The religious leaders in Jesus' day placed more importance on following tradition than obeying the word of God. We have the same kind of problem today regarding what we do in our church meetings.

The Bible very clearly tells Christians what we are supposed to be doing in church. The commandments on how to conduct church were never repealed, and we are still obliged to follow them. Church is supposed to be an interactive meeting of believers encouraging and exhorting and comforting one another, not an audience of strangers listening to one man give a sermon.

The format for church where the man in charge speaks and nobody else does is not found in the New Testament. Believers started doing church that way soon after the apostles had all died, when prominent men stepped in and established several beliefs and traditions that were contrary to what the apostles had taught.

Here are four ways in which biblical church is different from traditional church. A biblical church:

  1. Is one where any man who wants to participate and say something to the rest of the group can do so. (1 Cor. 14:26, 29, 31) (More)

  2. Has leadership consisting of proven, stable men from within the church, who function as servants instead of rulers, and with no one man being the main speaker. (Matt. 20:25-28, Matt. 23:11, Acts 14:23, 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 3 John 9) (More)

  3. Meets in homes. (Acts 2:46, Rom. 16:5, 23, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2) (More)

  4. Eats the Lord's supper together as a full meal. (Matthew 26:26, Acts 2:46, 20:7, 1 Cor. 11:33) (More)

Read your own Bible. Do your own research. Ask God for wisdom. Think for yourself. Be willing to accept the truth, regardless of the consequences.

Click the scripture links on this page, or look them up in your own Bible, and read the verses in context to see whether what this page says is true or not. Study the subject of church throughout the New Testament. Don't rely on anyone's sermon or book or web site (including this one). Instead, STUDY THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF, and convince yourself of the truth. It's not hard to find the truth on this subject. What can be hard is deciding to believe the truth even when it goes against popular opinion.

See also: Fun Facts and Final Thoughts

A few reasons for the above four characteristics:

1. If a man is allowed his turn to speak he has the potential to be helpful to the other believers, as opposed to being no more than just another audience member. So God designed the church meeting so that at least two or three men are supposed to speak in each meeting, and every man gets a turn to speak in a meeting if he wants to, in order that the various members of the body of Christ may get a chance to help the other members. Also, God included a provision that if anything is revealed to someone else who is listening the first man must stop speaking and let the other man say what the Holy Spirit has brought to his mind (1 Cor. 14:30). So the man speaking knows that at any time he may be interrupted. One benefit of this arrangement is that if the speaker says something incorrect, or something out of balance, another believer may provide a correct or more balanced perspective. So with multiple speakers and a provision for interruption, each speaker will be more inclined to be sure that what he says is indeed true and in line with what the Bible says, as opposed to a situation where the man in charge speaks without anyone else daring to stop him, or having the opportunity to speak after him. (Back to Top)

2. Jesus Christ is the head of the church and he is present wherever two or three are gathered together in his name. So God designed the church meeting so that there is never one man other than Jesus in charge. So the Bible never refers to "the pastor" of a church, nor is there ever any indication that one elder should have authority over other elders, or should be the only person who speaks in the meeting. The Bible speaks negatively about a man named Diotrephes who loved to have preeminence in the meeting (3 John 9-10). There is supposed to be one man in charge of the church meeting, and that man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Church elders, also known as pastors, are supposed to behave as if they believe that. So they should reject the role of being the preeminent speaker, and should instead obey what the word of God says about what to do in church, and let every man have a turn to speak. Also, elders are supposed to be raised up from those in the group (as opposed to bringing in an outsider) as being men who are well known by everyone in the assembly as being solid Christians with records of good behavior over a long period of time. (Back to Top)

3. Meeting in homes limits the size of the groups to be small enough so that everyone gets to know each other. It also eliminates the need for paying for a separate building and land, and the need to pay someone to be the full time designated speaker. It makes it easier for the group to support missionaries and other full time Christian workers, or help one of their own group who happens to need it, or help others who are not in the group. We are specifically told four times in the New Testament where believers met for church, and each of those times it was in someone's house. There is no mention of their having met anywhere else for their church meetings. We are never directly commanded to meet in people's homes, but we are commanded to keep the traditions that the apostles taught (2 Thes. 2:15), and meeting in people's homes was one of those traditions. (Back to Top)

4. Every time the Lord's supper is referred to it is always part of a full meal that believers share together. Of course it is supposed to be a time of examining oneself. But it is also supposed to be a time of getting to know others in God's family better. Sharing a full meal together and talking with others accomplishes that, while sitting in a pew eating one small bite and taking one small sip, speaking to no one, does not. (Back to Top)

Fun Facts:

  • Jesus strongly rebuked those who followed "the tradition of the elders" instead of the word of God (Matt. 15:2, 3, 6; Mark 7:8, 9, 13). The modern church values tradition over the Bible when we conduct our church meetings in violation of the commandments we were given.

