Sean Scott's Blog

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Unequipped Saints and Shotgun Sunday

with 6 comments

My wife and I have lately been discussing just how much foundational teaching and instruction is missing from the church. Not just the apostate churches but even places where for the most part you will find truth being preached. For some reason people do not realize that preaching truth to a body of believers is not the sum of Christianity. Nor can a fellowship be considered faithful just because people do hear some biblical truth. The fact is, even when some sound truth is being preached most local churches fall so far from resembling any sort of biblical model with regard to the organization of the local church. And the sad thing is God has given us such wonderful instruction in his word regarding the structure of the local fellowship and what should take place when believers meet together. There’s really no excuse for what we see today in the Church. What we see today is pure disobedience to the word of God and an unwillingness to forsake long established “comfortable” traditions for the true picture of the local fellowship that scripture gives us.

So where to start? I guess I’ll start with what I call “Shotgun Sunday”. Shotgun Sunday is my title for what I see going on week after week and Sunday after Sunday (the quick formatted Sunday service). What you see going on in most churches every week could not in any way be called fellowship. In fact, most Sunday meetings are called “services” which actually is a more appropriate word for what takes place. It’s usually a regimented format that almost all “churches” follow. Everyone gathers together, they sing a few songs, take up and unbiblical tithe, hear the pastor preach, conclude with a prayer, and then go home to go on with their day. And all this is usually done within an hour and a half. And somehow this is supposed to be the biblical fulfillment and practice of the Saints meeting together. Can you find one example of this type of Sunday fellowship in all of Scripture? I’ve read the New Testament repeatedly but I just can’t find it. And there’s a reason I can not find it – it is not fellowship. What I see in Scripture is the meeting of the body of Christ interacting/participating together – not a place where believers come to hear one man preach week after week. Paul clearly outlines in 1 Corinthians what should take place in a meeting of believers. For one, you don’t see the meeting centered around one man who is called the Pastor. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 it says:

1Co 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

Here Paul is speaking to the “Brethren”.  He is telling them what should or can happen when they meet.  Notice he does not say “when you come together listen to the Pastor preach”. It’s not there.  Instead he tells the “body of believers” that they can each have a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation.  Just let everything be done for edification.  Now obviously there are some conditions on these things that are found in other passages of scripture.  A new convert is not going to be the one teaching biblical doctrine.  But the idea is that when believers meet together it is a participatory meeting where different member of the body of Christ are able to be used by the Spirit of God for the edification of all (which is what you see in the Corinthian church).  It’s an actual BODY of MANY member and not just a quick (Shotgun) service where one man teaches week after week.  And another difference that you’ll notice from most of the meeting today is that it is a meeting of BELIEVERS.  A meeting of the Church or the “Called out One’s”.  It is not primarily a Gospel proclamation meeting.  It is a primarily a meeting for those who have believed on Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 14:23 says:

1Co 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

It says when the Whole Church comes together.  When all the believers come together in one place.  It is primarily a meeting of the believers.  Yet unbeliever who want to hear and listen are welcome to come (and hopefully through prophecy the secrets of their heart will be exposed and they will know that God is there 1 Cor 14:24,25).  1 Corinthians 11:18-20 says:

1Co 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
1Co 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
1Co 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 11 it is the coming together of the church/believers.  What are they doing?  They are partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Something no unbeliever is allowed to do.  But if they are there they can observe.  Yet that is very different than what we see today.  Instead of a fellowship primarily for believers we see a Sunday service open to all to hear one man preach a 30 minute sermon.

Where did this type of “service” come from?  I guess there’s different opinions on the matter.  I personally believe it’s a hold over from the Catholic Church.  During the reformation a lot of biblical truth was recovered from the Catholic Church (which is not church but a Harlot).  However, as far as I can see, the structure of the Church remained mostly the same with the Priest being replaced with a Pastor.  What does all this mean?  It means a One man ministry has usurped the biblical Five fold ministry.  And because most fellowships have a one man ministry the Saints are unequipped for the work of the ministry and somewhat stunted in their growth.  Even if a fellowship partially acknowledges other giftings besides the pastor the giftings are usually regulated and controlled by the pastor (the Nicolation doctrine that Jesus hates Rev 2:15).  What does the scripture say God has given to the church?

Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Notice God has given apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors, and teachers for the PERFECTING of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ!  It didn’t say God just gave Pastors.  But what do you see today? Pastors, Pastors, Pastors. Only Pastors.  The church is primarily ruled by Pastors.  No wonder the Church is a mess.  God gave five gifts for the perfecting of the Saints but most churches reject what God has given.  When people tell me their fellowship is coming to a “perfect man”, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” and they don’t embrace the five fold ministry that God has given as a gift to the church, or meet in a biblical way…  I wonder how that could be true.  How can any fellowship reach biblical maturity without the “office” gifts that God has given?  Can a fellowship reach biblical maturity and be prepared for the work of the ministry with only a Pastor?  Not according to scripture and Christendom as a whole testifies to that.  Now I know that every fellowship may not have every “office” at once but they should be open to God bringing each gift into their fellowship, or raising people from within the fellowship, that all may grow and be edified.  Also, if you notice in Ephesians 4:8 God gave these offices as gifts to men.  They are gifts.  They are not something someone can purchase by going to bible school.

