What Does Jesus Say About Having Leaders, Teachers and Pastors?
Jesus said there is not to be a single leadership authority among ANY of us except Christ Himself! Jesus is the "sole teacher" and "sole pastor." We cannot call anyone other than Christ our teacher, leader or pastor! All such roles of teacher, leader and pastor are Jesus's roles as the King of Kings. No individual Christian is authorized to claim any such exclusive title. Jesus should be the only person listed in the bulletin as "the pastor." Keep the sole authority upon Jesus. As Jesus explained:
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise AUTHORITY upon them. But IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant." (Matt. 20:25-26.)
"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. "But do not be called Rabbi [i.e., Great One, one with a large knowledge of Bible facts, Strongs #4461]; for One is your Teacher [kathegetes], and you are all brothers/brethren [adelphoi]. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders [teacher][Gk kathegetes]; for One is your Leader [teacher][kathegetes], that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant [slave].” (Matt. 23:6-11, NASB)
[Note how both 20:25-26 and 23:6-11 have the identical phrase "shall be your servant," showing these two passages are linked. This proves anyone who takes the office / title of "leader," or "teacher" in place of Jesus over the brethren (Matt. 23:6-11) acts wrongfully -- acts improperly just as the "Gentiles who exercise dominion" over the people (Matt. 20:25-26.) ]
"And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd/pastor (Grk poimen)." (John 10:16.) Cf. Eph. 4:11 "pastor" (poimen)
"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren...." (Matt. 23:8)(ASV)
"Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ." (Matt. 23:10, NIV)
Hence, Jesus told us we are all equal, as one family of believers -- brothers and sisters. There is nothing implied in "brethren" other than an equality among all church members. We are to serve one another, not try to lead among one another. As Rick Warren recently put it: "Stop leading, start serving." (5/24/2014 You Tube.)
What Jesus first says in Matthew 23:8 is that a Christian can never call himself Rabbi. This means one who has a great degree of knowledge of "Bible facts." As Strong's #4461, definition of Rabbi explains its meaning in Jesus' teaching-time period:
4461rhabbí– a rabbi; a teacher-scholar recognized by the Jewish public for accumulating a great number of Bible-facts, i.e. respected for his accumulation of knowledge.
[4461 (rhabbí) literally means "great in number," probably referring to the great number of facts (Bible knowledge) acquired by a rabbi. See OT 7727a (rab).
Thus, this is violated whenever any brother asks you to give him any title of respect such as TEACHER, PASTOR, MINISTER, or any other word to signify that person has "accumulated a great number of Bible facts...."
Jesus then in Matthew 23:10 expressly prohibits any Christian calling himself "Teacher" by the word meaning Teacher in Greek -- kathegetes.
Jesus also has told us there is only one "shepherd" (pastor) who leads us. As Amos Love correctly said:
"After trying for 1700 years, 'clergy - laity' still doesn’t work. Jesus said we are 'All' brethren. Matt 23:8 -10." (Amos Love April 26, 2010.)
If you feel Jesus has called you to lead others, then isn't that call only legitimate if it is Jesus, your pastor, who is engaging you as "Staff Assistant to the Pastor Jesus" to serve Jesus. Keep the focus upon Jesus.
When you teach, who is the teacher? You, or Jesus by the Holy Spirit bringing Jesus' words to your mind and those of your listeners?
Jesus said the Holy Spirit coming in Jesus' name will bring to remembrance Jesus' words. Those words will teach us. Our teacher should not be some official clergy or recognized 'divines' or other 'brothers' who claim an office or title or wear robes to distinguish themselves.
None among us should have a superiority in an office within Christ's true church over us: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 10:26, NIV.)
Jesus always is the "sole pastor" (John 10:16) and "sole teacher" (Matt 23:8,10), as He said.
So your teaching ministry is what? You are trying to help members recall the words of Jesus with the Holy Spirit helping the church members. You cannot call yourself the "teacher" therefore of a Bible class, or boast of your status outside as "Professor of New Testament Studies" among your fellow believers. The only position you hold among believers, in these examples, is "Teaching Assistant to Rabbi / Teacher Jesus," or "Bible Study Facilitator."
I want to address pastors right here. If every time you got up, and began calling yourself hereafter "Assistant to Pastor Jesus," or "Teaching Assistant to Rabbi Jesus," and invited all elders to share equally in pastor-preaching responsibilities, that would take some wind out of your sails, right away. Wouldn't it? You would naturally be more humble than when you can tell others you are a "pastor" or "teacher" of a congregation. Your new found humble title would force you to bring Jesus' words into every sermon, for after all, your title emphasizes Jesus is the sole teacher and sole pastor. And by giving equal time to each elder as assistant pastors, you would lose your central importance. You would properly make the focus turn back to the true sole pastor -- Jesus. That would be a Biblical change we all should all contemplate as step one to fix the current system.
Luther Originally Agreed There Can Be No Superior In the Church But Jesus
As Luther who founded the Reformation in 1517 AD also wrote in1523:
Among Christians there is no superior but Christ himself, and him alone. What kind of authority can there be where all are equal and have the same right, power, possession and honor, and where no one desires to be the other's superior, but each the other's subordinate. Where there are such people, one could not establish authority even if he wanted to, since in the nature of things it is impossible to have superiors where no one is willing or able to be superior. Where there are no such people [i.e., no one willing to just all be equal], however, there are no real Christians either.
(Martin Luther, Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523) in Martin Luther, Selected Writings: 1517-1520 (Ed. Theodore Tippert)(Fortress Press, 2007) at 307; See also 45 Luther's Works 75, 117 (Walther I. Brandt, 1956).
How amazing it is Luther taught there are no Christians present in a congregation when the group agrees to make some human their single superior. That is how fundamental Luther viewed Jesus' principles when Luther was battling the presupposition that priests and popes were legitimate authorities.
(Sadly, as we shall see in the Study Notes below after this article, once Luther won a treaty of peace with the pope for his new church, the temptation for power later seduced Luther himself. He became a new pope of his new church. He appointed ministers who operated as de facto superiors. By Luther's own criteria, there were no more Christians present in such churches who suffered such a change.)
Error of Structured Hierarchy Among Equal Brothers
In agreement is Dave Lililgren's 2007 article entitled "Pastor Jesus" in which we read his valid comments on Matthew 20:25-26:
In verse 25, Jesus describes “secular” leadership by using terms “rulers of the Gentiles” and “their great ones.” This type of leadership is based upon one’s position (“rulers”) in government and upon their greatness (“great ones” could also refer to their credentials) in exercising influence over others. It’s all about control (“lord it over them”) and the exercise of authority. Secular leadership is hierarchical, from top to bottom, with a “chain of command.”
Tragically, Jesus in verse 25 is describing the leadership structure of many churches today. We have brought in “baggage” from the world (“the Gentiles” literally means “the nations”) and have organized Christ’s church after a pagan model, replete with “boards” and “chains of command” and CEO’s (a.k.a., “senior pastors”). But Jesus emphatically states that this type of church government is wrong: “It shall not be so among you” (Matt. 20:26a). This is not to be the way leadership functions in Christ’s kingdom. (Lilligren, "Pastor Jesus" (2007).)
Luther began the reformation in 1517 with this same view in mind: to liberate us from all ecclesiastical authority except the authority of Jesus. Luther wrote in his essay,' Freedom of a Christian,' which we find in Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings (Dillenberger, editor)(Anchor Books, 1962) at page 65:
"Injustice is done those words 'priest,' 'cleric,' 'spiritual,' 'ecclesiastic,' when they are transferred from all Christians to those few who are now by a mischievous usage called 'ecclesiastics.'"
Our True Obligation Solely To Submit to Christ Within The Church
God commands instead we submit only to Christ. Through Moses long ago, God told us one day we would be required to obey the Christ -- apparently as God's most superior voice of all time. We read in Deuteronomy - the prophecy of "The Prophet" which passage Peter in Acts 3 said applies to Jesus -- as follows:
17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut 18:17-19 NIV)
This role for Jesus was implied in God's voice from heaven in the New Testament. At Jesus' transfiguration, a voice speaks from heaven and says of Jesus "listen to Him." (Mark 9:7; Matt 17:5, transfiguration.)
When any of us take the role of a single superior over other Christians, we are pushing aside Jesus who God commands be given that role as the Teacher and the Preacher. We all must listen to Jesus. Those who teach and preach are an obvious necessity to communicate Jesus' words. However, to call yourself 'the pastor,' 'the preacher' or 'the teacher' or similar title is a seduction to power -- a power that God exclusively gave the one whose words you quote.
Sadly for Luther, in the end, as discussed in a post-script note below, Luther succumbed to the temptation of earning riches by creating an ecclesiastical structure with himself and his friends in charge. To use Luther's own words, he mischievously placed himself above other Christians with a right to command wages.
Subterfuge Of Jesus's Principles By The Label of 'Minister'
What about if we simply call a single poweful-church leader "the minister?" Does this label change the substance of what we are doing, and thus avoid Jesus' prohibition? NO. That would be playing a word-game, raising form over substance.
Such nomenclature is simply a brazen circumvention of Jesus' commands. It seeks to create an office which represents a single powerful church-leader or teacher or pastor known as The Minister at X, Y Z church. An unequal "brother" who has taken Jesus' post among us.
The standard 'minister' position does not simply humbly serve with the rest of us as all his equal, as we all know from experience. Rather, the minister is always alone authorized to speak and teach. None of us can contribute during the sermon. No one can question or dispute the minister as he talks. We treat the minister as an oracle above us. Finally, no one but the 'minister' gets paid for his time in the service (except a few other church-leaders), thus giving the minister an unequal honor above the general members within the entire Church.
Thus, this isolating of one individual to hold power over us and command wages under the title of "Minister" is a completely dishonest skirting of Jesus' meaning.
It subverts Jesus' role. As Frank Viola and George Barna recently wrote in Pagan Christianity (Tyndale: 2008) at 75:
[T]he Protestant order of worship represses mutual participation and the growth of Christian community. It puts a choke hold on the functioning of the body of Christ by silencing its members. There is absolutely no room for anyone to give a word of exhortation, share an insight, start or introduce a song, or spontaneously lead a prayer. You are forced to be a muted, staid pewholder! You are prevented from being enriched by the other members of the body as well as being able to enrich them yourself.
