The Church Organization God’s Way

How important is it that we follow the Lord’s teachings regarding organizing and administering the Church?

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds (1 Corinthians 3:9-10).

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:21-27).

The Church is the Body of Christ, a spiritual reality, composed entirely of true disciples of Christ. The spiritual Church is not the same as a local church organization or a church denomination. The organized church may contain members of the spiritual Church, but not everyone who is a member of an organized church is a true disciple of Christ.

·     When referring to the spiritual Church a capital C will be used – Church.

·     When referring to the organized church a small c will be used – church.

Christ’s teachings about the organization and administration of His Church are critical. Anyone who does not continue in His teachings is operating in unbelief and disobedience.

Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work (2 John 1:8-11).

The Church Organization God’s Way:

                               I.      Purpose of the Church

                            II.      Priority of the Church

                         III.      Leadership of the Church

To understand the Church Organization God’s Way we should, first, understand the Lord’s purpose for His Church.

I.    The Purpose of the Church

Here in the “Great Commission,” Jesus gives the Church her marching orders to the very end of the age. As we go about our lives we are to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey everything His has commanded.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore [as you] go and make disciples of all nations [peoples], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The importance of making and teaching disciples is to build up the Church in the unity of the faith so that its members will become mature to the fullness of Christ Himself.  A tall order, impossible if we try to do it our way and fail to follow and obey everything He teaches.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

II.   Priority of the Church

Jesus reminds us of the first and greatest commandment, clearly establishing the Church’s priority.

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

As we read about he Church being formed in Acts, we find the priorities of the Church expressed in regard to the teachings of the Word of God, the importance of fellowship and prayer.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2-4).

III.   Leadership of the Church

           1.   Jesus Christ the Head of the Church.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him (Christ) to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:22-23).

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:23-24).

And he (Christ) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18)

Christ establishes the order in the Church and appoints apostles, prophets, and teachers.

2.    Apostles

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).

It was he (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Apostles are appointed by Christ, and have authority to preach the Word, heal the sick, raise the dead, and drive out demons. They are sent out geographically as assigned by the Lord.

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. … These twelve (apostles) Jesus sent out with the following instructions: … As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep (Matthew 10:1-10).

He appointed twelve--designating them apostles --that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:14-15).

The Lord still chooses apostles even after His departure into heaven.

Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1:24-26).

Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, (Galatians 1:1)

How can you tell real apostles from false apostles?

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false (Revelation 2:2).

The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles—(2 Corinthians 12:12)

3.    Prophets

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) (Acts 11:26-28)

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: (Acts 13:1)

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:10-11).

All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. … Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, (1 Corinthians 14:26-39).

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).

4.   Overseers and Elders are Pastors and Teachers

Read the following passages carefully and see if these statements are true.

a.         Elders are Overseers, they pastor or shepherd the flock.

b.      There is to be a plurality of Elders.

c.       There should never be just one Elder.

d.      Elders shepherd the flock they are preachers and teachers.

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28).

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust (Acts 14:23).

The apostles and elders met to consider this question (Acts 15:6).

Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you (1 Timothy 4:14).

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17).

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you (Titus 1:5).

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).

It should be obvious from the Word of God that the Church is to have several Elders. The elders are responsible for shepherding the fellowship. Once the fellowship of believers is established the leadership must be shared it should never be left to one person. For the elders to truly share the responsibilities of leadership they should all be equal in authority and equally recognized by the Church body. I believe the Lord has established this joint form of leadership by the elders for many reasons. Some of which are spiritual accountability for the Word of God, accountability of authority, shared responsibility develops group strength and demonstrates Kingdom principles to the fellowship of believers.

Elders are to be focused on the ministry of the Word of God and prayer. Other administrative tasks and Church ministries are to be managed by the Deacons. For example: finances, facilities, and services.

Qualifications for Elders:

1.   Overseers by the Holy Spirit.

2.     Appointed by leadership (Apostles)

3.     The husband of but one wife.

4.     Temperate.

5.     Self-controlled.

6.     Respectable.

7.     Hospitable.

8.  Able to teach.

9.  Not given to drunkenness.

10.  Not violent but gentle.

11.  Not quarrelsome.

12.  Not a lover of money.

13.  Able to manage his own family.

14.  Not be a recent convert.

15.  Have a good reputation with outsiders.

16.  Hold to the deep truths of the faith

Responsibilities of Elders:

1.    Consider and make spiritual decisions.

2.    Keep watch over themselves and the Church

3.    Prepare God’s people for works of service

4.     Lay hands on those commissioned.

5.     Direct the affairs of the church.  

6.     Preaching and teaching.   

7.     Pray over disciples and anoint with oil

8.    Be shepherds of God's flock

9.    Be examples to the flock.

10.  Humble toward one another.

11.  Be self-controlled and alert.

12.  Resist the devil.

13.  Stand firm in the faith.        

 5.    Deacons

 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well (1 Timothy 3:8-12)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons (Philippians 1:1)

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:1-7).

This passage is about the selection and commissioning of the first seven deacons in the Church of Jerusalem. The Church was growing and the responsibility of the elders, for prayer and the ministering of the Word, was being compromised by other ministerial needs. So the Apostles and Elders decided that deacons were needed.

Process for selecting Deacons is:

  1. The members selected seven to be deacons and presented them to the elders.
  2. The elders prayed and lay hands on them - commissioning them for service.

The Word of God provides instruction for all life’s needs.  It is little wonder that the Lord has provided ample instructions for organizing and administering His Church. What we must do is “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Trusting in the Lord means obedience to all His teachings.

·      Jesus Christ is the head of the Church.

·       Next, He has appointed Apostles and Prophets.

·   The local Church is shepherded by a body of Elders (preachers and teachers).

·    The Elders are responsible for ministering the Word of God and prayer.

·    Deacons manage the other ministerial needs of the Church.

·        Disciples are members of the Church

      Is your church organized God’s way?  Why not?

Richard H Perry