CHAPTER 2, PART 2
ORGANIZATION & STRUCTURE
When Jesus came with His Gospel of the Kingdom of God, He came to set the captives free from the Babylonian rule that had enveloped God’s people and permeated their religious system.
In her early years the church was the family of God, a redeemed community within every community, unstructured, without special buildings, hymn books, head offices, constitutions, hierarchies, church boards, Missionary boards, building funds, Popes, Archbishops, Priests, Nuns, women’s meetings, Sunday schools, seminaries, Bible schools, para-church organizations, and everything else associated today with “proper Christianity”. All these things appear important to the natural minds of men, but are totally irrelevant in God’s Kingdom. Jesus can build His Church without them, and in fact they hinder Him. (Emphasis is my own)
In the early church everybody experienced real church life. No young people were sent away to learn about God and His Word in a special school. Their school was the community in which they lived – the family of God – all the believers in their town. The apostles came and lived with them, and worked for their living in the area for months or even years.
Apostles formed Christ in the disciples by living with them, demonstrating Him, and teaching them to do all the things that Jesus had commanded them. Then they departed, leaving the local church to find its own way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
They did not even have Bibles to guide them. No Pastor was sent from some Head Office to lead and guide the new church. Slowly, painstakingly, over many years, lives were formed, and within these communities, GOD began to make prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The Holy Spirit decided matters. There were no “graduation ceremonies” producing raw young “Ministers of the Gospel”, who had become “Reverends” by passing examinations.
The people, those ordinary people which the Scriptures call the church, began to recognize the ministries functioning in their midst, and said, “God has given us a pastor or prophet or prophetess”. These words are not titles but simply describe functions of certain believers who only Jesus can gift and enable.
The pastor or prophet or any other gift of the risen Christ did not then become “part of the clergy”, but simply functioned as part of the body, no better, no more important than the serving girl believer who washed the floor. THE WORD OF CHRIST WAS NOT FORGOTTEN.
“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…” (Matt. 20:26-28)
All the believers in the town were collectively known as the church. The name of the town was only added to identify those believers by locality, so we have the church at Corinth or Rome or Jerusalem. Individually “they were known as disciples, not church members. (emphasis is mine) The false concept that a building in which we meet is called a church was only introduced by Satan after many years. The church could assemble together but they could not “go to church”, and would have been astounded if anybody had asked which church they belonged to.
It would only be after many years of the experience of real church life that the Holy Spirit would cause apostles, prophets or evangelists to be sent out from these local churches, and they were anointed by God, not appointed by men. They went without Bibles or prepared sermons or notes, but the Holy Spirit directed them and they imparted LIFE instead of lectures.
When they came to any town where there were other believers they were immediately received as part of the church, because there was no difference except in the name of the locality. They all loved and served one another because that was the most basic and most important command of the King. There was no need or place for human organization or structure because relationships within a large family, united by one Spirit are all that matter.
Problems arose when some of the Jews, who had been raised in the Jewish religious system, tried to introduce circumcision as a necessary qualification for salvation. (Acts 15) The greatest opposition to the Word of God preached by Paul came from those in the religious systems of the time, both Judaistic and pagan. An example is the record in Acts 19 of the happenings in Ephesus.
Large numbers of Scribes and Pharisees believed in Christ, but their worldly concepts of religious structures followed with them, and so Satan was able to introduce the spirit of Babylon to the church. Structures, organizations and the pyramid form of control cannot function without rules and regulations. The traditions and laws of the Jews were Satan’s best weapon to confuse and entrap the un-renewed minds of many fledgling disciples.
The life in the Spirit that is the normal Christian life is impossible if we allow rules and laws and traditions of religious structures to restrain and contain us. Paul warned the Philippians:-
“Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision: for we are the true circumcision WHO WORSHIP IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil. 3:2,3)
When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman who had five husbands, He declared plainly that man-made places of worship, including Solomon’s temple, were no longer required by God. He announced that God only wants worship “in Spirit and in Truth”, which can be anywhere that a person joined to God’s Spirit happens to be. There are no “holy places” or special buildings for people to meet with God in His plan for His Church.
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you worship, the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. BUT AN HOUR IS COMING AND NOW IS when the TRUE WORSHIPPERS SHALL WORSHIP THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH. For such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is SPIRIT and those who worship Him must worship IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH.” (In.4:2l-24)
Our Church buildings, temples, sanctuaries and Holy Places have assumed such dominance over our minds, that we cannot imagine how to meet without them. They have become the centre of our Christian life and subtly replaced our homes as the most important meeting places. While we can worship together in great numbers, fellowship is only experienced on an intimate basis and is impossible in a large crowd. You cannot fellowship the back of somebody’s head.
When I use the word fellowship, I use it in the New Testament sense which has a deeper meaning than our modem understanding, which is generally limited to mean attending church.
The first chapter of 1 John deserves careful study, for he writes about their fellowship with the Father which he desires others to experience and enjoy. New Testament fellowship is sharing every aspect of our lives in deeply intimate relationships with God and other Christians.
Formal religious services conducted by clergy with passive audiences, and no open ministry, preclude this fellowship and prevent the Holy Spirit from leading our meetings. Church buildings, pews, podiums, altars, etc., subtly serve to enforce the hold of Babylon over the natural mind. They hinder the Spirit of God and prevent the ensnared saints from becoming the church that God desires. They do not stop us from being born again or filled with the Spirit. They do not stop us from worshipping together, or listening to preaching and teaching, but large meetings are only a very limited aspect of fellowship.
God’s children remain His family even when they choose to live in the Babylonian captivity, but how He longs for them to return to His spiritual Jerusalem, where the spirit of the world has no place.