Viola explains he was involved in a home church which was a weekly gathering and completely spontaneous in starting up hymns, prayers, readings, etc. Viola says when you operate this way, the headship of Christ emerges. When it is lacking, Jesus' role as leader is suppressed:
[T]he Protestant order of worship strangles the headship of Jesus Christ. The entire service is directed to one person. You are limited to the knowledge, gifting and experience of one member of the body--the pastor. Where is the freedom for our Lord Jesus to speak through His body at will? Where in the liturgy may God give a brother or sister a word to share with the whole congregation? The order of worship allows for no such thing. Jesus Christ has no freedom to express Himself through His body at His discretion. He too is rendered a passive spectator. Id. at 76.
To support our ignoring Jesus's command, many people complain that operating without a formal leader or pastor is impractical. One responds: "I couldn't imagine a church run without some order."1
But you can have order without a single formal leader / pastor / teacher aside from Jesus. And why would we scoff at our Lord Jesus's words without trying what He says? Here is my experience proving it can be done.
If you need titles to remind you of each member's limited role and yet authorize some to moderate the group's activities, you can have multiple Staff Assistants to Jesus in your church (who are rotated) who assist Jesus' service as pastor over the membership. Order is always possible without a single superior other than Jesus to moderate.
My Experience With Only Jesus As Pastor
When I lived in Costa Rica as a missionary in 1998-2002 (still technically a conservative Presbyterian but with Baptist-evangelical ideas as my predominant viewpoint), I regularly attended a Pentecostal English-speaking church on Sunday. Missionary work was something you did the rest of the week.
One of our church members was Gary. He told a group of us who lived near his home that the notion of modern pastors was unbiblical. Our sub-group who hung out a lot with Gary then read a book he offered that explained this. I was not fully convinced. However, I was willing to try out "Gary's idea." Each Wednesday, we met at a different person's home for communion, worship-singing and prayer. No one was in charge. Whoever's home served as host, that couple was responsible for making sure the communion table was prepared. Each of us brought food and gave it to the host couple for the post-service lunch. It was great and worked completely in an orderly manner.
Significantly, we always had a chair for Jesus. We believed Jesus was the sole teacher and sole pastor. That symbolic chair reminded us to never get carried away as an individual with speaking. We began every service inviting Jesus to be there with us, as He promised where "two or more are gathered together in my name, there I am among them." (Matt. 18:20.) And we also made expressions of submission to Jesus as Master, recalling that Jesus told us what brings Him and the Father to reside among us:
If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).
Then after worship-singing and initial prayers, men and women, including husbands and wives, asked the group about what a passage meant. Any of us could raise a question about a passage which they had been studying privately. We read it, studied it, and commented on it. Nothing was out of turn. It was spiritually dominated by the Holy Spirit's presence with us. God was moving among us.
Frank Viola's Similar Experience
Frank Viola in his chapter on the modern order of worship shared his similar experience in what he calls "open meetings under the headship of Chirst." (Viola, Pagan Christianity (2008) at 78.) He explained such a meeting "not too long ago" of about 30 of us "gathered together in a home...." Some spontaneously went to the center of the room and sang a song. Quickly the entire church was singing, arms around one another. Then someone began another song. They sang several songs sometimes repeating them. Some people turned the words of the songs into prayers. "On several occasions, a few of the members exhorted the church in relation to what we had just sung." Id., at 78. Then they all sat down. Quickly a woman stood up and shared what the Lord had showed her the past week. After she sat down, a man got up and shared a portion of scripture, and exalted the Lord Jesus through it, etc. Id.
Viola points out the same impact this had on myself in the home church we worshipped within in Costa Rica:
It was so...edifying that it became evident to everyone that someone was indeed leading the meeting. But He was not visible. It was the Lord Jesus Christ! His headship was being manifested among His people. We were reminded again that He in fact is alive...alive enough to direct His church. Id., at 79.
Why Do We Reject This?
What is the cause of our misconceptions against this kind of church? It is our modern concept of the church as a structuredorganization like modern corporations that causes us to want 'leaders' and 'pastors' other than Jesus. However, a truly vibrant Christian community is one that does not need formally present leaders /pastors nor official buildings. The need for walls should not dictate a structure at odds with Jesus' words. As Jesus said of the Temple, one day it would be gone, but God wants those who worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:21-24.) Walls are sometimes useful. Teaching is useful. Pastoring is useful. But commanding figures called Teachers and Pastors and Leaders (aka Ministers) other than Christ Himself are contrary to Christ's direction.
The Church Multiplication Association at its website explains my own experience and their desire to obey Jesus's words in what they regard as the "most ignored" passage from Jesus.
In our own mission work we use only the terms "hermano" (brother), and "hermana" (sister) for everyone. We try to be very careful to not give the impression that some of us are somehow more important, or "more called" than others. In any of our meetings ANYONE is welcome, even those meetings of a sensitive nature. We don't want to do anything that would give an impression that some are more qualified or more important to deal with matters than others. As a result, our poorer, uneducated brethren are often used of God to accomplish extraordinary things as they are encouraged to use their spiritual gifting, rather than something they have been made to feel inferior about through no fault of their own. (J. Guy Muse, missionary in Ecuador, "The Most Ignored Words of Jesus.")
Paul & Barnabas' Differing Views
So where did we get the idea of multiple pastors, ministers, and other officers lording over us? Paul.
Paul says "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors (shepherds, Greek poimenas) and teachers...." (Eph. 411.)
But Jesus said to the contrary: "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd (Greek poimen)." (John 10:16.) Jesus uses the same Greek word for shepherd/pastor as Paul, but the singular while Paul uses the plural. Jesus' point is there should be no more than one. Paul's use of the plural is to convey a contradictory idea that it is perfectly ok to have multiple pastors.
And where do we get the idea that anyone but Jesus can serve as a leader over us too?
"For though you have countless leaders [paidagogous, lit. leaders] in Christ ...." 1Cor.4:15
However, Jesus said: "Neither be called leaders [kathegetai, lit. leaders, -- a synonym for paidogagous], for you have one leader, the Christ." Matt.23:10 AMP. (Other translations render this as "master" (KJV) or "director" (YLT).)
And where does the idea come from that these pastors/leaders can not only lord it over us, but also can expect wages from us? Paul again.
In 1 Tim. 5:17,Paul wrote: "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." Then Paul uses a verse about not muzzling an ox, and then by nebulous logic Paul reads it to imply that churchgoers have a duty to pay the elders for their service. (1 Tim. 5:18.)
Finally, in 1 Cor. 9:14 (NIV) Paul bluntly says: "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel."
Cannot Serve God & Mammon At Same Time.
But I thought Jesus said to His disciples to lay no cost on anyonethey served with preaching or teaching the gospel? "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." (Matt. 10:8b.) This is intended to apply to all preaching and ministry works, for the words just before this were:
" Andpreach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' [8a] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons."
Jesus likewise warned in Matthew 6:24 what happens if you serve both God and Money at the same time: you will "love less" (miserei) one master in favor of the one you love more --obviously when they conflict. (See Strong's 3404 for miserei in Matt 6:24.) Jesus wasn't requiring everyone to never work for a wage, or otherwise you cannot serve Christ unless poor. We know this because Jesus right after saying not to take money to preach says in the very next verse -- in Matt 10:10 -- that preachers must rely instead upon the Law of Hospitality from Leviticus 25:6 for support. What's that?
You would ask for room and board of someone in a village, and in return do work, and if you did a lot, you could even earn a wage. Jesus paraphrased this law as a "workman is worthy of his wage." If the person there will not listen, Jesus told you to leave their home - proving Jesus saw no risk of being beholden to the host by merely receiving a wage-in-return for LABOR. You were not being paid for TEACHING A PET DOCTRINE from which you gain advantage, whether you realize it or not.
But Jesus sees things very differently if you get a congregation of many people who want to hear a message, and you take a salary or fee to teach them. Now you have Two Masters: God and the paying congregants. This is why Jesus prohibited ever taking money to preach in Matthew 10:7-9. It creates a self-interest to confirm spiritual doctrines favored by the listeners.
The Two Masters warning in Matthew 6:24 explains why this is a problem. You will now be tempted to serve the paying congregants even if you find later that the seminary they supported to train you was designed to perpetuate serious heresies against Jesus' teachings. Once you discover this is going on, you will quickly realize that if you speak the truth to the congregation about what Jesus really says, you will risk elder disapproval, and the loss of mammon (money).
This also explains why Apostle John in 3 John 7 extolled those missionaries who "went out for the Name," but "took nothing from the Gentiles." Had they accepted money from the Gentiles, the temptation would be to please them by skewed doctrine that lowered God's standards to the Gentiles' manner of living.
Jesus' Truth Often Loses to Dependency on Mammon
Thus, what if you as a paid-pastor find out there is a truth from Jesus that is rejected by every present Gentile denomination in Christianity worthy of any regard? Today, every denomination rejects or ignores Jesus' teaching that "a believer in me" has two choices when sinning: you can go to hell whole or heaven maimed by serious cutting off of the temptations causing the sin. (Mark 9:42-47; Matt 5:28-29; 18:6-9.) A Christian's faith in Christ in these passages is not a ticket to heaven. Nor is a Christian eternally secure merely because he had faith. Jesus taught three independent times this "heaven-maimed, hell-whole" doctrine which utterly destroys the universal pet doctrines of modern congregants.
Modern congregants of every denomination want to simply be assured their faith alone is all that is necessary; there are no hard choices thereafter to be saved. The pastors today do not preach repentance for salvation because they know Jesus failed to win over the greedy rich man whom Jesus told to give all his money to the poor and "come follow me." The man walked away from Jesus. (Matt 19:21.) 'We won't let that happen,' says the servile pastor of congregants whom he knows want only reaffirming messages preached that require no reform of life. Instead, 'we pastors of today' gladly tell that rich man to believe Jesus died for his sins and rose from the dead, and he will be saved! (1 Cor.15:1-10.) No works worthy of repentance are ever necessary! Rejoice!!!
If the rich man gives us weekly donations to support our salary, he will hear regular assurances where he can sing "all is well with my soul." These words were written by Mr. Spafford (1828-88), a well-off rich professional. Spafford supported Dwight Moody who taught Spafford salvation was acquired for a song -- a cheap price. (Song of 1873 by Horatio Spafford.) As Moody Bible Institute boldly still proclaims, our salvation supposedly is "not dependent upon...works of righteousness to attain or sustain it" even though Jesus teaches the opposite in Mark 9:42-47, and again in Matt 5:28-29 and Matt 18:6-9.
Why is there no courage to preach what Jesus teaches? The pastors are beholden to MAMMON. So they had no choice but to accept Paul who alone sanctioned them collecting monies to preach despite doing so was at odds with Christ's prohibition. But they knew it is shameful to ignore these contradictions. As a result, they were also forced to accept dispensational doctrine too.
