Is The One Pastor System Scriptural?
by Mark Frees
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- I shall add some personal observations along the way in this font color and style. ]
I had always assumed that the one-Pastor system, being the pattern followed in the overwhelming majority of churches today, was founded upon Scripture. But as I began to earnestly study the Scriptures on the issue of church leadership, one disturbing question kept intruding itself- a question I present here for the sober consideration of the reader. Where in Scripture is there piano coversrant for one man to be the spiritual leader and authority over the local church?
Never mind that this is the pattern unquestioningly followed throughout
Christendom today. Where is it in Scripture? As I searched the length and breadth
of the New Testament, it became obvious to me that such a pattern was nowhere
to be found. Rather, I found that the primary role in shepherding the New Testament
churches was exercised, not by a solitary Pastor, but by a plurality of men,
described as "elders" or overseers
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church....
He said unto them...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. (Acts 20:17-28)
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: (Phil. 1:1)
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Titus 1:5)
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: (James 5:14)
The quotation above from Acts 20 makes it clear that the "elders" and "overseers" are the same persons, and that it is they who are given responsibility to shepherd, or pastor the church of God. ("Shepherd" is the literal meaning of the word "pastor.") So while others besides elders may exercise a pastoral gift- Bible teachers, for instance, there is no hint in Scripture of anyone claiming to be "the Pastor" of a local church and assuming a position of oversight apart from and superior to the work of the elders. We read nothing of a "Senior Pastor," or "Presiding Elder." Such titles, in fact come perilously close to blasphemy, since Christ Himself is spoken of as "the Chief Shepherd" (1 Peter 5:4).
The apostle Peter confirms that the terms "elders" and "overseers"
refer to the same persons, and that their work is that of pastoring the flock:
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (1 Peter 5:1-2)
So when we read in Ephesians 4:11, that God has given "some as pastors" (literally, "shepherds"), can we not assume that this refers primarily to these elders, or overseers, and not to a one-man office about which the rest of the New Testament is completely silent? Nor is all this mere wrangling over terminology.
The point to be fixed clearly in the mind from the above scriptures is that, in the New Testament, churches were never shepherded by one man, whatever his title or designation, but by a plurality of men. Further, the clear impression given by these scriptures is that elders were generally raised up by God from within the local church, not hired and imported from outside- and certainly not from the ranks of a professional "clergy".
This gives rise to another question.
Where in Scripture is there any such thing as a servant of the Lord contracting
to receive a stated salary from a church? The New Testament clearly sets forth
the principle that those who preach the gospel are entitled to "live from
the gospel" (Matt. 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18), but there is
never any indication that this involves a stated salary, but rather, free will
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.(Gal. 6:6)
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when
I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving
and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again
unto my necessity. (Phil. 4:15-16)
Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.(Titus 3:13-14)
The only case in Scripture of a "minister" receiving a fixed salary occurs in Judges 17- a situation filled with compromise and idolatry!
But did not Jesus say, "The laborer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7)? True, but the briefest glance at the immediate context, where these laborers are instructed to carry neither purse nor scrip, and to "eat and drink such things as are set before you", shows that a fixed salary was the last thing our Lord had in view. Yes, the Lord's laborer is worthy of his hire, but who is it that "hires" him? In whose employ is he-- the church's or the Lord's? Surely the Lord's, but the system of a salaried pastorate implies otherwise. I cannot help but believe that the present-day "Pastor search" process, complete with resumes, salary negotiations, trial sermons, and the like, is a grievous offence to the Spirit of God. Again our urgent question must be: where is all this in Scripture?
Where also is the notion that the public ministry of the Word is to be confined to one man in a local church, and that it is contingent upon him being "ordained" by some human authority? On the contrary, we read
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. (1 Cor 14:29-31)
Regardless of one's view concerning the nature of the gift of prophecy and its validity for today, it is abundantly clear that the practice of one man monopolizing the public ministry of the Word was utterly foreign to the New Testament churches.
So when confronted with the plain teaching of Scripture, I could not escape the conclusion that the oversight of the local church is to be exercised by mature brethren raised up by the Holy Spirit from within the church, and that public ministry of the Word is open to any brother who has been divinely gifted for it.
