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Should the role of pastoral leadership be self-appointed? Is it wrong for an individual or group of individuals to decide to start a church on their own if they see a need? Who should determine if, when, and where a church should come into existence?
This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, a listener has written about a church setting where they were blessed by the preaching but found themselves confused over how that church body came into existence. The listener writes with several questions regarding this. Dr. Josh Philpot brings these questions to Dr. Richard Caldwell for a helpful discussion on church startups, church planting, and the role of church leadership. As Dr. Caldwell shares his thoughts and opinions, he seeks to answer these questions from the Bible and the examples we find there.
Dr. Caldwell begins by saying when we look at the expansion of the Church in the New Testament, there is no doubt the Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles. What we see are churches that are planted by the Apostles or by representatives of the Apostles. Each of those churches is subject to Apostolic authority. The Apostles either appointed elders themselves or appointed men who were given the task of appointing elders in the churches that were planted. So the New Testament pattern seen is that of the church planting churches where there is accountability, responsibility, and oversight. Dr. Caldwell tells us that he believes this is the pattern even for today. Churches should be the ones to plant churches.
However, having said this, he reminds us that there are faithful men like Apollos in the New Testament. Apollos, as far as we know, was not sent nor appointed by anyone. The response to Apollos and his teaching was not to rebuke him or tell him to stop. Priscilla and Aquila heard him, took him under their wing, and instructed him further in the way. Apollos went on to be very active within the realm of Apostolic ministry and very useful. Therefore, Dr. Caldwell says he wouldn’t rule a man out just because the church he pastors didn’t start the way he thinks it ought to.
He shares that we need to be discerning in this situation. The following are some questions he suggests that ought to be considered. Is this a man who is self-will? Is he a man who has gone out on his own, not willing to be accountable to others? Is this a godly man? Is he a man who is not rejecting New Testament ecclesiology and The Church in its larger sense? Is he dismissive of accountability and responsibility? Does he reject it outright? Does he have a humble, submissive attitude at the church that now exists? Is he seeking to glorify God?
Not knowing all the situations and circumstances that brought this man and the others to start a church on their own makes it difficult to give precise and concise answers. Yet Dr. Caldwell gives careful thought as to some of the reasons why this may have come about. But no matter how this particular church started, he believes the better way to start a church is through church planting. As he has explained, it is by an existing church being presented with the need for, or seeing the need, themselves and seeking the Lord in that process.
If this man and the others were in a church body that didn’t see this need as they did, it would have been good for them to find a church that did. It would have been better to have found a church that reflected what they believed and saw the need as they did. Then to have submitted themselves to the church planting process, allowing themselves to be evaluated by the church leadership.
Dr. Caldwell points out that pastors and all those leading in church ministry need the affirmations of godly people to do the ministries that they do. In fact, he says, it is one of the things that will keep them where they need to be in difficult times. Those in leadership need to know that other people have affirmed their giftedness and godliness and that these same people stand behind them and the ministry that they have. It is vital to have this knowledge for longevity and faithfulness in ministry.
The Church is not a human institution. It is not something we build and grow. God has instituted the Church and, it is God who gives the growth. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He will build His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It is through His commission we get to be a part of this. This requires us to have a correct view of ecclesiology.
Right understanding our Lord's Church really matters as we desire and seek for His kingdom to grow and expand across the globe to all nations, tribes, and tongues. We must go forth knowing that He has provided the way for this to be done that honors and glorifies Him best. May we humbly seek Him and His Word as we go about our endeavors to participate in such a privileged and high calling.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.
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