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Local Church Leadership: God’s View vs. Man’s View
This is the fifth in a series of studies dealing with the Five Main Ministries which Christ has set in His body, the Church, for the upbuilding of that body. These Five Main Ministries are stated in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11, and many of you that have been here through these studies can say those five ministries now by heart: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.
In the previous four studies we have dealt with the Universal Church and those ministries which function primarily within the Universal Church—what I call Mobile Ministries. These are: apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher. Those are the Mobile or Universal ministries that operate within the Body of Christ as a whole, available to any part of the body at any time as the Holy Spirit directs.
Then yesterday in our previous study we dealt with the Local Church and what I call the Resident ministries. The Resident ministries are primarily the elder who is also the shepherd or the overseer, and then on the level of material service the deacon.
Now this material about the Local Church is for the most part new to the majority of professing Christians. Here is the point of revolution. Because this is so new and so unfamiliar I am confident that many of you were not fully able to absorb what I dealt with yesterday. For this reason I propose to begin today with review of the material that I covered yesterday. Also in my outline as you will see if you have the printed outlines with you, there was material yesterday that I did not cover. And I intend to go into this today and then move on into a more general summary and review of the total material that we have covered. This study today and the one tomorrow, the fifth and the sixth studies will be essentially review and further amplification of what we’ve already gone through. Tomorrow I intend to deal specifically with what I call the reproductive cycle in the Church—that is how the ministries reproduce themselves naturally within the Church once they are functioning the way that they should.
But we’ll begin now by going back over the material that we covered in our previous outline. First of all we began with a definition of the Local Church. And this is the definition—the Local Church is that part of the Universal Church resident in any locality. This being so there are only two requirements for membership in a Local Church. You do not have to join a Local Church, you do not have to put your name on the role. The only two requirements are first of all, that you’re in that relationship to Jesus Christ which makes Him your Savior and your Lord. Secondly, that you’re resident in that locality. You have no option in God’s sight as to whether you belong to the Local Church in any locality. The locality in which you live is the place where you are a member of the Local Church. You don’t have a choice about that as far as God is concerned. You may not realize it, you may not acknowledge it, but in God’s sight it is already an accomplished fact. The only decision you have to make is your relationship to Jesus Christ. If you are rightly related to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you are a member of His Universal Church, His Body. You cannot be rightly related to Jesus Christ without being a member of His Body.
If you are a member of His Body Universal, then in the area where you live you are also, by that very fact, a member of His Body in that locality. There is no other requirement. Of course it’s important and it makes a great deal of difference in your personal experience that you know and acknowledge this fact and act according to it. But whether you know it or not, it still remains true. You see the Bible is a book of facts. Many people don’t realize that and these facts are true whether we know them, whether we believe them does not change their truth. But knowing and believing them does change our experience. That’s what has changed, not the facts but our experience. And if you are able to accept this truth which I’m presenting to you, it won’t change what you are in the sight of God.
As a child of God and as a true believer in Jesus Christ you’re already a member of His Church in the area in which you live. But knowing and acting upon it will greatly change your attitudes and your experience and your relationship to other believers in your area. That’s where the change is going to take place.
All right. Now let’s move on to the next item in this outline. In the unfolding and growth of a Local Church in any area, I’ve suggested to you that we can detect four main phases. The first phase is the basic cell. Just as a human body physiologically grows out of a cell, so the Body of Christ, the Church, in a locality grows out of a cell. And the basic cell is described by Jesus in Matthew 18,
Where two or three have been led together into My name, there am I in the midst.
And in the same passage He speaks about two harmonizing or agreeing in prayer. And He says,
Whatsoever ye who harmonize and agree and have brought together by the Holy Spirit into my name shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven. Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Remember the authority is not committed to any nondescript group of believers who happen to drop in for an evening of fellowship. It is two or three or more growing out of them who have been led together by the Spirit of God, whose focal meeting point is the name and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who’ve been brought into a relationship of spiritual harmony. Where two or three can harmonize, be of one accord, then whatever they decree, whatever they pray, whatever they bind, whatever they loose is as effective and authoritative as if Almighty God Himself had done it. This is the great secret of being led together by the Holy Spirit into a relationship of harmony.