In contrast, most churches today entrust the spiritual leadership of the congregation, and the vast majority of the public ministry, to a solitary Pastor, who is chosen from among the professional "clergy," imported from outside the church and promised a fixed salary for his services. Can the reader, with his New Testament open before him, deny that this is a drastic departure from the scriptural pattern? Indeed it is, and it has had predictably severe consequences on the spiritual life of churches. The following are only some of the problems that are created or aggravated by this unscriptural one-Pastor system
The One-Pastor System of church life:
(1) Perpetuates the deplorable distinction between "clergy" and "laity." No more pernicious device of the devil has ever been deployed than this utterly unscriptural distinction. Pastors today grieve about being unable to involve the "laity." without ever considering that it is the very system of dividing Christians into two classes that is to blame.
The answer is not to "involve" the laity, but to abolish it! Away with the idea that Christian work is the province of a special few!
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- I must add here that our Lord hates this mongrel doctrine. Here is His comment on it:
Revelation 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of blip, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Jesus Christ HATES Nicolaitanism. Is must then be very serious. What is this Satanic invention?
Above the Laity
Nicolaitanism is the self-exalting of men within the Lord's Church to take authority of common men. This is precisely what the old Mother Whore Catholic Church did. Luther and Calvin perpetuated it. And, while the Puritans and Anabaptists resisted it to a large degree, intellectualism and modernism have prevailed to bring this disease back into the Fundamental church movement. It is assumed to be normal, yet Christ still HATES it. Do you? Or are you perpetuating it? ]
(2) Causes believers to neglect their own responsibility for witnessing to the lost, to neglect encouraging the brethren, in-depth Bible study, visiting the sick, etc., out of a conscious or subconscious assumption that these are "the Pastor's Jobs." Often the only one visibly working for Christ in the community is the Pastor, whose witness is impaired by the fact that he is perceived as paid to do so.
And, how rare is serious Bible study outside of the Pastor's study! There is a widespread delusion that only the "ordained" Pastor is qualified to mine the riches of God's Word, and that only he is responsible for using the Word to encourage the brethren and piano coversn the lost. As a result, men who have been believers in Christ for thirty or forty years, and "by this time ought to be teachers," are still being spoon-fed themselves. (Heb. 5:12)
In our churches today this is not the unfortunate exception. It is the norm. Of all the damage wreaked by the unscriptural system of handing over the ministry of the church to a single professional (or in larger churches, a staff of professionals), this debilitating effect on the men of the congregation is perhaps the most tragic.
(3) Leaves little or no room for the exercise of spiritual gifts, other than the Pastor's, in the gatherings of the church.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- The modern tongues movement, with the upright piano of "holy laughter" and other raucous behavior, is a demonstration of the "laity" of their lust to climb up into the spotlight. There would be far less interest in these vile manifestations if all the saints in the local church stood on level ground as God intended.]
(4) Leads to churches being built in the flesh, as programs, promotion, and the Pastor's personality must replace the spiritual gifts of the body.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- This includes Evangelists who are star attractions and have alleged power to build churches and "get souls saved." It also includes "keynote speakers" at conferences who are famous and have men's persons in admiration. I have sat in groups of pastors when conferences were planned, and much deliberation went into figuring how much it would cost to get various famous Amos speakers to "draw" the best attendance. ]
(5) Produces widespread discouragement among Pastors, who are trying earnestly to fill an unscriptural role.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- And the "laity" will not raise a hand to help the average pastor carry the load. If he fails, an election is called, and he is run off and condemned. The "laity" will actually talk of getting their money's worth out of a pastor. He is most often faulted for not visiting the homes of the heavy givers enough. Imagine how utterly silly this would be is a plurality of elders were the only leadership of the local church, AND if they were not hired and called from some far off seminary. ]
(6) Denies Pastors the fellowship in the ministry they so desperately need. Usually the difference in spiritual vision and ministry responsibility between the Pastor and the congregation is so wide that his only meaningful fellowship is with other Pastors, who are not fellow-laborers in the same field, but have their own fields to worry about.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- Many pastors have no personal friends in their congregation. This is because they fall into the Jackboot mentality and come to see their congregation as dumb sheep who need regular floggings. If have heard Fundamental Baptist pastors talk this way many times at Pastor's conferences.