  • The format given in 1 Corinthians 14 is the only one for church meetings given in the New Testament. No replacement format is ever given, and it never says there would be another way to do church meetings coming later.

  • Although the New Testament was completed by about 95 A.D., it was not fully verified, compiled and available as a complete work for several years. The Early Church Fathers (men who first led the church after the apostles had all died) were brave, honorable men of God, but they did not have the benefit of possessing the full New Testament, and they departed from the apostles' teachings in several ways, including conducting church meetings unbiblically, with one man in charge who does most of the speaking. They also decided there should be a division between clergy and laity, created a hierarchical leadership structure, and invented baptismal regeneration and infant baptism. Once the New Testament was more readily available believers should have corrected their practices and discarded all of these obviously unbiblical teachings, but they didn't.

  • Relatively few people nowadays recognize that the traditional church meeting is unbiblical. The fact that the number of people who see the truth is relatively small does not change what the Bible says.

  • Christians around the world are starting to see the truth on this subject.

  • Some things in the Bible are hard to understand. This matter is not one of them. The Bible makes it very clear what we are supposed to be doing in our church meetings. What can be hard to accept is that everyone you know is wrong.

  • Those least likely to see the truth on this matter are those whose lives are most invested in doing church the traditional way. That means pastors and others on the church payroll are naturally going to tend to be the last to see and acknowledge the truth.

  • Believers who are most likely to see the truth on this matter are those who recognize the fact that the unbiblical, traditional church falls short in ways that directly affect themselves. It's easier to be persuaded on this matter if you are bothered by something that is inherent to the traditional church. For example, if you have something to say that you think would help other believers, but are required to remain silent in your church meeting, then you are more likely to see the truth.

  • An elder can be a man who does secular work for a living, or he may be one who makes his living from learning and teaching the word of God (1 Tim. 5:17). Of course we should support elders who make their living from laboring in the word and doctrine. We are under a biblical mandate to do so. But we are under no biblical obligation to financially support those who reject the biblical way of church in favor of tradition, unless and until they change their practices. Those who teach that we should go by tradition instead of obeying the word of God do not "rule well" and should not be paid.

  • Pastors do not have the authority to conduct church however they please. Like all Christians, they are supposed to follow the commandments we were given for church. Nowhere does the Bible say that doing so is optional, or that church leaders have any right to lead the people to disobey the commandments for church.

  • Arguments in favor of traditional church instead of biblical church typically include made-up assumptions that aren't in the Bible. For example, the Bible never says that the open format church meeting was somehow a temporary measure God used only until the New Testament was completed, and that once that happened only an elder is to speak. That argument was really invented out of thin air to try to excuse favoring tradition over scripture, since there is nothing even remotely like that said in the Bible. Nowhere does it say anything about the open format church meeting being a way to do things temporarily until the New Testament gets completed. And nowhere does it say to forget all about the commandments we were given for church, and from now on let only the man in charge speak. That is essentially what happened in history, but there is no reason today that we have to keep repeating the same error. The basic idea behind the argument is this: Before the New Testament was completed God wanted Christians to do church the way the Bible says, but after the New Testament was completed he wants them to conduct church contrary to what the Bible says.

  • What must God be like in the minds of those who promote traditional church over biblical church? To them he must be mean and petulant, since he first gives long, detailed instructions to New Testament Christians about how to do things in church meetings, then pulls the rug out from under us by not giving us what we need ("No more spiritual gifts for you! Ha, ha!"). This "god" says to conduct church a particular way in his word, then quickly changes his mind, and decides we should do it completely differently, but he doesn't think to tell us about the new format in his word, which is already finished ("Oops!"). He says one thing, but really means something else. To find out what this god really means, you have to go to an expert who can tell you all about the hidden meanings, and the stuff that you, as a lowly parishioner, could never figure out on your own (1 John 2:27). What a lousy, deceitful, powerless god.

