I will expand on this as time goes on. The fundamental point here is that the modern church model with a pastor, a building, a staff, and all that entails, is not found in the New Testament. It ain't there, folks. You will find believers meeting from house to house, and you find leadership mentioned, such as bishops, elders, and deacons, but you will not find a church model that validates the way the modern institutional church is set up.
The fundamental issue that is killing the modern church is the issue of control. Just who controls what the church believes, says, and does? Is it the Bible? If it were the Bible, all churches would be teaching and doing the same things, so that is obviously not the case. What is the case is that every modern church has a pastor and/or an elder board, or some variation thereof. The pastor and elder board (or presbyter, for Presbyterians) make the final decisions about what a given church believes and does. This is a fact that doesn't change in the modern church. The only exception is Churches with a congregational government, but even then you have to ask if there isn't some one person or small group of people who aren't directing things.
So you have a pastor or elder board deciding what the church does. You have an oligarchy, in other words. Every government is an oligarchy. There is no such thing as one man who runs everything by himself. The leader always has help. But he is the leader, and he makes the final decisions. Or the elder board makes the final decisions, but human leadership seems to favor one person who understands things better than others, and all the others look to that person for leadership. There is usually some one who has a vision that other people buy into. Those other people, or leaders, will usually defer to the 'man with the plan' or whoever has the most comprehensive and well-articulated vision for the organization. His vision expresses their desire well enough for them to buy into it, and they defer to his leadership. That person is usually the senior pastor.
The senior pastor determines what happens, and what doesn't happen, in his church. He has been given that authority by his congregation. What this does is turn the church into the personal ministry of the senior pastor. He decides everything for that church, either by himself or by delegating authority to someone else. His church is his personal ministry, and he implements his vision for the church along the lines of his philosophy and his understanding of scripture. It really doesn't matter if someone else in the congregation has a better understanding of scripture, knows more about running a church, or whatever. The pastor is the designated leader and he determines what the church does. Even if a significant proportion of the congregation has a different idea of what the church should do, it is the pastor who is in a position to implement his vision and ideas. Unless he consults with the congregation, he may have no idea what they are thinking.
This raises the question: "what defines a Church?" Is it the pastor's vision and philosophy, as we have in the modern institutional church? Clearly, that is the operational definition of the modern church--whatever the pastor decides.
My contention on this website is that the church is defined by the people in it, who love and obey Jesus Christ, not the pastors who run it. The New Testament talks about the 'ekklesia', the assembly of believers. It is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ and are doing their level best to follow His teachings. The New Testament does not acknowledge a controlling human authority for the ekklesia. It acknowledges leadership--bishops, deacons, and elders--and requires that we respect them, but it doesn't give any of them dictatorial power over the ekklesia. They are members of the church, and all members are loved and respected, given plenty of opportunity to participate in the life of the church, and if any members are disciplined or corrected the entire body of believers is of one mind in doing so. When you have a management group running an institution, there is no possible way the entire body can be of one mind, except on broad, non-controversial issues. Most of the congregation will not be part of the day to day life of that church.
I may seem critical of pastors in the articles below. Please don't take this personally if you are a pastor. I honestly believe that most pastors are genuinely good people, doing their level best to serve their congregations. It is the functional structure of the modern church that I object to. The structure itself is the problem, not the people in it.
The Church And The Culture War
Comment on 'The Church And The Culture War'
The Brain Dead Church
The Humble Pastor
Our Church Is Missional
Come Out Of Her, My People
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