by Curtis Lee Hall
Posted on the web May 17th, 2003
Revision October 1st, 2011 - addendum added to end of original article.
Revision April 14th, 2012 - minor editing of article.
I have believed for a long time that the current structure of the 'church' is quite unbiblical! Think about it. Most churches have a board of elders, who are supposed to be the overseers (see Titus 1:5 - 9 and Acts 20:17 - 38). In almost all cases, the elders and/or congregation 'hire and pay' a pastor to run the church! The pastor is then expected to give sermons every week, do almost all of the evangelizing, teaching, exhorting, and preaching. It basically becomes his ministry, his church, his congregation! I ask, is this at all biblical?
What kind of body can operate with just one of its parts working?
We claim we are not following a man, but the Lord. Really? Does your church change directions, and sometimes doctrines, every time you hire a new 'pastor'? I tell you true, they are very much following that person to a great degree.
Now the only other so-called offices that seem to be recognized are associate pastors, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders. All of these designed to compliment the 'pastorate'! Are any of these biblical according to the structure set forth in the New Testament?
Notice that NONE of the epistles written in the New Testament EVER greet or address a pastor! Strange? Wouldn't you think that when Paul, Peter, John, James, or Jude wrote an epistle admonishing the local churches that they would have addressed 'the Pastor' someplace in their writings?! Is not the pastor supposed to be the one in charge of the flock? Should not the pastor have been responsible for correcting false teaching and blatant sin in the local church? Also, notice that the Lord Jesus never addresses a pastor in His admonishments to the seven churches in the book of Revelations.
No, what we now seem to have is a priest / congregation structure. We are told by our Lord not to call any man 'father' (see Matt 23:9), but I submit to you that the term 'pastor' is used in the same spirit when we call a man by the title "Pastor". Not "brother George, called to be a pastor". We actually are heard to call a man by the title alone, such as in the phrase "did you hear what Pastor said Sunday?". Sound familiar? Do you know of a man who you only greet by the term "Prophet"? Do you call him "my Prophet" like you do "my Pastor"? Have you ever heard someone say "did you hear what Prophet said Sunday?"? Sounds a little absurd, doesn't it? Do you have your own apostle, evangelist, and teacher too? Are you afraid to call a pastor by his first name? Do you exalt and reverence your pastor as many of the Roman Catholics do their priest, whom they call "Father"? And most Protestants believe they are so different.
Protestantism is, for the most part, just slightly reformed Roman Catholicism.
Remember how Paul started his greetings?:
Romans 1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus; To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:
Read the introductions to all of the epistles. You'll see that Paul NEVER started a letter with a title, just "Paul". Notice also that throughout the New Testament the writers continually addressed the other disciples by only their first name, such as in the book of Acts, which was written by Luke. Was Luke being irreverent? I hardly think so.
I also submit to you that the 'assembling of the brethren' is for the edification of the Body, where the Holy Spirit can freely minister through whomever and as many as He wills to whomever He wills. That my friend, is the 'assembling of the brethren'! Maybe that is why so many home meetings are more powerful than the Sunday spectator sport we call 'church'.
We are constantly being told "not to forsake the assembling of the brethren". But let's look at this so misused scripture in its true context:
Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
"Stimulate one another"? "But encouraging one another"? Do you see it? Is this what God meant by what we see in the typical Sunday service where a singular 'pastor' is the only one doing the encouraging? Where is the "encouraging one another"?
1 Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
"Each one"? Does it say anywhere that a 'pastor' should have control over this kind of assembly? Have we not all seen instances where the 'pastor' decides to ask someone to speak on a certain Sunday, and then even tells them what he desires them to speak on?! How absurd! Usurping the Holy Spirit in such a way. Even an evangelist, for example, when he is rarely asked to come and speak at a local church, is many times told what he is to speak on. How dare any man dictate to anyone how to operate in his/her calling and gifting. This is usurping the Holy Spirit's rightful place in our midst, but this is what is happening in most churches. Isn't this what the priest/congregation setup does? The priest takes the place of the Head, which is Christ.