I also note the disgraceful way in which deacons and men in local churches fawn over pastors when these Nicolaitan pastors are gathered in large conferences. The ladies serving the dinner will fall all over themselves and chatter as they serve in self-effacing ways, while men of the local church are patently held in low places by the vocabulary used. Indeed, some men, like Jack Hyles and many Fundamental Baptist leaders, will go to great ends to exalt pastors above the "laity." ]
(7) Tends to negate the presidency of the Holy Spirit in the church. Though the Pastor may earnestly seek the mind of the Spirit, his perception is clouded by his own personality, desires, etc. How much better, when formulating plans or making a decision, for the elders as a group, along with other spiritual men, to come before the Lord in prayer until the Holy Spirit speaks and brings them to a consensus, as in Acts 13:1-3.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- Virtually thoBlipnds of Fundamental Pastors do NOT trust the Holy Spirit to lead the other men around them in the local church. One pastor in Dayton, Ohio arrogantly told me his deacons were nothing but janitors and that he did not ever ask them their opinion. What blasphemy of the Holy Ghost! ]
(8) Since one man is given responsibility for the entire ministry of the church, and since no one man has all the gifts, Pastors are forced to spend much of their time doing ministry they are not supernaturally gifted to do, or else that ministry goes undone.
(9) Creates a situation where one person, the Pastor, can turn a doctrinally sound church into a heretical church overnight. Having multiple elders, while not providing absolute immunity from doctrinal error, is a powerful check against heretical teaching.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- Over the history of many local churches, the church will take violent swings back and forth on various doctrines. It is the experience of many pastors to teach expository Bible messages, feed the flock of God, and see them mature in many doctrines. Then, after this pastor leaves, some hireling is "called" by blasphemous "Democracy," and the man trashes everything the former pastor taught in short order. The former pastor is broken hearted and feels he wasted his whole tenure in that church. This was my experience in a local church I pastored in California. That church quickly went into the ditch and is not thoroughly ecumenized. This might not have been the case if I had understood the lesson being taught here. ]
(10) Leads to a paralyzing shortage of national Christian workers in many mission areas, because of the assumption that these workers must be professionally trained and imported from outside the church. Where is the confidence that the Lord has already supplied the body with the leadership gifts needed?
(11) Puts undue pressure on the Pastor's wife and children, as they are forced to live in a "fishbowl" environment as "the preacher's" family.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- This is why many pastors leave "the ministry" and go sell insurance. They grow weary of being examined in ways other saints are never examined. The "laity" feel justified in scrutinizing their pastor and his family because they were selected from afar and are expected to embody all the Christian virtues in abundance. The "money's worth" factor comes up again in this one. ]
These are but a sampling of the consequences that I believe can be laid squarely at the feet of unscriptural beliefs and practices concerning the ministry
Some Objections Answered
Objection 1: The proper role of a pastor is not to assume the entire ministry of the church, but to mobilize and equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Therefore, most of the problems you have listed are results, not of the single-Pastor system itself, but of the abuse of that system
Reply: Since the single-Pastor system is universally beset with these problems, the burden of proof lies on its defenders to prove that the system itself is not at fault, particularly since it is a system with no piano coversrant in Scripture. The concept of a church led by a Pastor-equipper who mobilizes the saints to do the work of the ministry sounds attractive, but the experience of thoBlipnds of frustrated Pastors testifies that it simply does not work. There is simply too deeply ingrained a perception in the minds of the congregation that Christian work is for a special few.
The clergy-laity gap is the great demobilizer of the saints. Anyone trying to abolish that gap is doomed to failure while clinging to a system where one man, professionally trained and credentialed, is viewed as "the Minister." Incidentally, those who espouse the concept of the Pastor-equipper normally have a very limited notion of what the "work of the ministry" includes. For instance, even the Pastor who makes equipping the saints an emphasis of his ministry will normally call a fellow clergyman-- not someone from the congregation-- to fill the pulpit when he is away.
Objection 2: The approach you have suggested would produce incompetent church leadership at best, and doctrinal mayhem at worst.
Reply: This is a serious charge because it I implies that the Holy Spirit is incompetent in placing the proper leadership gifts within each church. Is it seminary or Bible college training that qualifies a man for leadership in the church, or is it the gifts of the Holy Spirit? We have often been guilty of giving lip service to the latter, while placing greater weight on the former.
Objection 3: The word "overseer" is singular in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7 where the qualifications of the overseer are described. This suggests at least the possibility of "overseer" being a one-man work.
Reply: It is a most natural use of language to employ the singular when describing the qualifications of a position. For instance, I might say, "A United States blip (or even, the United States blip) must be a man of integrity. honor, etc." without in the least implying that there is only one United States blip, or even one per state! To stress Paul's perfectly explicable use of the singular here, while ignoring the overwhelming evidence of the rest of the New Testament, would be a strange and twisted exegesis.
