Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission.

When David arrived at his first pastorate, he was excited about the possibilities. The church was a small church located on the fringe of a large metropolitan area. David had received high marks in his seminary experience and he was well trained for ministry. Before and during seminary he had attended a large, nationally recognized church in one of the major cities of the United States. He had spent six months on staff as an intern in order to get a feel for developing ministries and leading the programs of the church.

However, upon his arrival at the small church he sensed things were vastly different from his large church experience. And after he had been serving as the pastor for several months, David fully realized that the small church functioned with a unique set of characteristics. At first he tried to change them. Following the recommendations of the latest writings on the seeker-sensitive model of ministry, he tried to bring the church up to the 21st century (at least in his estimation). After several frustrating years, he stepped back and decided that perhaps he first needed to understand his people and what they wanted the church to be and do.

He began to do some careful listening and realized that they had the same heart for evangelism, discipleship and worship that he possessed, only they expressed it differently. Rather than try to change them, he decided that he would change his own attitudes and actions. For the first time since his arrival, he accepted them for who they were and how they expressed their faith in Christ.

After a time he not only learned to accept their ideas, but he began to value their way of doing things. Pastor David acknowledged that while it would not work in the larger church from which he came, he found it was effective in this setting. It was not long until he discovered the people were genuinely expressing their appreciation for his pastoral leadership. Where his ideas were once quickly rejected, the people were now starting to listen. New ideas were implemented while the church remained committed to many of its core values. The people not only became excited about what was happening in the church, but they saw a new vision for what God could do in them and through them.

Being effective in the small church comes when the leadership first accepts the people for who they are and learns to value the way they express their faith. Too often new pastors come in with the idea that they must drastically alter things and drag the church kicking and screaming into the pastor’s ideas of what a modern church should be. This not only results in frustration in both the leadership and the people, but it involves a rejection of many of the key values that bind the small church together.

While spiritual change and spiritual growth are always vital in every church regardless of size, the small church pastor’s ministry should be built on preaching and teaching the Word of God and discipling people, interwoven with love and acceptance of the people. Accepting the small church begins by understanding the characteristics that undergird its ministry. The wise church leader needs to carefully consider the unique values, beliefs, customs, traditions and attitudes of the congregation. Every church has a distinct set of cultural norms and expectations that set it apart. To be accepted as a leader of the group a person must understand, share, and affirm these cultural norms, otherwise the person will be viewed as an outsider. Before a pastor has earned the right to attempt changes in the small church, he must first show that he values and accepts the people for who they are, how they worship and serve, and how they live out their faith in the context of a congregational community.

The small church is different from its larger counterpart. It worships differently, it views leadership differently, it understands ministry differently. Often, leaders mistakenly assume that the principles of leadership and ministry operate the same in every church regardless of the size. This results in the leader becoming frustrated that the people are not following, and the people becoming discouraged because the leader is taking them in a direction they do not wish to go.

Since the small church is different, we need to understand its characteristics and distinctives. Fifteen characteristics often mark the small church. Each characteristic is not present in every church, but there are often several which characterize a specific congregation, and in most cases there are several that are predominant.

(Tomorrow: Characteristics of the small church)

Glenn Daman Bio


Dr. Glenn Daman is graduate of Western Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and serves as pastor of First Baptist Church, Stevenson WA. He has published three books on small church ministry and is Director of the Small Church Leadership Network.

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John J Stewart's picture

When you have someone trained and who accepts the large church/seeker sensitive format and then finds himself in a small church, that just isn't a good match.  The idea assumes the large way is right, but tolerate--if you will--the way the people of the small church do it, forcing yourself to understand and mold the way you were taught so you believe into something you aren't and don't really like.  The article manipulates the words well, but that is what I think is really going on.

Unless the small church wants to change, it should look for someone who is like them in ecclesiology and their belief system.  The example that was given sounds like the man's parents went to that small church and convinced them that the kid was well trained.  True, but was he well trained for their church?  I like the fact that he was willing to change, but he has to climb uphill to do it.  I think they would have problems with someone who was that different from them.

My bias goes back 48 years when I looked in the yellow pages for a church that stood by the Bible.  Although I was only 31, I knew my worldly lifestyle wasn't what God wanted for my life and that man's opinions and entertainments weren't what I needed to hear.  Yes, the church I chose was a small church.  It was very basic; simple Bible preaching without the flesh attractions that are important many churches today.  Twelve churches later--some small, some medium, some large--I still look for a church that is like the one I looked for in the yellow pages many years ago.  The church I'm going to is very much like that.  It has about 300 in attendance and is growing, with many in various personal ministries. I work in addiction recovery and in prison correspondence.  The church does expository preaching, hymns from a book, and a choir.  The young people stay in the church when they grow up.

