Thursday, September 07, 2006

NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH MODEL

There is much conversation today on blogs about the N.T. model of a local church. I found this article to be most interesting no matter your personal perspective.

This is just stuff to chew on as I travel extensively for a couple of weeks and find it difficult to post. Enjoy whether agreeing or not.

Paul

P.S.
An over simplified synopsis of Reisinger's basic theme is that the N.T. Church was an "organism" that embraced all believers and that the local organization/institution of that Church may have varied in structure or methods as ours may also seeing that there is no textual authority for such
structure.


By John Reisinger

"We reject the notion that there is a 'true, New Testament, institutional role model church.' No one can find such a system anywhere in the New Testament Scriptures! We would argue the same as the Anabaptist argued with the Lutheran when discussing baptism. The Lutheran chided the Anabaptist by saying, "Surely, sir, you believe there was at least one small infant in the Philippian jailer's household." The Anabaptist replied, "No, sir. The youngest person in that household was a sixteen-year-old boy." The Lutheran opened his Bible to Chapter 16 of Acts and said, "Where, sir, do you find your sixteen year old boy in these words?" The Anabaptist replied, "In the same verse that you find your infant child!"

I am not obligated to prove that something could not possibly be in the Bible. It is your duty to prove it IS clearly there if you claim Biblical authority for it. I can say that no single 'institutional' view of the church is biblical and therefore not mandatory, not only because there are so many different views, but also because no one view can be established with specific texts of Scripture. However, in this case I can go further and prove that the basic concept of church that is essential to ANY institutional system is itself contrary to Scripture. That fact in itself is enough to convince me that the black cat does not exist. Let us consider the following facts:

(1) An institutional role model church simply cannot be found in Scripture by clear exegesis of texts. It must first be assumed to exist and then discovered by a whole series of logical (?) deductions. One must first make the assumption and then look for the evidence to prove it. This is backwards. The truth should come directly from texts of Scriptures. It takes a pretty thick book to prove any system of church order. You have to have a lot of therefores, and we can assumes, when you have no texts of Scripture. If the Bible was one-tenth as clear about church polity as the institutionalist claims, his book on church order would be very thin and made up mostly with Scripture. He could make his statement and give a text of Scripture to prove it. It is the 'sound reasoning' part that takes up so much space.

(2) We could not have such a true New Testament church today without someone having the same authority as that possessed by the Apostles. Some Baptists, especially some Reformed Baptists, have actually come very close to practicing this in their view of eldership but none (that I know of) have claimed Apostleship. One Reformed Baptist preacher has convinced himself, and some immature zealots, that he is the 'modern day Nehemiah' raised up by God to purify the twentieth century church.

(3) We could not have a true New Testament church without having the Apostolic gifts of the Spirit in operation since it was these gifts that created and operated the early church. Do we have prophets giving us special messages from God today? I agree that some zealots make this claim, but we all know better.

(4) We could not have a true New Testament church unless all of the true believers in our area were part of it and there were no other kinds of churches around. If Paul wrote a letter to the "Church in Any Town," I verily believe that some deluded souls actually believe the mailman would bring the letter directly to their pastor. They literally believe they are the only 'duly authorized' church in town. Is a Bible-believing Presbyterian church just as duly authorized by God as a Reformed Baptist Church? Can we accept them as a 'church' when most of their members have not obeyed Christ in biblical baptism? The moment you say "yes," to either of these questions then you must either admit that there is no clear role model for the institutional church or else God has 'duly authorized' some people to disobey God and practice error.

(5) We could not have a true New Testament church today because the New Testament Scriptures not only do not give us details for such a church, they give us evidence of more than one view of church polity among the early believers themselves. One of the difficult struggles in both Acts and Paul's epistles is resolving the problems that arose simply because they did not have a uniform polity in the various churches. This was glaringly evident in the Jew/Gentile struggles. The church at Jerusalem, under James, would never have agreed to operate that congregation like the Gentile congregations that Paul established.

