10 Things Many Institutional Churches Miss

church, steeple
Unsplash/Chris Liverani

Here are my general observations to help the Church in its quest to restore New Testament patterns. (The first-century quest for apostolicity is sometimes referred to as “primitivism” or the “restoration movement.”) I realize that the following categories are based on my opinion and may or may not correspond precisely to each church or denomination.

1. Early church leaders did not register through a formal ordination process

In the Old Testament there is an official ceremony describing the placement of the priesthood (Exodus 28-29). In the New Testament we see that the original 12 were commissioned by Jesus to serve as his apostles. (A formal ceremony commissioning them is not indicated (Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-13)). I guess Jesus laid hands on them after they functioned for a while in their calling while walking with him and receiving his correction and mentorship (Luke 10:17-20). We also see that the elders of the church at Antioch lay hands on Paul and Barnabas, setting them apart for the work of the apostolic ministry (Acts 13:1-2). The Pauline pattern of establishing churches also involved the laying on of hands, setting people apart for ministry (Acts 14:22-35, 1 Timothy 4:14).

In all of these cases, the most important aspect of their ordination was to walk with a spiritual leader in the context of a Jesus-centered community. This organically resulted in their commission after proving their calling both in practice and by a witness of the Spirit (Acts 20:28). Therefore, the current practice of enrolling clergy (through additional local seminary, followed by elaborate ceremony), as a prerequisite for serving as church overseers, is not the norm of early primitivism. .

2. There was no separation between clergy and laity

In the first century Church, all of Christ’s followers participated in the priesthood (1 Peter 2:8-9). There was no separation between the place of the church and the place of work and the so-called clergy and laity. Additionally, most overseers were married and selected based on their ability to manage their biological home (1 Timothy 3:1-12). As a spiritual leader, Paul was bi-professional and even used a conference room to start a church (Acts 18:3, Acts 19:9).

3. The Spirit has been poured out on all flesh for ministry

On the day of Pentecost, Peter likened Jesus’ move to Joel’s prophecy of the last days when the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh to release all people, men, women, young and old, to prophesy and experience visions. and dreams (Acts 2:17-18). Therefore, the emphasis was on spontaneous empowerment by the Spirit to further the proliferation of the gospel (Acts 1:8-9). Today, church services are steeped in predictable liturgy and routines that exclude everyone from ministry except ordained clergy. Rather, he should release Spirit-inspired ministry, regardless of formal training, gender, and age.

4. Each successive generation of church movement should be apostolic

For the Church to remain an ever-expanding missionary movement, gifted apostolic leaders should serve at the head of denominations and networks. This is why Jesus chose 12 apostles and not 12 pastors to initiate His movement. Historically, many movements appoint gifted administrators as leaders of their second generation. This expansion of bottlenecks which then results in routinization.

5. Everyone had to read and interpret the scriptures

In the New Testament, apostolic authors wrote letters to their congregations and church collectives, not just to other apostles and elders (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). Therefore, they expected all believers to understand and interpret the sacred writings with the help of the Spirit and the teachings of the church (Hebrews 5:11-14, 1 John 2:20-27) . Unfortunately, some historical denominations (like Roman Catholicism) have discouraged so-called laity from reading the Bible to prevent church schisms. Even some historical Protestant Christians and Evangelicals often depend solely on their pastor to study and expound the scriptures, as if they are excluded from scriptural devotion because they are not full-time ministers. This goes against the simple teachings of Scripture (Psalm 1, 1 Timothy 3:15-16).

6. We need to confess our sins to each other

Some historic churches allow confession of sins only to their assigned priest. The New Testament encourages all believers to confess their sins to one another so they can be healed (James 5:16).

7. Christianity is a way of life, not a routine

Jesus said He was the Way (John 14:6). The early church was initially described as a way of life (Acts 5:20, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:23). Unfortunately, many Christians view Christianity as a religion defined simply by church attendance on Sundays and holidays. Unfortunately, it has become a routine that is often not integrated into their daily lives.

8. Christianity is not defined and confined to a building

The original Church was persecuted and often forced to meet secretly in houses and catacombs. Today, Christianity is so marginalized in a culture where buildings that host Christian services are now synonymous with “churches”. So the faith was relegated to an hour-long service in a building on Sundays.

9. The office of bishop should include apostolicity

Today, many historic churches believe that the office of bishop is the successor to the original apostles. Despite this, many churches choose bishops who are great administrators, but they often lack the missionary zeal and abilities befitting apostolic ministry. This limits the level of grace equipping believers need for their evangelistic zeal and ministry capacity (Ephesians 4:7-12).

10. God has no grandchildren

In the New Testament, each person had to be born from above and personally receive Jesus to be a true Christian (John 1:12-13, John 3:3-8). Often in institutional churches, a person is born into a Christian family, baptized at a young age, and grows up as a cultural Christian without personally encountering Jesus. Unfortunately for them, God has no grandchildren. He requires each individual to become His son (Romans 8:14-16).

I believe that by adhering to these biblical principles, our churches can become healthier in the future. We owe it to our people and to Christ who is the head of the Church.

Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally renowned author, consultant, and theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence culture. He is the founding pastor of Resurrection Church and leads several organizations, including the US Coalition of Apostolic Leaders and the Christ Covenant Coalition.

To order his books or to join the thousands of subscribers to his newsletter, go to josephmattera.org


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