John J. Stewart

Don Johnson's picture

I heard someone say once that over 50% of all churches had less than 100 members. I don't know if that is accurate or where he got the number, but there are a lot of small churches out there. One of the mistakes some seminarians make is to spend their college/seminary years in large churches where they only  have an opportunity to work in small niche ministries in a large setting. While obviously the Lord does call some to such ministries, I think you would be better prepared to find one of those pastors of small works in your area and just go help him out. Do whatever he needs you to do. You will learn much more in that setting I think.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There are, of course, different ideas of what "small" is. To me, 300 is a big church. Growing up, we attended a couple of churches a good bit over 100 in size, but the best years were in the spin off in Gaines when we could all fit in a three-car garage (or was it a two-car?). Small has always felt right to me (not that that's any kind of standard). Hard to say exactly why.

dmicah's picture

why our churches get so hung up on numbers is beyond me..but's that's off point.

Author seems to stumble on church leadership and plurality of elders/pastors. Anytime bodies of believers become convinced that solo leader guy is the right model, the train has already left the tracks. Doesn't matter the size, a sharing of leadership and responsibility for the equipping of the church is the only sustainable biblical model. Without balanced leadership, you'll end up with overworked solo leader guy burnout, puppet solo leader guy charades, dictator solo leader guy tirades, celebrity solo leader guy productions or revolving door solo leader guy dropouts.

It's very hard for our churches, traditional or contemporary, to accept that American business is not the source of church structure. But time and again, even in churches with solid doctrine, you will find a corporation mindset with senior pastor as CEO.

With that in mind, the article doesn't make much sense because it's about a solo leader guy adapting to "small church culture." It sounds like a Christian version of a movie like Dangerous Minds. Teacher with passion adapts to culture of a new school. Wins hearts and minds. Everyone hugs and cries. Roll credits.

 

Rob Fall's picture

Where does the office of bishop\overseer fit into your model?

dmicah wrote:

why our churches get so hung up on numbers is beyond me..but's that's off point.

Author seems to stumble on church leadership and plurality of elders/pastors. Anytime bodies of believers become convinced that solo leader guy is the right model, the train has already left the tracks. Doesn't matter the size, a sharing of leadership and responsibility for the equipping of the church is the only sustainable biblical model. Without balanced leadership, you'll end up with overworked solo leader guy burnout, puppet solo leader guy charades, dictator solo leader guy tirades, celebrity solo leader guy productions or revolving door solo leader guy dropouts.

It's very hard for our churches, traditional or contemporary, to accept that American business is not the source of church structure. But time and again, even in churches with solid doctrine, you will find a corporation mindset with senior pastor as CEO.

With that in mind, the article doesn't make much sense because it's about a solo leader guy adapting to "small church culture." It sounds like a Christian version of a movie like Dangerous Minds. Teacher with passion adapts to culture of a new school. Wins hearts and minds. Everyone hugs and cries. Roll credits.

 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

dmicah's picture

Ground floor. Corner. Lots of glass. Biggrin

short answer - collective group of men sharing broad spiritual responsibilities for equipping.

Rob Fall's picture

So, you're envisioning something akin to being the moderator of the session.

dmicah wrote:

Ground floor. Corner. Lots of glass. Biggrin

short answer - collective group of men sharing broad spiritual responsibilities for equipping.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah wrote:

short answer - collective group of men sharing broad spiritual responsibilities for equipping.

So how do you get plurals out of singulars?

NAU  1 Timothy 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

Man = indefinite nominative masculine singular

overseer =  genitive feminine singular

aspires = 3rd person singular 

work = genitive neuter singular

desires = 3rd person singular

"collective" and "group" aren't very expositional

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

It's very hard for our churches, traditional or contemporary, to accept that American business is not the source of church structure. But time and again, even in churches with solid doctrine, you will find a corporation mindset with senior pastor as CEO.

