So who is in Charge?
"I will build my Church; and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,"
Who is in Charge?
Jesus said that He would build His Church, so we can be certain that He will do it and Satan's attempts to prevent it will not succeed. However, if we who are born again into His Church, which is His body, have made others head, placing men between ourselves and Jesus, we have prevented Jesus from being effectively our Head and our Lord. Whilst the effect may be smaller or greater it nevertheless has a deteriorating effect on our spiritual walk. The extent of the effect upon us is dependent on the power of the spirits of antichrist and religion which bring spiritual death. Separation from our Head produces spiritual death sooner or later, and results in our ineffectiveness! As 'salt', we lose our savor. As 'lights', we are dimmed or hidden.
Separation from our Head causes us to lose our ability to 'discern' and lose the ability to hear Jesus' voice. We may be aware that we cannot hear our Shepherds voice any longer, or worse, begin to be led by our flesh or wrong spirits. We may not even realize Jesus is no longer in our midst! We are in great danger if we have ceased to hear the Lord.
Jesus declared to the Church in Laodicea that He would spit them out of His mouth, (Rev. 3:14-22). Jesus told them that He was standing at the door and knocking and if anyone heard His voice and opened the door, He would come into him, and dine with him, and he with Jesus, (verse 20). The Laodicean Church had ceased to hear the voice of their Lord. He was, therefore, no longer in their midst and they did not even realize it!
If Jesus is our Pastor, (Greek - Poimen = Shepherd or Pastor), we can hear His voice because Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me," (John 10:27), and "Every one who is of the truth hears My voice," (John 18: 37b). Hearing the Shepherds voice and being led by the Spirit of God are both part of our walk in the Spirit. When we first believed the Spirit Himself bore witness with our spirit that we were a child of God, (Rom. 8:16). Our walk in the Spirit had begun. Even before we were born again the Holy Spirit convicted us of sin and righteousness, (John 16:8). When we first believed, by His Spirit, the Lord was able to 'open our minds to understand the scriptures', just as He did for the disciples on the day He was raised from the dead, (Luke 24:45). The Holy Spirits ministry is effective even before our new birth but this needs to be differentiated from Him enduing us with power which the disciples received when Jesus baptized them with the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost after His resurrection. So, the 'anointing within' begins to teach us about all things and the Spirit of Truth begins to guide us into all Truth, to glorify Jesus, take of His and disclose it to us, (John 16:13).
As each believer is 'led by the Spirit' the 'church corporate' can likewise be 'led by the Spirit' When the church first began it was the congregation who selected the ministries to serve at tables, (Acts 6:2-3). In Acts 15:22 'it seemed good to the apostles, and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men to send to Antioch,' These events do not describe a process of 'electing' those we prefer but discerning whom the Holy Spirit is indicating.
Our leading, both individually and corporately, is only possible when we acknowledge that the Father has a plan and purpose He wishes us to walk in; that Jesus is our Head and as such will tell His Body what He wants; and that by the Holy Spirit we can walk in Jesus' Kingdom purposes.
The place of the Whole Church.
We need to recover again and recognize the function of the 'whole church', doing nothing without all the saints being given opportunity to discern the Lords will, with regard to what effects them. After Paul=s first missionary journey we see that on his return to Antioch he 'gathered the church together' to report all things that God had done, (Acts 14:27). When dissension arose in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were sent on their way to Jerusalem 'by the church', (Acts 15:3), and on their return gathered 'the congregation together' to hear the letter sent by the apostles and elders of Jerusalem. Indeed we see in all Paul's letters, other than the personal epistles, that they were addressed and sent to all the saints in any particular locality.
The place of Elders.
The role of Elders is much misunderstood. When Paul first preached the gospel in any town, he would spend varying lengths of time with the new disciples (of Jesus). Later he returned to appoint elders for them in every church, (Acts 14:23). Likewise, Paul left Titus in Crete 'to set in order what remained and appoint elders in every city', (Titus 1:5). One role of an apostle is this first appointing of elders. We see from scripture that there was always a plurality of elders. These were not, and must not be, above the congregation. They are among the flock that they are made overseers (bishops) of, to shepherd the church of God which has been acquired with His own blood, (Acts 20:28). Their role or function is to help ensure Jesus is Head of His flock to help ensure that each believer is hearing the Lord for himself, and that the church corporate discerns by the Spirit what the will of the Lord is in any given situation. To usurp this 'function' is easy and dangerous. Savage wolves amongst the elders at Ephesus drew away disciples after themselves, (Acts 20:30). Without realizing it those taking a position over a flock they call their own, can do just the same thing.
The place of 'Gift Ministries' .
Jesus has given gifts to His church, some as Apostles, and some as Prophets, and some as Evangelists, and some as Pastors and Teachers, (Eph. 4:11). We recognize these giftings in our bothers but appear to be unable not to lift them above us, creating 'positions' for those God given 'functions' that should operate 'amongst' us not 'over' us. Many church structures have one pastor or shepherd over a flock that he calls his own. This pattern is not to be found in scripture.
We do not need a brother to permanently shepherd us, though in our early Christian walk we may need more care. We certainly do not need to belong to his flock for we are already in the flock. I do not need to belong to his church for I am already in the church.