When one looks today at the Church of Jesus Christ and examines its life and structure what you observe actually has little resemblance to the early Church in the book of Acts. I believe today’s Church falls far short of what is set out for us in the New Testament as normative to the Church of Jesus Christ.
So I would like to continue to set out some of the differences that, in my mind, become obvious when you lovingly look at the Church as it is today and as it should be.
Last issue of this e-newsletter we looked at 4 issues:
1> We have a church that is organizational and structures where the Lord wants an organism that has life.
2> Today we see pastors as leaders of the Church where biblically it was a five-fold team with apostles and prophets leading.
3> The early Church was prophetic – today’s Church is pastoral
4> In the Church today life principles are taught – in the early church life was released through the teaching of the Word.
5> Today we see a somewhat complacent and comfortable Church as compared to one that lived in radical obedience to the Word of the Lord.
The believers today are somewhat complacent when it comes to the mandate of the Church to “go into all the world and proclaim Jesus Christ” and thus be ambassadors for the King and the Kingdom. Either we are simply ignorant of the mandate given to the Church in the Great Commission or we are in straight rebellion to the words of the Lord. Some simply believe that evangelism is a special gift given to a few and since they don’t have that gift they do not need to be sharing the Gospel with those they know and come into contact with.
The early Church lived by the Word of the Lord and moved out in obedience to what the Lord had spoken to them. They actually believed the Word, acted upon it and saw the hand of God move and supernaturally touch lives everywhere they went and shared the Gospel.
6> Today’s Church is, in general, fruitless while the early Church saw people added daily and were very fruitful.
This issue is, in many ways, a result of #5 above … According to recent research, in the average congregation, it takes 85 people an entire year to reach one person for Christ. Many churches do not see anyone come to Christ in a year. More than 90 percent of churches are declining or growing less than the community around them. (RainerResearch.com)
The early Church shared two basic messages – the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the King (Jesus) from the dead. These two basic messages formed the basis of Jesus’ ministry and all of His teachings and it occupied the minds and hearts of the early Church as well. They had two basic messages and, as a result, many repented and came to salvation through Jesus Christ daily. Today we have many messages and a tremendous number of methods and yet few new “true converts” or disciples of the Lord Jesus can be found in the Church today.
7> The early Church had tremendous faith in God’s wisdom and so sought His guidance daily; today – man’s wisdom appears to rule and reign as we design new programs and outreach methods based on our best attempts to understand today’s culture.
I am not against good research and being aware of one’s audience and the current trends in our culture. I am not against using new methods to communicate the Gospel and declare the mighty works of our God. However, these need to be applied or adopted after much seeking of God’s heart for your local situation and after specifically hearing His voice for your ministry.
It is not good enough to buy into something that worked for someone else somewhere else and transplant the concept or program into your local situation. This is simply relying on man’s wisdom (which may have been God-directed in its original location) instead of doing the hard work of seeking God’s face and receiving prophetic direction for yourself in your specific location and time.
8> The early Church believed every person was a minister (the priesthood of all believers) and we hire professionals to do the work of the ministry for us.
In some places they are called priests, in others pastors or ministers. However, the concept is the same. A “paid professional” who is the expert and thus knows how to “do ministry” and the laity (word meaning amateurs) pay the professional to do the ministry in their local assembly thus freeing them of the responsibility and demands of being discipled, trained, equipped and released. This is, of course, a total misunderstanding of the role of spiritual elders and the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11-18.
9> Ministry is man-based and man-focused today where in the early Church it was God-focused and God-directed.
Today we have this ministry philosophy of needing to help all those who are hurting. I am concerned that this is based in man’s soul and is working from a base of human sympathy. In the early Church, as far as I can see, they only “help” as God directs and thus work from His divine compassion flowing through them and not simply man’s sympathetic feelings towards another hurting human being.
This compassion was “spirit-based” and not a soul-realm issue and thus moved people quickly towards the Gospel and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Much different than today where much time, money and effort is spent on community service and reaching the poor as some form of “good works” without much, if any, results being seen in the area of souls saved and the Kingdom advanced.
There are many more “differences” that I have been observing over my 40+ years in ministry … and these will form the basis of the next several “Apostolic” articles in this e-newsletter.
As always I am open to and welcome interaction on what I have written and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org