Do you remember an article we published when Modi won the election, the second time? Recently I received a Whatsapp forward in which a Malayalee Christian Pastor is asking the listeners to pray for the state of Uttar Pradesh. He is complaining that the police are rounding up the pastors and arresting them. Along with the message he is attached pictures of Soldiers hauling up militants in Kashmir and bullet-ridden body of a woman. I have reasons to believe that these are not connected to Uttar Pradesh. They are using these kinds of unscrupulous means to make believers cry and donate to them. I am sure that sincere believers will pray for a change in the state. But come to think of it. You cannot place the blame on the BJP government’s door in its entirety. There are elements in Christianity which are a black mark on Christ. Jesus will bring in situations which will purge these black marks.
Pastors like these are not worried about the souls in Uttar Pradesh. But their concern is that their business houses in the state are being closed down. I would like to enumerate the flawed church model applied by Christian business houses including TPM. I strongly believe that Jesus is using the Modi Government straighten out many things in India.
I would like to take this opportunity to show the contrast between the Church of Jesus Christ and the Institutional Church that has become nowadays.
How the Early Church was structured
We have the Bible with us to give insights on how the church was structured. A local church is a community of disciples. Disciples come into existence, in a place as a result of the preaching of the Gospel. The seed of the church is laid by the Gospel preaching.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Great Commission
Initially, the Apostle/Evangelist stays on with the community for a few months/years and ensures that the disciples are put in the right track to continue with their lives under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He ordains one of them as Overseer and other seniors as Deacons.
So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Even though there are an Overseer and deacons in the assembly, each one of them is primarily taught by the Holy Spirit Himself.
Needless to say that the Ordained Elder is from within the same community and a RESIDENT OF THAT TOWN. He is NOT an Appointee by Paul Corporation Church. He is not being transferred by Paul every six months fearing that he starts an affair with a sister. In short, he has to be settled in that place with good family life. Paul describes the basic qualifications which he would look in an Elder who is to be ordained. Note the first verse below. The job of an overseer is NOT a position, but a TASK. It carries responsibility and no allowances.
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
The Growth Pattern of Apostolic Churches
When the members of a local assembly increases in number, it should not be assumed that the Overseer also starts growing as is with corporate business houses. He does not become a Centre Overseer with many sub local Overseers under him. They do not purchase big plots of land, construct auditoriums and name it CHURCH. A fellowship is no different than a family gathering. The chord that ties each member is LOVE. There is no superiority or inferiority within them. The elder Serves the Younger.
In Acts 2, we see that the disciples increased in number by huge margins. In the very first day, Three Thousand people were added to the church. The Growth was so phenomenal that the numbers of disciples grew in leaps and bounds each day. By today’s thinking, they should have been gathering in an IBR type facility within a month. We do not see anything of that kind. Rather, they gathered in their homes for the Lord’s supper.
….. They BROKE BREAD IN THEIR HOMES and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
The homes during those days were not bigger than what we have now. So it is quite natural that they split into small congregations and gathered in different homes (Rom 16:5).
The Nature of Relationships in local churches – Early Christianity
As mentioned earlier, the Overseer is the Primary Servant. He is the one who leads in SERVING. This is very much contrary to today’s way where the Pastor is seen as a professional who receives Monetary compensation for his Sermons and actions in the Worship Service. Everybody in the fellowship chips in with whatever they are endowed with. The Overseer is not an overarching figure who overpowers the rest of the members. The members are also not sitting in the fellowship as onlookers. They all have gifts endowed by the Holy Spirit and each one of them are using the gifts per the unction they have. EACH OF OF THEM SUFFER PAIN AND REJOICES IN HONOUR OF THE OTHER.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, EACH ONE OF YOU has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
To be continued…..