I believe one of the key words to understand Christianity is the word harmony. The gospel is intended to produce harmony in the home, in the larger company of believers, in the community, wherever it is accepted. And wherever there is not harmony the gospel really has not done its work. If we have a home where husband and wife both claim to be believers but there is no harmony between them the gospel is not working in that home. The last thing those people should do is start to witness and preach to others. If you don’t have anything to export that’s worth having, don’t export it.
The basic evidence that the gospel is at work is harmony - harmony between God and man, harmony between one believer and another. And in this little cell of harmony there is limitless divine authority and power. Out of this cell will unfold the whole body.
We suggested that the second phase is where we have what we are calling disciples, what the Bible calls disciples. And remember what Charles has been teaching. A disciple is not a church member. It’s one who’s under discipline to the Lord Jesus Christ, and also in all probability under human discipline. When elders are appointed in due Scriptural order, shepherds, then these groups which are disciples becomes churches. Here is the, as it were, official transition from just being disciples to being churches. It’s the appointment of the dully-authorized Scriptural leadership which is the elders, the shepherds or the overseers.
Then we go down to this picture in Philippians chapter 1 verse 1 where I say the leadership is completed. Now we have the spiritual leadership: bishops or overseers or elders or shepherds or pastors, all the same thing. And then the leadership on the level of the material administration: deacons or servers. Thirdly, the rest of the believers. That’s the complete church from the point of view of leadership or administration. It is extremely simple: elders, deacons, believers. Together they make up the whole Body of Christ in that area. However there is further spiritual development which is to take place and in First Corinthians 12:28 we have a picture of the complete Local Church with the spiritual ministries functioning. Maybe it would be good just to read First Corinthians 12:28 once again. First Corinthians chapter 12 and verse 28.
And God hath set some in the church,
Now when you look at that passage you should also compare it with verse 18 of the same chapter.
God hath set the members everyone of them in the body,
See, so the some in the churchcorrespond exactly to the members in the body. In other words the church is the body and the believers are set in it by God as members each with a definite ministry, something to contribute. And Paul specifies these eight main forms of ministry within the Local Church. Of course Paul is not suggesting that there are no other ministries besides these, but he’s giving a picture of eight ministries which should normally be functioning in every Local Church, every Local Body.
God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, [notice that the ministry of the word has preeminence over all other ministries because the final authority is in the word] after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments [I prefer to say steerings], and diverse kinds of tongues.
We will not try to analyze the nature of all these ministries, but there is the picture of the completed church with the ministries functioning within it.
So we have this process of development, the cell, two or three led together into the name of Jesus, then groups of disciples, when elders are appointed become churches. The leadership is completed when in addition to the elders or bishops, the deacons or servers are appointed and the total congregation is made up of the elders or bishops, the deacons or servers, and the saints the rest of the believers. But within that there are also many other diverse ministries which come forth as are pictured by Paul in First Corinthians 12 verse 28.
We’ll move on now. Now the next one is a statement that I’m going to go into, but we didn’t go into it yesterday so I’m going to go beyond it and come back. It’s very important. But let’s go through what we covered yesterday first. Now here we have a picture of the total local leadership which corresponds to the passage in Philippines 1: the bishops and deacons. On the spiritual level the function of spiritual leadership in the Church is twofold: to rule and to teach. Teaching of course, the word of God.
And there are various different names in Scripture given to those who do this according to what point of view they are viewed from: their task, their qualification or their ministry. In addition, as I pointed out, because of translation problems the King James Version uses different words for the same original Greek word which gives a greater picture of variety than is really the case. So these men who are there to rule and to teach, their task is to be overseers. I think in the natural world in a factory or an office everybody understands what an overseer is. It’s exactly the same in the spiritual. The other word for overseer is bishop, which is simply a different English translation of the same word overseer.
The qualification is elder. A degree of spiritual maturity greater than the level of the congregation as a whole. Does not necessarily mean advanced age nor does it necessarily mean that a person has been a Christian a long time, because many people have been Christians a long time and never matured. They’ve just remained spiritual babies.
The ministry is the ministry of the shepherd which is also called the pastor. Then on the material level, the ministry of serving is that of deacons—the literal translation of deacons would be servers.
Then we just took a quick look at the nature of the shepherd ministry which is absolutely basic to the correct functioning of the Local Church. And bear in mind what Jesus and the Scriptures say,
Shepherd without a sheep are scattered.