I wonder if you might have it backward here. Isn't the American business model is the one with a corporate board made up of people (usually considered superior to others available) that makes virtually all decisions (at least major ones) regarding the organization, including recruiting and approving the CEO, and the CEO answers to the board? That seems to be closer to the church structure of an elder board that makes decisions, including the hiring and firing of the pastor, with little to no congregational input on these decisions.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The NT appears to be intentionally flexible on the number of elders in a congregation (I think we'd all agree that the NT couldn't possibly be accidentally flexible!). Though we have lots of examples of plurality, and instructions to apostolic delegates to appoint multiple elders, two things are missing:

  • Instruction that each congregation must have multiple elders
  • How leadership is divided among the elders

Human nature being what it is, where you have a committee you end up eventually with a chair whether you want one or not. Someone leads the elders.

The "ceo model" (which Larry has right) didn't develop randomly after all. There's nothing sacred about it, of course, but it reflects something about how human beings in organizations naturally relate. There is never any such thing as a headless group for very long.

So, coming back to small churches, what are the implications? We do have qualifications for elders clearly laid down in the pastoral epistles. So add this up:

  • Clear requirements for elder office, plus
  • No specifications for number of elders-per-congregation
  • A small church that does not have multiple qualified men for the role

Isn't it pretty clear what you have to do? And this scenario is quite common.

In response to Don's comment here though...   Use of the singular there doesn't teach that there should be one elder or even that there may be only one. When speaking of an office, it's common to use the singular of the office even if it is one that is always shared. An analogy would be how we talk about the qualifications for "senator" or "congressman." Singular terms. So the grammar there is not decisive for the plurality question.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

So how do you get plurals out of singulars?

NAU  1 Timothy 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

So are you saying this verse somehow means there can't be more than one overseer (KJV bishop) in a particular local church?  Strong's seems to indicate that the word as part of its meaning of oversight, can include multiple "presiding officers", but maybe you are thinking that applies to more than one church.  At the moment, I'm failing to see how a man who wants that job is required do it to the exclusion of all others who want that job.

Edit: Looks like Aaron and I were posting at the same time.

Dave Barnhart

dmicah's picture

Larry wrote:

It's very hard for our churches, traditional or contemporary, to accept that American business is not the source of church structure. But time and again, even in churches with solid doctrine, you will find a corporation mindset with senior pastor as CEO.

I wonder if you might have it backward here. Isn't the American business model is the one with a corporate board made up of people (usually considered superior to others available) that makes virtually all decisions (at least major ones) regarding the organization, including recruiting and approving the CEO, and the CEO answers to the board? That seems to be closer to the church structure of an elder board that makes decisions, including the hiring and firing of the pastor, with little to no congregational input on these decisions.

Larry, my original intent wasn't tied to a publicly traded company model per se. And I think that is where your illustration took it. My business illustration argues that the pastor is not a bossman with a hierarchy beneath him, organized into neat little departments who report back to him. The Bereans weren't studying the Scriptures and Good to Great.

Even if you use a public model, there's no biblical argument for a chief executive in the church, governed by a board or not. Nor a COO, CTO, CIO, etc. Elders/Overseers/Pastors appear to be equal in authority in the church. (Not necessarily designated responsibility.) The board of a publicly traded company is not responsible in any way for the day to day operations of the company. They may meet quarterly or bi-annually to reassess goals and metrics, but they are for the most part figureheads. Not to mention, these roles are highly sought after for their prestige and a token amount of compensation. For those who contort elders into simply a "ruling body" and separate their work of equipping from the "operations" of the church/church staff, force an unnatural and corporate framework onto an organic body.

To tie it together, I'm simply arguing against the church as a business with a single leader at top. A business is about goals, vision, mission statements, metrics, budgets, brands, marketing, corporate communication, benefits, and of course, profit. From what I see in Scripture, the gathering of God's family is far more organic. Not disorganized, mind you. We don't need to wing it, have no plan, or abandon all organizational frameworks. I would suggest an elder led model with congregational input via public discussion and/or voting. 

And for the record, this a touch too complex to hash out completely via forum.  I hope you'll accept this as a quick bareboned response.

 

 

Don Johnson's picture

There is a great temptation to be sarcastic, but I'll try to refrain.

However, two things to note. I am reacting to dmicah's foolish interpretation of a singular overseer as a "collective group of men". I am not saying that there cannot be more than one person filling an office of oversight in a church. As Aaron noted, when that occurs, usually one will be chief overseer or a chief will emerge.

But the second thing to note is that Paul uses the singular consistently in 1 Tim 3.1-7. Then, I guess he just got tired of using the singular for a collective so he decided to switch to the plural consistently in vv. 8 and following. But that doesn't mean anything, eh?

