Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Congregationalist Manifesto

During the last week of His life, Jesus turned the tables on the religious leaders, both literally and figuratively. He told them The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. He was talking about a new Kingdom of Priests, those of us who are born again, baptized, believers in Christ. He exposed religious leaders as frauds, showed them up, shut them down and made it clear that no one would ever rule over His people or take advantage of them that way again. But there are still those who try.

While I highly value cooperation and humility among believers and throughout my life I have always worked together with Christians from various backgrounds and always will, I am a Baptist Congregationalist. I believe in the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of every believer. Following is what I call:

The Congregationalist Manifesto

No man gets to be the apostle or prophet of me unless his name is in the Bible. I don't need a priest or pastor to be my "spiritual" father, I have an amazing Father and a Heavenly Father. I don't need a rabbi to disciple me, I have the Holy Spirit as my teacher and guide. I don't need a priest to forgive me of my sins, Jesus is my high priest who intercedes for me and I can speak to God directly. I don't pray to saints, I am a saint. I don't need a pope to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, I AM the Vicar of Christ on earth (and so are you if you are a believer, bought with the blood of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit).  I don't need a church administrator to be my "covering," Jesus is the only covering I need. I don't need the permission, blessing or sending of anyone on earth, nor do I need them to recognize my calling, though it is good when they do. The Holy Spirit called me, as he does all believers, and Jesus sent me at the Great Commission. I WILL carefully check the Scriptures to see if what I have been taught is accurate. I will correct you when you are wrong. I DO have the right and responsibility to meet together with a local body of believers. There is no hierarchy of spiritual authority in the church. We are all equals who should consider others as more important than ourselves, humbly cooperate with local church leadership and willingly partner together to spread the Gospel.

Continue reading for a closer examination of each of these statements. The 1st section is longest, the others much shorter:


1. No man gets to be the apostle or prophet of me unless his name is in the Bible.

Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20)

Today, there are so-called "apostles" around the world ruling over large, lucrative networks of churches, some going so far as to claim that they are the foundation the church is built on. The passage above is actually referring to the Old Testament prophets in the Bible and the original Apostles as being the first part of the foundation of God's church built upon Jesus, Himself. This passage makes us equal to them as "fellow citizens," "saints," and "members of God's household." We are his children.

There are all sorts of Prophets for Profit making money off of trusting Christians and/or using their "gift" to gain influence, authority and prestige in the church. But under the New Covenant All may prophesy. All Christians may teach the word of God, give prophetic words of knowledge, words of wisdom, offer wise counsel, encouragement and advice and operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as the "office" of prophet. In the Old Testament, a prophet was someone that God spoke to through His Spirit. Under the New Covenant, no individual gets to claim spiritual superiority over others because we ALL have that same Spirit. 

Additionally, vast networks of churches are being brought under the control of only a few influential individuals, some claiming that modern "apostleship," involves overseeing churches in a management sort of way. Wealthy, suburban churches are gobbling up struggling, smaller congregational churches at an alarming rate, often acquiring these properties at no cost and extending the right hand of power grab instead of the helping hand of fellowship. This sort of Protestant Popery is dangerous and unhealthy. The ministry of the apostles was nothing like that. They devoted themselves entirely to the teaching of God's word and its application. For 2 millennia, the traditional church interpretation of Scripture has been that an apostle had to be a first hand eye-witness of Christ or possibly one of their associates. The clear signs of an apostle were incredible skill and gifting in the teaching and application of God's word and the ability to perform huge miracles. I am not aware of any modern day apostle, or overseer, who meets any of these 3 criteria. Many just deliver Ted talks with a Bible verse. They are overly interested in marketing and management, which is the exact opposite of the Biblical Apostles who were phenomenal teachers and did not wish to use their time for anything other than spreading the good news and explaining God's word. I once heard someone refer to Jack Hayford as an apostle. I think all leaders should follow the example of his response: "Let it Never be said that Jack Hayford claimed apostleship." Look at this example from the apostle Paul found in 2 Corinthians 1:24 and 2:17

I do not mean that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in your faith....For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many.

2. I don't need a priest or pastor to be my "spiritual" father, I have an amazing Father and a Heavenly Father.

Do not call anyone on earth your father for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9)

Ephesians 6:2 reminds us of the first commandment with promise to honor our father and our mother. The word "call" in the above passage from Matthew 23 refers to choosing a person to bestow the name of "Father" upon. The person who loves you and raised you is your father, a position given to them by God and it is right and proper to call him "father." It is wrong though, according to the passage above, to refer to a priest as "Father," or to a church leader as your "spiritual father." This practice is common among Catholics and charismatics and it should not take place. Now, it is true that Paul viewed Timothy and others as sons, he had a Fatherly demeanor toward them in terms of his love and affection. This is healthy and appropriate. We are never told that they called him Father. The problem is that people try to twist this around and act like they have authority over those they have disciple. The Biblical view is that we are all brothers and sisters and equals. It is through Christ that we are born again into new life, not through any man. If you are a Christian, GOD is your Spiritual Father.