Where the shepherd ministry is not properly functioning God’s people are like scattered sheep wandering to and fro, hungry, sick, discouraged, without a sense of purpose or direction. And this is the picture of the majority of God’s people in the United States today. I travel very widely. I meet many different kinds of people from many denominations. As far as I’m concerned, this is the picture. It’s given, as a matter of fact, in Ezekiel. I feel led to read that passage again. Ezekiel chapter 34 just two verses. These verse truly touch my heart. Every time I read them I see how real they are. Ezekiel the 34thchapter, just verses 5 and 6. God’s vision of His people as He saw them. Not as their own religious leaders saw them. Their religious leaders were well satisfied with the situation, but God was not. This is what He says—Ezekiel 34:5 and 6.
And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became food to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search [or seek] after them.
That’s the picture today. And I would have you know that God is going to intervene. And as a matter of fact, God has already begun to intervene. And if you read a little further in that 34thchapter of Ezekiel you’ll find the divine pronouncement of the divine intention to intervene. Verse 11 of Ezekiel 34.
For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
I venture to tell that that is exactly what God is doing right now. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has risen up and He’s begun to seek and to search and to gather together His scattered flock from all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. If you can really see the Charismatic movement, this is the end purpose of it. It’s the gathering together of the scattered sheep and their placing under divinely appointed leadership.
Let us then just glance at these points about the shepherd ministry. First of all it is a life down. A man who wants to live for himself cannot be a shepherd. Secondly the shepherd must know personally and be known personally. This is a ministry that cannot be done by one man for hundreds of people. It demands a direct personal acquaintance and relationship. Thirdly the ministry of the shepherd is to speak, and by speaking to lead because the Eastern shepherd did not drive his sheep, but he went in front of them and they heard his voice and followed him. So the shepherd must speak in such a way that he leads God’s people and shows them the right way to walk in. Then he’s responsible to feed them, to provide them with the pasture and the pure water than they need, and to protect them from evil beasts and thieves and robbers. You remember Jesus contrasted the true shepherd with the hireling. When the thief comes the hireling runs away to save his own life, but the shepherd stands up and faces the thief being willing to lose his own life rather than to abandon the sheep.
This is the picture of the shepherd ministry. And I tell you I sincerely honor every God-given shepherd that is truly fulfilling this ministry. But for everyone that is doing it, the Body of Christ needs at least a thousand more. There is no greater need in the Body than this need of the shepherd ministry. And I am praying and working to the end that God will raise up many, many shepherds here in this area and in every area of the United States.
Now let us look at the statement that we did not deal with before about the Local Church which is very important. The Local Church is the final court of appeal in all vital matters: disputes between believers, matters of doctrines, and matters of moral conduct. Now if this be true you can see why the Local Church is of such tremendous importance and why it’s so essential that we understand what it is and how it functions, that we take our right place in it, and that we submit ourselves to it. Let’s look at these three statements again. The Local Church is the final court of appeal for disputes between believers for all matters of doctrine and for all matters of moral conduct. Look at the passages referred to there briefly and you’ll see that this is true. Matthew the 18thchapter verses 15 through 17. Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus said,
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
In other words don’t deal with him any longer as a believer. The person that refuses the authority of the Local Church has forfeited his right to be dealt with as a believer until he repents and submits himself to that authority. Jesus says if there’s a dispute between you and another believer the first step is go to him alone. Now in my experience few Christians ever follow this procedure. If you do not get satisfaction when you go to him alone, you take one or two more as witnesses of your discussion that this may be established in the mouth of witnesses. If he still will not listen to you the only alternative left is to take it to the Local Church. The dispute must be submitted to the Local Church and the decision of the Local Church is final. Anybody that will not listen to the Local Church looses his right to be considered a believer. He’s out of the fellowship until he repents, returns and submits.
You know what scares me about that? The measure of authority vested in the Local Church and the obvious fact that most Local Congregations are totally unworthy and incapable of exercising such authority. It’s frightens me.
The second great point which must be referred ultimately to the Church is the matter of doctrine. In the 15thchapter of Acts we have this tremendous discussion amongst the Jewish believers as to what was to be required of Gentiles who professed faith in Jesus Christ and desired to be considered members of his Church. Paul and Barnabas had won many Gentiles to the Lord, had baptized them but had not required them to become adherents to the Law of Moses, had not required them to be circumcised. Then the orthodox Jewish believers in Christ in Jerusalem said this is all wrong. If these people are going to have fellowship with us they’ve got to be circumcised, come under the Law of Moses. It was a major dispute. As a matter of fact, its outcome affects all of us who are Gentile Christians.
So Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to settle this matter. First of all the apostles and the elders, plural, gathered together and discussed it. When they had arrived at their conclusion this was put before the whole church and ratified by the whole church. Now I want you to understand that there must have been at least thirty thousand believing Jews in Jerusalem at that time. This was not a little gathering somewhere away in a corner. This was a major assembly.
Now a Jewish friend once said this to me. He said, “If you’ve got two Jews you’ve got an argument. If you’ve go three you’ve got a revolution.” And I cannot but marvel at the grace of God that something like thirty thousand Jews could come up on a decision on this vital point of doctrine with absolute unanimity. Let’s read and see what is said beginning at verse 22.
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church,
Notice, the leadership at this point did not act independently of the whole Church. They had prepared the way, but there’s was not the final decision nor was theirs the final authority.
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your soul, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord [do you see that], to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.
[Now listen to verse 28.] For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.
The final decision was the decision of the Holy Spirit made manifest in the Body of Christ. It is to the Body of Christ that the mind of Christ is given. Paul says, “Wehave the mind of Christ.” Never change it and say Ihave the mind of Christ. It’s the collective Body that has the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, being assembled with one accord, to lay upon you no greater burden.
The only things that are required of Gentile believers in relationship to the Law of Moses are four: to abstain from fornication, idolatry, eating the blood, and things strangled. It’s a very important decision. It affects every one of us. We are not required to keep the Sabbath. We are not required to observe any other part of the Mosaic Law. The only four things that we are required to observe are that we abstain from fornication, idolatry, eating the blood and things strangled. You know things strangled? Because if you kill things by strangling them, the blood remains in them. You see in God’s sight if you eat food with the blood in you’re just as guilty as if you commit fornication. They’re on the same level. This does apply to Gentile believers. How many Gentile believers are aware of it? Most of them are totally ignorant. But this is the conclusion. But the point that I’m bringing out now is that this doctrinal decision of such vital and far-reaching importance was arrived at by the total body, the Local Church.
Thirdly we have the question of moral conduct. Turn to First Corinthians chapter 5 and read, first of all in the first chapter, verses 1 and 2, because I want you to see to whom this letter is written. First Corinthians chapter 1 verses 1 and 2.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God etc…
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,
Notice Paul was writing to the whole Church, the entire assembly of believers of Corinth. Now go on to chapter 5 you’ll find that in this assembly there was a case of extreme immorality, incest. A man had married his father’s wife. Paul says the Gentiles don’t even have a name for that kind of thing. You have to look in the Law of Moses to find a description of it, but there is a description of it in the Law of Moses. And Paul says “Here you are boasting about your spiritual gifts and your speaking in tongues and prophesying and in the midst of you there’s this awful immorality that you haven’t even dealt with.” He says, “Shame on you! It’s your responsibility as a church to deal with this immorality.” Now see what he says beginning in First Corinthians 5 verse 1 and following.
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles [the Gentiles don’t even have a name for it he says], that one should have his father’s wife.
And ye are puffed up, [with your spiritual gifts, and your prophesying, and your spirituality] and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. [There is no place in the fellowship of God’s people for a man that has done that. Verse 3 -]
For I verily, as absent in the body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together [the whole Church], with my spirit, with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ,
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
You see, it’s the whole Church that had the responsibility and had the authority. That’s a very, very frightening thing. Bear in mind that immorality, moral and ethical standards, are the responsibility of the whole Church. They cannot be passed into a little committee or a presbytery or some group that meets off in a corner. And these things are not hushed up. They are not swept under the rug. The New Testament is a very frank, outspoken book. It calls a spade a spade and not an agricultural implement and it tells you what to do with a spade, in no uncertain terms.
Paul says, “I’m not impressed by your spirituality. You are tolerating immorality, incest. Deal with it as a Church. Come together and in the authority of my presence amongst you and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, dismiss this person from your fellowship. He is no long eligible for fellowship in the Body of Christ. Hand him over to Satan.” It’s a terrible thing. Not for the destruction of his soul, but for the destruction of his flesh that through judgment of God in time he may be spared from the eternal judgment of God. And then read the last two verses of that chapter.
