Before starting this lesson on Christian Leadership it is important to mention that it is part of a larger study called Ecclesiology. From the Wikipedia: Ecclesiology – which describes it as follows:
Ecclesiology (from Greek ekklesia = Assembly (church); and logia = Word is the study of the theological understanding of the Christian church. Specific areas of concern include the church’s role in salvation, its origin, relationship to the historical Christ, discipline, destiny, and its leadership. Ecclesiology is, therefore, the study of the church as a thing in itself.
In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of doctrine about the Church itself as a community and about the churches own view of its mission and role.
That neans that ecclesiology looks at the role of the church in salvation, at its origin, its relationship to the historical Christ, its discipline, its destiny (see Eschatology) and its leadership.
In addition to describing a broad discipline of theology, ecclesiology may be used in the specific sense of a particular church or denomination’s character, self-described or otherwise. This is the sense of the word in such phrases as Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Lutheran ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.
In order to properly understand Christian Leadership it is important that we take a moment to look at the true meaning of the church. The information used in this study is a summation of different sections from DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY - A Study in Systematic Theology by Stanley L. Derickson – Ecclesiology Section. The section is 247 pages thereby making it unrealistic for posting in its entirety. I will however, add the PDF version for you to download and study. Reverend Derickson is an excellent author and his material is worth reading especially if you are a student of theology.
THE CHURCH DEFINED:
Just what do we mean when we talk about the church? Do we mean a building? Do we mean a group of people that listen to tapes from a man in another state? Do we mean an organization? Just what do we mean?
To see the Biblical idea of the church you must see two items of business. First of all the church is a universal body made up of all believers no matter what color, shape or breed they are. This universal church will make up all those that are ruptured when the Lord returns for His Church.
Secondly, there is the local aspect of the church. The local aspect is the body of believers that calls themselves a local church. This local aspect of the church will be the emphasis of this study.
Another way of distinguishing between the church universal and the church local, is found in the terms “organism” and “organization.” The Universal Church is an organism or a living body that has its life in its Head Jesus Christ. The local church is an organization to control, guide and feed the local gathering of believers in a certain geographical location.
Before we begin this look into the local church we should take a brief look at the Church Universal. We will look at this aspect in more detail later in the study as well.
When Christ spoke to Peter about building His Church in the Gospel Christ was speaking of the Universal Church, His church, His Bride to be. This Church is comprised of only believers, and He is the only one that knows the true extent and membership of that body of believers.
There will be believers from many denominations, organizations, and fellowships of our country. There will be believers from areas where there is no organized church.
These people will be those that have accepted Christ’s work on the cross as a substitutionary payment for their sin. These people may be from any group or church as long as they have that one thing in common — that free salvation that is in Christ alone.
The Universal Church met only once in the past as a complete body and that would have been on the Day of Pentecost when the church began. We will meet in mass in the air at the Rapture, and then will attend the marriage feast of the Lamb together. That should prove to be a time of pure joy as well as a time for some surprise concerning those that are present. Many will attend that we probably could not have associated with here on earth due to their life styles and doctrine, yet there we will have pure and complete fellowship, not only with one another, but with the Lord.
We are automatically baptized into the Universal Church when we become Christians. We are placed into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. We then identify with that body when we are baptized with water. The water baptism should be tied to a local church as the deliverer of the ordinance, but the act is the identification of the person with Christ and His body, the Church. Taking of church membership then identifies us with a particular local church.
Some have suggested that when we speak of the church universal we capitalize the word church and then when we speak of the local church we use a small letter. This will not be followed in this study for it seems an item more of tradition than necessity. The local church should be made up of people from the universal church so the distinction is not needed.
A good study that we won’t attempt to get into on this subject would be to take all occurrences of the word church and determine which are speaking of the universal and which are speaking of the local church. I find many times that pastors use the references interchangeably and this ought not to be done. At times what is true of the local church is true of the universal church, yet at other times there may be differences.