  • Prophesying is speaking to men in order to edify, exhort and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). We are commanded to let two or three men who would like to prophesy do so in each church meeting (1 Cor. 14:29). Since God greatly desires that all men in the church have their turn to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 31, 39), we know that God will give this gift to those who ask for it and seek it (Matt. 7:7-11).

  • In addition to prophesying, the Bible encourages every man to contribute to the meeting in some meaningful way (1 Cor. 14:26). For example, one could read a chapter from the Psalms, and talk about it.

  • The spiritual gift of prophesying enables one to speak effectively in order to edify, exhort and comfort believers (1 Cor. 14:3), but the Bible does not imply that one who is genuinely exercising the gift necessarily speaks infallibly ("whether there be prophesies, they shall fail" - 1 Cor. 13:8), or beyond his own understanding ("we prophesy in part" - 1 Cor. 13:9). Otherwise, God would not have provided a way to interrupt someone right in the middle of prophesying ("let the first hold his peace" - 1 Cor. 14:30). It is even possible to prophesy without the right motivation ("And though I have the gift of prophecy... and have not charity, I am nothing." - 1 Cor. 13:2). There have been exceptions, though, when men did prophesy perfectly, and their every word was breathed by God. These were those special moments in history when men prophesied perfectly while being moved by the Holy Ghost in a unique way, and their words were written down and became the books of the Bible: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." - (2 Pet. 1:21). But normal prophesying by believers is quite different from that, and we are responsible for what we say, and when and how we choose to say it ("And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." - 1 Cor. 14:32).

  • Have you ever wondered why the Lord, through Paul, emphasized the importance of the commandments for church in a remarkable way by calling them, "the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37)? Maybe it was in anticipation of the coming centuries of men despising this part of his word. It's not like there's anything hard to figure out. God spelled things out for us perfectly. We are without excuse. They are the commandments of the Lord, and to disobey them is sin.

  • It says in 1 Corinthians 14:29-30, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace."

    So in a church that obeys the Bible at least two or three men are supposed to prophesy in each meeting. Where in the Bible is the format for church where only one man gives a message in the meeting and all the rest of the men do nothing? Nowhere. That format is something man invented that replaces the way God said to do it.

    And in a biblical church every man has the freedom to interrupt the man speaking if the Lord reveals something to him and prompts him to say something. So the men who aren't speaking have the responsibility to listen carefully in case the Lord prompts them to say something.

    Some traditional church pastors balk at all of this. They do not like the idea of their message being scrutinized or questioned or expanded upon by other men in the meeting. Nor do they like the idea of sharing the speaking time with anyone else. They like being the main guy, the most spiritual, the most knowledgeable, and the one everyone listens to and respects and thanks for giving such a good sermon and for being such a kind, wise and godly man.

  • It says in 1 Corinthians 14:31, "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."

    So in order for all in the assembly to learn and for all to be comforted, each man must be allowed to prophesy. That's because each of God's children is unique, and we each have different needs. When the first man speaks some people benefit a lot from what he says, but others don't get much out of it. Then the second man speaks, and different people find him more helpful than the first guy, and so on. When only one man speaks during the meeting it doesn't help everyone near as much as when multiple men speak.

  • Traditional, institutional church is like a business. A business provides something of value to its customers in exchange for money. Institutional church provides the men with a more relaxing, easier way to do things. It relieves men of their biblical responsibilities in church, while they still get to feel like they fulfilled their obligation to go to church. Men attending an institutional church feel no need to get to know their fellow church attendees, since they will never say anything in the meeting that might be of help to anyone. The men do not need to study their Bibles in order to help the others in the meeting, since "the pastor" does that for them. They have no need to seek spiritual gifts in order to benefit others. They never need to prepare a message that may help someone. They never need to learn to speak effectively to a group of believers. The men are encouraged to remain spiritual babies their entire lives. They can just walk in, sit down, sing along, put some money in the plate, listen to the pastor, and leave.