1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Revelation 1:6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father -- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
We are ALL called to be priest. So quit looking for a man to be your priest and king, as did the nation of Israel!
There is now only one high priest, the Lord Christ Jesus. No man should dare try and usurp the Lord of His rightful place!
Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
Is it too hard to get rid of a system where we have a 'hireling' (John 10) who is expected to do most of the work and ministering?
And what about 'missionaries'? Where is that term in the Bible? Why do we not recognize these people by their actual callings and giftings? Is it because then their callings and giftings would have to be recognized by the local church, and the 'pastor' would have to give up some of his control? No, by calling them 'missionaries', then we can claim that their calling and work is 'out there' someplace, instead of seeing and recognizing their callings and giftings working within the local church.
Matthew 23:8 "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Even though we have teachers in the Body of Christ (see Eph 4:11), we are not to call any man "Rabbi". We are "all brothers".
Matthew 23:10 "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
1 Peter 5:1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
"Exercising oversight" and "nor yet as lording it over". Oversight means to watch over, and when you see something wrong, THEN you correct the problem according to the leading of the Lord. We do not lord it over God's flock as a boss does his employees at work, nor as an officer commands his troops in the military If it looks like the world, then I tell you true, we are probably doing it all wrong.
Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.
1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
"As each one has received a special gift"? Each one!
No, we probably won't see any kind of true unity in the Body of Christ while it is divided up into little groups with every pastor taking a chunk and calling it "my congregation." Especially with all the different doctrines of men and demons among the over 30,000 denominations!
Let us look at a few more scriptures that Paul gave to the elders who are supposed to be the overseers:
Acts 20:17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.
Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
"Men will arise...to draw away disciples after them". Intentional or not, is this not what we see? Now I'm not in any way claiming that all so-called 'pastors' are savage wolves. But I would seriously consider all that Paul is saying here. Read Acts 20:17 - 38 a few times for yourself. My point is how unbiblical the current church structure/man-made institution is, this article is not meant to be a direct personal attack on those 'hired priests' trying to do more than they are called to do, even though many of them are fully aware that what they are doing is unbiblical. I know, for several of them have confessed to me that they are not ignorant on this subject.
Acts 20:33 "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes.
Ouch! I could write a small book on those scriptures. Are overseers following these instructions today?
But you might say, "isn't a worker worthy of his wages?". Well, we need to look at all the scriptures on this issue in their full context
Matthew 10:7 "And as you go, preach, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Is the Lord talking about full time salaries here? "Freely you received, freely give"? Where is this today? How many ministers of all different types are selling their gifts? When the Lord returns, will there be plenty of Christian activity, but very little faith?
Luke 18:8 "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Does it state anywhere in the New Testament that every local church should hire a pastor and pay him a full time salary? We have so many brothers and sisters who's needs are not being met by the local church. We should support the weak. Again, look at what Paul says on this matter:
Acts 20:34 "You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me.
Many traveling ministers (mis-called missionaries) do need our support. Each person should be led by the Holy Spirit in what they do with the resources God has given them.
3 John 1:5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers;
Ezekiel 34:10 `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them."
Woe to the prosperity preachers! And all those who get fat off the sheep.
Ezekiel 34:23 "Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd."
Ezekiel chapter 34 is a great chapter about shepherding. Please take the time to read it. Also notice that we now have "one shepherd". It is the same as calling a man "Teacher". We have teachers in the body of Christ, and we also have those who shepherd. But are we to call them by the title "my Shepherd"?
John 10:16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
Let us now take a look at a few scriptures regarding different giftings or callings:
Romans 12:6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Are the callings and giftings listed in the above verses in operation in your local church? Would it be even possible for these callings to operate in your church as it is currently structured?
Mark 7:13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."
Some more reasons why this current structure is so harmful:
After ten or even twenty years in your average local church, how many individuals have really changed and reached some level of maturity? No, for the most part they are still babes, being tossed around by the waves and every wind of doctrine! How can they mature with only one of the many callings in operation? And the one in operation is not even biblical!