Ok, I'll stop. You can see a little sarcasm crept in.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

My business illustration argues that the pastor is not a bossman with a hierarchy beneath him, organized into neat little departments who report back to him.

Most "corporate church" structures are more like I describe than you describe. I have never heard any one suggest that a corporate or business model of the church resembles that of a sole proprietorship. Most businesses, of any size, are operated as they are for function. And most of them have departments of people who report to certain who report to others and so on up the line. That's not unique to church. It's a matter of practicality. But as you later suggest in your comment about equal in authority but not necessarily in designated responsibility, you seem to acknowledge that there are realms of responsibility in which accountability exists. In other words, it seems you still have people reporting to a bossman, who just happens to be the elder associated with that particular area of responsibility.

Elders/Overseers/Pastors appear to be equal in authority in the church.

Perhaps, but I am not sure where this appearance comes from. Part of it is that we have imposed a lot of things on Scripture that aren't there, and we should be cautious with that.

I'm simply arguing against the church as a business with a single leader at top.

Right, but does Scripture forbid a single leader in a church? Nowhere that I am aware of. Again, I think there is a tendency to read things into Scripture that aren't there. What we know from Scripture is that the congregation had authority in matters like selecting deacons and church membership. We know from Scripture that churches in cities had elders in churches. Whether or not that is distributive is something that would have to be argued. We do not know, from Scripture, that no church ever had a single elder. We do not know, from Scripture, what the working relationship between elders in churches was.

I don't think it is all that complex at all, so long as we understand the distinction between the Bible and practical application. So my point is that if we are going to have biblical polity and biblical eldership, we are going to have to be clear on what the Bible says (either as directive or pattern), and what the practical outworking of that is in real life churches.

Rob Fall's picture

is rooted in Greek city state forms of governance, I use forms I am used to.  In the US, there are four basic forms of local government (at least that I remember form high school civics)

  1. New England Town Meeting (with or without a board of selectmen)
  2. Council\Manager
  3. Council\(Strong\Weak) Mayor
  4. City Commission (Galveston Plan)

I look at NT church governance as being close to the Town Meeting (with a Board of Selectmen) model with the addition of a strong mayor.  As I understand it, the plurality of elders model looks like the city commission model.

 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

dmicah's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

There is a great temptation to be sarcastic, but I'll try to refrain.

However, two things to note. I am reacting to dmicah's foolish interpretation of a singular overseer as a "collective group of men". I am not saying that there cannot be more than one person filling an office of oversight in a church. As Aaron noted, when that occurs, usually one will be chief overseer or a chief will emerge.

But the second thing to note is that Paul uses the singular consistently in 1 Tim 3.1-7. Then, I guess he just got tired of using the singular for a collective so he decided to switch to the plural consistently in vv. 8 and following. But that doesn't mean anything, eh?

Ok, I'll stop. You can see a little sarcasm crept in.

Don, 

Aaron wrote:

Use of the singular there doesn't teach that there should be one elder or even that there may be only one. When speaking of an office, it's common to use the singular of the office even if it is one that is always shared. An analogy would be how we talk about the qualifications for "senator" or "congressman." Singular terms. So the grammar there is not decisive for the plurality question.

Dave wrote:

So are you saying this verse somehow means there can't be more than one overseer (KJV bishop) in a particular local church?  Strong's seems to indicate that the word as part of its meaning of oversight, can include multiple "presiding officers", but maybe you are thinking that applies to more than one church.  At the moment, I'm failing to see how a man who wants that job is required do it to the exclusion of all others who want that job.

Thus, I wrote:

Don, I think your response was answered by others.

These guys said the same thing. Not sure where you get off calling my interpretation foolish, but whatever floats your boat. By the way, Greek word studies don't trump context.

dmicah's picture

You wrote a lot. Thanks for your response. Always insightful.

 I have never heard any one suggest that a corporate or business model of the church resembles that of a sole proprietorship.

But in practice, this occurs quite frequently without strong shared leadership responsibilities/decision making and accountability. I still contend we're seeing the Scriptures wrongly when "leader" is translated as "boss". Not sure if I'm conveying that well. 

equal in authority but not necessarily in designated responsibility, you seem to acknowledge that there are realms of responsibility in which accountability exists. In other words, it seems you still have people reporting to a bossman, 

Not exactly what I mean. Here's an example. An elder may oversee children's ministries. Another may oversee student ministries. Two more share duties for the public adult teaching/preaching. When the leaders/elders meet, they share what is going on in their ministries, look for ways to improve, fix problems, speak into each other's live, etc. In this scenario, no single guy is "at the top" having direct reports give him a rundown. They are doing it collectively.

