Structure of the Church in the new Testament
Jesus Christ was very specific about what the Church is, what it should look like and how it should function. These things are very important to God as were the pictures of the tabernacle that we see in the old testament. And just as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: God said; “see that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.” In the same way He is specific about the pattern and structure of The Church. Much of what we see around us in church groups today, are the traditions of men for the most part. Men desire to be exalted, but Jesus said; “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
The structure of the Church is very important to God, in order to clearly show what Jesus desires to express in the world. The traditional structure seen in most churches today is a merging of old and new testament practices combined into a business, which looks much like a corporation. Typically this is represented with a priest or pastor at the top, then the rest of leadership who manage the people and facility, coordinate events and on down to those who just show up once a week. This is not exactly what we see described in the new testament. In the old testament they had a Levitical priest hood with a High Priest, the Priesthood and then the Levites, then those who were outside the Priestly tribe. In the new testament however, Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest and The Church - is the priesthood - and are called to the work as was the whole tribe of Levi in the old testament. There is no laity, all are clergy and there is structure, but it is in the form of a plurality of leadership, with no one person at the top. Jesus is the Head of His Church. All members are the priesthood, and all are called to function as responsible parts of the Body.
Jesus tells us in Matt 23 that we are not to take on a title or to be called by a title, but that we are all Brethren. Today we see many taking on titles like Pastor or Priest. This system of titles is harmful for the Church. Giving someone a name that exalts them because of a gifting or a position in a group, is not healthy. This practice, which is seen throughout the traditional Church system today, where someone is called priest or pastor rather than brother, clearly goes against what Jesus has taught us. Let us exalt Jesus The Name above all names who is alone the good Shepherd. Let us give all glory to Him and not take Glory to ourselves in the form of a title. Whosoever exalts themselves will be abased, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. We are also called to give more honor to those parts of the body that we think to be less honorable so that the body has no lack. Jesus is the head of the Church and those who believe in Him are all brethren, all are a part of the body and an integral part of Its function.
A the same time, there is leadership in the Church, but it is in the form of Elders (plural) and Deacons. We do not see anyone appointed to the position of priest or pastor in the new testament. Timothy and Titus were both charged with appointing Elders/Bishops and Deacons in the fellowships. The words for Elder and Bishop are practically synonymous. The word for Elder deals with the person and the term Bishop deals with the position. It is clearly one office as seen in the book of Titus and it is never singular, but always appointed in plurality. These persons are gifted as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers according to Ephesians 4:11. These are not titles to be called by, but God given positions in the Church. We also cannot take credit for these gifts or positions. They are given by God “For - the perfecting of the saints, for - the work of the ministry and for - the edifying of the Body of Christ (the Church). Until we all come into the unity of the faith and fullness of Christ.” this has not happened yet and so, unlike some, we recognize that all of the gifts are still in effect today. God gives many other gifts including helps, administrations and etc, which we see in 1 Cor. 12:28. We do not call people by their gifting, but rather we recognize these gifts are from God and we give thanks to God for them.
Because of disagreements, which come out of pride or false doctrine we see many divisions in those who say they believe in Jesus Christ. Even in the time that the new testament was being written, many were calling themselves by different names. Paul said concerning this; “you are saying, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” He then askes “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you?” He shows us that there are no divisions in Jesus. There is only one Body of Christ, which is The Church. Paul goes on to say; that Paul and Apollos and Peter are only minsters of the gospel of the Kingdom so don't divide into the different names. We recognize there are different groups of believers, but One Church. Just as we see the different church groups in the new testament, who were all connected to the Church in Jerusalem. We as believers are all called to follow Jesus Christ as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. Paul said, follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. Let us not exalt men, but honor them for their work and sacrifice. May all Glory and Praise be given to the Savior who died for you.
Philippians 2:2 Fulfil you my joy, that you all be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.