Dispensationalism was first proposed by the faith-alone proponent Agricola in the 1500s. He argued this justified dismissing all of Jesus' hard sayings about repentance at odds with faith alone as belonging to a defunct Era of Law. Zwingli (1481-1531) was overjoyed, as he made the NT solely the epistles of Paul. (See Schaff, Creeds of Christendom Vol. 1 sec. 51.) Agricola proclaimed that the ERA of LAW has passed away, as Paul taught, and with it, supposedly all of Jesus' teachings.
The modern pastors then learned such a gospel -- although outrageously abandoning Jesus' doctrines -- has another big advantage to their careers. If they focus upon the verses in Paul that support salvation by an easy-believism, there is a a big payoff. It allows exaggerated assurances of salvation which swells the numbers of happy congregants. This greatly lines pastors' pockets and grows their 401ks. They preach doctrines that are highly popular and enthusiastically-embraced by millions. Otherwise, the pastors would have had to use Jesus' message about harsh steps of repentance, which might lead people to not continue attendance. The pastors know that would not work well for their own job security. In Jesus' case, such frankness repelled the young rich man who didn't like the high personal cost of salvation Jesus asked for. See Matt 19:21.
Hence, Paulinism has created a feel-good church system that feeds upon its own success in an endless ever growing cycle. Not because it is what Jesus taught; but instead because it legitimizes avoidance of everything Jesus taught, grounding Christianity on a Pauline foundation opposed by Jesus - wages for pastors, hierarchy in the church, and salvation without repentance from sin, having no path of righteousness to follow at all for salvation-sake.
The Mammon-Based Gospel Is Endless Flattery.
Who don't the congregants wake up to what's going on? They have enjoyed flattery for so long they don't know any other Christianity than one of an assurance of eternal security for just their faith. They are a happy group of people who are told they do not have go to heaven "maimed" of any sinful pleasures. Who wants to ever escape from that joyful bubble? No one.
Their church attendance is like watching an old film-reel of a funny clip of someone falling off a ladder; you can play it over and over again, and it always brings joy and laughter. It is a weekly seduction that you never grow tired of.
The Hireling Leaves Us Subject to Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
Jesus said the "hireling" over a flock of sheep does not truly care for them, and serves only for the money, letting them be destroyed by "wolves in sheep's clothing." (John 10:12-13; Matt 7:15.) As Reverand Brostrom wrote in 2003 about the modern salaried pastors in Hireling or Servant:
Approaching the pastor as an employee, therefore, is problematic as it promotes a hireling mentality in the church. This becomes apparent in congregations when they seek to accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires. Many churches, for example, look not for a man who is going to faithfully expound the Scriptures and shepherd the people of God, but for one who is likely to fill the pews and assure that the church meets its budget. The hireling mentality also exists among pastors. This becomes apparent when pastors are self-interested, showing greater concern for their compensation package and the earthly security it supposedly brings than ministering to the flock they are called to serve (Jn.10:12,13).
Based upon this conflict of interest, the modern pastors have squirmed away from Jesus' words. They have largely dismissed Jesus' lessons as belonging to a different dispensation. They have elevated Paul above Christ. They are not ignorant of what they are doing, nor that it contradicts Jesus. (See Paulinism Examples for many modern quotes and YouTubes.) They have wilfully deluded themselves to accept these bogus explanations by the allure of Mammon that is the key advantage in accepting these very same bogus explanations. That is why they can never give up Paul -- he alone gives the pastors of today the right to money to preach and teach.
Thus, given the state of the church today of well-paid ministers -- all unwitting captives of the denominations they serve, and their well-worn doctrinal statements, I guess Jesus' words are not important any more once Paul gave us the right to preach for financial gain!
The Didache of the Early 100s
In accord with Jesus' words, the Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, found in the 1800s but which dates to as early as the 100s as apostolic sayings, says to give room and board to Christ's messengers for one or two days (i.e., the law of hospitality in Leviticus to which Jesus alluded in Matthew 10), but "If he remain a third day, he is a false prophet." (Quoted in Edwin Johnson, Antiqua Mater (1887) at page 57.)
The Didache continued, and spoke about sermons asking for money: "Whosoever says in spirit; 'Give me money or any other things, you shall not listen to him." Id., at page 64. Who did the early church follow: Jesus and his true apostles? Or someone else's self-serving message?
Jerome in the 300s Decries Single Elder Control or Bishop as Superior over Elders
Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate. The pope tried to tell him what to do in using the Greek Septuagint variants over the Hebrew. But Jerome had some independent streaks. One such streak was to expose the error of a singular bishop over elders, or a single elder to rule over a congregation, attributing this to Satan's temptation -- which must have been missed by the pope's agents, for his critizue applied as much to the pope as to any singular priest over a congregation. Jerome in his Commentary on Titus 1:7 said:
The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters [i.e. elders]. But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community.... Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord (Comm. Tit. 1.7).
Similar to Paul's words, Barnabas who authored Hebrews (according to Tertullian) also contributed to the concept of powerful leaders and pastor-like figures in the church:
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. (Heb. 13:17)
But Jesus said there were not to be "leaders" in the spiritual community. (Matt. 23:6-11, quoted above.)
And Jesus said we were not to have rulers among us who rule over us like Gentiles do in their assemblies. (Matt. 20:25-26.)
Paul / Barnabas are at odds with Jesus. Whom do you follow? Barnabas or Jesus? Paul or Jesus? Let's choose Jesus.
Tolstoy Says Paul Drew Us Into Dogmas Not Obedience to Teachings of Jesus
The famous Tolstoy told us the same thing in his essay "The Church and State" (1891). Tolstoy contrasted the "original Christian doctrine in the Gospels" that dispelled formal worship structures and having formal teachers other than Christ, and then explained:
But since Christ's time, and down to ours, we find a deviation of doctrine from the foundations laid by Christ.
This deviation begins ...with that lover of teaching, Paul: and the wider Christianity extends, the more it deviates and appropriates the methods of that very external worship and dogmatism the denial of which was so positively expressed by Christ. ("Church or State").
Hence, will we listen to Tolstoy's upbraiding us to follow Christ's teachings? Or will we stay on the path Paul created?
I was happy to find the same question well put by JesusFamilies.org in a recent article Is 'Going to Church' Compatible with the Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth? (accessed 8/30/2014):
First and foremost, Jesus plainly teaches that he is to be his follower's only Teacher and Leader, Master and Lord... But the deceit comes in the form of, 'Oh, but God told us through Paulthat there are leaders in between Jesus and his followers....For those not blinded by their religious Bible dogma, that would obviously make those who believe that statement followers of Paul, since Paul directly contradicts Jesus on this most important matter. ...I ask again, how many shepherds will the followers of Jesus have? Jesus says 'one'. Paul - and the religion founded on his teachings (and the rest of the Bible apart from Jesus' teachings) - says 'millions'. Who are you going to believe? (Emphasis in original).
I also appreciated reading a similar view in the October 2014 blog of David Brainerd:
[Philip Harwood wrote in 1838, critiquing churchianity] "Christians are not free, Christianity is not a religion of free and equal brotherhood." [P. Harwood, Religious Equality, a Sermon (1838) at 3-4.]
So why isn’t it???? Simple. Paul vs Jesus. Paul says “Obey your masters.” Jesus says “You only have one master, even Christ, and you are all brethren.” Checkmate Paulinists. The “church” is a chaos of gurus because Paul’s “authority” trip doesn’t produce anything but bad, foul, fruit.
I should also note, in one of the instances in the quoted text, “master” is didaskalos (teacher) and in another kathegetes (authority, leader). Jesus is both our only teacher and only authority, and only leader. Anyone teaching anything about “the gospel” that isn’t directly based on his words is out of line.
Yet the Paulinists are always having “leadership” conferences to learn to be better “leaders.” Jesus is the shepherd. Any other “pastor” (i.e. shepherd) is climbing over the door of the sheep fold and is a thief or robber. Jesus said so. See John 10. (David Brainerd, "Without Paul would we know how to run a church?" Christianity without Paul blog (10/31/2014).)
Battle of Britain Over This Issue
Incidentally, in the 1550-80s, reformers in England pled to end all church hierarchy, including powerful bishops, etc. To defeat this movement, Paul was argued to have appointed Timothy a bishop (in the modern sense of a powerful leader). In retort, the anti-hierachy movement claimed Paul made Timothy only a deacon, etc. That became the focal point of a debate that ended up keeping an hierachical system despite Jesus' words condemning it. See Donna B. Hamilton, Shakespeare and Politics in Protestant England (U. of Ky. Press, 1992) at 64 ("those who wanted to do away with a hierachical structure...had argued that Paul appointed Timothy to be a minister...deacon.")
With Paul in the mix as a presumed inspired authority, the movement to return to Jesus' doctrine was doomed.
Benefits From Ending Pastorates-for-Pay
By obeying Jesus to not pay for preaching / teaching, we will return to the norm of original Christianity. As Carl B. Hoch, Jr., professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary states: "In New Testament days, leaders were normally not paid." (Carl B. Hoch, Jr.,All Things New (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995) at 240).
By ending payments to pastors, we will go far toward dismantling the currently flawed church structure. We will put an end to the self-interest of the leaders to protect against spiritual obedience to Christ's words on this topic as well as many others.
The correction in the church's salvation doctrine will naturally flow from simply quoting Jesus' words in regular readings from the gospels. There will be no self-interest any longer for someone who gets paid money to "explain" away Jesus' words as belonging supposedly to a defunct dispensation. We can hear Jesus and follow Him, having no shame in listening to Him. Nor any reason provided to ignore His words any longer.
Modern Effort to Revive Home Churches
Steve Atkerson wrote the first treatise on this modern effort to re-establish house churches. He wrote with respect to paying elders and pastors on how huge the benefits would be to the external ministry of the church by reforming to Christ's teaching:
Requiring elders to be self-supporting would free large sums of money currently designated for professional pastors to be used instead in support of missionaries or to help the poor. It would also place a pastor's motives above reproach in an era of religious shysters who purposely fleece the flock in order to finance their exorbitant lifestyles (Ezekiel 34:1-6). In addition, creating a class of salaried ministers tends to elevate them above the average believer and fosters an artificial laity/clergy distinction. Finally, salesmen tend to be extra nice toward those to whom they hope to sell something. Hiring a career clergyman puts him ina similar salesman-customer relationship, and this, no doubt to some degree, affects his dealings with significant contributors (money talks). (Steve Atkerson, editor. Toward A House Church Theology (Atlanta, GA: New Testament Restoration Foundation, 1996) at 87.)
