My sermon tonight has to do with thoughts that I have been having for some months now about the church; how Jesus intended it to function. We are a new church and since we are not under any fellowship or denominational structure per say, I have been looking to the Lord for guidance on our structure as we grow. We do have overseers, Pastor Ron Auch Sr. and Osmar Aguilar so it’s not like we have no covering, and as we grow, I want to add more, but I really do not want to follow what man has created, I want what Jesus intended. Being a part of many churches and seeing how they function, all primarily following a general American church model of organization, I find that what Jesus said, and what Paul emphasized isn’t really being followed, from what I read, some churches have it right, many don’t, and to be specific, I am not talking how a church service is run.
I have preached about the Ecclesia, that we are to be a people who are out in the marketplace bringing Jesus with us, and living Jesus there, just like we would live when we are gathered together here, but concerning the church body, who and what should we be today? And I will get into that as we move along. This will be a 2-part message, and may expand into three, we will see.
Now beginning with Jesus, He gave no real church structure. He taught us how to live, and gave us examples in His teachings. His time was spent preparing His believers for after He was gone, and preparing them for the future of His church which from our reading begins in Acts 2. His goal was for His church to take His life and His teachings into the whole earth.
Jesus’ focus was on us and our lives, and I base it on Luke 10:27 because this verse embodied what the church would be established through and who it would target.
Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
To know God would be the beginning of all things for the believer. There is so much to go along with that, that’s another sermon, but it was to know God, and to know His heart. Just like a parent with a child. My daughter is on the same wave length as me because she is always talking to me. It would be like Jesus and His father in Heaven. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” in John 10:30 because Jesus knew His heart.
And with the Holy Spirit active in us, and us having a relationship with God, through encounter, we will be one with Him too. Our Father in Heaven allows us to see through His eyes, because we have open access to Him and He reveals deep truths to us through the Holy Spirit.
Those truths from Him through our encounters with Him brings us passion for His purposes, and it creates unbending faith to fulfill His purposes for our lives. Loving your neighbor is easy and through the gifts we are given, we have access to love our neighbors in many different ways.
The Apostle Paul states in:
Ephesians4:8 “WhenHeascendeduponhigh,Heledcaptivitycaptiveandgavegiftstomen." It was through those gifts, that people would see God because healing would come to them. But for us to have a relationship, and revelation with God, we have to surrender our lives to Him through Jesus Christ.
Jesus wanted us to believe and follow Him, and His mandates to the new believers to continue to do after He was gone was to be baptized in water, and proclaim His death together until He returns; the Lord’s Supper. He also told the believers to wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and that baptism would be a part of their lives too.
Even though the early followers may not have seen it, Jesus was laying out what a triumphant church would look like; Jesus himself being the example.
Jesus began by speaking of Himself out of the Book of Isaiah:
Luke 4:18-19 "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those having been crushed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
Jesus speaking to us for what He would do, then us, so show people the love of the Father.
In Acts 2, it begins. The Holy Spirit comes, the now Apostle Peter preaches, 3000 souls come to Christ, the church comes into being, and they begin to walk out the life that Jesus called them and us to walk by “healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, casting out devils because we have freely received, and we are to freely give.”
This brings me to begin looking at some structure to all of these new believers.
We already know the first believers met in Synagogues. There were about 480 Synagogues in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The original Greek word synagogue means merely "a place of meeting." They had a five-part service that included prayers, psalm-singing, blessings, readings from the Scriptures, and commentaries on the sacred passages, but there were no sacrifices and no standard liturgy. Although a rabbi might be recognized as the leader because of his distinguished teaching, there was no official clergy. In fact, any Jew who felt himself qualified could ask for permission to teach the Scriptures-as Jesus did at Nazareth.
In the very beginning, believers in Jesus did not separate themselves from their fellow Jews. Like Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and lesser-known groups, they seemed to form a new sect of Judaism-sometimes called "the Way"; and the first Christians preached in synagogues whose members shared many of the same beliefs and were already familiar with the Scriptures.
Later, as missionaries carried the Gospel out into the Greco-Roman world, services that included gentiles were initially held in synagogues; but soon there were churches specifically for gentile converts. It was ~AD 50 that the Christians and Jews split, so the Christians began meeting in their own places.
So we see a structure for corporate meeting by the Christian church intact, and we have been doing it ever since. In addition, outside the church we see that the church was active in the neighborhoods they lived. This was cultural, because people stayed primarily in neighborhoods because the lack of transportation. There were no bus carts pulled by donkeys or camels to get around to shop or go to your favorite restaurants.
In Jerusalem, and other cities where the Jews lived, it was not uncommon to see small synagogues on top of homes. So meeting in and about homes for religious worship was normal for the new believers. These new Christian believers just brought more to the table.
So now we have an established church that is meeting in established structures, so the Apostle Paul steps in with church structure concerning leadership.
Again the church is operating individually like Jesus said. Love the Lord your God, and your neighbors. Love your neighbors by showing them the love of Jesus, that they know there is a God in heaven.
How? By: “healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, casting out devils, etc. etc.”
Also included which was cultural, was taking care of widows, orphans, and the poor.
To get all this done efficiently, the Apostles in Acts 6 begin by establishing roles in the church.
Widows were not being taken care of which was a Jewish tradition, that was continued by the church, so Deacons were created to do the work of the ministry, allowing the Apostles to establish the Kingdom of God. At that time, we read that seven Godly men were picked to do the work of the ministry in the Jerusalem church.
