New Testament

How do God's people today follow the apostolic pattern?


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Today God's people continue living by faith; feeding the poor, and laying hands on the sick, seeking any small opportunity to tell people about their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the good news of God's kingdom.

Another answer

The apostles understood God's purpose for the Church. This is why the churches they established in the first century were glorious expressions of Christ's body on the earth. Today there is much disagreement over how local assemblies are to be structured. But we believe the Bible spells out in clear and unambiguous terms the structure of the local assemblies established by the apostles. We also believe that God is now calling His people to recognize the apostolic pattern and begin transitioning the local assemblies into it. For this to happen, however, believers will have to understand exactly what the biblical pattern is and how to transition from where they are today to that pattern. Our purpose in establishing this website is to provide those who sincerely want to build according to the biblical pattern with a centralized location for obtaining material on the themes discussed in our book The Glorious Church. We also want to provide a forum where people can ask questions, raise issues, and engage in healthy discussion on these themes. Our hope is that God's people will begin to study the biblical pattern and pray about taking steps, as God makes the way, toward transitioning into a more biblical church structure.

As localized expressions of the body of Christ, every assembly is responsible for submitting to Jesus as its Head and allowing Him to direct the life of the body. He is the builder of His Church. But Jesus only builds according to His plan. This is why His laborers must take heed how they build, for "unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalms 127:1). This gives rise to the question of church polity; that is, what is the structure of oversight and ministry within a local apostolic assembly? Is there a specific form of church structure God has established and requires His people to follow? Or do His people have latitude in how a local assembly is structured? While the New Testament does not present church polity in a progression of explicit instructions, it does reveal a specific structure through a variety of patterns and examples. We believe that every assembly should be continually examining its polity and making whatever adjustments are necessary to align itself with the polity revealed in the New Testament. This polity can be summarized by the following principles:

  1. Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd of every local assembly and all the members are His sheep. Within each assembly, and among all assemblies, He is to be acknowledged as the Head and given preeminence in all things.
  2. Jesus Christ expresses Himself in the earth through localized assemblies of His people. Each local assembly is a witness to their community of the love and power of Jesus, providing deliverance, redemption, healing, restoration, spiritual growth, and equipping for ministry. Under the Headship of the Lord Jesus, each local assembly has autonomous governing authority and is not subject to any outside organizational authority. Local assemblies are connected to one another through mutual love, honor, and service.
  3. Jesus Christ plants local assemblies through teams of believers led by apostles and prophets. The founding apostolic team is responsible overseeing each assembly until such time as qualified men can be appointed as shepherding overseers. Once these appointments have been made, the apostolic team may continue to have influence in the assembly, but no longer has direct oversight responsibilities.
  4. Jesus Christ provides shepherding and oversight for each mature local assembly through an appointed team of colleagues variously called overseers, elders, or pastor teachers. These men have equal decision-making authority but differ in spiritual gifts, capabilities, skills, responsibilities, level of financial support, and influence within the assembly.
  5. Jesus Christ equips the people of each local assembly for their works of ministry through apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Some of these gifts may be resident within the local assembly and some may come from outside, ministering temporarily on a periodic basis.
  6. Jesus Christ provides intimate shepherding to the people of each local assembly through small groups of believers meeting in private homes under trained and accountable leadership.
  7. Jesus Christ provides practical service to the people of each local assembly through a team of biblically qualified and appointed deacons.
  8. Jesus Christ reaches out to the unsaved through His people. Each local assembly is responsible for evangelizing their community and supporting the work of evangelizing other communities wherever there is no established assembly.

When a local assembly is built according to the polity exemplified by Paul and the other apostles, the following statements become true and operative: Jesus Christ is the pastor/shepherd of the local assembly.He provides oversight through the elders.He equips the believers through apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.He provides personal shepherding through the home groups. He provides practical service through the deacons.