Bible Facts Little Understood by Christians
Local Churches & Pastor-Teachers
The New Testament’s description for local church and pastor-teachers in specific geological locations is quite different then what is seen in Christendom today. The New Testament refers to churches in a region [e.g., “the churches of Macedonia” or “the churches of Galatia” (2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:2)], but reference is made to only one church in a city or village, e.g., “the church of the Thessalonians” or “the church of (in) Ephesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:1; Revelation 2:1).
All Christians in one city comprised one church that met in various homes throughout the city, requiring the ministries of pastor-teachers within that one church. And the simplicity and oneness of the church in a city was characterized by the fact that all Christians in that city were automatically looked upon as being members of that church (Romans 14:1; 15:7; 16:2; 1 Corinthians 16:10, 11; 3 John 5-8).
With the growth of the Christian population through the centuries it is not unreasonable to understand how many of the individual groups of believers could have evolved into larger and separate congregations, even to the establishment of centralized buildings (called churches) for their assembly. But what is not in accordance with Scripture is the diverse range of beliefs that now dominate the Christian landscape.
From the days of the early Church the original structure of the local church as evidenced in Scripture has progressively declined toward fractionalization, which is now evidenced by various denominations and doctrinal factions. This degradation through time, as men have indeed rejected the “word of the kingdom,” was forecast by the Lord Himself through a series of parables in relation to “the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens” (Matthew 13). This deteriorating condition was also forecast in several places within the New Testament by Paul, Peter, John, and Jude (Romans 16:17, 18; Philippians 3:17-19; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-7, 13; 1 John 2:18; Jude 1:4, 16-19), various passages that unfortunately are often made to represent the unsaved rather than believers who indeed can and do go astray (apostatize).
Christendom is now populated with hundreds of “denominations” and various sects, each promoting their personal doctrine and worshipping style. In addition to this diversity of platforms, Christendom is replete with “ministers of the Word” who appear to be concerned more with financial gain, self-gratification and self-glorification than freely giving out the riches of God’s redemption plan. It is amazing how almost all “ministries” have something to sell (often calling it an “offering”) instead of relying on the biblical principle of giving by Christians for ministerial support.
And the reason for this decline actually relates back to the first presentation in this series, which is that many of the leaders (shepherds) of the Church have turned from their divinely appointed responsibility to feed their flocks with the Holy Word. Instead of instruction rich in exegetical flavor, many of today’s pulpit-presentations mirror milk-based doctrinal issues, sociological-enhanced pep-talks, forms of a “prosperity-gospel,” and other such superficial material. But then, this is often the formula for the mega-churches that proliferate today.
The only remedy is found in Paul’s words to Timothy:
But you must continue in the things that you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for [with respect to] salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete [mature], thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)