  • Elders are supposed to be humble and lead by example, as explained in 1 Pet. 5:3: "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock." They aren't supposed to be like a boss over the people. In a biblical church, when it's an elder's turn to talk he should do so in a way that leads by example, so the other men are better equipped to speak when it's their turn. On the other hand, a traditional church pastor behaves as if he is the boss. Only he speaks, since he's the "man of God." He doesn't lead by example, since he does not want any of the other men to follow his example by also speaking to the group.

  • There is no reason given in the Bible why the believers in the apostles' time met in each other's houses. Some who favor traditional, institutional church instead of biblical church say they met in homes only because of persecution, but the Bible doesn't say why. We think there are other reasons.

  • A church that meets in a house may be unbiblical. For example, a house church that lets only one man speak in the meeting is not doing what the Bible says.

  • Meeting in people's houses benefits the poor more than others. The poor tend to have relatives that reject them, and even their friends do not want to hear from them: "All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him." (Prov. 19:7). Even the neighbors of the poor do not want to have anything to do with them: "Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour." (Prov. 19:4). Sometimes church is the only place where they have much of a chance for anyone to want to talk with them and be friendly to them. The institutional church setting is not near as good in that respect as a church that meets in someone's house.

    Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor: "And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." - (Luke 6:20).

  • Biblical church provides an opportunity for the poor to speak and be listened to in a way that does not happen much for them. The poor have the same desire as everyone else to feel valuable and needed and loved by other people, but that doesn't happen as much in their lives. Consider what it says in Eccl. 9:16: "Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard."

    A poor man, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in a house church with other people actually listening to him and benefiting from what he says, is a very good thing. It's a shame that it doesn't happen much.

    "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor...." (James 2:5-6).

  • The setting of an institutional church makes it so there is often not much interaction between people other than polite small talk before and after the meeting. It's common for people who attend the same church week after week to go years without knowing much of anything about each other. They essentially remain strangers. That is not the kind of brotherhood and love between believers that Jesus prayed for:

    "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." - (John 17:20-23)

    In a biblical church meeting in someone's home things are much better in that respect. Even rich and poor believers naturally get to know each other better, and have plenty of opportunities to learn from each other. The less formal setting of the home helps all people move beyond their temporal differences, so they are able to better appreciate each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • Here are some folks who hosted church in their house in the days of the apostles. These are people who loved the Lord, and loved their neighbors as themselves. God honored them by having their names forever enshrined in his word.

    "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house...." - (Rom. 16:3-5)

    "Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you...." - (Rom. 16:23)

    "Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house." - (Col. 4:15)

    "And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:" - (Philemon 1:2)

  • The Bible mentions believers meeting in a "place" (Acts 2:1) that was large enough to hold 120 people on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15). It was called a house (Acts 2:2), but it doesn't specify whether the building was in fact someone's home or not, and it may have been a building that today we wouldn't necessarily call a house, due to the size of the group. But this was an historic day with very specific circumstances, and was far from a being a typical church meeting, if you could even call it that. It would not make sense to conclude that since those people on that unusual day met in a large building that holds at least 120 people, we should therefore meet in a big, non-residential building for church.

    It also mentions believers meeting in the temple several times, in addition to "from house to house" (Acts 2:46). But these instances when believers are in the temple are never referred to as being church meetings, and it would not make sense to infer from those verses that we should somehow also construct our own "temples" for church meetings.

    Throughout the New Testament no type of building is ever specified as the meeting place for church other than people's houses. Why do you suppose God gave us four examples of Christians meeting in each other's houses for church, but never gave a direct commandment to do so? One reason may be that it's sometimes not even possible. Examples include believers in prison, and those traveling by ship.

    Remember that God knows everything, and his word is perfect (Ps. 119:1-176). Everything it says is there for a good reason, and the same goes for everything it doesn't say.

  • The Bible explicitly forbids women from speaking in church (1 Cor. 14:34, 1 Tim. 2:11-12). In 1 Cor. 11:5 it does refer to women praying or prophesying, which implies a social setting, but it does not say that they can do so in church.

  • Attending a traditional church meeting is emasculating for a man. He is required to stay silent, so he is being treated as if he were a woman. The only one fulfilling the role of a man is the pastor.

  • A mature believer in Christ does not need to be shown a list of advantages of biblical church over traditional church. He only needs to know what the Bible says on the matter. Strong faith in Christ means a strong respect for the authority and perfection of scripture. Jesus said, "thy word is truth" (John 17:17). When we view the word of God with proper respect we do not need additional persuasion.