When Did The Church Go Off The Rails?
Where and when did things change in the church? With one small exception at Rome, it began in the 400s AD.
First, Paul in the early 1st century sewed a small seed that caused a small movement at Rome by 70 AD where Clement of Rome, quoting Paul's lessons, said one had to submit to "elders" and obey them. This solution of 'obeying' rather than persuading was to resolve a "schism" in doctrine, and not an issue over sin. See, The Apostolic Fathers (ed. Jack N. Sparks) (Thomas Nelson, 1978) at 49, section 47.) This implied the small Roman church by 70-96 AD was led by a hierarchy that dictated doctrinal issues. To gain such superiority over others, Clement haughtily claimed that he spoke by the Holy Spirit: "You will give us joy and gladness if you prove obedient to what we have written through the Holy Spirit...." (Id., at 53, section 63.)
Other than that small exception emanating early on from Rome, you would be surprised, but it took almost 400 years to erase laymen as the primary participants in church. Thus, Pauline thinking of pastors, leaders, etc., eventually caused "pope Leo [b. 400-d.461], in an epistle to Maximus, bishop of Antioch, [to tell] him that monks or other laymen, however learned, should not be allowed to usurp the right of teaching or preaching, but only the priests of the Lord [can teach/preach]." (Samuel Cheetham, A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (Burr, 1880) Vol. 2 at 1686.)
Hence, was born the laity v. clergy distinction in the 5th century, and the superiority of a few over the church was formalized in violation of Jesus's words.
PS. Sometimes 1 Peter 5:5 is used to teach that 'elders' in a church are proper and we must submit to them. However, read the verse again: "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older." (NIV). Obviously, to say this is about a church organization is twisting the verse. It is simply a moral command between young and old. It is not an organizational teaching about church. It only applies in a church setting as reflective of a principle that applies both inside and outside of church meetings.
The Overseer / Bishop
The early church had a member known as the OVERSEER - what we today call a bishop. The early role is much different than we imagine. It comported with what Peter speaks about in 1 Peter 5:3:
neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock
Peter, I believe, was talking about the charge given a bishop. It did not include routine solitary preaching or directing others in their behavior, as we shall see.
Sozomen and various scholars claim the early bishops of Christianity never preached a sermon for the first 400 years of Christianity. At church, you prayed, read the Bible, heard exortation to obey the word, and sang. That was it! "Sozomen [says] at Rome neither the bishop nor any other were known to publicly preach to the public up to this time (440 A.D.)" (Cheetham, History of Christian Antiquities (1880) Vol. 2 at 1687.) "Valesius...in corroboration of Sozomen [says] that no sermon by any bishop of Rome are extant before Leo the Great [ca. 440 A.D.]" Id.
Thus, you might read Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, but then Jesus alone gave the Sermon. Otherwise, there was no practice of any individual member of the church taking on the role of weekly sermonizing.
However, Cheetham found scattered evidence that bishops were said to give sermons from time to time, but in the same church others sometimes did so also. Id. While Cheetham questions whether Sozomen and Valesius are completely correct, such evidence did not mean one person routinely gave the sermon in a specific church. All were equal. Anyone could speak.
Likewise Viola and Barna in Pagan Christianity say that the first example of routine sermonizing in the church by a solitary person -- called the bishop -- came from Clement of Alexandria in the late second century AD. See Viola & Barna, Pagan Christianity (2008) at 89.
Even so, a sermon when mentioned in the early church was far different than what we are familiar with today. Around 165 AD, a passage of scripture was read with an exhortation to obey the word. Two readings from both the OT and NT were often read. "The sermons in these times were nothing else but exposition of some part of scriptures then read, and exhortations to the people to obey the doctrines contained in them, and generally upon the lesson last read, as being freshest in their minds." As a result of up to four readings, the exhortations were often several -- "sometimes two or three at the same assembly, the presbyters first and then the bishop." (Justin Martyr, First Apology (162 AD) at page 92 fn. 2.)
Thus, even with such minor exhortations sharing the name 'sermon,' they obviously are not the sermonizing with which we are confronted with today -- where someone with the authority of a title as pastor preaches a message where we are far from the text into commentary and one's own thoughts and ideas entering into the lesson.
Regardless, Sozomen and Valesius as well as Viola and Barna still make a good point about what was the general practice: no sermoniznig by a solitary individual. The exceptions are rare in the early church.
Viola and Barna say that "the sermon became a standard practice...by the fourth century." (Viola & Barna, Pagan Christianity (2008) at 89.) They point out that this copied the strikingly similar pattern of the sophists of paganism who recruited disciples and then gave speeches on topics for a fee. Id.
Thus, the fact the prevailing church practice did not have a bishop (and no office of pastor at all) who sermonized for four centuries raises an important question. Doesn't this reveal the early church thought it improper to give a bishop (or anyone else) a position of such authority whereby he alone would be preaching / sermonizing repeatedly week after week in the church, thereby controlling thought and content of discussion?
(Please note there was no office of pastor in the early church that survived Paul's mention of there being many 'pastors' in the churches which he promoted. See Viola & Barna, Pagan Christianity (2008) at 110. See also Acts 20:28 (shepherding used as verb with elders, not an office of pastor). See also The Pastor Deception -YouTube (Protestant evangelical shows you Paul too only spoke of Pastors in plural after 10:52 mark, and only referred as shepherding-verb to elders in plural form in Acts 20:28.) So the only possible early 'ruling' authority to study from post-Paul history is this position of 'bishop' aka 'overseer.')
Assuming Sozomen, Valesius, Viola and Barna are correct about general practices, this supports a narrow role for an overseer / bishop. It is a role that would not violate Jesus's commands, as apparently the more Christ-centric early church even understood.
If the role of the overseer aka bishop is like a modern church secretary, the overseer sets out what might happen in an assembly meeting. The overser has no authority to control the content of those speaking. That belongs to the Lord Jesus and the movement of the spirit during prayer and communion. The group listening should interact, and then correct the one speaking by means of Berean-like testing from the Bible.
In the home-church I mentioned above we had in Costa Rica, whoever's home was the meeting place would serve as overseer of starting off prayer, communion, making sure everything was prepared for worship, etc. But we all participated equally at all points in the worship time. It was completely liberating besides spiritually strengthening to each member of our small group.
Bishop's Role in Settling Doctrinal Disputes Was Non-Binding
In Acts 15, the Overseer of Jerusalem (James) was called upon to resolve a question of doctrine. The answer was given after consultation with the Holy Spirit, and taking testimony and holding a hearing with the apostles. All opinions were heard first. The answer obviously had to conform to Scripture. James' goal was to find that answer after careful consideration of evidence and opinions. The conclusion was then placed in a friendly letter form. It was not an edict that threatened expulsion of anyone who did not agree. It did not say it was binding. The goal obviously was to let the probable view of God flow through the letter by asking for as much input from other believers as possible. In this way, the Overseer does not assume any authority above and apart from the Lord Jesus. But such an opinion-letter reflected that the bishop could serve as a peacemaker--a role Jesus would approve.
What importance is there that Peter and the other eleven apostles stay out of the dispute? They provide testimony but do not venture any imprimature above the bishop James's ruling. The answer is we must infer James simply rendered an opinion as an elder to try to quell disturbance in the church -- as a peacemaker. His letter's authority depended upon its reasonableness and spiritual correctness. James did not decree that it must be followed merely because James uttered it. Hence, this episode reveals a bishop could try to settle a doctrinal dispute by making what was hoped to be a persuasive non-binding decision. The apostles were not acting in a superior position above James when he acted as Bishop of Jerusalem. Hence, there is no example of hierarchy in Acts 15.
No Superior Bishop Over Other Bishops
A myth later developed that there was one bishop -- the one at Rome -- in Peter's line -- who was superior to all other Bishops. However, this had no foundation in the early church, as we will review here.
But we Protestants cannot criticize this speck in Roman Catholic eyes when we have similar beams in our own. For just as there was no bishop-over-bishops, there can neither be any authority of 'senior pastor' over 'junior' pastor, or elders over pastors, as we pretend is acceptably different within our Protestant church.
As proof there was no hierarchy in the early church among bishops, Reverand Jeremy Taylor from the 1600s went over the early history and concluded, citing Cyprian (died 258 AD) and Sylvius in support:
[B]y the law of Christ, one bishop is not superior to the other. ...Cyprian in the council of Carthage [in 257 AD] said: "It remains (saith he) that we all speak what every one of us doth think, judging no man, and refusing to communicate with no man that shall happen to be of a differing judgment:"..."for none of us makes himself a bishop of bishops, or by tyrannical terror compels his colleagues to a necessity of complying : for every bishop hath a liberty and power of his own arbitrement, neither can he be judged by any one, nor himself judge any other; but we all must expect the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who by himself and alone hath power of setting us over the government of his church, and of judging us for what we do."...
I [Rev. Taylor] only add the saying of AEneas Sylvius [died 1464 AD], who was himself a pope; "Ante concilium Nicenum, quisque sibi vivebat, et parvus respectus habebatur ad ecclesiam Romanam;" " "Before the Nicene council, every man lived to himself" (that is, by his proper measures, the limits of his own church), "and little regard was had to the church of Rome." (Jeremy Taylor, The Whole Works of The Right Reverand Jeremy Taylor (Ogle Duncan 1822) Vol. 14 at 71-72.)
For further research on Cyprian's quote, it is at Cypr. Op. "Council Carth.," p. 229. See this link.
For further research on Aenaes Sylvius's quote, it is Aen. Sylvius Op. Basil 1571, Ad Mart. Meyer Epistle cclxxxviii  p. 802. See this link.
Also Cyprian wrote in the early church of the 250s of its bishops serving as all equals under Christ as the sole head:
"There is one church, divided by Christ into many members throughout the world; likewise one bishoprick, poured far abroad by the agreeable multitude of many bishops....[And] although bishopricks be divided and sundered by distance of place, yet were they ever knit together as with a garland, and ever ruled by one advice. Indeed the people was ever mingled together; but the bishops were also joined in charity, that every of them was content to be taught and to be led by other. " (The Works of John Jewel id., Vol. 3 at 301, citing Cypr. Op. Antonian Epistle lv, p. 112.) [Also quoted by Catholic Encylopedia at this link.]
