restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Building Christ’s Church: His Way or Mine?

 David Alan Black 

It’s always interesting to me as a New Testament professor to listen to what people – pastors included – have to say about the church. I am one of those souls who believes that the New Testament is as clear about its ecclesiology as it is about its soteriology. But renewing the church must go beyond mere talk. Actions are needed.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a small congregation (which is currently without a pastor) on the topic of church growth. I based my remarks on Ephesians 4 and Acts 2. Here’s the gist of what I had to say.

I asked them to remember that when Paul encountered severe doctrinal and disciplinary problems in his churches, he did not write the pastors and tell them to resolve the issues. He wrote to the members and placed the burden on congregational responsibility. Even in Philippians, where Paul does mention overseers and deacons (Phil. 1:1), he is not directing the letter to them specifically but to the entire congregation of which they are a part. According to Eph. 4:12, the saints are the real “ministers,” not a professional “clergyman” or “reverend.” All believers are to be involved in building up the body of Christ, not just the leadership.

I asked them to forsake all power structures, remembering that when Jesus said “all authority has been given unto Me,” He meant it (Matt. 28:18). Believers may have duties, responsibilities, and blessings, but none of us has authority. “All authority” still belongs exclusively to Him. Elders are simply pastor-teachers whom God has given to the church (Eph. 4:11).

I reminded them that the proper translation of “rulers” (1 Tim. 5:13) and “them that have the rule over you” (Heb. 13:17) says nothing of total authority and total submission. The Greek makes clear that elders are those who are “out front” leading by teaching and manner of life (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-5). Their role is to enable the congregation to make decisions that are necessary to help the body grow into maturity (Eph. 4:11-12). Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church. Leaders are “foot-washers” and servants, not only of Christ but of others.

I pleaded with them to remember that the church is not a business. We have no CEO, no president, no vice president, no managers. Each and every member of Christ’s body is equally important since each has been given a gift and a strategic place of ministry (1 Cor. 12-14). All competition for rank is therefore eliminated! As Jesus put it, we are all brothers, and becoming “great” means becoming a servant of all, with Christ as our example (Matt. 23).

I reminded them that since there is one Head, everybody reports to Him. An elder is to be like my Shetland sheepdog – responding only to the call of his master. The same is true of every believer. Therefore, in obedience to their master, both leaders and led must determine to pattern their meetings after the New Testament.

In closing, I invited the congregation to determine before the Lord that:

  • Their meetings will be participatory, including opportunities for sharing concerns, discussing a teaching, expressing love for one another, and mutual encouragement and exhortation (1 Cor. 14).
  • The Lord’s Supper will be the focal point of their meetings, as it was in the early church (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17-21; Jude 12), and (ideally) will be celebrated every Sunday in glorious commemoration of the death of Christ and anticipation of His return.
  • Gatherings will not be described as a “worship service” since worship is to take place at all times (Rom. 12:1-2). The purpose of their meetings will be to edify one another as the Scripture instructs (1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:24-25) so that God’s people can worship and obey the Lord during the week.
  • They will not spend large sums of money maintaining a building; in fact, they may even decide to meet in homes because the church is simply a family of families (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Phlm. 2). They will have no “auditorium” where people sit around and do just that – sit and audit!
  • They will have no “senior pastor,” “associate pastor,” or clergy-laity dichotomy, realizing that the term “pastor” has unfortunately come to refer to a professional Christian, thereby excusing “the saints” from fulfilling their calling.
  • They will be an Acts 2 church, building a strong church by joining their mind, heart, soul, and spirit. An Acts 2 church has a four-fold commitment. These early believers gathered to listen to the apostles’ teaching, to have fellowship, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and to pray together (Acts 2:42). Their “church” was not a building but a spiritual temple. They fell in love with the Word of God, and they lived together in love and unity. They cared for one another and prayed for each other. The focus of their assemblies was not to “grow the church” with programs but to focus intentionally on loving their fellow believers and helping them to mature in Jesus Christ.

I told these dear saints that none of this would be easy. When I was born again at the age of eight, I had no idea that following Jesus would be so demanding, so radically life-changing. Today, like then, I need to simply take God at His word. I must realize that my once-for-all decision many years ago now involves moment-by-moment choices to do things His way or mine.

Friends, it’s one or the other. His way or my way. May it be no to self, and yes to the Lord Jesus!

March 13, 2005

David Alan Black is the editor of If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.

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