  • What place did the written word of God have in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the living Word of God (John 1:1, 14, 1 John 5:7, Rev. 19:13)?

    "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." - (Matt. 4:4).

    "Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." - (Matt. 4:7).

    "Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." - (Matt. 4:10).

    "For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." - (Matt 11:10).

    "But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;" - (Matt. 12:3).

    "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side." - (Matt 13:19).

    "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" - (Matt 15:3).

    "And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." - (Matt 15:6).

    "And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." - (Matt 21:13).

    "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?" - (Matt. 21:42).

    "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." - (Matt. 22:29).

    "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born." - (Matt. 26:24).

    "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." - (Matt. 26:31).

    "But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" - (Matt 26:54).

    "And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?" - (Mark 2:25).

    "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." - (Mark 7:6).

    "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye." - (Mark 7:13).

    "And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought." - (Mark 9:12).

    "But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him." - (Mark 9:13).

    "And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:" - (Mark 12:10).

    "And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?" - (Mark 12:24).

    "The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born." - (Mark 14:21).

    "And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." - (Mark 14:27).

    "I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled." - (Mark 14:49).

    "And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." - (Luke 4:4).

    "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." - (Luke 4:8).

    "And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." - (Luke 4:12).

    "And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." - (Luke 4:21).

    "And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret," - (Luke 5:1).

    "This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." - (Luke 7:27).

    "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God." - (Luke 8:11).

    "And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it." - (Luke 8:21).

    "Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves." - (Luke 19:46).

    "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." - (Luke 24:27).

    "And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" - (Luke 24:32).

    "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures," - (Luke 24:45).

    "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:" - (Luke 24:46).

    "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." - (John 5:39).

    "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." - (John 6:45).

    "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." - (John 7:38).

    "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;" - (John 10:35).

    "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." - (John 13:18).

    "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled." - (John 17:12).

    "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." - (John 17:17).

    "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." - (John 19:28).

  • For those sincerely seeking the truth a good starting point would be to begin doing what it says in 1 Cor. 14:37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." Maybe acknowledging that fact out loud to yourself will help turn the light on.

  • How necessary are elders in a church? According to the testimony of scripture, elders are very important, and it is far better to have them, but they are not absolutely necessary in order for a church to function. Churches started by the apostles and their assistants typically did not have elders in the beginning, then after a while those men in the group who were qualified and who wanted to serve as elders were ordained.

    The apostles, along with those who assisted them, worked much of the time as evangelists (Acts 14:21, 25, 2 Tim 4:5). They would go into an area and preach the gospel, and implore the people to whom they preached to believe in Jesus Christ, and then immediately be baptized (Acts 2:38, 8:12, 13, 36, 38, 9:18, 10:47, 48, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 22:16). They stayed for a while, and instructed the new believers to meet with each other and conduct church according to "the commandments of the Lord" that we see Paul gave to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:1-40). Then at some point the evangelists would leave the first area in order to move on to some other area where people had not heard the gospel yet, or to some other task to which the Lord was calling them (Acts 14:25-28). Then some time later, perhaps a few years after their first visit, they would return to the first area and ordain elders (also known as pastors and bishops) in the churches they had established (Titus 1:5). The elders were to be men from within the churches who had proven themselves over time to be honorable, faithful Christians who met several criteria that qualified them for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9).

    So in the time between when the evangelists left and when they returned to appoint leadership, the churches consisted only of new believers. They did not yet have any men who were ordained to be elders, but they met for church and did just fine without them. Since we know that one of the criteria for the office of elder is that a man be "not a novice" (1 Tim. 3:6) it's reasonable to assume that the time between the first and second visit of the evangelists could have been a few years.

    While this way of doing things doesn't make sense in the world of traditional church and its made-up position of "the pastor" who does all the talking, these practices of the apostles and the early believers are reasonable and make perfect sense in light of the way the Bible says to conduct church. Every believing man was encouraged to give a talk in the meeting (1 Cor. 14:1, 5, 31, 39). And the apostles knew that when churches didn't yet have men who were officially ordained as overseers, at least they did have the most important man present with them every week for their church meetings, the Lord Jesus (Matt. 18:20).