For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? [Paul says we have nothing to do to judge the unbelievers. They’re outside our jurisdiction.] do not ye judge them that are within?
Who judges the believers? The believers. It’s the collective responsibility of the Church to exercise judgment on the conduct of their fellow-believers. Some people only know one Scripture about judgment and that’s the one that says, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” But there’s a lot of other Scriptures in the New Testament about judgment. And it is the responsibility of the Church as a whole to maintain ethical and moral purity by exercising judgment and discipline upon their members. And then notice what Paul says which is exactly in line with what Jesus said in Matthew 18,the beginning of chapter 6,
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
If two believers have a dispute, they have no right whatever to settle it in a secular court of law. They must bring it before the Church. Some people say it’s wrong for an unbeliever to go to law. Paul doesn’t say that. He says—for a believer to go to law. What Paul says, “It’s wrong for a believer to go to law with a fellow believer.” That question must be settled in the Church. It does not say that it’s wrong for a believer to go to law against an unbeliever. That’s another matter which I’m not discussing. But it’s not what Paul is saying. Chapter 6 verse 2,
Do ye not know that the saints [the believers] shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
You see, the Church is asleep. It’s totally unaware of its responsibilities and of its privileges and of its authority. It must be awakened.
As I was preparing for the meeting this morning my eyes fell on a chapter in Isaiah 52.
Awake, awake oh Jerusalem. Put on thy holy garments, thy beautiful garments, the holy city.
Arise and shake thyself and loose thyself from the bands of thy neck.
It’s time the Church of Jesus Christ arose and shook itself. It needs to be shaken. And I’ll tell you this, it’s better to shake yourself than let God shake you, because when God shakes you, you can’t stop at will. The whole Church of Jesus Christ needs an earthquake. It needs a bulldozer. It need a divine revolution, and I’ll tell you it’s on the way. And I’ll tell you friends here this morning, if your and my age group doesn’t respond there’s a generation growing up that will do it.
Have you heard of the Jesus Revolution? It’s on the way. They’re not going to play church. They could care less about the status quo, the institution and the establishment. Their motto is “Tell it the way it is.” And every preacher should jump for joy when he’s confronted by a congregation that says tell me it the way it is. What greater privilege could ever be offered to anybody as a preacher than that.
Let’s look on now at the closing section of this and then we’ll move on to the new material. We come to the conclusion of this study on the Local Church that there are two alternatives, and I would add only two. I would add also that they are mutually exclusive. You cannot have both. You must have one or the other, and each contains a manyand a one. It just depends where you put the many and where you put the one. The present generally accepted pattern is number one: many Local Churches each with one leader. God’s order is different. It’s one Local Church with many leaders. You must have unity, you must have plurality. The question is where do you put them? God does not authorize nor accept plurality of churches within an area. Nor does He authorize or accept unity of leadership within a church. God’s order is unity of the Church, plurality of leadership. Man has turned that upside down and introduced plurality of churches with singular leadership. And actually the one excludes the other. They are mutually exclusive and I stand here before you today as a witness that whether you wish it or not you’re being faced with a choice and a decision.
The book of Joel is the book that pictures in outline this latter day restoration, and it has three phases going more or less according to the chapters—one, two and three. The first is desolation, the second is restoration, the third is judgment on those that reject restoration, and in Joel chapter 3 verse 14, this is the picture of judgment.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
Do you know what the valley of decision is? It’s the place to which God brings people that they never can get out again until they’ve made a decision. The valley of decision is the place where you’ve got to say yes or no and there’s no third answer. And that’s where the Church is coming on this matter. The Church has got to decide does it want to follow its own ways and its own practices, or does it wish to submit to the clearly defined and stated pattern of God in Scripture. You cannot have it both ways. And I feel that I’m here as a witness to this area that the time has come to make a choice. I believe that as I stand here I feel a certain sense of divine sanction on that statement. You are confronted with a decision. The time of going to church and sitting in a pew and going through sweet religious exercises is closing. And now the time for action and reality is here.
Now I’m going to go on to the material contained in this second, or really it’s the fifth outline. We’ll do a little more review and then we’ll come to one final thing which will take me a little while.
Now I’m summing up in this chart the picture of these five ministries set side by side. There are two lines of division. One is vertical and the other is horizontal. The vertical line is between the mobile and the resident. The horizontal is between those which are always plural and those which may be singular.