To sum up our study thus far, we have seen that the church local, is a part of the Church Universal. All local churches make up the universal church. All local churches also should be made up of only believers from the universal church. The local church governs our activities in this life and the universal church will be our place for all of eternity.
The universal church is composed of all those that have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. The local church is a body of believers that have gathered for specific purposes. Those purposes will be discussed shortly.
There are those that teach that where two or three are gathered you have a church. The Lord mentions that when two or three are gathered that He is with them, but He never declares that to be a local church, nor do any of the New Testament writers. This is not to detract from the fellowship that we can have together in small groups, but there is a difficulty in two or three practicing communion when they are not an organized church.
Some suggest that the book of Acts shows that in the early days of the church there were meetings in homes, and these fellowships comprised the functioning of the local church at Jerusalem. The item that is usually left out is the fact that the apostles were overseeing the functions of the church. This is very clearly shown in chapter six when they called for a new office of deacon to serve the church in a specific manner.
It is also to be suggested that the breaking of bread in the early part of Acts is not easily shown to be the Lord’s table observance. It could just as easily be the breaking of bread in a meal. The other side of this coin is the possibility that we might see in the Acts that the believers were commemorating the Lord’s death each time they gathered to eat. That might have application to our own potlucks and get-togethers. It might well be if we were concentrating more on His death we might be closer to Him and our service to Him.
In defining the Church there will be five aspects to the local church which we want to look at. First, it was organized, second it was made up of believers, third it was a Spirit filled group of people, fourth it was the deliverer of the ordinances and finally, it was in a geographical location. We do not want to expand our definition further at this point. We need to understand these five points of our definition before we go on to look at the purpose of that body — the edification of the saved and the evangelization of the lost. Those two purposes must be an integrated part of the church, or it is not really a church, but the five points are really the definition as opposed to the purpose.
a. Organized: Just how do we know the early church was organized? Many things could be offered as proof of this point. The apostles were over the church. The people came to the apostles with problems in chapter six, and again we see in chapter fifteen there was a council to settle a dispute of doctrine. Later in the New Testament we see that Paul gives instruction concerning the elders and deacons, the ministers of the church.
It might be wise to set the stage for this study by stating that we are not pushing organized church, or organizationalism. The study will look at what the Lord had in mind for His local churches. There will be an attempt to show what the New Testament shows organizationally and go no further. There was organization in the early church, but we are quick to point out there was LIMITED organization.
b. Comprised Of Believers: The church is comprised of believers only. This is clearly seen in the Scripture in Acts two when the church was started. Only believers were present and only believers were baptized into the Body of Christ. Later in Acts the idea of belonging is linked with that of accepting Christ. The book of Second Corinthians shows clearly that the believer is not to be yoked with non-believers. This is applicable to the church membership in that the logic that Paul used in this text precludes lost people in our relationships or in the church (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
It is easy to observe in many of our churches today there are non-believers in membership where they ought not be. Indeed, there are lost people in places of leadership in churches today. This causes no end of difficulties for that particular church. How can a church be directed by its Head, Jesus Christ, if there are lost people in places of leadership? ILLOGICAL, The communication link is broken.
c. Spirit Filled: The Spirit filled the believers on the day of Pentecost and we know from our study of the Holy Spirit that He indwells each believer in this age. The New Testament tells the believer to be filled with the Spirit as we gather together for worship and fellowship (Ephesians 5:18- 20). (The filling of the Spirit makes reference to the fact that the Spirit is in control of the believer and not the believer controlling himself.) If every believer is controlled by the Spirit of God, then they can be properly lead of the Spirit to do the will of the Head of the church, Christ. If part of the body is not controlled by the Spirit then there will be limited, if not impaired, control of the body by Christ.
d. Deliverer Of The Ordinances: In this point we do not want to bring about visions of the Roman church that dispenses grace through the sacraments, but we do want to help the reader to understand that the ordinances are not for bodies of people other than the church. The church should be the center of the ordinances. It is not to say that the pastor must be the only one involved in administering the ordinances either. The church leadership is to be overseeing the dispersion of the ordinances. Any lay person can be involved in the ordinances as long as the leaders have control of that involvement. We were pleased that one of our sons was baptized by a layman in the church. The church leaders had allowed the man to baptize his own children and they decided that he might as well baptize everyone that Sunday. This is perfectly acceptable.