    So it's perfectly normal for a biblical church starting out to go for a while with no official leaders. Then after a while the men who have demonstrated faithfulness to Christ, willingness to be a servant of all the people, and living in a way that meets all of the biblical criteria, should be ordained as elders by the group. These men should then focus on fulfilling all the duties of elders, including feeding the flock of God, overseeing, and generally being a humble servant of everyone in the church (Matt. 20:25-28, Matt. 23:11, Mark 9:35, John 13:14, Acts 20:17, 28-31, 1 Pet. 5:2-3).

    The format of the church meeting remains exactly the same with the addition of elders. Nothing in the Bible says otherwise. Every man still gets to speak, and the elders are still required to obey all the commandments for church.

    Ideally, there should be more than one man serving as an elder in each assembly, but it isn't a requirement. In the following verses note that in each church (singular) there were to be elders (plural):

    "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." - (Acts 14:23 )

    "Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:" - (James 5:14)

    When Paul instructed Titus to ordain elders in the churches in an area that had been evangelized earlier, he said, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife," etc. (Titus 1:6-9). The implication of the words "if any" is that Titus should only appoint elders in a church if any of the men in the group actually met the criteria. So it's possible that in some of the churches Titus visited he recognized that none of the men were qualified, or at least weren't qualified yet, so he didn't ordain anyone in those particular churches at that time. Again, while not ideal, a lack of elders is sometimes to be expected, and it is perfectly normal and biblical for a church to sometimes be in that situation.

  • In the modern church it seems people will do all kinds of things (skits, movies, slide shows, musical shows, dance routines, etc.) except conduct church meetings the way God commanded.

  • If traditional churches were honest in their statement of faith, in the section titled "Church" they would say something like the following:

    "The church is a solemn assembly wherein folklore and tradition take precedence over what it says in the word of God. We believe that the authority of the pastor is higher than the authority of the word of God, so he has a right to disobey the commandments the Lord gave in the Bible for church, and he has a right to lead the people to disobey those commandments as well. The pastor shall be the only person who addresses the assembly, with the exception of those whom the pastor specifically gives permission to speak, on special occasions. The pastor shall therefore be the head of this church, not Jesus Christ, but we shall not say that out loud."

  • Even the apostles did not make church decisions unilaterally, nor should church leaders. They made decisions that affected the church with the full consensus of everyone in the church. "Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:" - Acts 15:22. Also see Acts 1:15-26 for another example of making a decision by having a consensus of the whole group.

  • Meeting in people's houses helps believers develop hospitality, a trait sadly lacking in today's church. Some people attending institutional churches have no family or friends other than at church, and yet never see the inside of another member's home.

  • Institutional church generally consists of folks who shake hands and greet each other, but they know very little about each other, and as a result care relatively little about each other. We are supposed to be a family.

  • Unlike a biblical church, an institutional church would cease to exist without funding. So institutional church leaders invariably favor the richer members. They may do a great job of helping the poor in the community through various forms of outreach and charity, but are lacking when it comes to caring about poor people who actually attend the church. The reason is simple: the church does not need them.

  • Institutional churches often add various programs and ministries to try to make up for the fact that the church meeting itself is so inadequate, and does virtually nothing regarding one of the main purposes for church: provide a way for Christians to minister to their fellow believers. So they add Sunday school, small groups, youth groups, senior people groups, home groups, etc., to try to make up for what is lacking in the meeting itself. Those other kinds of gatherings are fine, but why not just do the church meeting the way the Bible says in the first place?

  • A man who attends a traditional church has the following solemn duties:

    Greet various people, then find a place to sit down.

    Sing when it's time to sing. Otherwise, stay quiet the entire time.

    Stand up when everyone else does. Sit back down when everyone else sits down.

    Put some money in the offering.

    Listen to the pastor as he gives his sermon.

    Say good bye to various people before leaving.

  • A man attending a traditional church adds no more value to the meeting than a man attending a play adds to the value of the play. The only thing he is allowed to do that adds any value to the meeting is singing along during the songs.

    In a biblical church each man is allowed to speak, and so each man has the opportunity to say something that may truly help the other Christians in their own lives.

    Traditional church says to men, "Your input is not wanted or needed here. Whatever you have learned of the Lord, and whatever you have learned about living the Christian life is of no value to us. So keep your mouth shut. But please do put some money in the plate when it gets to you."