Elders/Overseers/Pastors appear to be equal in authority in the church.

Perhaps, but I am not sure where this appearance comes from. Part of it is that we have imposed a lot of things on Scripture that aren't there, and we should be cautious with that.

I only share the opinion of many that if the words for elder/overseer/pastor are used interchangeably, then it implies their authority within the body be the same.

Right, but does Scripture forbid a single leader in a church? Nowhere that I am aware of. 

I agree with you. And I think Aaron summed this point up well. The implementation of church polity is vague. He argued perhaps intentionally vague. So in this I agree with you. No Scriptural prohibition per se. But with the admonition for Titus to appoint a plurality of overseers in each city, and the author of Hebrews's commendation to obey a plurality of overseers, it could be reasoned that the best possible scenario is a collective group of elders/pastors.

I don't think it is all that complex at all, so long as we understand the distinction between the Bible and practical application. So my point is that if we are going to have biblical polity and biblical eldership, we are going to have to be clear on what the Bible says (either as directive or pattern), and what the practical outworking of that is in real life churches.

I agree with your nod toward simplicity. Everything is not explicit in the Bible, causing a spectrum of assembly polity options. However, I would point to the numerous volumes, the seminary courses, pastor's conferences, and forums like this one that debate this topic, as evidence this can be complex. Perhaps obtuse is a better descriptor. As in a piece of furniture that is not very heavy, but too bulky to move alone??

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I only share the opinion of many that if the words for elder/overseer/pastor are used interchangeably, then it implies their authority within the body be the same.

Thanks for the response. I think I misunderstood you here. I agree that the three terms are used for the same office, and thus, there is no differentiation in authority between the three terms. I am not sure that all elder/pastor/overseer are necessarily equal to every other elder/pastor/overseer. I think there could be a differentiation in authority among elders (a primus inter pares). I am, generally speaking, in favor of a plurality of elders.

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah wrote:

Don, I think your response was answered by others.

These guys said the same thing. Not sure where you get off calling my interpretation foolish, but whatever floats your boat. By the way, Greek word studies don't trump context.

dmicah, first, I don't think that I'm offering a word study. Word studies take an individual word and trace the development of meaning and usage through time in order to get insight into their meaning in a particular context. Grammatical analysis looks at the syntax of a sentence in order to understand what the sentence is saying.

Second, I don't think anyone has answered my point in this passage. The fact is that you are the one who asserted that a singular noun is to be taken as a collective, meaning it refers to a group of people. There are actually two nouns in the passage, one referring to the office (office of an overseer, vs. 1) and one acting as a title for the man in the office (overseer, vs. 2). Both uses  are singular. The first word is singular in every usage in the NT, the second is plural twice (Act 20.28, when a whole group of church leaders was gathered to hear Paul, and Phil 1.1, when Paul is addressing the church at Philippi including the overseers and deacons.) I have stated that I don't deny that more than one man can fill the office in a church, but you are the one who said that the singular term is a collective noun, referring to a group. It seems to me that the burden of proof lies on you to show that the overseer (singular) is collective. I have offered evidence to suggest that it is not.

The 1 Timothy passage, giving the singular throughout the qualifications for overseer and the plural throughout for the qualifications for deacons, strongly suggests that the norm in a local church (this is a pastoral epistle, after all) is for one overseer and multiple deacons. That would especially be the case in smaller churches.

In any case, all I am saying is you haven't proved your case. The grammar seems to me to suggest you are wrong. You can bring arguments to bear to counter the grammar, I suppose, but you would have to do more than simply dismiss the argument without making any attempt at a substantive reply.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dave Gilbert's picture

I'd like to interject with a question, and one I think might, in at least a small sense, apply to this discussion: What exactly is the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes", which thing the Lord hates? I've always been curious about how others see this.

Larry's picture

Moderator

What exactly is the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes", which thing the Lord hates?

The Bible doesn't tell us and doesn't give us much insight into it. Based on the connection to eating things sacrificed to idols and commiting acts of immorality, it is probably some sort of antinomianism or libertinism. I am not sure how that has anything to do with small churches or polity.

dmicah's picture

I don't think anyone has answered my point in this passage. The fact is that you are the one who asserted that a singular noun is to be taken as a collective, meaning it refers to a group of people.

you are the one who said that the singular term is a collective noun, referring to a group. It seems to me that the burden of proof lies on you to show that the overseer (singular) is collective. I have offered evidence to suggest that it is not.

 all I am saying is you haven't proved your case. The grammar seems to me to suggest you are wrong. You can bring arguments to bear to counter the grammar, I suppose, but you would have to do more than simply dismiss the argument without making any attempt at a substantive reply.

