consideration of what kind of people Christians--with Christ himself as our model--are to be, and toward practices used in worship. Today, differences in the way we conduct Christian assemblies accounts for most of the divisions between us and other Christians, all of whom place their hope for salvation in Christ. I have observed that among the Christians I have known over the course of my life, “assembly” has come to be thought of--and therefore institutionalized--as Christians’ primary means and venue of “worship.” One thinks some things are admissible in “worship” that we believe are not, and another believes some things are acceptable that others do not. So it is not unusual that in a small town, there may be 2 or 3 congregations assembling mere blocks away from one another, their faith being essentially the same, but not enjoying fellowship across congregational boundaries because of some facet of their assemblies that divides them.

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