Further testimony of there being no superior bishop among bishops initially, at the Council of Constantinople of 380 AD, it was even "decreed that the bishop there should have even and equal authority to the bishop of Rome." (The Works of John Jewel (Cambridge University, 1848) Vol. 3 at 300.) Jewel found much evidence for camaraderie among bishops in that early period where none sought to claim any superiority. (Works of John Jewel, Bishop of Salibury (University Press, 1845) at 386.)
But can we have one pastor over another? or elders over pastors? Again, to repeat, there was no office of 'pastor' in the early church. Nor were elders an office; they were the older members of a church. (See "What About Elders?" below.) The only mention of pastors and elders in a church setting was by Paul but these references were apparently descriptive of a role, and not an office because such offices were unknown for over 1000 years of early Christianity. So once we created such an office of pastor in our modern era, we have to accept the fact that (a) his superiority over us is baseless; and (b) having a senior pastor over a junior pastor in authority, or elders over a pastor, is contrary to Christ's words as well as the historic features of the office of bishop -- the only office in the early church. But again, the office of pastor was non-existent in the early church. We need to return to the office of bishop which was a very limited role without sermonizing and control.
Where Repetitive Preaching By A Single Voice Leads
Incidentally, later, when individual sermonizing became a standardized practice after the 400s, the talks employed "rhetoric" which "speedily passed into mere unreal and factitious artifice;" the talks in church became no more than "intellectual exercise." (Cheetham, History of Chiristian Antiquities (1880) Vol. 2 at 1689.)
Church then becomes about admiring the clever rhetoric and even the skill in sophistry of one pastor over another. Then church can descend into absorbing itself in silly issues like predestination, eternal security, and other things that do not promote godliness at all! These discussions clearly promote relaxation and lack of concern about sin. When we take our eyes off Jesus, and focus on textual issues on these topics in Paul's writings, we fall away from Christ. These modern intellectual interpretations of Paul are at total odds with our Lord's words that try to stir our concern about sin by threatening our salvation for a "praxis" (practice) that is sinful. See Mark 9:42-47 (heaven maimed or hell whole); Matt. 16:27 (Son of Man "shall give every man according to the praxis /practice of each.")
Good preaching is instead about exhortation to obedience and love of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in whom He dwelled.
But instead, modern preaching often turns into divisive intellectual discussions about nonessentials in writings that are not truly apostolic.
And this leads to campaigns to exclude heretics which Paul mandated (Titus 3:10, 11). But Jesus said no. Instead, leave the tares in the congregation. (See our link for further discussion.)
The paid single-pastor system fed debates over non-essential doctrine destructive of concern for our salvation. Telling people to just believe -- a cost-free salvation -- suits a single-paid pastor system because none will walk away as the rich man to Jesus who had a much higher cost to follow Him. Thus, the single paid-pastor system has led to nothing but divisiveness and has resulted in millions of deluded but reassured so-called 'Christians.' The time is now to proclaim only Christ and His Word, which will have the effect of restoring the true Gospel of "heaven maimed" or not at all! See Mark 9:42-47.
When Jesus preached to crowds, I don't think He ever asked whether someone was qualified to listen. There was no checking of membership status in any sense. This continued a long time after Jesus' resurrection: "Not until the second century did the Roman church develop an organization capable of expelling those viewed as 'heretics.'" (Richard I. Pervo, The Making of Paul: Constructions of the Apostle in Early Christianity (2010) at 351.)
Regardless, if the church is supposed to be about evangelism first, and fellowship second, how can we create formal tiers of people who can and cannot come to church. (There is such a thing as 'shunning,' but that does not require any membership formality, as explained below.)
There is a second reason that no formal membership is necessary for church. Participation cannot lead to expulsion. Jesus taught us against the Roman Catholic principle of excommunication of heretics. Jesus taught this in the Parable of the Wheat & The Tares. He told us to leave tares (heretics) in the congregation. See this link for further discussion. Carlstadt, the co-founder in 1517 of the Reformation with Luther, wrote in 1520 in Canonicis Scriptoris that "the threat of excommunication had no biblical foundation." (Saebo: 578.)
So some might speak out whose ideas are wrong. Jesus says, 'let them fellowship.' It happened to our group in Costa Rica. We listened. We showed love, as Jesus commands. It worked itself out. (Well, some wanted to excercise Pauline exclusion, and this Pauline-command disrupted the peace of our little group. Our group was not attune to the problem of Paul at that time.)
The concept of shunning in Matthew 18 of wrongdoers is different. Those who do moral wrongs are to be confronted one-on-one personally first, and then by two or more witnesses. If no reconciliation is possible, then Jesus teaches to shun them. Jesus did not say exclude such a sinful person from church -- a place where perhaps God's word would pierce his/her heart and cause repentance. The shunning, in fact, likely had the impact of making someone want to come to church for social acceptance, and would upon entry lead quickly to reconciliation with the person he or she offended. Excluding them from church is thus unnecessary and counter-productive; shunning can be done effectively without and within church meetings. It is not intended to exclude one entirely from church meetings.
Issue About Prayer During Meetings
One of the struggles in having church like this is the issue of prayer. Jesus taught:
5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt: 6:5-6.)
Jesus identified it as a wrongful practice to stand publicly in the synagogue or in the street and pray (even apparently quietly to oneself). This praying-on-corners is still done in Israel today. The defect was obviously that the penitent's prayer was to be seen by men to be penitent. You were praying on a street corner or "standing" at an assembly evidently to be recognized for such wholesome behavior. Hence, it is important to understand such practice to see the fault Jesus was condemning.
Jesus said the cure to this fault is to pray at home in private without the public present.
Does this principle extend to worship time in a public church assembly? Yes but only as to a single individual's efforts to pray. Only then is the risk of self-promotion present.
For example, notice the Psalms are songs which also can be read together as prayers. If done in a corporate way, a public prayer was certainly legitimate in the Bible. Thus, a joint prayer is clearly appropriate. The Lord's Prayer even appears to imply a corporate usage was intended, "Our Father," forgive "us our" sins, etc.
What about praying at home or in small groups? Obviously, Jesus was saying do not stand as an individual and pray to be seen in an exhibition to the public. Individuals who pray to be seen or heard in front of an audience are taking the risk of self-promotion.
Arguably, Jesus did not intend to prohibit praying at home in private with close friends and family -- a home group. Jesus prayed in ear-shot of the 12 apostles in the Garden of Gethsemene, and while reclining to eat at the Last Supper. Each time Jesus did not think this was wrong. Hence, "praying on your couch" -- which was also the place one would eat 'reclining' -- may be Jesus' way of saying you can pray where not many people can stand and listen, but are relaxed in an informal setting reclining on a couch. Hence, in a home group meeting on a couch, the others present may not represent an audience in the sense that risks your intention is public approval of you by the fact you are devotely praying.
In other settings like a church meal in front of a large crowd, I would suggest taking Jesus very literally. When your church in a public gathering wishes to pray a blessing thanking God for food, use a common blessing that all can repeat. Do not pray a solitary prayer in front of others at Church.
What about a prayer group at church with about 30 or more present? Isn't this a public audience, and now we are into the risk that prayer is self-promotion if done by individuals? It is greater than the 12 which Jesus prayed solitary prayers in front of. Hence, there is potentially risk of self-promotion in a way that may offend God.
One remedy if one thinks the sin Jesus identifies is more the unequal attention and exhibition in front of a substantial audience, then make sure there is a prayer rotation. Thus no one is more holy than the other for prayer. Encourage full participation of each person present so that no one person dominates. If someone is praying more frequently than others to appear more important and sanctified, and whose words show a controlling behavior, then there is a problem. Others should then separately voice concern about exhibitionist prayer in private with that individual.
I suggest also a process of taking prayer requests, whether in a home group or church prayer meeting. This way the prayers should be about the request, curbing the temptation to use a self-congratulatory prayer which a self-promoter might improperly use.
Otherwise, in any group meeting of 14 or more persons, I would follow Jesus' words literally to not pray individually in public. If you still feel your group must have this, then there is no easy answer to this dilemma except the Fear of God. When people are present talking to God, one would hope that people are mindful of God's displeasure of using prayer as showmanship. Pray the Holy Spirit teaches you what Jesus intended by his prohibition on public praying.
What About "Elders"?
The NT talks about elders. Elders are just that -- older men and women.
We are never told that they are an office in the church or hold any formal power at all. As one modern evangelical author Benjamin L. Merkle (Baptist seminary professor) explains in Why Elders?: A Biblical and Practical Guide for Church Members (Kregel Academic, 2009):
The New Testament does not tell us precisely how much authority the elders of the local congregation should have. Id., at 35.
We just imagine it is the same authority being excercised in the church we attend today. But this is not evidence of what the reference meant in the early church.
Carlstadt, the co-founder of the Reformation with Luther, had the opinion that the only two offices that existed in the early church were that of bishop and deacon, basing this on Titus 1:5, 10. See Ronald J. Sider, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt: the development of his thought, 1517-1525 (Brill, 1974) at 138. Implicitly, there was no office of elder.
Thus, an elder is indeed simply an older member of a church, and whose years in life give him or her a presumed greater wisdom. Teach respect for elders generally, as the Bible commands. This applies inside and outside of church. Because all older members are elders, you can have an elder board, but then it is made up of everyone over a certain age, without any exception. There are no formal hierarchies in a true church of Christ between men and women of the same age.
How Jesus' Words Would Help Missions and Charities
Before going to Costa Rica, I was always part of church leadership because I was their legal counsel. I saw the sad tragic inner workings. One pastor was told by the elder board that if the pastor did not increase offerings, he would be replaced. Imagine that!
I saw how building costs, nursery staffing, activities to entertain, etc., ate up budget after budget. I saw how charitable giving by the church-entity was a tiny percentage of the church-tithe back to the community. We were forced instead to fund the para-church organization with most of our "tithe." I saw evangelical opportunity after evangelical opportunity passed by in favor of these other expenses. I saw widowed women and divorcees in shame and distress ask a deacon board for money whose requests were tabled until their sons or daughters (who had no Christian belief) could explain why they were not helping their mom.
A church today runs on money. And the expenses are not evangelistic or charitable in the majority. It is a sad state of affairs.
If the church returned to Jesus's structure for the church, the support for missions and charities both personally and financially would grow. This is because we would focus on the person in the symbolic chair --- JESUS -- and Jesus's words. The emphasis radically changes for Jesus taught us:
to provide food, water and clothes to the brethren (in need)(Parable of the Sheep and the Goats);
help our neighbor in medical need from a mortal condition (Parable of the Good Samaritan);
nothing about attending a church or weekly worship service or creating an expensive worship center but instead Jesus foresaw a post-temple time of worshipping in "truth and spirit" without such a building expense burdening us; and
to go into all the "world" and "not hide our light under a bushel" and preach and teach "all that I (Jesus) have commanded you."