Don,

You mentioned sarcasm earlier, so I can assume you'll appreciate mine.

Not sure which thread you read, but I never made a grammatical argument. The OP did not address a specific passage, nor did I derive a conclusion from a specific passage.  Yet, you argue as a fact, mind you, that I wrote about a specific passage and mixed up the tense of a word. I'm confused. I actually argued that a single leader model is a faulty derivation of a business model that makes the "senior pastor" into a bossman/CEO. Something which is a far cry from the idea of being a shepherd.

Second, this concept of plural leadership in a church is 101 stuff. The context of the entire NT points to multiple leaders being involved in the church. To say I have a burden of proof in this matter, is to ask me to prove gravity exists before we start talking about mass. If you'll note, much of the derivation of elder leadership in the early church would have been influenced from the Jewish model of elder leadership. That is, collective. Thus, the actual discussion on this thread is how biblical leadership is applied, how things are enacted in our context/culture, whether a singular pastor/elder should be solo, and whether that is optimal. 

Third, if you are going to talk grammar, how can you overlook so many plural uses of elder/overseer in the NT? Acts 11, 14, 15, 20, 21; Philippians 1; Titus 1; James 5; 1 Peter 5. 

 

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah

I'll leave the subject after this post. You can have the last word if you like.

 

dmicah wrote:

Not sure which thread you read, but I never made a grammatical argument.

That's true. I never said you did. It appears that you are not reading my posts, so I'm thinking there isn't much point in carrying on.

dmicah wrote:
The OP did not address a specific passage, nor did I derive a conclusion from a specific passage.  Yet, you argue as a fact, mind you, that I wrote about a specific passage and mixed up the tense of a word.

I am responding to the exchange where you were asked about the office of overseer [a singular word]. You responded with "collective", I introduced a passage to the discussion. So you are right, you didn't draw a conclusion from a specific passage, but when a specific passage was brought to your attention, you refused (and continue to refuse) to deal with it. Not that it matters, this is just a blog discussion.

dmicah wrote:
The context of the entire NT points to multiple leaders being involved in the church. To say I have a burden of proof in this matter, is to ask me to prove gravity exists before we start talking about mass.

I am sure you are aware that this is not a settled matter, that the NT nowhere commands multiple leaders, that many conservative Bible believers differ, and so on. You claimed that a singular office/noun means a collective. I think I've demonstrated that the singular in 1 Tim 3 must mean something, you continue to ignroe it.

dmicah wrote:
Third, if you are going to talk grammar, how can you overlook so many plural uses of elder/overseer in the NT? Acts 11, 14, 15, 20, 21; Philippians 1; Titus 1; James 5; 1 Peter 5. 

If you will read my last post again, you will note that I acknowledge plural uses of overseer. To add in the plural elder confuses the issue, in my opinion. I fully acknowledge that the term elder is much more often used in the plural, that means something as well. However, we aren't talking about the term elder at this point.

In any case, you appear again to be not really dealing with the argument I've made.

So... I think I'll leave the topic where it stands, unless you care to actually engage the argument I've advanced. I suspect that we are taking this well away from the topic of small churches, though. Partly my fault. Part of the addictive nature of blog discussion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Dave Gilbert's picture

Larry wrote:

What exactly is the "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes", which thing the Lord hates?

The Bible doesn't tell us and doesn't give us much insight into it. Based on the connection to eating things sacrificed to idols and commiting acts of immorality, it is probably some sort of antinomianism or libertinism. I am not sure how that has anything to do with small churches or polity.

 

I did a little poking around online, and while many seem to believe the Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolas of Antioch and believed in a form of antinomianism, some out there think that Nicolaitanism is a form of hierarchy leadership brought into the church in the first century which began to lord things over the people...in other words, clergy / laity distinction.

 

So, if this is true about Nicolaitanism being a hierarchy of leadership brought in, in direct disobedience to the Lord's commandment in Matthew 20:25-28, then a plurality of elders in the early church was the original way it was organized, at least to my way of thinking. One bishop, perhaps, and several deacons; Maybe more than one bishop. What we have today resembles a business model, and that has bothered me for many years.