(6) We should not even WANT churches like some of those described in the New Testament Scriptures! How would you like to be an elder in the Corinthian church? Who in his right mind would accept a call to pastor the Galatians? This last question assumes that local congregations in the New Testament times followed the modern practice of extending a 'call' to an ordained (?) clergyman to come and 'pastor' them. Is this practice (a) Biblical, (b) against Scripture, or (c) legitimate expediency? Are we denying the sufficiency of Scripture when we frankly admit we have no clear biblical proof for such a practice? Just because Paul would never have been willing to accept a call to pastor a church already established by someone else (Romans 15:20), does that make it wrong for me to do it today? If so, then I have sinned in this manner at least five times.

I will never forget the first Baptist ordination service I attended. The chairman kept saying, "We Baptists go by the Book" as he waved the Bible. However, all he did was wave it. He never opened it. I was waiting for him to read about how the early church 'called an ordination council,' how they interviewed the candidate on 'his (1) conversion, (2) call to the ministry, (and (3) his doctrinal statement.' I was really waiting for the verses that justified women being on the ordination council (actually there were more women than men but only the men 'laid on hands'). I guess every one was familiar with the verses 'in the Book' on that subject so they did not bother to quote them. I really learned a lot about 'Baptists going by the Book' that day.

(7) The Scriptures themselves give us no encouragement even to look for a role-model church with each detail laid out. It gives us principles and exhorts us to apply them in wisdom and love to the existing situation. We are to create a church order that is consistent with biblical principles and which also enables us to serve God in unity and efficiency with other congregations that differ with us in church order but preach the same gospel of grace."

16 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Wow.

Talk about something to "chew on"! That term is most fitting, as I doubt I'll be able to digest it all any time soon. That is a compelling statement.

I'm going to appropriate whatever of it I can get my spiritual arms around, as I think the message is vitally important. Not for "making changes", but for changing some of my attitudes.

Thanks.

GuyMuse said...

Interesting article. The New Testament seems to allow much more freedom to simply BE church than what the institutional church feels comfortable with in general. My oberservation is that we have confused our traditions and practices in the ic for being supposedly what the NT teaches about church. As Reisinger points out, much of what is practiced today is simply not found in the pages of the NT. It takes a lot of "therefores", "we must assume...", "it would seem..." to get to current practices. Having said this, not all traditions/practices are necessarily bad. But we must be careful to equate them with "this is what the Bible teaches." The early church seems to have been at least influenced by some of the cultural aspects (Jewish) of their day. Many verses of the Epistles are directed toward clarifying or correcting incorrect practices or teaching. I find that 1 Cor. 11-14 is probably the closest thing we have in regards to a NT church manual of polity. Yet if we accept these chapters as such, we find that our own current traditions/practices are quite different from what we find in these chapters. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. Have a good trip.

Paul said...

Bro. Paul,

That is just outstanding! BTW, thanks again for lunch Saturday. Victor had a blast.

Paul Burleson said...

Hey guys,

I know what Reisinger says seems radical but I'm afraid when we get challenged with scriptures only what we come out with may be pretty radical to some of our thoughts and long held traditions.

I've about decided my next post is going to be entitled..."Some things I'm sure about and some things I'm not." I'm finding that, while I hold to a firm position as to the infallibility, inerrancy, and inspired character of the scriptures, I'm not as sure of my own infallibility, inerrancy, and inspired understanding of said scriptures. I think I used to hold to both mine and the bible's but I'm older now, and, I hope, more willing to let the Spirit do His job.

Paul, for your eyes and ears only, CMA. Christian Missionary Alliance. I remembered BEFORE Mary and I reached the entrance gate. Go figure.

Paul B.

Kevin Bussey said...

Wow, that is deep.

I don't think we can have a true NT church until we have what it says in Acts 4:34 "there were no needy people among them."

Paul Burleson said...

Kevin,

I agree with BOTH of your statements. By the way, I'm sure enjoying what I read on your blog. Keep it up.

Paul B.

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul:

Bowden McElroy posted about an interview with a teenager and how it was the parent's responsibility that his "theology" was seriously out of whack. I told him I was going to read that to my (young marrieds) SS class Sunday as it is vital they hear it.