At any rate, a closer look at Titus 1:5-7 rules out the possibility that Paul was advocating a one-pastor system. How can the use of the singular "overseer" in verse 7 possibly imply that each local church is to have only one overseer, when two verses earlier Paul had introduced the subject by reminding Titus of his instructions to "appoint elders [plural] in every city"? To my mind, this is conclusive.
Objection 4: Were not the "Pastoral Epistles" addressed to single individuals?
Reply: This objection is based on the common misconception that Timothy and Titus were each "Pastors" of local churches. This is simply not true. To quote from the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary:
"Though these letters do furnish worthwhile directions for pastors, the addressees were not Pastors in the usual present-day sense of that term. Rather, they were Paul's special envoys sent by him on specific missions and entrusted with concrete assignments according to the need of the hour."
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- And, when their tasks were finished, they chose elders, and either moved on to do it again, or they returned to Paul to receive other assignments. ]
Objection 5: What about the leadership role of James at JerBliplem (Acts 12:17). Epaphras at Colossae (Col. 4:12). And Epaphroditus at Philippi (Phil. 2:25)?
Reply: This objection, which I have heard used in defense of the one-Pastor system is a patent example of reading the Word of God through the distorting lens of tradition. James, the Lord's brother, was an apostle (Gal. 1:19). not a Pastor. Epaphras was an evangelist. The "fellow bond-servant" of Paul who brought the gospel to the Colossians (Col. 1:7). (Strange that if he were "Pastor" of the church at Colossae, he is never seen as present there, but always with Paul elsewhere!. (Col. 4:12; Philem. 23) Epaphroditus is simply described as one of Paul's fellow-workers who was sent by the Philippian church as a minister to his needs. All this is evidence for the one-Pastor system?
Objection 6: Do not the "angels" of the churches in Revelation 2-3 refer to Pastors (e.g. "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write...," etc.), and is there not one per church?
Reply: No person reading the New Testament, apart from preconceived notions, would ever imagine that the "angels" of Revelation 2-3 refer to Pastors. Although the Greek word "angelos" may be translated "messenger," in every other occurrence of the word in Revelation, and it occurs 76 times!, it unquestionably refers to literal angels. If it does mean "messenger" in Revelation 2-3, it still could hardly be stretched to mean "pastor."
In every case where the New Testament uses the phrase messenger of..." (e.g. "messenger of Satan," "messengers of John," etc.), it always describes by whom the messenger is sent, never to whom. In other words, "the messenger of the church in Ephesus" would not likely mean a messenger sent TO the church, but a messenger sent BY the church, perhaps as part of a delegation to minister to the apostle in his exile on Patmos and to receive instructions from him.
Objection 7: Perhaps the many New Testament references to multiple elders are due to the fact that, while each church had only one elder or overseer, each city had several different churches. For instance, when Paul writes to "the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons" (Phil. 1: 1), there may have been a number of congregations in Philippi, each with their own overseer, or Pastor.
Reply: This reasoning may seem to answer certain passages, but it utterly falls apart in view of others, such as Acts 14:23 ("So when they had appointed elders in every church...), James 5:14 ("Let him call for the elders of the church"), etc.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- I have heard this one, and it is the desperate claim of Nicolaitans who are in terror of falling from the seat of authority-- nothing else-- for it is 100% Mother Goose logic. Many a preacher boy will state this claim as if God had spoken it as absolute truth, but if you pin them down, they will quote their college or Bible Institute instructor, NOT the Bible. ]
Objection 8: Even if it can be proven that the New Testament churches had multiple elders, that would not necessarily be normative for the church today. After all, everyone agrees that believers in the JerBliplem church sold their goods and had all things in common, yet who suggests returning to that pattern today?
Reply: To say that the pattern of the New Testament church is not normative for us today is tantamount to saying that God has left us without any pattern at all. Distressing thought! Has God really left us at the mercy of human ingenuity in deciding how the ministry of His Church is to be ordered? Rather, let us say with the Psalmist, "I esteem right all Thy precepts concerning everything" (Ps. 119:128).