The ordinances are two: The Lord’s table and baptism. These topics will be covered later in detail, but at this point let us only mention that baptism is by immersion and that it is not an extension of grace or favor. It is only a sign of the believers’ rebirth. The Lord’s table is an observance which brings our mind to the death of our Lord on our behalf. These two are to be observed under the authority of the local church, and are not to be a part of individual worship.
e. Local Geographical Location: The church was started in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and then spread throughout the known world. The fact that it was linked to geographical locations is easily seen when we look through the index of our Bible. Paul wrote to the church at Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica etc. James wrote to believers that were scattered, but the emphasis of Scripture is on local assemblies.
We want to move on to the church and its purpose. We have already mentioned that the overall purpose is the evangelism of the lost and the edification of the saved. Beyond these two points there are many things that the church is to do, but this is the central thrust for the church.
As the believer mixes with lost people in their everyday life they will ultimately witness of their Lord and lead someone to the Lord. At that point the new believer should be introduced to the local church where the church will begin to train them in the things of the Lord. The training is to the end that the new believer will be well grounded, but also they will be sent out to do the work of the Lord.
In a real sense the church is an educational institution. In fact - one man’s opinion - if the church in this country were doing its job, there would be no need for Bible Institutes, Colleges and Seminaries. The believers would be properly trained in the church, and then they would go out to do the work they were given to do.
The term “church” in the Bible is usually the Greek term “ekklesia” which means called out. The term is used of the children of Israel as they were in the wilderness, and is also used of secular assemblies of people in the book of Acts (Acts 7:3 8; 19:32; 39). Thus when we use the term church we are obviously talking about called out people and not a building. This is a group of people that is called out of a larger group of people, again showing the “saved” aspect of the church membership (Acts 15:14).
This is probably the most important item — the church is people NOT a building. Often times when we talk of church, the building is the concept that pops into our mind, yet that concept is in error. God is not interested in buildings, but in people. Buildings are not wrong if they are Needed And Utilitarian In Nature. Many buildings today are products of a person’s or group’s pride and ambition.
Even more than people, we are speaking of God’s people, a very special people. These are people that have great meaning and value to God, thus we ought to bear that in mind when we talk about them. We are indeed God’s people, a peculiar people called out to serve Him and Him only.
Some view the church as something new — a new kid on the theological block — so to speak. This is true in that the church’s organizational structure is something that is newly revealed in the New Testament however the church is only an extension of the Lord’s overall program.
We must realize that God has a kingdom plan in action throughout the ages. His thought was for a kingdom for Himself. This is seen in the Old Testament in all of the prophetic information concerning the kingdom. The Millennial Kingdom will be the culmination of all that God is doing with man. The church is not something that was thought up by the Trinity on the spur of the moment when Christ “goofed and got crucified.” The church is not a substitute program. The church is an extension of the program that was in progress. Christ mentions the kingdom in mystery form. I suggest a study of that thought and its relationship to the church. Christ was sent to finish provision for the salvation program, and He will return to finish the kingdom aspect of the overall program of God in the future.
The church is not a title for some new group, or some new movement. The Church is God’s called out ones of this age as Israel was in the Old Testament.
Paul mentions that the Gentiles are grafted into the program because the Jewish people have been set aside for a time. We will see more on this when we delve into the Eschatology section of our study. The church is something that was planned before the foundation of the world just as the plan of redemption was planned, just as the plan for Israel was planned.