Acts 7:51 "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
Acts chapter 7 contains a great sermon given by Stephen just before he was stoned to death. Remember, these were very religious people who stoned Stephen. They went to church services all the time, thought they were saved, considered themselves righteous, and worshippers of the only true God. They probably thought they were defending God's honor when they killed Stephen, but actually they were God's adversaries!
I feel I should say something about the church offering here, since I believe it is directly tied into the current church structure, with the 'hired man' and all.
This verse is used quite often to justify the collection taken on Sunday:
1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
But what does scripture say this 'collection' is for? Let us look at the verse right before the one above:
1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.
"Collection for the saints"! Really? The collection is for the saints? Did you know that around 95 % of the money collected by the average local church stays within the local church, used mostly for the building and staff? Only about 1/2% goes out to the over one billion people who have NEVER heard the gospel. The saints are not being taken care of, nor are the poor and needy within the community.Shame, shame, shame!
You want more verses describing what the collection is for? Then please read 2Cor chapters 8 and 9. These go into great detail about what Paul meant in 1Cor 16:1 - 2 above. Here is a taste from the two chapters in 2Cor:
2 Corinthians 8:13 For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality --
The collection is for equality among ALL the saints! In fact, the churches mentioned in these chapters were taking collections and giving them to other churches! Where is that today? This confirms what we see in Acts chapters 2 and 4, where the saints had all things in common, and claimed nothing as their own
Sadly, most of the money collected is supporting these 'hired man' ministries.
Equality among the saints? We have hundreds of millions of brothers and sisters throughout the world who do not even have Bibles! What a disgrace! Over 60% of the church is under severe persecution. What are we doing to take care of our brethren in these conditions? Know wonder that many of our brothers and sisters in China PRAY that we suffer persecution! They know we need to wake up!
It's time to start doing it God's way!
Matthew 23:6 "They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,
The only place 'pastor' is mentioned? Some versions of the Bible don't mention the word 'pastor' at all. Please read and study it carefully and prayerfully:
Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.
"To a mature man", "no longer to be children", "to grow up". Look again closely at the above verses, these callings and giftings are only tools for building up the Body of Christ to maturity, not for standing between the Body and the Head which is Christ. These callings and giftings are mostly for the immature, those that are young and still need guidance until they reach maturity.
"Being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part". It's time we started seeing these callings and giftings as being what they are, needed joints in the body for building it up to maturity. Again, they are not to be placed between the head and the body, usurping the rightful place of the Lord Jesus
It is time we put an end to this non-biblical structure which is prevalent everywhere. It has been Satan's plan for keeping the Lord's body at a severely low level of maturity, robbing the church of its power and holiness. And even much worse, robbing God of His much deserved glory!
After several years, I have believed it necessary to clarify some points in this article, and to make it quite clear that no such thing as what the so-called church currently calls a pastor exists anywhere in the New Testament of the Bible, and therefore has no place in the Lord's ecclesia.
In His service,
Other articles that might be of interest:
A Worker is Worthy of His Wages?
The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy
NASU = New American Standard Update
© Copyright The Lockman Foundation
All rights reserved
The chapter 'Exhortation' posted below can be found in the small booklet by Norman P. Grubb called 'Continuous Revival'.
Norman P. Grubb worked with the famous missionary C. T. Studd and wrote the booklet 'Continuous Revival' while experiencing continuous revival himself in east central Africa while it was in its 16th year!
There remains one further stage in revival fellowship, and a most important one. We have seen: walking with Jesus step by step; two-way brokenness; cups running over, and when they don't run over; walking in the light, letting God show sin as sin; thus confession and cleansing in the blood; and finally, as God gives opportunity, giving glory to God by testifying to His dealings with sin and to the power of the blood, bringing liberation to the one who testifies, and joy and often conviction to the hearts of the hearers. The one remaining point is MUTUAL EXHORTATION.