Let’s take the vertical line of division first, the mobile. There are four mobile ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers. They are ministries to the Whole Body of Jesus Christ at any time in any place as the Spirit of God directs. The resident ministries are actually just one though we have all these names up here, they’re all names for one: shepherd who are also called pastors, overseers who are also called bishops, and elders who also function as local teachers. Not as teachers to the Whole Body, but as teachers to their own particular congregation. So there is the difference.
Now taking the dividing line horizontally, above this line the ministries that are shown always operate in the plural. It is always apostles together, it is always prophets together, and it is always a group of men who collectively are the leadership of the local congregation. The one man, one congregation system is not Scriptural. There is not a single example of it in the New Testament. You see, neither you nor I can rewrite the New Testament. That’s finished, it’s closed. We just have to decide whether we want to accept it or reject it. Below this line, this horizontal line, there are the two ministries that are found operating individually: the evangelist and the teacher. The evangelist went down to Samaria alone. Apollos the teacher was sent to Achaia by the church in Ephesus alone.
Now I have offered a suggestion as to the difference which is found in these word church order. The ministries relate directly to the order of the Church—apostles, prophets and shepherds—are always plural because God never trusts one man a lone with that responsibility. The safeguard is plurality. And then those men together have to come into harmony through the Holy Spirit concerning the will of God. That’s God’s safeguard to prevent any one person becoming a dictator over the flock of Jesus Christ. There are no dictators in the Church of Jesus Christ. Here the evangelist and teacher have vital ministries, but they are not in that ministry directly concerned with church order. So that is the picture of the relationship. The difference between the mobile and the resident, the difference between those ministries which are always plural and those which may function in the singular.
Now we’re going to deal with just one more question and it’s a very, very interesting one, and that is how in practice do the two pictures of the Local Church relate to one another. And you will see that on the left hand side I have man’s view, and on the right hand side I’ve left a blank which I’m going to try to fill up with God’s view. This is as best I am able to understand it. Here is how man looks at a city area. The extent of the area is unimportant. It’s not relevant to what we’re talking about. And I’ve only given you a few examples. When man looks he sees some B’s. You know what B’s are? Baptists. And then he sees some C’s. You know what C’s are? They’re Catholics. And then he sees some E’s. You know what they are? Episcopalians. Don’t feel left out if I haven’t included you. I just only room for a certain number and I chose the ones that are fairly well known. He sees some P’s. The P’s are Presbyterians. Then there are also some P’s backwards. You know what they are? They’re Pentecostals. All right.
Now in some places you have a P frontwards and a P backwards together. That’s a Presbyterian married to a Pentecostal. And you see they’re facing one another. They get on quite well together in spite of their denominational differences. Down here somewhere, yes we have a P that’s forwards—a Presbyterian—with a P that’s backwards. But they’re back to back. They can’t resolve their differences. There is complete disharmony between them.
Now accepting these labels and with due apologies to those that got left out, what man does he tries to tie all the Baptists together into one group see. They’ve all got to go the Baptist church. So we take a line and we—now I may not be able to do this perfectly but you’ll get the idea, but you draw it around all the Baptists like this. Where’s some more Baptists? There’s one down here. We’ve got to include him. Oh and there’s two down here, we’ve got to include them. Where are some more. There’s some over here, so we go up here then we along here and we include these two, see there, and these. Now we mustn’t leave out any Baptists otherwise the Baptists church wouldn’t be complete see. But you have to go around this P backwards which is a Pentecostal because he wouldn’t want to be included. Well there you are. Well the trouble is we got a C in there by accident. All right.
Well, now we’ll take the C’s. They’re pretty widely distributed. We’ve got C’s here, C’s here, C’s here, and we come around here and we’ve got a big blob of C’s there, we’ve got one little C over here all on his own but he’s a very staunch Catholic, and we’ve got another C over here and he has to be included in the C’s. And then you’ve got to come back to where you started with the C’s like that.
Well then of course you’ve got the Episcopalians mainly in the rather upper-class district and you have them here and here and then there’s a big nest of Episcopalians down here which you’ve got to include and two more up here and another one there, and you come back on yourself here and you’ve got the Episcopalian Church see.
Well then we’ve got the Presbyterians. So we start up here, and we have to look for some more, there’s two more there, and there’s one here. We’ve got to divide here between this married couple because one’s a Presbyterian and the other’s Pentecostal see. And there two more Presbyterians here—keep that Pentecostal outside, and here we are down with two Presbyterians here and we carefully steer clear of those two Pentecostals there mind you, and here we are. We’ve got the Presbyterian Church.