Eph 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

God calls people and gives them a certain gift.  But today you can purchase the title of pastor by going to a bible school. It’s interesting how bible schools almost always only turn out pastors. However, most of them are not recognized by God because it is God who calls people and gives them the gift.  When someone has a gift from God it is evident.  A teacher naturally wants to study the word and teach others the word of God and how to teach themselves.  A pastor naturally cares for believers and is burdened with their growth.  An evangelist has burning desire to witness and preach about Christ and teach others to do so.  A prophet naturally see’s the condition of the church and prophesies by God.  An Apostle is a man with one of these gifts that has been “sent out” by the Lord.  These things come naturally from the Spirit of God within a believer.  God’s gifts are evident in those He has given them too.  People are not primarily taught these things… they are gifts and calling from God.  But even this simple truth is neglected by most of Christianity.

A Note On Elders:

We see in the scriptures that the local church is overseen by appointed Elders (not congregational elected elders).   And as far as I can see from Scripture it’s usually a plurality of elders.  A bishop and an elder are the same thing.  Bishop just means overseer (notice it doesn’t say over lording but overseer) Titus 1:5-7 says:

Tit 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Tit 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
Tit 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

In verse 5 Titus is to ordain elders and in verse seven the elders are called Bishops – really overseers.  Notice there is also no such thing as an elder who is not active in preaching or teaching the Word of God.  Verse 9 says:

Tit 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

He is supposed to be able “by sound doctrine” to exhort and convince. And in 1 Timothy 3:2 it says an elder must be able to teach:

1Ti 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Is there such thing as an elder who does not minister? Not according to scripture.  Elders are to be examples to the flock and the servants of all.

1Pe 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
1Pe 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
1Pe 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

Mat 20:27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Some people are under the impression that elder must be old in age.  This is not true.  Though a person should be older in the Lord they do not have to be physically old.  The apostle Paul was a young man at his conversion.  Even if he was sent out 3 years later he wasn’t that old.

Act 7:58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Some may say that Paul was an exception because he was an apostle chosen by the Lord to write most of the New Testament.  Ok…what about Timothy?  Timothy himself was young and he was an apostle of the Lord.  Paul told Timothy:

1Ti 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Doesn’t sound like he’s very old.  In 1 Thessalonians Timothy and Silvanus are called apostles by the apostle Paul.

1Th 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This letter though written by Paul is also from Silvanus and Timothy to the Thessalonians. In Chapter two Paul says regarding himself, Silvanus, and Timothy:

1Th 2:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Surely if Timothy is an apostle he is an elder.  In fact, Paul gives the young man Timothy instruction for the church.  Timothy, though young, was obviously mature in the faith and called by God.  So being an elder does not have to do with physical age but with spiritual maturity.  However, today elders are appointed or elected based on all kids of reasons which are not always scriptural.

It’s really hard to know where to stop…. I could go on and on.  But these few points highlight the faulty foundation that is the foundation of so many fellowships.  These highlight some of the biggest reasons why the Saints aren’t perfected for the work of the ministry and coming into the fullness of Christ.  Everything is unscriptural…from the service, to the Pastor, to the elders.  And again, it’s sad because God has given us everything we need in His word to have healthy biblical fellowships where the body of Christ can be the body of Christ.  And brethren, these are not just good idea’s these are truths from God that He has ordained to bring the body of Christ to maturity.  We have to desire what God want’s and not what our Pastor or our tradition has taught us.  God always knows what’s best and He’s graciously revealed it to us in His word.

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Written by Sean Scott

December 23, 2009 at 4:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Truth. Blessings!

    Natasa

    December 23, 2009 at 6:22 am

  2. Ahh! You’re writing again, a function useful for strengthening, encouraging, and comforting the body of Christ.

    As I read what you wrote, the following occurred to me: so often, we find today’s saints caught up in business and busyness, distracted from the most important aspects of relational living. Christians seem to think that they always have to be involved in some activity to be fruitful. I believe in doing the work of the ministry. But fellowship is about simply being together as a family, just hanging out together because we love each other. When that happens, inspired ministry (to one another and the lost) is always the result. But who believes there is value in simply ‘being’ the church? I do.

    Mark and Vicki Finger

    January 1, 2010 at 8:40 am

    • Thanks Mark.