3. I don't need a rabbi to disciple me, I have the Holy Spirit as my teacher and guide.

But you are not to be called 'Rabbi', for One is your Teacher and you are all brothers. (Matthew 23:8) The anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you...his anointing teaches you about everything...(1 John 2:27) But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. (John 14:26)

A rabbi had his own set of disciples, followers who wanted to be like Him. We are disciples of Jesus, we are NOT disciples of men. We can teach and learn the word of God from each other, but we are not to attach ourselves to certain teachers or to collect followers for ourselves.

For when one says, "I follow Paul," or another "I follow Apollos," are you not unspiritual people? 1 Corinthians 3:4


4. I don't need a priest to forgive me of my sins, Jesus is my high priest who intercedes for me and I can speak to God directly.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens--Jesus the Son of God--let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:14-16

5.I don't pray to saints, I am a saint
God's people are consistently referred to as saints throughout Scripture.



To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called as saints with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord... -1 Corinthians 1:2



Sing to the Lord, O ye saints of his -Psalm 30:4



O love the Lord, all ye His saints -Psalm 31:23



To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 1:7




6. I don't need a pope to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, I AM the Vicar of Christ on earth (and so are you if you are a believer, bought with the blood of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit).  

A Vicar is a representative, an agent that acts on behalf of a superior.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

As a believer, Jesus lives in my heart, I am His representative on earth. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galations 2:20)

7. I don't need a church administrator to be my "covering," Jesus is the only covering I need.

Under the Old Covenant, the high priest would throw blood on the Ark of the Covenant as an offering, a covering, to protect him when he entered into the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom. We now have direct access to God without fear because Jesus' blood is our covering that protects us. It is a grave mistake to use the concept of spiritual covering to refer to a person in a position of leadership or power in the church. The idea that a person or some spiritual leader could be our "covering," is not only unbiblical, but shockingly arrogant and downright blasphemous.

8. I don't need the permission, blessing or sending of anyone man on earth, nor do I need them to recognize my calling. The Holy Spirit called me, as he does all believers, and Jesus sent me at the Great Commission.

Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. ( Mark 16:15)

Every important disciple, apostle and follower of Christ in the New Testament was in direct opposition to the religious authorities of their day. In our day, while religious authorities don't have the ability to beat us or ask our government leaders to crucify us, they actually have far more power and control over the teaching and granting of influence within certain types of churches. This needs to be remedied.

9. I will check the Scriptures to see if what I have been taught is accurate.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. -Acts 17:11



10. I will correct you when you are wrong.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. Rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. -2 Timothy 4:2-3

11. I have the right and responsibility to meet together with a Local Body of Believers

I have the right to meet together with any body of believers at any location, anywhere in the world. I have the right and responsibility to teach the Bible and to correct any wrong teaching that may be occurring there. I have the right and responsibility to work cooperatively for the Kingdom of God. I need fellowship. I need to gather together for corporate worship. I need accountability. I need to teach and to learn God's word. I need deep friendships with other believers.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:24-25

12. There is no spiritual hierarchy in the church
If I am a Christian, then no one in the church gets to be the boss of me and I don't get to be the boss of them. We are partners and co-workers in Christ. Now, if a person chooses to become an employee of a church they will have a "boss," but even then they answer first and foremost, directly to God. Any position of leadership in a church is a position of service, not of power. When Jesus took power away from the religious leaders, He replaced it with something better: Mutual submission and loving cooperation. God gave pastors to feed and teach the people. An overseer is to make sure that the Bible is taught correctly. Taking care of the operational aspects of the church is also an important ministry. Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember those who taught us the word of God and observe their good actions, then imitate their faith. Verse 9 warns us not to be led astray by strange teachings, affirming our own responsibility and decision making ability. We are to be wise and discerning. Verse 17 tells us:

Obey your leaders and submit to them since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief.

This verse is referring to local pastors. The word "obey" means to trust or put confidence in. The idea of being persuaded and making friends with them is in place. There is a certain reciprocity implied. This is willing co-ministry. "Submit" means to cooperate and partner together with them. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of mutual respect and personal relationship. This has nothing to do with far away overseers who don't know the local flock. Pastors, Elders and Overseers in Scripture are local leaders who watch over their church. New Covenant leaders serve the church. They do have authority to protect the church from false teachers and wolves. We should wholeheartedly cooperate together with godly leaders. But we should reject power seeking, controlling men and resist anyone who tries to elevate themselves over other believers or churches. We are all equal heirs in grace. It all comes down to humility. We willingly choose to put others above ourselves and to work in partnership with those we meet together with each week.

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 must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave (Matthew 20:25-27) 

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This first post focuses on our rights as Congregationalists, the 2nd post in the series focuses on our responsibilities:
http://thetrustworthyword.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-congregationalists-responsibility.html

The 3rd post in this series on congregationalism shows the practical application of congregationalism in action:
http://thetrustworthyword.blogspot.com/2017/06/what-we-learned-from-our-worship-pastor.html 









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