Larry's picture

Moderator

some out there think that Nicolaitanism is a form of hierarchy leadership brought into the church in the first century which began to lord things over the people...in other words, clergy / laity distinction.

And who are these "some"? Any names?

So, if this is true about Nicolaitanism being a hierarchy of leadership brought in, in direct disobedience to the Lord's commandment in Matthew 20:25-28,

Matt 20 is not about the hierarchy of leadership, but about the attitude of leaders. It is not saying don't lead. It is saying don't lord it over people (same as 1 Peter 5). The title of "overseer" itself, or "elder," demonstrate hierarchy. Heirarchy isn't the problem.

What we have today resembles a business model, and that has bothered me for many years.

Not sure who "we" is, but have you considered that perhaps we don't have a "business model," or that businesses follow a certain model or use certain principles for a certain reason. There are good ways to organize things, and that is known by common grace. So a church is different, but not entirely different.

Dave Gilbert's picture

My replies interspersed within yours.

 

Larry wrote:

some out there think that Nicolaitanism is a form of hierarchy leadership brought into the church in the first century which began to lord things over the people...in other words, clergy / laity distinction.

And who are these "some"? Any names?

 

( Would it matter whose names I list? All I did was do a "Google" search, and came up with the information. With all due respect, I imagine you could do the same. )

 

 

So, if this is true about Nicolaitanism being a hierarchy of leadership brought in, in direct disobedience to the Lord's commandment in Matthew 20:25-28,

Matt 20 is not about the hierarchy of leadership, but about the attitude of leaders. It is not saying don't lead. It is saying don't lord it over people (same as 1 Peter 5). The title of "overseer" itself, or "elder," demonstrate hierarchy. Heirarchy isn't the problem.

 

( On the contrary, I submit that earthly based, worldly "leadership" is precisely what the Lord is speaking about here, with lording it over us being the natural, fleshly extension of it. Serving the Lord through His Holy Spirit is a great responsibility and a privilege. "Power" and "leadership",  where one man is looked to for "all the answers" is not compatible with believers being able to exercise their spiritual gifts efficiently or effectively, as I see it.  If such "leaders" were being led by the Spirit, then such an attitude would not be prevalent in today's churches, IMO.  But I see something far different than what the Lord established through the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, alive and well in most visible churches today. Yes, I agree that the Lord has set up a structure for the Church while we are here in these earthly bodies...that structure includes those who are more mature and wiser, guiding those who are less further along in the spiritual growth process.  However, I firmly believe it has been abused over the centuries, until "we" have what we have today...an overblown, tax-exempt and worldly monstrosity that has taken on virtually a life of its own; And if that system is questioned by anyone, than the questioner is slapped for questioning it. )

 

 

What we have today resembles a business model, and that has bothered me for many years.

Not sure who "we" is, but have you considered that perhaps we don't have a "business model," or that businesses follow a certain model or use certain principles for a certain reason. There are good ways to organize things, and that is known by common grace. So a church is different, but not entirely different.

 

( " We" refers to visible "Christendom"...in other words, everyone who professes Christ out there who chooses to meet in buildings that resemble temples ( strange that Christian churches would resemble other buildings dedicated to false gods, like Muslim mosques and Mormon temples, but that's a completely different subject ).  But I have a suggestion if I may: How about disbanding all the churches out there that are existing under tax-exempt 501(3)c status and re-form them. "Cut the purse strings" of government exemption, and let's see what happens when those entities start shouldering the burden of owning land and being taxed for it. If it weren't for modern day business principles being integrated into those churches' operational structure, ( and those same churches adopting worldly practices of financial side-stepping, such as relying on tax breaks to increase the "bottom line" ) , I imagine they would balk at the extra expense of operating...or not, hard to say. But I, for one, would be interested in seeing such a thing happen. I'm all for returning to the way it was in the 1st century church...meeting in homes and other private places of ownership. That way, the government would have even less to hold over believer's heads when they preach and teach the Gospel. )

 

I do not agree with certain ways that churches are currently operating, that is plain. There are specific reasons that I do not, but many here will disagree with me because they don't see those reasons as backed up by Scripture. I would list them, but it would take awhile for me to dig up. Also, to me, there's the "letter" of Scripture, and then there's the "spirit" of it. I believe groups of saints should meet quietly, reverently and most of all, out of the sight of the world and it's ways. True, we are to be lights, but I firmly believe this is in reference to how we present and conduct ourselves while we are out among them, and has nothing to do with setting up a "temple" down on the corner that allows anyone without distinction, to enter in.

