Read carefully and ponder well this classic article about the nature of the New Testament Church 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."