What a congregation following Jesus Christ in ministry should look like can be a pretty complicated discussion. We have to realize that even the early church had difficulty with this. Many of the letters in the New Testament are corrective in nature. So we should not be surprised to discover that our modern day practices (which are 2000 years removed) may not be as Scriptural as we think. For the sake of simplicity, in this essay I will refer to the “congregation following Jesus Christ in ministry” as the Assembly of Christ. When I envision the Assembly of Christ, what comes to mind is much different than our current practices.
The passage that I think sums up the Assembling of the Church the most is 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (ESV) In this letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul is correcting a few misunderstandings that the Corinthians had about their gathering. According to Paul, when the Church assembled they were to have one goal, to build each other up. Paul expected everyone to bring something to the meeting. His non-exhaustive list includes things like, hymns, lessons, revelations, tongues, and interpretations. Today, the Assembly of Christ should also include these same things. Each person in the Assembly should be concerned about building the others up.
In 1 Corinthians 1:12-13, Paul writes, “What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” I believe this passage had multiple applications in our world today. As Christ followers, the Assembly of Christ should not be emphatic about their leaders or their specific teachings. I believe there is a multiple threads weaving through this letter. Paul is telling the Corinthian believers that they should be concerned about building one another up more than dividing over different leaders. Today, the Assembly of Christ should not be worried about worldly qualifications for their leaders, they should also not show concern for differing denominations. The Assembly of Christ will love their brother and sisters in Christ, regardless of who their pastor is, what their denomination is, or any other extra-Biblical qualifications. In fact, I would say that any specific pastor or denomination is merely happen-stance to the Assembly of Christ.
This leads me to 1 Timothy 3:1-7, which is normally referred to as the Pastor Qualifications. The Assembly of Christ will realize that this list does not have anything on it at every Christ follower should not be following. Instead of choosing their leaders based on seminary degrees, previous experience, or any other worldly qualifications. The Assembly of Christ will recognize their leaders internally. Those Christ followers who are already meeting these qualifications (or most of them) will be the ones who are recognized as leaders:
- Above reproach
- The husband of one wife
- Able to teach
- Not a drunkard
- Not violent but gentle
- Not quarrelsome
- Not a lover of money
Basically the Assembly of Christ’s leaders are those people who are imitating Christ in their daily walk and lives. Those of us who meet these qualifications are people who can be recognized as leaders. But that does not mean that other Christians should not have characteristics on this list. More importantly, the Assembly of Christ will recognize that Jesus is their true pastor or their “senior pastor”. For he is the only one who can completely fulfill these qualifications and only through him are we able to fulfill any of these qualifications.
When it comes to the Assembly of Christ, it is not all about our meetings, our leaders, our denominations, or our qualifications. A big part of the ministry of Christ is reaching out to our neighbors with the Good News. Although I believe Matthew 28:18-20 is often times over-used or even misused. I believe it is appropriate at this juncture of the discussion. In Matthew 28, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
When the Assembly of Christ is about building one another up, not dividing over leaders or denominations, focused on recognizing their own leaders, they will inherently be about fulfilling the Great Commission. In fact, I believe following Jesus’ command here may be like second nature to them. They will see the world through His eyes instead of their own. As the Assembly of Christ, reaching our neighbors will not be based on a program, chant, or weekly exercise… it will be according to Christ’s example. Each member in the assembly will recognize their responsibilities, although different, each one has an extremely important role.
The only thing I might add is that the Assembly of Christ should not be defined by a specific group of people (other than Christ followers) or a specific location. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (ESV) I believe that anytime Christians meet in His name, whether it is a weekly meeting or a casual meeting, they are the Assembly of Christ. The Assembly of Christ can morph and grow and shrink as people come and go, but the Assembly of Christ will always remain the same. When two or three are gathered, it is the Assembly of Christ, when 50-60 are gathered, it is still the Assembly of Christ.
Well, I’ve officially reached over 1000 words in this post. I know I could write much, much more and probably could have organized my thoughts a little better.
There were five requirements for this essay:
- Biblically rooted
- Historically aware
- Clear and Concise
- Overall impression, including appearance, discussion generated, and anything one of the judges wants to include
I believe I at least met the 1st requirement :).
I hope you enjoyed this essay. Let me know what you think.