Now it only remains to pick out the Pentecostals. There’s a couple here, all right. And there’s one over here married to a Presbyterian, we’ve got to include him or her, and then there’s another one married to a Presbyterian here, we’ve got to include that one. And then there’s a couple of Pentecostals down here that got left out of the previous and I’m sure there must be another Pentecostal somewhere—oh yes there’s two over here see. So by the time you finish that’s what it looks like.
Now I don’t know what you think that looks like, but I think it looks a mess. And I’ll tell you it was meant to look a mess. And in God’s sight that’s what it is—it’s a mess. And I mean that’s only a little part of the mess because you’ve got to add about twenty other denominations and in the end all you’ve got is a black blurb.
Now you say Brother Prince what’s the alternative. Well, I’m going to offer you a suggestion. Now I want you to understand that my suggestion is just an elementary idealistic pattern type. It’s not my suggestion that it will ever actually operate this particular way. We imagine a city area divided up into four main sub-areas, and each sub-area sub-divided into four smaller areas. So you have altogether sixteen sub-areas.
Now the Spirit of God begins to move and people are born again and come into being as Christians all over the place. Now each blob is a Christian. And so we have Christians coming up all over the place. I’m only just doing a few out of the many possible—see this is just typical. There’s a real revival in the northwest section up there. A lot of people have come to the Lord. Then it spreads to the northeast section. We have Christians coming up here, here, here, all around. Now this goes on until the whole city has become influenced by what God is doing. There’s a move of God.
So we have twos and threes and fours and fives, and then big house groups growing up all around the area. Now out of these who are just disciples, the Holy Spirit will begin to bring forth natural local leadership. It never takes long. In any group there will always be some that will begin to display a greater sense of responsibility, mature more rapidly and emerge as leaders. So we’ll fill in the leaders as complete black blob. You understand? So the filled in blobs are leaders. They’re amongst their brethren, they’re in the fellowship, but they have displayed capacity for leadership. And pretty soon they begin to be recognized. In other words when Sister Jane has a terrible fever in the middle of the night she just phones for Brother Bob almost automatically. Thus indicating the fact that she’s really treating him as an elder. For it says, “Is any sick among you let him call for the elders of the church.” We’ll put in a few more people here.
All right. Now you’ll see—now you won’t because I’m not finished. But basically you’ll see what I’m after. This is an idealized pattern. But in every sub-section of that city there have emerged two local leaders. They’re operating within their group in each case, but they have capacity for leadership. Now let’s suppose that these local groups all meet on Tuesday night. Let me suggest something to you. It’s a good thing if you have a lot of prayer groups in an area have them all meet the same night. You know why? Because then people can’t hop from group to group. They’ve got to make a commitment. You see the people that never make any commitment are never worth anything. It isn’t a spiritual cocktail party that you drop in on when you feel inclined. It’s a group that’s being knitted together in fellowship to brought into harmony to do business with Almighty God. And so we in our area—Southeast Florida—have a general principle that people that have home prayer groups will have them on Tuesday night. So everybody has got to make a commitment that he feels the Lord is leading him to.
All right. So the prayer groups are meeting now all over the city Tuesday night. But leadership has emerged. Now the real key to this thing working, whatever way you arrive at it is this, it’s fellowship amongst the local leaders. Without fellowship amongst the local leaders there cannot really be any effective fellowship amongst the local believers. But when the local leaders will come into fellowship regularly with one another, then the barrier to the fellowship of the believers is taken out of the way. It all depends on the local leaders coming into fellowship. So what we picture now is that amongst themselves in each of the four main sections of the city, the local leaders say, “We’ll meet Monday night to have a leaders meeting. We’ll discuss our problems, we’ll level with one another, we’ll be open. It won’t be just a talking session, but we’ll really get to grips with our own personal problems, the problems of our flock. We’ll share one another’s needs in prayer. We’ll exchange revelations, we’ll check everything we’re doing with the opinion of our fellow leaders.”