An Important Step of Healing: Get Rid of Church Buildings
An important step of reform would be to resolve to get rid of church buildings, or at least make home church groups the predominant method of fellowship and worship. That is, let's reduce emphasis on a worship center which is not a normal home. First, church buildings financially drain the church of money to do good works among [A] non-Christians (to help lead them to Christ as Jesus instructed in Matt. 5:16) and [B] Christians. Second, modern church buildings perpetuate the system of passive audience-oriented Christianity without true life under Christ.
Most important, the modern church building is totally unbiblical. Even Philp Schaff admits this. Here is an amazing quote from Philip Schaff, the premier modern historian of the church, and himself the product of modern church buildings and systems. Yet he condemns the notion and the costliness of official church structures as unbiblical and without precedent in the early church!
That the Christians in the apostolic age erected special houses of worship is out of the question....As the Saviour of the world was born in a stable, and ascended to heaven from a mountain, so his apostles and their successors down to the fourth century, preached in the streets, the markets, on mountains, in ships, sepulchres, caves, and deserts, and in the humblest private dwellings. But how many thousands of costly churches and chapels have since been built in all parts of the world to the honor of the crucified Redeemer. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Scribner: 1859) at 127.)
The first mention of 'to go to church' appears in 190 AD -- in a letter by Clement of Alexandria. (Viola & Barna, Pagan Christianity (Tyndale: 2008 ) at 12.) But even then it "refers to a private home that the second-century churches used for their meetings." Id.
New Testament scholar Graydon F. Synder explains why we can affirm there were no church buildings until under Emperor Constantine in the 300s:
"There is no literary evidence nor archaelogical indication that any such home was converted into an extant church building. Nor is there any extent church that certainly was built prior to Constantine." (Snyder, Ante-Pacem: Archaelogical Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine (2003) at 128.)
Thus, Synder concludes in Ante-Pacem: Archaelogical Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985) at 67
The first churches consistently met in homes. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as a church.
Besides homes, the early church also met in "open places, markets and hired halls." (Id., 2003 edition, at 128.)
Thus, if we had Jesus' concept of church, I bet every week-end we would worship outdoors or in a home as a step toward different afternoon opportunities than we do now. Our money we collect would be used to gain friends for the kingdom. See Luke 16:9 ("I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves...."); Matt. 5:16 ("In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.") We would help widows, orphans and the poor, as was a main purpose of offerings commanded to Jews in their tithe. (See our PDF article on the tithe at this link.)
As a result, we would more often end up at a food dispensing service run by Christians for the poor. Or do some charity work where we could meet people who don't know Christ, but due to our charity, will give thanks to God and want to know about Jesus whose example we claim to follow. They will then be open to hear about God and the Lord Jesus's payment for their sins if they turn in repentance and fully trust Him as Lord of their lives.
Maybe that mobile triage unit is what Jesus actually had in mind when He spoke of His church. Consider Jesus' own example. Did He start any building projects? Wasn't the only money handled by the 12 a money bag for the poor? Was this ever spent on administration costs of staff and a music team? Did Jesus stay in one place and show up week after week at the same synagogue to speak, or instead did Jesus largely give itinerant missionary messages to strangers in open fields? Jesus said He had no place to even lay His head.
This supports a minimal role for a church structure as the central hub of our attention. It does not erase it entirely. Jesus did several times attend synagogue services, and once He participated in the reading from Isaiah at one.
Our Proper Self-Designation to Reflect Jesus As Sole Master
I think Luther hit the nail on the head with this one although later he succumbed to pressure to allow exactly the contrary of what he initially protested:
I pray you leave my name alone and not to call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one...How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes. It is quite proper for Papists should bear the name of their party, because they are not content with the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ....Well, let them own the Pope, as he is their master. For me, I neither am, nor wish to be the master of any one. I and mine will contend for the sole and whole doctrine of Christ, who is our sole master. (P. Schaff, The History of the Christian Church (1910) Section 78, reprinted Oak Harbor, Wa., Logos Research, 1997); see also Michelet, Life of Luther, at 262; Stork, The Life of Lutherat 289.).
This topic disturbs modern Pastors who are enriched by Pauline principles of church leaders, pastorates for pay, etc. But it is time that followers of Jesus speak out for a different way -- the WAY Jesus taught.
This home-church movement can only be reliably dominated by laypersons who are committed to not making any financial gain by their involvement in 'church.' You cannot expect your current pastor or minister will lead the change. It runs counter to what holds them captive -- career preaching of the so-called "gospel" for pay. By strong financial compulsion, they will explain away Jesus' words. Paul will be cited that ministers are entitled to pay, and that the title of 'pastor' is an office in the church which Jesus 'shares' with them. Thus, you will get nowhere trying to convince them that they are on the wrong track. So show them the right track, and your good fruit of helping widows and orphans, the spiritually hurting, etc., and spreading the true Gospel of Jesus more effectively than even they imagined. Then they might repent.
Anthony Buzzard, a theologian and minister, wrote wisely on a similar topic that there are certain issues which become orthodox not because they are right, but because a pastor or minister can only continue to enrich themselves from "God's service" by perpetuating such doctrines. Buzzard explains:
Few Christians can conceive the possibility that they may have embraced long-standing error. We have been well schooled by our teachers to wrap protective armor around our imagined truth, even though it may be indefensible error. We're prone to give unquestioning assent to hallowed church tradition. We're often overwrought by authority and title. Seldom do we pause to consider the religious leadership is in the hands of those who will conform to a prevailing pattern or acceptable thinking and were rewarded for their orthodoxy. But can our present denominational systems, among which there exists serious conflicts and disagreements, faithfully represent God and truth? (Buzzard, The Doctrine of the Trinity (1998) at 306.)
Hence, we must turn to Jesus to be our pastor who leads us out of the darkness that currently prevails. And we will find it is easy to follow Jesus when no one is paid to re-inforce doctrines Jesus did not teach. When pastorates-for-pay cease, the scales of incorrect doctrine will finally fall away. Christ's Kingship will have a new renaissance - one long overdue.
Lastly, the lay-person faithful whose only interest is to love Christ and serve our Father in Heaven will be the engine God uses to make this next large-scale transformation in the church. In the coming era of persecution, this switch may even help prepare the church to continue and spread because now the church's physical effectiveness cannot be destroyed when a mere assistant pastor / teaching assistant / staff assistant disappears or when thugs destroy a church building or murder a Christian of influence.
I will leave as the final words those of a servant Philip Harwood who in 1838 brought the same plea as is outlined above. Among his closing comments to a sermon that was reprinted at London were these:
We do not want a new gospel. We want the old gospel to be preached and practised with a new energy and earnestness. We want a new perception and setting forth of its everlasting truths, a new out-pouring upon us all of its spirit of liberty and love, We want not to have Rabbis, and masters, and fathers upon earth—we want a true, living devotedness to our Master and our Father in heaven. We want not more sacraments, more priests, more bishops, more cathedral churches—we want more faith, more hope, more love. We want not government patronage, but popular intelligence and virtue. We want not the dominance of a sect, though it were our own— but the sway of the Christianity common, more or less, to all sects, the Christianity that is known by its fruits. (Philip Harwood, Religious Equality, A Sermon preached at Bridport, December 23, 1838 (London: Mardon 1838) at 22-23.)
Blessings of Christ.
NOTES AND COMMENTS
Pastors Who Renounce the Title After Reading This Article
#1 "Pastor Pius" of Kenya - Now Brother Pius, Servant of Jesus
Our Dearest brother Douglas
Greetings in the name of our Savior Jesus. I am happy of the sermon of Jesus' Words on Church Structure that you have sent to me.
What a wonderful lesson you have tought me!!!!, from now on words, I resign to from being called a pastorand I am just a brother and a SERVANT OF JESUS. From now, I confirm to you and Yah that henceforth I want people to call me brother Pius. I have seen and really realized that neither Yah nor Jesus support a pastoral post. This pastoral post is human as it is only Paul who supports it.
I declare today and I will announce it to our members next week so that they will be calling me a Servant of Jesus.
Brother Doug, Thanks a lot for your wonderful lesson to myself.
Shalom and blessings from Yah and His son Yahshua our Messiah.
All our Love,
Here is a link to the text of Brother Pius's actual speech to his congregation of 30, resigning as Pastor to take the role of brother -- willing to seat himself if the Holy Spirit moves another to teach / preach.
#2 - Be Pastor #2 to renounce your title as pastor. Please bravely make the same resignation as Pastor that Pius did. Then share your speech.
What Should We Do Now If We Are Alone? Commentary by Doug
What should we do now when few share these views? What if we have no friends who agree to worship and organize the way Jesus taught? What if we are alone for the present?
First, we are not truly alone, for worship is with the Father in Heaven who hears our prayers, whether in a crowd or alone.
Yet, on Sabbath, we are to seek a "holy convocation." (See our "Sabbath Command" article.) However, there is no rule what that means. Obviously, we can have worship anywhere with anyone, even if it is only by yourself. Jesus even told you to go in your room to pray. So you can have a convocation alone with God if that is the only present option.
What if we do not know how to worship alone? Or in small numbers? Consider the alternative -- whether you should truly regularly attend modern Pauline "Christian" churches.
While I do not see any sin in visiting Pauline Christian churches to occassionally worship -- making mental exceptions as I watch / observe the goings-on that are terrible traditions (see my article "How to Treat Pauline Tares,"), it can grade on your spirit. It can prove harmful over the long-term. You have to select a Pauline church that emphasizes righteousness, and teaches you God's true principles of behavior. They will say it is for rewards. You know that obedience has more importance than that. So you can usually listen, with a mental check against their de-emphasis.
However, Kierkegaard has a more negative view which we should consider. Kierkegaard was one of the most recent Christians to recognize the Problem of Paul. Kierkegaard explained how Pauline Christianity is now victorious and ended true Christianity (see our link). In this crisis, Kierkegaard wrote in 1854 that it not only is better not to participate in such a church but also that it is sinful to do so:
"This has to be said; so be it now said,
Whoever thou art, whatever in other respects thy life may be, my friend, by ceasing to take part (if ordinarily thou doest) in the public worship of God, as it now is (with the claim that it is the Christianity of the New Testament), thou hast constantly one guilt the less, and that a great one: thou dost not take part in treating God as a fool by calling that the Christianity of the New Testament which is not the Christianity of the New Testament."