The early church was first and foremost a fellowship. They "continued in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship." they broke bread from house to house. When they met in worship, it was the very opposite of our present church services, divided into the two categories of preacher and preached-to. It was a living fellowship-in-action. All took part, and there was such a flow of the Spirit through the believers that Paul had to write words of restraint. "How is it, brethren? When ye come together, EVERY ONE OF YOU hath a psalm, hath a doctrine..." Then he urged them to orderliness, and said that if while one was giving his word, another arose with a desire to say something, let the first sit down and give place to him, for "the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets." But today we have to persuade people to say something, if occasionally we do have a time of open fellowship! Paul had to persuade them to keep silent and give the other fellow a chance! We have now replaced fellowshipping by preaching in our modern church life, and the reason is not hard to find. Fellowshipping necessitates a real flow of life in the fellowship, for each has to be ready to contribute his share of what the Lord is really saying to him; preaching is an easy way out for a not-too-living fellowship. Appoint the preacher and let him find the messages; we can sit still and take or leave what we hear, as we please! Probably the best balance was found in early Methodism, where John Wesley laid down that besides the preaching and teaching meetings, there must be a weekly class-meeting which was on a strictly fellowship basis, and all who attended were required to tell of the Lord's personal dealings that week, whether concerning sins, or answers to prayer, or opportunities of witness.
But in the Scriptures it is also obvious that in important part of this fellowshipping was to be mutual exhortation, not just public exhortation by a preacher, but one exhorting the other. In Hebrews it distinctly says that the reason for such exhortation is to keep each other from becoming "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (3:13), in other words lest cups should cease to run over and we should not even recognize it. And it was to be daily exhortation! The same is said in 10:24-25, about public gatherings. The phrase usually quoted as a summons to attend weekly preaching services, "not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together," is actually used, not of preaching, but of mutual exhortation, and "so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." In James also we are exhorted to mutual confession of sin, so that we may pray one for another.
In Africa I found these instructions being obeyed in all simplicity, and perhaps that one thing has contributed more than any other to the spread of revival. Those simple revived believers use often unusual boldness in questioning into the lives of those they contact, as to what is their real spiritual condition and experience of daily victory. Of course, such boldness has also met with intense opposition, and often also criticism, where the questioning might not always have been wise, instead of thankfulness that a few are bold when most of the church is asleep! But it has certainly resulted in a marvelous spread of revival and salvation among saved and unsaved. It has had another healthy effect also. It allows the Spirit to have leadership, and not just some outstanding man. Having accepted among themselves this healthy principle of mutual exhortation, no man or leader is put on some pedestal where he cannot be approached or questioned. All are brethren around one Father, and if the very chiefest among those brethren is seen by the spirit of discernment to be unwise in leadership or to be off color spiritually, others will walk in the light with him.
In other words, the standard is that all want to be the best for Jesus, all recognize how easily deceived we are by Satan and the flesh, so all desire their brethren to "exhort" them, if things are seen in their walk which are not "the highest." Such exhortations are not easy either to receive or give. To receive them with humility and a readiness to be constantly adjusted before God is one proof of continuing revival, for where we are not revived, we almost certainly resent such challenges and reveal hurt self. To give them in grace and faithfulness costs perhaps even more. We are so easily tempted to "let well'sone," or say, "It is not my business." and so forth, because we recognize that to bring such a challenge might disturb the peace, or disrupt a friendship. But in revival we see we are our brother's keeper, not for his sake, but for Jesus' sake. When a brother is not on top spiritually, it wounds the Lord Jesus, it grieves Him, it hinders the working of His Spirit; therefore it is part of our duty to Him to be faithful to the brother. Not to be so is sin. Of course such challenging has to be deeply in the Spirit, that is to say, its source must be godly concern for the brother in question, and the subtle danger watched against using such a method to "put a brother right," or even "to get our own back." Thus, it can only proceed from brokenness in ourselves. Indeed often the only God-sealed approach may be, not the pointing finger of accusation towards the brother, but back to ourselves, perhaps telling him of some reaction in ourselves caused by his conduct, which we have had to take to the cross, or perhaps telling him how on some other occasion God had to deal with us through another brother's faithfulness. The golden rule, as it applies to challenging, is Matthew 7:12, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."