So in the center of this area here there comes into being a fellowship of leaders. And every Monday night these people come together in a leader’s meeting. All right. What have you got there? You’ve got eight leaders meeting every Monday, going back every Tuesday leading their own local group. Now this happens all over. The same thing, you get the leaders coming in Monday night. I do not need to tell you that this is highly idealized. But it just gives you an idea of how it can be done. Everywhere these people who are black who are leaders, Monday night they come together so they’re ready to meet the spiritual needs of their own group Tuesday night.
Now in every one of the four sections of that city you have eight men meeting regularly every week on a Monday night as a fellowship of leaders. They exchange their problems, their needs, their revelations, their ideas on doctrine. No man acts on his own. It’s the collective mind of the group that is the final arbiter of decisions and doctrines and so on. It’s wehave the mind of Christ. Not Iam in charge of my own little group and nobody tells me what to do brother.
All right, now then we just go one step further. In the center of this city we draw another bigger square like that. Now the first Monday of every month, once a month, these four groups of local leaders meet in one big leaders group. And what do you have meeting every Monday if my mathematics are right, you have thirty-two leaders meeting. Every other Monday in the month they meet eight at a time. Every Tuesday they are leading their own group, but there is not division whatever in the Body of Christ. They are all in fellowship, they all acknowledge one another and there is no barrier between this group meeting and having fellowship with that group. You see at the moment it is a pitiful fact that in many cases member of one church are almost forbidden to fellowship with members of another church. Now I do not believe that God has give any man the authority to make that kind of decree. I believe it is bringing division into the Body of Christ and I believe it is anathema to the Lord.
So here is the way it can develop and it’s obvious, I think you will see, that this principle will apply no matter how big the area. It doesn’t matter the size of the area. People say how big is a city. Is Pittsburgh one city? I said that is a matter of practical decision on the basis of the situation, transportation, the number of believers, many different factors. And ultimately the leaders as a group get the mind of the Holy Spirit. Where do we draw the line?
Now this group here—thirty-two—is in a position to act collectively on behalf of the whole city. The city needs an evangelistic impact, they can collectively invite an evangelist. The city needs a teaching seminar, they invite the teachers to this seminar. You see Jesus said, “I am the Shepherd and I am the door.” And in a very vital sense, the shepherds are the door to the congregation. And in actual fact when the Church is functioning properly mobile ministries such as mine, will not come to an area unless they come through the door which is the shepherd leaders. Actually we have come to this area on the invitation of local leaders. And we told the local leaders very specifically, “If you don’t invite us we will not come. We will not come as a thief forcing out way in by some other way than the door.” But you know and I know that all over the United States there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing who are thieves and robbers, who spoil the sheep, who are forcing their way in, fleecing the sheep, leading them astray, creating endless problems. There’s only one solution. It’s the collective leadership of the city. When thirty-two respected men get together and say, “Now don’t go to those meetings. That man is preaching false doctrine, he’s living with another man’s wife, it cannot be right.” Then there’s authority. But while every little man is a pope in his own group there is no collective authority. And the wolves will continue to come in and spoil the flock until the leaders get together.
I was in a meeting recently, invited with about thirty-five other mobile ministries by the Charismatic Presbytery of the city of Seattle to a conference to bring the mobile ministries together. In the city of Seattle for about two years what is now a group of about forty members, leaders of churches in the area have been meeting regularly in fellowship. And out of that fellowship has developed a sense of unity and an ability to cooperate together so that they could invite forty charismatic mobile ministries to that city of which I had the privilege to be one. And that gathering of those men made a greater impact on the city of Seattle according to the testimony of local ministers than any evangelistic campaign ever held in Seattle.
And as I was meditating upon this the Lord asked me this question. He said, “Now tell me this? Whom did I have more trouble with—the city of Nineveh or the Prophet Jonah? And I said, “Lord, when you go Jonah straightened out you had not problems with Nineveh.” And He said, “It’s exactly the same today. If I can get the leadership straightened out I’ll have no problems with the cities.”
This I believe is the divine pattern.
Shall we bow in prayer. Father we praise You and thank You that you love us, that You care for us, that You gave the Lord Jesus to die on the cross and to rise from the dead to be the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. And by an act of our will, collectively as a group we submit ourselves to the discipline and the authority of the One who is the Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that in this area You will touch many and speak to many. Some who are already in the shepherd ministry and others who are feeling that they’re being drawn into it and that You will bring together in this area a fellowship of local leaders that shall represent the believers and stand on their behalf. In Jesus Name we pray. And all the people said Amen.