scriptual and unscripually organized churches
scriptual and unscripually organized churches
PRESENTED BY STEVEN SCHILLER
In Ac 14:21,22-23, we read of Paul appointing elders while on his first missionary journey
Later, Paul instructed Titus to do the same thing on the island of Crete - Tit 1:5
The Bible reveals God intended for Christians to have the benefit of elders in each congregation...
Yet many congregations today do not enjoy this blessing
Reasons for why this is so vary, some scriptural and some unscriptural
Whatever the reason a church does not have elders...
It should be a temporary situation
The congregation should not be content without elders
The congregation should be prayerfully working toward the day when it has men qualified to serve as elders
This lesson is the first of several that will hopefully hasten the day when a congregation without elders will be blessed to have them
[For the benefit of those not familiar with the New Testament pattern of church organization...]
A REVIEW OF CHURCH ORGANIZATION
LOCAL CHURCHES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT...
Began wherever the gospel was preached and received
E.g., the church in Jerusalem - Ac 2:36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46-47
E.g., the church in Antioch of Syria - Ac 11:19,20,21,22,23,24,25-26
E.g., the churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia - Ac 14:21,22-23
Consisted of disciples who assembled together frequently
E.g., the church in Jerusalem - Ac 2:42
E.g., the church in Troas - Ac 20:7
E.g., the admonition given to the Hebrew Christians - He 10:24-25
-- These congregations were independent and autonomous, each answering directly to Christ as their Head, through the word of His apostles
WHEN COMPLETELY AND SCRIPTURALLY ORGANIZED...
A congregation had a plurality of specially qualified men serving as elders (also called by other terms as we will see, such as bishops) - e.g., Ac 14:23; 20:17
Elders (bishops) in the church were assisted by qualified men designated as deacons
A church might also have in their midst:
Prophets (though this work, like that of apostles, was temporary) - e.g., Ac 13:1
Teachers (those specially gifted toward this task) - e.g., Ac 13:1; 1Co 12:28; Jm 3:1
Evangelists (preachers of the gospel) - e.g., Ac 21:8; Ep 4:11; 2Ti 4:5
Filling out the congregation would be the rest of the disciples, called Christians or saints - cf. Ac 11:26; 1Co 1:2
-- An example of a scripturally organized church is seen in Php 1:1
THERE WERE "SCRIPTURALLY UNORGANIZED" CHURCHES...
This was the condition of the churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch prior to the appointment of elders - Ac 14:21,22-23
It should be noted that such a condition was evidently temporary
-- No church should ever be satisfied to remain permanently in such a condition
[To appreciate the need for qualified elders in each church, it helps to understand...]
DESCRIPTIVE TERMS IN REFERENCE TO ELDERS
THEY WERE CALLED ELDERS, OR PRESBYTERS...
As noted in Ac 14:23; 20:17
From the Greek word presbuteros, meaning "older"
Indicating "maturity of spiritual experience" - Vine's
Note the qualification ("not a novice") - 1Ti 3:6
THEY WERE ALSO CALLED BISHOPS, OR OVERSEERS...
Note that the elders were called "overseers" (bishops) - Ac 20:17,28
The elders were to serve as "overseers" (bishops) - 1Pe 5:1-2
From the Greek word episkopos, meaning "one who oversees, takes care of"
This is reference to the work they do (take care of the church of God) - cf. 1Ti 3:4-5
THEY WERE ALSO CALLED PASTORS, OR SHEPHERDS...
The English word "pastor" is found but once in the New Testament - Ep 4:11
It comes from the Greek word poimen, meaning "shepherd"
Elders were charged to "shepherd the church of God" - cf. Ac 20:28; 1Pe 5:1-2
THESE TERMS ILLUSTRATE THE IMPORTANCE OF ELDERS...
As Christians try to live godly lives, it is a blessing to have:
Spiritually experienced men (elders, presbyters) to guide us along
Qualified men watching over us (bishops, overseers) to see that we grow
Capable men feeding us (pastors, shepherds), protecting us from "grievous wolves"
Without elders, Christians in a congregation:
Must grow without the guidance and leadership God intended for His flock
Fail to have the benefit of spiritual encouragement God intended for His church
[Why then, would any congregation be content without elders? Yet there are several reasons...]
WHY CHURCHES DON'T HAVE ELDERS
SOME DON'T BELIEVE THEY ARE FOR TODAY...
They believe this office or function was only for first century churches
Has the need provided for by elders changed?
Or could the real reason for believing this be what we consider next?
SOME DON'T WANT TO HAVE ELDERS...
Perhaps because of bad experiences with unqualified elders in the past
Should we throw away the blessing because someone abused it?
Shall we discard marriage and family, because of the many bad ones?
Perhaps because some want to have preeminence - e.g., 3Jn 9
Without elders, it is easy for power hungry individuals to run a congregation
Many young men and unqualified older men like that kind of authority
Others have a problem submitting to elders (or to anyone, for that matter)
SOME DON'T MAKE THE EFFORT TO DEVELOP ELDERS...
Many men give little thought to one day serving as elders
Therefore they make little effort to develop their abilities
Is this not rather selfish?
God needs godly men to serve Him and His church in this capacity
But many are too busy in their jobs and planning their retirement
Certainly not all men have the potential to serve as elders
But how many did, but buried their talent under a pile of selfish interests in this life?
How might Christ judge them if such be the case?
There is a crying need for qualified men to serve as elders in churches today!
Churches often struggle without the benefit of elders
Evangelists and preachers are often burdened with doing what elders should be doing
-- In such cases, the growth of the gospel is hindered!
Everyone needs to be involved in fulfilling this need...
Men need to examine themselves
To see if they are qualified to serve
To diligently work toward meeting the qualifications if the potential is there
To encourage others who one day may be qualified, even if they themselves are not
All should be praying for this work
That God raise up men who are qualified
That men will be able to provide the leadership and care God desires for His children
-- What are you doing to expedite the development of men qualified to serve?
In our next study, we look more closely as the work of elders. For now, have we fully utilized the blessing of Jesus as the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls...? - cf. 1Pe 2:24-25