S. Kierkegaard, 1854
I don't contend it is a sin to attend a Pauline church because of what Jesus taught in the Parable of the Tares. We should fellowship with fellow believers in Jesus. We cannot determine who is sincere or how deeply they truly love Jesus.
At best, each of us in this present crisis can pray about whether to enter the modern "Church" enclaves at all or only occassionally or very selectively based upon proximity of doctrine. The important thing in all of this is that the choice is truly how to MAKE TIME to worship the Father and His appointed King, His Son - Yahshua.
I provide suggestions / video / audio links to help on the "Sabbath Command" page so you can worship at home, either alone or with others. I suggest you pick 1 p.m. every Sabbath to have your convocation. I also have a page of Music suggestions (with worship video with lyrics) at this link. Lastly, I collected various prayers and edifying material, including many You Tubes, that can lift your spirits at this link.
Suggestion for Service Order
Frank Viola in my view goes too far in Pagan Christianity to think the right choice is to have absolutely no order of worship. Instead, what you need are two things (a) equal treatment and position of all; and (b) no superiority of any single individual except the King---Jesus. But you can have such a spirit within the framework of a service order. Within it, you can incorporate all the spontaneous contributions from members that arise. So rather than invite chaos, here is what we did in Costa Rica for four years before we left, and it worked great:
1. Form a circle so no one person is the center of attention. Invite Jesus to participate, and ask Him to take His throne in the room. If it helps your group focus on Jesus as leader and pastor, place an empty chair near the center of the circle or within the circle.
2. Open in Prayer to God (Yahweh / the Father) in Yahshua's name. (Yahshua is Jesus's true name. See link. It is preferable because in Judaic thought the sound of a name is the name, not a translated pronunciation.) Sing a hymn or two.
3. The host family (rotate weekly if possible) asks for individuals to express thanks to God for small and big things of each individual. This is Praise time.
4. The host family asks for expressions of sorrow for having done an individual wrong, especially another participant/spouse/friend. Such a step helps group unity if sins expressed by one participant toward another are made in public, e.g., "I am sorry I snapped at Bob." But some confessions should be done in private, especially if children are around.
5. The host family invites prayer requests -- for others to hold up in prayer.
6. Inviduals pray based upon the prayer requests.
7. Read a passage of Scripture -- about 12 verses. Then the reader starts over one verse at a time. The reader asks the group what do you think this verse means? The reader does not contribute. When all opinions are canvassed, the reader goes to the next verse. And this repeats itself until all 12 verses are discussed. No one has to have doctorate to comment! You would be amazed about the richness of spiritually-motivated ideas among the faithful. It is a far richer experience than listening week-after-week to a 'pastor' teach. We did accept prepared studies to be discussed but kept to 5 minutes or so, yet everyone was free to comment and critique the thoughts as they were expressed. A true discussion format where Jesus / the Spirit was trusted to be the leader and teacher. (You can repeat this several times with different members reading off a verse that the Lord showed them the past week or during the worship time.)
8. Praise God for His Word.
9. Sing a hymn or read a Psalm. Try to pick songs about God and His greatness. (Many songs are about our pathetic weaknesses and needs. But this is WORSHIP. It is not supposed to focus on us. This is my wife's pet-peeve with the choice of music at most churches. It is not worship on the greatness of God and praise, but commenting on our experience, our needs, etc.)
10. Offer bread (unleavened) and wine to all. Grape juice if you insist.
11. Do the communion with the words of invocation from Holy Scripture (e.g.Matthew). The host or some volunteer should read the Holy Scripture to all.
12. Sing a hymn or two that are WORSHIP oriented.
13. Close in Prayer.
14. Have a lunch or dinner together.
15. The most important rule: don't make the rules of order more important than the Spirit of God who you always allow to change what you do.
Study Notes / Further Research on Teacher/Leader Issue
Marsilius of Padua 1275-1342 AD
Marsilius was the first thinker in Roman Catholic Christendom to deny there is any right to hierarchical authority within the church. Marsilius also contended there was no right within the church to punish heresy. And he said that the church has no right to establish an orthodox viewpoint on any doctrine so that it is then becomes beyond dispute. None of those powers were delegated by Jesus to the church. (See Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, editors, History of Political Philosophy (2d ed.)(Chicago: Rand McNally College Publishing, 1972) at 251-53.)
Strauss/Cropsey's famous text explains:
but he denies that the ecclesiastical hierarchy is divinely established. According to him all Christian priests are essentially equal in all respects as far as divine right is concerned. He also denies that any priest, even if he be bishop or pope, has by divine right any of the following powers: the power to command or to coerce; the power to decide whether and how coercion is to be exercised against apostates and heretics, be they subjects or princes; and the power to determine in a legally binding way what is orthodox and what is heretical. Id., at 251.
"Marsilius argues that Christ came into the world not to dominate men, nor to wield temporal rule; and he excluded himself, his apostles and disciples and their successors, bishops and priests, from all coercive authority and worldly rule," says Kilcullen, R.J. Kilcullen in "Tape 8: Marsilius of Padua," Macquarie University POL167: Introduction to Political Theory (1996) citing Marsilius of Padua, In Defense of the Peace (trans. Alan Gewirth)(N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1956) at 114.
Specifically, Marsilius said "That Christ meant to exclude his apostles from worldly rule is proved by: 'The kings of the gentiles lord it over them... But you not so." Id., citing Marsilius, at 113-40.
Incidentally, Marsilius's work In Defense of the Peace was the first book that used Christ's principles to say all sovereignty rests with the people who have the right to replace temporal rulers. Marsilius said all political power vests with the people. Five hundred years later, the American Revolution took these principles seriously for the first time. See Fritz Berolzheimer, The world's legal philosophies (Boston: 1912) at 109. )
Glasite Movement of 1725-29 Was First To Attempt No Earthly-Pastor System
A Presbyterian pastor in Edinburgh, John Glas, in 1730 started up a church that did not have a single pastor, and tried to have all the church members treated as equal brethren. He started well for a long time. Glas's original writings from 1725-1729 echo many of the same points we found above from Jesus's words. Glas's good beginning -- known as the Glasite movement -- is summarized on our website at this link.
However, because Glas eventually and gradually incorporated Pauline views on pastors, elders, and Paul's doctrine to exclude "heretics" on two warnings, the system degraded into an unbearable tyranny of many equal pastors, rather than the few, who forced all members to submit to these pastors. Total unanimity of opinion on all sorts of matters were required on pain of excommunication (which Paul alone teaches) (Jesus taught tolerating heretics in the Parable of the Tares, and only taught the shunning of moral wrongdoers in Matt. 18.)
Thus, the ultimate failure of the Glasite movement to create a true Christian fellowship underscores that Christ's true church cannot flourish as Christ intended it until the authority of Paul is rejected. Paul's words sow divisiveness and the need for a domineering human controller or controllers (e.g,. a person / persons to enforce exclusion on those regarded as heretics on doctrine after two warnings, as Paul taught).
Reformation Prevented Independent Churches, Even Independent Witnessing
We have all been told the Reformation changed everything for Christianity. Supposedly, true Christianity was reborn. Not quite. What happened is that Catholicism's stranglehold was loosed, but a new one was attempted to be put on the followers of Jesus -- Paulianity similar to old Marcionism was reborn. Yet, some true Christianity emerged but it was quickly quashed by the new Paulianity.
Carlstadt co-founded the Reformation with Luther in 1517. He tried to take the church in the direction of relying only on Jesus' words, and held they were superior to Paul's. (See "Carlstadt Research.") Carlstadt "granted laymen the right to perform all tasks previously reserved for the ordained." (See Ronald J. Sider, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt: the development of his thought, 1517-1525 (Brill, 1974) at 137.) Carlstadt insisted upon the "layman's right to judge theological disputes and attend general councils, ... to celebrate the eucharist privately...." (Id., at 137-38.)
However, Luther by 1522 diverged from Carlstadt, and was angry with his positions on the book of James and handling the eucharist, etc. Luther called Carlstadt the "New Judas," and had him banished from Germany. (See "Luther Destroys JWO Movement in Reformation.")
Luther could do so because he had esconced himself in the favor of several key rulers of Germany. Thereby, Lutheranism became the official church in many parts of Germany. Luther then refused to allow any independent church as a violation of Paul's commands to obey our rulers (Romans 13:1). Any home church would necessarily be in violation of the new state Lutheran church. In fact, any private preaching one-on-one was prohibited. Luther said:
What I say about public preaching, I say even more even more emphatically about private preaching and secret ceremonies. These are not to be tolerated at all. For the rest, anyone may read what he like and believe what he like....[This rule] puts a stop to the knavery of the fellows who preach in corners, who sneak uncalled and unsent, into people's houses, and emit their poison there, before pastors or rulers find them out. These are the thieves and murders of whom Christ speaks in John 10. (Luther, "Commentary on 82d Psalm," Works of Luther (2007) Vol. IV at 312; official cite LW 1364; WA 31.1:210,11-12 (citation referenced by MacKenzie: 20).
On peril of body and soul, no one should listen to such a man but should report him to his pastor or ruler. (Quoted from same passage by James Martin Estes, Peace, order and the glory of God (Brill: 2005) at 188.)
If true, then what about Jesus's evangelism and His sharing bread in private ceremonies, and telling his apostles to do likewise and visit people in homes? Luther admitted the apostles were commanded to go into people's homes in Mark 16:15, but Luther claimed this was a "special command" only applicable to the apostles! "Since then, no one has had this general command," as Estes summarizes Luther's silly argument. See, James Martin Estes, Peace, order and the glory of God (Brill: 2005) at 188.)
Luther took this unbiblical position to the point of killing people! Luther promised and delivered a death sentence upon members of independent congregations like the Anabaptists founded. Their independence, by itself, was a basis for Luther finding them guilty of sedition, and subject to a death penalty. While Luther in this quote below highlighted the Anabaptist opposition to infant baptism -- the Anabaptists instead insisted upon a knowing faith-based confession, Luther justified executing Anabaptists simply because the Anabaptists sought independence from the state church now led by himself. This supposedly proved their seditious nature. Luther wrote:
That seditious articles of doctrine should be punished by the sword needed no further proof. For the rest, the Anabaptists hold tenets relating to infant baptism, original sin, and inspiration, which have no connection with the Word of God, and are indeed opposed to it. ... Secular authorities are also bound to restrain and punish avowedly false doctrine ... For think what disaster would ensue if children were not baptized? ... Besides this the Anabaptists separate themselves from the churches ... and they set up a ministry and congregation of their own, which is also contrary to the command of God. From all this it becomes clear that the secular authorities are bound ... to inflict corporal punishment on the offenders ... Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then ... we conclude that ... the stubborn sectaries must be put to death." (Dave Armstrong. "Pamphlet of 1536" in Martin Luther and The Protestant Inquisition (Janssen, X, 222-223; pamphlet of 1536.)