      Very true about relational living. Something that takes time and commitment. I’m not so sure I would go so far as to describe fellowship just hanging out together though (maybe your not saying that either). I do agree that our fellowship should be like a family (because in truth that is what it actually is) but the word of God also gives instruction for our time together such as the public reading of scripture (1 Tim 4:13)..ect. I’ve been to both extremes in different places. One where everything is structured and programed and the other where meeting together has no structure but is more like just hanging out. I think it can be unhealth to be on either extreme. But you are right…ministry to each other should not be something we have to do but something that comes from us naturally because of what and who we are in Christ. Something so simple only man could complicate it!

      Sean

      January 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  3. I’m sure if both you guys, Sean and Mark, and myself, with our families, got together, that church would be happening.

    Thanks for the writing brother.

    ian vincent

    January 4, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  4. Sean: my entire life is founded upon the word of God–in that, I value the life and truth of the word of God, as I value my life–for I was born by this incorruptible seed.

    Maybe, it’s just what the Lord has done in me.

    For example, I never (NEVER) go around thinking “I am going to witness to somebody” (but I do pray daily that God will guide me to houses of peace, save souls, and raise up laborers: I even set specific time aside every week to do this, aside from being open to His calling in these matters in any particular moment). And yet, I am always witnessing, everywhere I go.

    Because of how I value the words of God, I believe in setting time aside for teaching on a consistent basis.

    However, I also believe in simply joining with other like-minded believers, as a family, with no preconceived notions of what will transpire and no need to be engaged in any activity (or ministry) other than simply loving one another in the Spirit of our Lord Jesus.

    But guess what happens? I always speak of the Lord Jesus, using those words (scripture truths and terms, 1 Corinthians 2:13) that He speaks and teaches, the Holy Scriptures, i.e. the language of the Holy Spirit.

    I am consumed by the Lord Jesus, but I have learned the value of sharing convictions for no other purpose than for sharpening one another and developing an increasing agreement in the Lord Jesus Christ because I believe that this relational discourse and lifestyle (simply being with other saints) is the true genesis of all corporate ministry (both to one another and the lost).

    In other words, if scriptures aren’t discussed and studied (taught) and the Holy Spirit is not working through His people to minister love and grace to one another and the lost, then there is a heart problem among those gathered.

    All these things are natural outpourings of His Spirit operating through our lives because we love one another.

    I have ceased from my own labors and entered into His rest …. it’s His church, He builds it.

    That’s all I am saying …

    Interesting note: the habits of the assembly that Ian meets with an India (and Ian’s function within that assembly) are strikingly similar to that of the small group assembly which I attend (and my function within it).

    P.S. It’s not that I don’t like to plan ahead (or hear from God ahead of time), but as a servant of the assembly, I am more focused upon helping them operate in their giftings and relate scripturally, and this inevitably leads to me setting aside my notions of what will happen (it seems) and restraining many of my natural preferences. It’s kind of like I am being used, sometimes; but then, we are to partake.

    The real danger is in always ministering, rather than being ministered to …

    Peace,

    Mark

    Mark and Vicki Finger

    January 6, 2010 at 4:49 am

  5. One thought on ordaining elders …

    It is apparent that elders can be entrusted with the charge of recognizing and confirming maturity demonstrated in others: for Paul and Barnabas ordained elders where new faith communities had sprung up according to the Lord’s power to save (Acts 14:23); likewise, Titus had been charged by Paul with the responsibility of teaching sound doctrine and ordaining elders among the faithful in Crete. Yet, it is also patently evident that every member of the assembly is likewise capable of accurately discerning who is able to function maturely in a teaching capacity: else, how could Paul rebuke the congregation at Ephesus for heaping to themselves false teachers to soothe their itching ears or hold the Galatians accountable for being so quickly removed from the grace of Christ, availing themselves to carnal leadership after having known the leadership of the Holy Spirit? (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, the corporate body receives this charge: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you.”

    Based upon this comment, it is obvious that the Spirit bears witness to who is or is not functioning as an elder. We can draw two conclusions from these facts:

    1. Elders were well-known among those whom they served based upon their documented ability to encourage, strengthen, admonish, comfort, and care for the sheep of God.
    2. Recognition of emerging elders by the congregation of the Lord (based upon the elders well-established and documented service) is as equally important as recognition of emerging elders by existing elders.

    Therefore, we find that the recognition of brothers who serve as elders must always be confirmed through the witness of the Holy Spirit as revealed through 1) the counsel of the scriptures and 2) the gathered hearts (individual members) of the assembly: for everything must be established in the hearts, minds, and mouths of two or three believers (1 Corinthians 14:29, 32-33; 2 Corinthians 13:1).

    Mark and Vicki Finger

    January 13, 2010 at 2:42 am


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