Deacon comes from the Greek word “diakonos”, which means attendant, or waiter, but also means teacher, pastor, and servant.
As the church grew through the Apostles and Evangelists, there was a need for overseers over the church. They were called Elders. The word Elder comes from the Greek word “episkopos” which means Bishop, or Overseer. They were also called Presbyters.
Some Bishops presided over a church, churches, or oversaw other works. They were Pastors, and Pastoral Leaders: they taught other current and future leaders. Timothy who traveled with the Apostle Paul was the Bishop of Ephesus. His background was raising up other Elders and church leaders. But it wasn’t just about one guy over a distinct area or a church. There were groups of them, and they worked together for the advancement of the kingdom.
Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.”
So many were raised up in the church, because of the large crowds coming to Christ.
So now you have a leadership structure directing the church. All were spiritual, they lead, they taught, but with different roles, and within the larger church, there were many.
As we grow here, Elders and Deacons will have a role.
Now, the next group of leaders that the Apostle Paul expressed comes from:
Ephesians 4:11 “And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Today, some of these roles have been missing from the church, primarily Apostles and Prophets, but we see that for the church to operate as intended, these roles need to be restored, and they are beginning to. But it is unfortunate, that the two roles in question, Apostle and Prophet are abused roles today, so many in the church stay away from them.
I have my thoughts on both them concerning the abuse, but I see the need for them today. Actually we are seeing the prophetic all around us, it happens here, but the apostolic, which has been hidden, has been in place, and in operation. We just don’t talk about it many circles. Nor do many fellowships or denominations have the title within their organizations.
“The New Testament is filled with references to this five-fold ministry of gifts as it is called. Apostles are mentioned ~79 times. Prophets are mentioned ~160 times. The term evangelist is used 3 times. The term pastor is used once and teacher is used ~13 times. All depending on the version of the Bible you read.
“The word “shepherd” is the same word as “pastor” in the Greek and it is used 18 times. It is never used as a title for any individual in the New Testament other than Jesus, Himself. Jesus is referred to as a shepherd 7 times. Other references deal with spiritual shepherds. There are more than 12 men in the New Testament referred to as apostles. Some were young apostles, like Timothy, apprenticing under Paul and others. There are also several people called prophets and teachers and one person who was called an evangelist, Philip. Jesus was the only individual in the New Testament who claimed the title of pastor.”
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” (Acts 13:1) “Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted the brethren with many words, and strengthened them.” (Acts 15:32) “On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. (Acts 21:8-10)
(Peters, Ben R. Folding Five Ministries into One Powerful Team: Taking the Prophetic And Apostolic Reformation To The Next Powerful Level (p. 46)).
Many of these Apostles, and Prophets, wore different hats. They were Elders, Deacons, Teachers, and had different roles. But their primary focus was to edify the saints for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, the Apostle Paul says.
The five-fold ministry gifts were given by God to the church, so that He could dwell among them. Through these leaders, He would manifest Himself, to train up others to be ministers by example so those they were in contact with would see that there was a loving Father in Heaven.
In Exodus 25:8, God told Moses to have the people build Him a sanctuary, so that He could dwell among them. And it culminates in Revelation 21,
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
So these 5 ministry gifts have been ordained for purpose in the church and we in the church need to process how to use them so that God can be seen through His people. It also provides a way for the church to grow in intimacy and the knowledge of God.
These gifts were not put in place to build up ministries, or create another program, they were put in place to equip every saint to be ministers of the Gospel and to also serve the body of Christ.
We can see from the life of the Apostle Paul, he not only spent his time traveling and preaching Christ crucified, he also traveled with others, some like him, other Apostles, who poured their lives into others. When they stayed in a city, they equipped the new believers, established elders and other leader of the church, then went on to another area. They also sent out those they discipled to do the same, fulfilling the calling of the ministry.
Next week I would like to get into the five-fold ministry gifts in more detail because I believe it is vital for today’s church.
I wish to institute those gifts here in time, maybe not with some of the titles, but as we get more into the study, see the role that is taking place with those who walk in that anointing.
These gifts are an anointing. With discernment, you can see the gifts on individuals. Some walk in authority, an apostolic authority, and do the work of an apostle, but they may be called a pastor. Some pastors, or individuals in general are very evangelistic in nature, leading many to Christ. They have the gift of evangelism. Others prophecy, and may be called an evangelist, but can operate in both. I know many pastors, who are teachers. These gifts can carry different roles. Philip was a Deacon, and an Evangelist with prophetic daughters.
There are also arguments if all believers can be one of these, or if it is only available for those who have been called. I will present that more next week.
God by his Spirit is beginning to shore up the Church for this last run to the end of the age. And we in the church need to be running on all cylinders to be the victorious church Jesus demands in the last days. So all the internals and externals of the church need to be in place, in order, and operating at the level that Jesus will demand for His church so we will be successful in the end time harvest of souls.
We need our Overseers, and Deacons, the five-fold ministry gifts, the gifts of administration, as well as the Spiritual gifts in operation to stand in these days to take the harvest. And as your pastor, or overseer, or whatever you want to call me, I want us to function the way Jesus intended us to. And as the church grows, let us together with spiritual discernment and knowledge, put together the church so it will have impact in this city and the surrounding areas.
Next week we will get into part two.