For the same reason, Luther likewise prohibited anyone serving the role of pastor who was not authorized by the state church. These men should be arrested as likely to stir up rebellion. MacKenzie in the Lutheran Concordia Journal excerpts these passages and comments where Luther refuted Jesus's view that all believers are equal. Instead, Luther created a superior class known as the 'pastor.' (Other than Paul's writings which mention the office of pastor, no early church-history documents reveal any such office of 'pastor). Luther wrote:
"All Christians are priests," Luther said, "but not all are pastors. For to be a pastor one must be not only a Christian and priest but must have an office committed to him. This call and command make pastors and preachers." Those who preach without such authorization are "sure emissaries of the devil." They should be turned over to the authorities for, in Luther's thinking, their purpose is "to start a rebellion, or worse, among the people."
Source: MacKenzie in "Luther's Two Kingdoms," from the Lutheran Concordia Journal (2007) No. 71 at 22 (PDF). MacKenzie cites for these three quotes respectively (1) LW 13:65; WA 31.1:211,17-20; (2) LW13:65; WA 31.1:211,26-27; and (3) 65 LW 13:66; WA 31.1:212,4-5.
As Private Preaching Was Banned, Non-Christians Were Compelled To Hear Authorized Public Preaching
As Luther's command explicitly prohibited private evangelism, how would a non-Christian hear the word? Luther's solution was simple. Luther justified forcing non-Christians to attend the official state church on pain of banishment:
"It is our custom to affright those who ... fail to attend the preaching; and to threaten them with banishment and the law. ... In the event of their still proving contumacious, to excommunicate them ... as if they were heathen." (Dave Armstrong, Martin Luther and The Protestant Inquisition (Grisar, citing LW VI, 263; EN, IX, 365; letter to Leonard Beyer, 1533)
"Although excommunication in Pope-dom has been shamefully abused ... yet we must not suffer it to fall, but make right use of it, as Christ commanded." (Dave Armstrong, Martin Luther and The Protestant Inquisition citing Durant, 424-425.)
"The spiritual powers ... also the temporal ones, will have to succumb to the Gospel, either through love or through force, as is clearly proved by all Biblical history." (Martin Luther, Letter to Frederick, Elector of Saxony, 1522 (Janssen, III, 267; letter to Frederick, Elector of Saxony, 1522)
What about the common people whom Luther originally appealed to for support? What if they did not go along with the Lutheran church once imposed as the state church through most of Germany? Luther's view was harsh and so unlike our Lord's view:
"Like the mules who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be." (El. ed. 15, 276, quoted by O'Hare, in 'The Facts About Luther (TAN Books, 1987) at 235.)
As Private Preaching Even By Missionaries Was Banned, War Would Spread Christianity
Having crippled Christianity from private preaching as Christ practiced and Jesus encouraged of his 12 apostles, Luther intended Christianity should now only spread by the sword and war, not by voluntary witnessing:
"The Word of God can never be advanced without whirlwind, tumult, and danger ... One must either despair of peace and tranquility or else deny the Word. War is of the Lord who did not come to send peace. Take care not to hope that the cause of Christ can be advanced in the world peacefully and sweetly, since you see the battle has been waged with his own blood and that of the martyrs." (Letter of Martin Luther to Georg Spalatin, February 1520.)
Luther Taught The State Alone Would Adjudicate Church Doctrine
To prevent any private preaching further, and any private discussions on what doctrine might mean, Luther gave the state the sole authority to adjudicate church doctrine. Luther directed:
"Let the rulers take a hand. Let them hear the case and command that party to keep silence which does not agree with the Scriptures."
MacKenzie in "Luther's Two Kingdoms," from the Lutheran Concordia Journal provides this quote with citation, and then comments this means that "the temporal authorities will actually adjudicate a doctrinal dispute." (See link to MacKenzie's article online at this link to PDF at page 21; MacKenzie cites LW 13:63; WA 31.1:209,24-26.)
Hence, the Reformation removed one collar and gave us another one. Part of our continued antipathy to home churches arises from the ingrained belief from centuries of torture and persecution of those who practiced what Jesus endorsed. It is time to break free, and courageously stand for Christ's Way! Now we must remember that we have Jesus's words to serve as our sole pastor.
Pauline Wages To Ministers Is A Seduction
Jesus sent the apostles out to preach and teach, but taught them not to take any wages. "Freely you received, freely you give."
This was the view of the original church.
Carl B. Hoch, Jr., professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary states: "In New Testament days, leaders were normally not paid.That is, money was given more as a gift than as an income or a salary. ....[M]oney was never to be the driving force of ministry (1 Peter 5:2). Unfortunately, churches today will not call a man until they feel they can support him, and some men will not seriously consider a call if the financial package is 'inadequate.'" (Carl B. Hoch, Jr., All Things New (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995) at 240).
Likewise, Lenski states in his Commentary on Paul's Epistle to Timothy that clearly taking wages by preaching elders was not practiced in the early church, despite Paul's best efforts to create such a practice:
It is generally assumed that the elders were paid for their services in the apostolic churches. We are convinced that this assumption is not tenable. The probability is that none of them were paid. The elders of the synagogues were not paid or salaried. Each synagogue had a number of elders, too many to have a payroll that would be large enough to support them. The apostolic congregations imitated the synagogue in this respect. (Lenski, Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistles to Timothy (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937) at 683).
Paul alone in the NT justified paying church leaders for services.
Christians are waking up, and realizing pastorates-for-pay is unbiblical. Paul is the most formidable force to overcome. For as Macarius Magnes pointed out in the 300s (see our link), Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:14 says "those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel." For these Christians who wish to teach contrarily, yet stay true to Paul, they take all of Paul's verses that support self-sufficiency in his own ministry, and try to convince pastors today to ween themselves off of the wage-train. Although followers of Paul, these Christians are to be commended, and their site is: http://www.batteredsheep.com/pastors_salaried.html
The Battered Sheep exhort us to a new type of church -- volunteer servants. It gives us this new view which it says revives the original view. Please observe how much it notes if the structural problems identified above disappear (e.g., inequality, superiors, etc.), this would end pastorates-for-pay by necessity:
If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting. (D.M. Erkel, "Should Pastors Be Salaried?" Battered Sheep (2010).)
Amen. How does Battered Sheep suggest to exit this mistaken path?
[W]e would highly recommend that pastors secure an additional skill or trade in the event that a congregation's financial assistance runs out (or even if he gets terminated from his church!). Is this not the better of wisdom?
What is the immediate benefit of changing our structure of operation to one without a single paid pastor?
The sad truth is that most church boards never bother to consider how much money could be saved for missionary support, the poor, and literature used to advance the furtherance of the Gospel, if they did not have to remunerate a full-time pastor.
Pastorates-for-pay have also clearly gotten out-of-hand. Of course, there are many pastors and ministers who labor for little pay. But the top tier pastors get paid 100s of thousands of dollars. And the televangelists get paid close to millions of dollars.
A congregational leader did not have a speaking role in Moses's contemplation. He led the people in and out of the congregational assembly, much like we suggested the bishop's role operated in the early church:
And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, 16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd. Number 27:15
Hi Doug, Many greeting from my self and my family! I have been studying several articles in your website and sharing with some friends.The article,"Words on Church Structure" was wonderful and we surprised how big difference the apostolic church and the modern churches! Bishop and pastors are more political rather than servants,the rule with iron fist instead of good example to the believers. I completely agree with you on this among others. I think the church of Jesus Christ need over whole reformation on it doctrine or miss the mark of being a virgin to coming Groom. Keep us in prayer and have a bless day, Julius (7/28/2013)
I was reading (and printed out) your article on church structure and thought similar as to what you suggest here. Many thanks for the encouragement and links, I really appreciate it and feel supported. I feel within my spirit and have for many years that we must hold NT church meetings and your guide helped me very much !!! THANKS Blessings and Shalom Stella (June 24, 2011)
I like his exegesis on John 10:16, and the translators' effort to deflect notice of Paul's contradictions of Jesus. So this article says:
"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 (Greek poimen)." (John 10:16)
How many shepherds? Isn't it interesting that translators at some point decided to translate the Greek transliterated term 'poimen' as 'shepherd' in John chapter 10, and as 'pastor' in Ephesians chapter 4:11. It is the same exact term used in both places and the contexts are the same - they are both talking about leadership. Now why would those translators do that? Perhaps because the Way was too narrow for them and they liked Paul more than Jesus? Perhaps faithfulness to their religious system or prior translation traditions?
The author has another section that I wish to excerpt in toto, as it is forcefully put so well:
Pay Other's To Follow Jesus For You
Sadly, Christianity as well as its messianic brethren, very much like their mutually self-serving system. They choose, hire and bless their leaders who essentially tell them they are accepted by God if they believe a certain set of doctrine and if they participate in the organization's meetings and rituals ' or at least give them money to support and run it. And of course the leaders are only too glad to tell the people what they want to hear and at the same time be provided a living by making weekly speeches called, 'sermons' or 'the teaching of God's Word' or some other such label. Their leaders also very much like having people say to them in the market place, 'oh, pastor, pastor'. They also get the seats of honor at all the important life events like baby christenings, marriages and funerals ' heck, most even get paid for presiding they are so esteemed! Of course many of their leaders actually think they are helping the people of their flock by substituting for the Good Shepherd, but oh how horribly deceived they are. They think that their counsel to their members is wise and good as it comes from 'a calling', experience, education, or 'God's Word' ' all the while they ignore the most important teachings of the real and living Word.
Please listen to what Jesus calls those leaders who accept money to 'pastor the flock':
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep." (John 10:11-13)
For those willing to receive it, Jesus calls all men who usurp his role of the 'One Good Shepherd' and accept money to do so, 'hirelings'. And what does he say of the hireling? That when real trouble comes, you can expect him or her to say, 'well, it's been good knowing you, I'll pray for you, good bye'trust in the Lord!' When it really comes to laying down their literal life for you, they will fail, because they love their life in the world. This is why the Real Jesus of Nazareth is the only true "good Shepherd". He will not fail you, and he will lead you to his Father and Life eternal IF you are willing to "listen to HIM" (Matt. 17:5).