In regard to the selling of goods by believers in the JerBliplem church: (1) The passage in question, Acts 2:42-47, does not say that all those who believed sold all their possessions. This was not "Christian communism" as it is sometimes pictured. The use of the imperfect tense in verse 45 implies that from time to time, as necessary, they sold their goods to distribute to brethren in need. (2) I, for one, am not prepared to say that the example of these early JerBliplem saints is not the norm for believers today, particularly in light of the words of John's epistle:
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him. (1 John 3:17)
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- We can demonstrate the results of inventing our own methods of church government in the use of voting, church business meetings, and democracy. This mongrel method of decision making is from the feet of iron and clay. Democracy always ends in dictatorship, and it is used today, by Jackboot preachers, to manipulate the "laity" into postures which sustain the power of the Nicolaitan manipulator. To say "times have changed" is very correct, but they are not the times of the Holy Ghost-- they are the "Times of the Gentiles" of the image of Daniel which have poisoned the Lord's Church. ]
Objection 9: You cannot deny that God has through the years mightily blessed many Pastors and churches who have used the one-Pastor system, and continues to do so today.
Reply: No one would think of denying this. Yet the problems mentioned above cannot reasonably be denied either. And who would claim that the fruitfulness of the Church as a whole is anywhere near the divinely intended level? Besides, it is a mistake to think that because God graciously blesses someone operating under a certain set of beliefs or practices, that He thereby endorses those beliefs or practices.
God has, for instance, greatly used many preachers, teachers, and missionaries who have held to the teaching that Christians may lose their salvation. Yet few who are taught in the Scriptures would suggest that this view therefore has God's sanction, or that it is unimportant to uphold the scriptural teaching of Salvation. Praise God, He does not require us to be perfect in our interpretation of Scripture before He will use us. If so, who could hope to be used? But as we are given further light on the Scriptures, it is our duty and our Joy to conform our beliefs and practices as nearly as possible to the Word of God.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- A study of the life of Jehu is useful here. God said that Jehu's mind was like His mind, and God repiano coversded Jehu with the throne of blip for four generations. But, God also saw to it that the canon included the comment that Jehu failed to kill the pianos and destroy the golden calves. Does the zeal of Jehu negate the need to deal with the two faulted areas mentioned? NO, and that is why God noted it-- so that future generations would keep His holiness in final authority in the ways of men. ]
Objection 10: A multiple-elder system might well solve some problems, but at the same time it would create a whole new set of problems of its own.
Reply: This I willingly admit. When, however, you are operating under a scriptural pattern, the problems that arise are scriptural problems. That is, they are problems that have been anticipated in Scripture and for which guidance is provided in Scripture. Also, let us not forget that, quite apart from the question of what problems might be solved or created, we ought to follow the New Testament pattern simply because it is the New Testament pattern. We conform to the authority of Scripture as a matter of principle, not for pragmatic reasons. But when we do so, we invariably find God's way to be the best way.
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- There is within Fundamentalism a spirit to NOT rock the boat by calling for a more Bible centered church polity and structure. Friend, this is precisely the same reasoning used by the Pope as he calls his waypiano coversd priests to submit to the Old Mother Whore instead of applying what they find in their Bibles. I know a Catholic priest in India who has, along with his whole society, been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for calling that profane church back to its older heritage. Well, I will tell you something friend-- if you call the Fundamental churches back to an early Church Pauline church polity, you WILL become a pariah in your circle of pastoral Nicolaitan friends. That is about where I expect this article will land me. There is a price to be paid to be right with our Lord and His Word. ]
Objection 11: Surely you don't think all the problems you mentioned would vanish if our churches simply changed their pattern of leadership?
Reply: Unfortunately, no.
Not overnight at least, particularly where the clergy-laity mentality has been
firmly entrenched for decades. But even in such a case a return to the New Testament
pattern, if wholeheartedly adopted by the local church, would certainly produce
a dramatic effect. The manifold problems and unscriptural attitudes nurtured
by the false clergy-laity distinction could at least begin to be resolved. In
other situations, where a fresh start is possible (such as on the mission field,
in new churches, or with new converts), these problems can be avoided altogether.
What shall we say then?
The one-man pastorate, far from having the sanction of Scripture, is essentially a "Protestantized" holdover from the Roman Catholic clerical system. For those of us who claim the Bible, rather than tradition, as our authority, it is time to fervently search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. (Acts 17:1l)
I would that every reader of this booklet might share the blessing I have found by "turning my feet to His testimonies" (Ps. 119:59) and choosing to meet in fellowship with those who gather in New Testament simplicity and order. I have written more about this in a small booklet entitled,
What I Have Found: My introduction to "brethren" assemblies.
A free copy may be obtained by writing to the publisher of this booklet.