 

My main exception is the Lord's money that's being wasted on structure upkeep, "creature comforts" and other additions that adorn such places, and I can't help but wonder what would happen if that money were spent on the actual NEEDS of the people who belong to such a church ( more for the body of Christ, thereby contributing to the overall good stewardship of what He has given to us in this life ).

 

In the end, when I look at today's visible churches, I see mostly worldly-behaving entities that have adopted an overt amount of extra-biblical traditions, attitudes and practices that have, by and large, lost track of what it's really about: Jesus Christ and a genuine, experiential relationship with Him.

 

Respectfully,

 

Dave Gilbert.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Would it matter whose names I list? All I did was do a "Google" search, and came up with the information. With all due respect, I imagine you could do the same.

Yes, it matters because we need to judge credibility. Something showing up on Google is no help to that in many cases. We can however look at the Bible, and see that there is a solid exegetical reason why most people seem to see Nicolaitanism as libertinism and antinomianism. We don't need Google for that.

On the contrary, I submit that earthly based, worldly "leadership" is precisely what the Lord is speaking about here, with lording it over us being the natural, fleshly extension of it. Serving the Lord through His Holy Spirit is a great responsibility and a privilege. "Power" and "leadership",  where one man is looked to for "all the answers" is not compatible with believers being able to exercise their spiritual gifts efficiently or effectively, as I see it.

That's not "to the contrary." I agree with all that. But that is not about church polity, small or large.

But I see something far different than what the Lord established through the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, alive and well in most visible churches today.

How do you see anything in most visible churches today? Do you really have the breadth of knowledge to comment on most of them? Could really even comment intelligently on more than one or two?

" We" refers to visible "Christendom"...in other words, everyone who professes Christ out there who chooses to meet in buildings that resemble temples ( strange that Christian churches would resemble other buildings dedicated to false gods, like Muslim mosques and Mormon temples, but that's a completely different subject ).

Huh? Many churches meet in buildings that resemble schools, warehouses, auditoriums, etc. Jesus pretty much answered this question in John 4 where he downplayed the "where" of worship.

 How about disbanding all the churches out there that are existing under tax-exempt 501(3)c status and re-form them.

What would this solve? Being tax exempt doesn't prevent the church from fulfilling its mandate. The government can't hold anything over the church's head. There isn't one thing I would do differently, except get more outside income to make up for what we would have to pay in taxes.

If you are upset about exorbitant buildings, then fine. I happen to agree with much of that. But the answer isn't taking away tax exemption or going back to meeting in homes (which you can't do in many locations for reasons both practical and legal).

It's better, IMO, to focus on doing what Jesus said to do and not worry so much about the rest of it.

Dave Gilbert's picture

Larry wrote:

It's better, IMO, to focus on doing what Jesus said to do and not worry so much about the rest of it.

 

Oh...quite right. Sorry I keep getting off track regarding the apparent mess things are in when compared to the 1st century churches, then ( well, some of them were a mess, too...weren't they? ). I really have to accept the fact that things are different today...It seems to me that everything's gotten so complicated, it's nigh impossible to have genuine, Christ-centered fellowship in what I see as entertainment-driven, spectator-oriented arenas that constitute the churches that I've either been in, or seen from the outside or on media outlets. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but "polity" is what I feel I've been commenting on all along. Polity, policy and so forth, actually.

 

I no longer "go to church", Larry, so I hope you'll forgive my candor. I left the visible church because of various problems I saw, when comparing the way they operated to God's word. They couldn't be reconciled, so I remain outside the camp, as it were. There just isn't a church in my area that's interested in growing as a body together, delving into God's word, and most of all, obeying Him as their Lord...it gets difficult to believe there may be others farther from my area, so I just assume the wrong things.

 

Apologies.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Dave Gilbert wrote:
I no longer "go to church", Larry, so I hope you'll forgive my candor. I left the visible church because of various problems I saw, when comparing the way they operated to God's word. They couldn't be reconciled, so I remain outside the camp, as it were. There just isn't a church in my area that's interested in growing as a body together, delving into God's word, and most of all, obeying Him as their Lord...it gets difficult to believe there may be others farther from my area, so I just assume the wrong things.
Dave,

You abandoned the visible church because they weren't following God's Word to your standard. Doesn't that put you in the same position you accuse them of being in? God's Word clearly requires you to be part of a visible body of believers, and it doesn't give any excuses for disobedience? Instead, it always shows examples in scripture of following this command within imperfect bodies of believers. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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