The only belief and practice that makes us One is our belief that – Jesus is Lord – and our response of obedience to Him. Those that gather are followers of Jesus. It’s not about your specific theology, views of the second coming or regard for special days etc. Those that are following Jesus and seeking to obey all that he has commanded are brothers and sisters in Christ and answerable to Him alone.
1 Corinthians 12:3
Jesus is Lord! its this statement of faith that binds the Body of Christ in unity. The statement of faith of the church is “Jesus is Lord”. The early church didn’t have complex statements of faith, these came much later when the established system decided to lay down a set of beliefs that all had to adhere too. Its not that a statement of faith is wrong, but it can be used to exclude people who don’t fit our standard or worse still, be the set standard for persecuting others, even those that follow Jesus, who don’t have the same views as the majority at a given time in history. Sadly church history confirms this terrible truth. Its interesting that those who have accepted Jesus as Lord generally hold a very similar understanding of much of the scriptures teaching without the need for a statement.
The early church did not have a pastor or a bishop and they didn’t have the “position” of leader or elder. They had the ministry of leadership which was found in the elders of the church. These elders did not have authority over the saints and they were generally accepted as elders, with the consent of the saints who accepted them as such because of their ministry as servants of the body. Leadership is not about climbing up a ladder its actually about climbing down to serve the saints. Jesus makes the principle very clear in Matthews Gospel …. But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28.
The beauty of Church is that it’s relational, simple and yet as Paul declares a great mystery. The people of the 1st Century had an idea of leadership that was very fixed in their thinking and Jesus had to work with His followers to change the way they understood leadership. Their understanding would also impact the way they understood the church and how it lived out its life from the love and power of Christ.
We like this video from the Simple Church Alliance. It may not express everything that you or I may believe on the subject but it gives a really good insight into the reality of New Testament leadership and the footprint that Jesus left for us today.
Its worth giving this some time and consideration because Jesus said “It shall not be so among you” Matthew 20:26
Theologian Donald Guthrie in his book “New Testament Theology” – The Developing Church p789 states in referring to leadership in the 1st century church
“There was certainly no hierarchical system. The purpose of the church officers was to ensure orderliness and to teach. The NT does not present any clear indications of one man being in charge of the community. This looseness of structure is in keeping with the view of the church as the body, with Christ himself as the head”