Spread the Word
2721 Oberlin Drive
York, PA 17404
[ Editor: Steve Van Nattan-- Balaam's Ass Speaks-- I must add a few observations here. I have seen the "Brethren" fellowships, and they DO have things they need to take care of, such as:
1. Brethren fellowships add some patented things which are not legally required in the New Testament.
a. These include the use of alcoholic wine in the Lord's Supper....
b. The insistence of the Lord's Supper every Sunday, whereas our Lord initiated the event at a once a year event called Passover. We are only told to do this "as oft as ye do it"....
c. The cursing of musical instruments during hymn singing, a law which is NOT anywhere in the Word of God....
d. The head covering, which is not very offensive, but it does not allow for the hair of the woman being her covering....
e. Some require foot washing as an ordinance equal to baptism and the Lord's Supper. This rule is NOT in the Word and in the Apostolic history of the New Testament church.
2. If sin comes into the assembly, especially in the youth, the leaders are often slow to deal with it since they don't want to make one another look bad.
3. The individual assemblies vary greatly from one to the other because there is no standard for anything other than one local church. This is not a serious problem as long as you understand that each assembly makes its own rules and standards. I know of one assembly in Chicago which insists that a speaker NOT carry a Bible into the pulpit so as not to offend the listeners, while on the other extreme, the vast majority of Brethren assemblies are King James Version only and very narrow and zealous for the Lord.
Having noted these weak areas in "Brethren" fellowships, I hasten to add that these people NEVER have the Jackboot problem of mean tempered pastors beating sheep and raging and ruling in the Lord's Church like Popelets. This makes their assemblies strong in leadership since they do not depend on only one man to figure out every detail of church life.
Of course, precious few Fundamental pastors will ever go near a Brethren assembly because they cannot take an offering and pocket it :-) But, I suggest that this kind of New Testament church structure is based in the Word of God and is ideal for the newly formed House Church. Indeed, anyone starting a church in the End of the Age of Grace should consider these things very thoughtfully.
LETTERS FROM READERS:
After a brief review of this article I must add that men such as William Grady who writes the books "Final Authority" And "What Hath God Wrought!" would not be in agreement with the author below and your comments. These Jackboot Baptists include men such as Grady even if he cross dresses as a sheep when it's time to defend the King James Bible to be the word of God. He is not a defender of the faith which was once given among the saints. Grady, and others, are absolutely set on their pet "AUTHORITY" issue and don't understand authority at all. It would do well for these men who are obsessed with their own AUTHORITY to understand where the authority comes from. For those who don't understand what it is to be UNDER authority; it would do well to read these scriptures:
Matthew 8:5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto
him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in blip.
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
14 And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.
15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them. [ Saved to serve! ]
Luke 7:1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people,
he entered into Capernaum.
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.
3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the blips, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.
4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:
7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in blip.
10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
Notice that the centurion doesn't boast about his authority but is humble about being "under authority". Then our Lord Jesus gives witness of the centurion's faith and compares that faith to the lack thereof in blip. There is much preaching here against the wicked Jackboot spirit of error...
Except for one point only I agree with your article of church leadership, that it should be the elders and not one single paid person. [ My wife ] and I briefly went to a Gospel Hall (Plymouth Brethern Assembly) 29 and one-half years ago as I was convinced at that time the system of a paid clergyman was wrong. We did not leave the liberal Baptist church that we were attending at the time to join them because of their use of alcoholic wine. I agreed with almost everything else they believed, [ My wife ] didn't but would have been willing to change if it hadn't been for the use of alcoholic wine. Because of that we have always stayed in the one pastor church system which I have merely tolerated because there was no fellowship anywhere else. Unlike you though I believe the head covering refers to an external covering and not the long hair itself.
On the subject of Bible versions I believe as you do (100%) and I am very grieved that our pastor (of a Missionary Church - a denomination that came out of the Mennonite denomination) and my friend has replaced his KJV with a NKJV. Approximately two years ago I gave him Gail Riplinger's book "New Age Bible Versions" and I asked him if he agreed with what the book said. His reply was that it's all here and it's all documented; so I believed at that time we were of the same mind on almost everything but obviously he has changed or he was not telling me the whole story.
Anyway, I found it interesting that you came to the conclusions you did about local church government and I am happy to see what you have discovered in the Bible. praise God.
A fellow believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and looking for that blessed hope and his glorious appearing.
Editor: I have yet to hear from a Fundamental Jackboot sheep basher who wants to defend his pastoral dictatorship. Could at least one of you bully boys thrash me, and let me read your proof texting. I would love it. I will of course protect your identity so that your assembly will not know what a brute you are. Hey, where are you Bob Ross? How about socking it to me Greg Estep? KJV only please. These other Bibles bore me to death. :-)