This ties right in, so I'm going to steal your posting too. When we break the "addiction" many folks have to the corporate church, we're going to have to replace it with something that they should be doing. This is just the ticket.

Terry Coy said...

I have the privilege of working with new church planters of all ethnicities, styles, models, affinities -- PDC, traditional, emerging, Cowboy, house/organic/simple, multi-housing, etc, etc. They all have affirmed the BFM2000 and agree on the essentials. But just try to get them to agree on what a church should look like or operate! Talk about from one end of the spectrum to the other! Some are even struggling with the word (not concept) of church because of all the cultural baggage. We just try to keep them focused on the essentials and on the mission.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

Welcome to any or all words posted if they help.

Terry,

Welcome first timer to comment but not last time...you better do it again, I'll serve my plate off yours next time we eat at your mom's house if you don't.

For those who don't know, Terry is my nephew and one of my favorite people on this earth. [I hope you don't mind claiming kin Terry. :)]

Paul B.

TerryCoy said...

Busted! Actually, it is a privilege to have you as an uncle.

David Rogers said...

Paul,

I first came across Reisinger's writings by way of Wade's blog back in January, and was impressed back then with what I believe to be his sound interpretation of the biblical reality.

Commenting on this somewhat later on Bart Barber's blog let Bart to post 4 different posts in response to the first 4 parts of Reisinger's 5-part series on the "ekklesia." I have had a good bit of interaction with Bart about this. A bit later, we finally even got Reisinger himself to pitch in and comment on some of Bart's observations. It would have been good to get some more interaction and support from others in the discussion.

I am still very interested in what Reisinger has to say here (which is basically a summary of what he says in his 5-part series on the "ekklesia"), and also open to being convinced by those, like Bart, who see some "holes" in Reisinger's hermeneutics.

I, for one, would love to open this discussion up again (as long as it remains civil and loving), and see what light we can all shed as we seek together to understand God's will as revealed through Scripture.

Paul Burleson said...

David,

I appreciated your comment. I, too, would love some respectful dialogue on the biblical understanding of the makeup of the local church. Reisinger, it seems to me, is on target with the lack of a clear biblical model for such. That is not to deny it's reality even in scripture, but it does show how much the cultural context can be in play in modern times with freedom.

I think there is much to learn about this and would love to hear from others also.

Paul B.

Bob Cleveland said...

It seems to me that the Bible is full of things we're supposed to, as believers, and they included assembling together for certain purposes. What strikes me most is that we've made the means by which we do that, into the end objective. We want to start Southern Baptist Churches in other countries, when left to their own devices, those folks would probably have a purer church and worship experience when they do it their own way. That's certainly been my experience in Jamaica, Russia and Latvia.

That's what I object to. Ending the prayer time when the song is up, and starting to preach while there are people praying at the altar. Ending the altar call and making announcements while people are being counseled at the altar, because people want to go to dinner.

Being chewed out by the pastor when our first hour Sunday School got into a discussion that was so relevant and so productive that no one wanted to leave, and we went on through the second hour too.

Yup. We've made the means, the end. All too often, I'm afraid.

Jeff Lahr said...

Thanks for the posting. This article helped me as I prepared for to teach an adult Sunday cchool lesson for a unit called "The Search for the perfect church."

Jeff
Santa Maria, CA

Lowell said...

Wow I love this conversation. Wish I'd found it sooner, are any of you still checking this blog.

I'm a little disillusioned with the churches in America that we've been exposed to; 6 in 25 years including 3 evangelical denominations. Now I'm praying about whether to start a house church, so giving even more thought to what a church should or shouldn't be. The highest priorities would be learning how to love God and each other, practicing one another ministry, and reaching out to make disciples through all available means, especially personal evangelism and compassionate ministry. In other words sticking to the basics.
In His Love,
Lowell

Paul Burleson said...

Lowell,

If you're serious about starting a house church e-mail me [vtm@cox.net] and I will give you some info that might be of help.