  • Suppose you were given the task of traveling back in time to speak to Christians in the days of the apostles. Your job is to tell them to stop doing church like the apostles were teaching, and to instead do it like we do today. Here are some responses you might get:

    "Won't the men all become useless in this new format? We all used to contribute to the meeting, and give our own talks about things the Lord has put on our hearts, but you're saying that now we have to just stay quiet the whole time and let one of the elders speak?"

    "So you're saying that instead of gathering our resources together in order to spread the gospel and help our brothers and sisters in need, we should buy ourselves a nice chunk of land, and build a nice building on it for a gathering place. And then every week, after paying for the building and land and upkeep and various salaries, whatever we have left over can go to those other causes."

    "Oh, I get it now. The devil sent you!"


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Final Thoughts

Why do most Christians continue to embrace traditional church when it is so obviously different from the way the Bible tells us to conduct church? We might have an excuse if the Bible were not as clear as day on this matter. But it is, and anyone can see it. So why don't we just obey what it says? Because God's way of doing church seems weird and untested to us. We know what works, and we think obeying the commandments for church would not work, and would cause all sorts of problems. Why do we think that way? Because of unbelief and pride. We do not trust God. We think our way is better. And we have no respect for the word of God.

Every week we engage in a ritual of attending a church service that we can easily see is completely foreign to the Bible. For that one hour each week, we pretend that God is pleased with us, and that he isn't bothered by our wholesale rejection of the way he said to conduct church meetings. If it doesn't bother us, then why should it bother him, right?

Look at the statement of faith for a typical institutional church, and find the "Church" section. Usually, you'll notice one particular chapter of the New Testament is not referenced. It's the one that tells us what to do in church, more so than any other chapter. Seems like a big thing to leave out, don't you think?

Why don't we trust God on the matter of how to conduct church? Has God not already shown us that he loves us, and wants what's best for us, and is infinitely wiser than we are? Why not trust him?

Remember that this is the same God who loved us so much he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He's the same God who raised Jesus from the dead. He is the same God who gives eternal life to whoever believes in Jesus Christ. He's the same God who knows each of us so well that the hairs of our head are all numbered by him. Why would he not tell us the best way to do church? Why do we think our way would be better than God's way?

What we should do is take the following verse seriously, and do precisely what it says:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." - 2 Chron. 7:14

If the "wicked ways" we turn from do not include our rebellion on the matter of church, then forget it. If we don't change on that, why should God do anything? Why should he hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land if we flatly refuse to obey him?


If you believe the truth, here are a few things to consider.

Don't argue with anyone about this matter. It says in 1 Cor. 14:38, "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." If someone prefers traditional church over biblical church even after reading everything the Bible says on the subject, be patient, and pray for him. Don't talk with him about this subject at all. Just consider him as being "ignorant" on this matter. He surely has other issues that he needs to deal with in his life, as we all do. If someone genuinely has questions, that's different. But remember that it's not really a question of, "What does the Bible say?" The Bible is as clear as day regarding church, so people have to wake up and see the plain truth in their own Bibles, rather than be talked into it. It can be a hard thing to realize that you have believed a lie your entire life, and that even your favorite teachers and ministers are all completely wrong on this subject.

Be kind and loving, and don't be confrontational or contentious. Pay special attention to be patient with those still entrenched in believing in commercial church. You are part of a very small minority (for now) of Christians that God has blessed with understanding this plain truth about church. Be the best steward of that truth that you can be, and consider yourself an ambassador to those who are still deceived about this subject. Consider such believers as being better than yourself. Remember the command:

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." - (Philippians 2:3).

Pray often for God to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to see the truth about church.

Stop going to traditional church. The sooner you stop going, the sooner you can start either finding a biblical church near you already meeting in someone's home, or find other believers who are also awakened to the truth, and start meeting with them.

Unbiblical church will continue to thrive as long as it's being funded. So in addition to not going any more, don't give any money to such a church, either. And do not support missionaries who do not believe in biblical church. Find those who do, and support them instead. Or become such a missionary yourself. Don't financially support any ministries or individuals that are in any way associated with traditional, unbiblical church.

Leaders of traditional churches should inform the people that they are no longer going to follow tradition over scripture, and should ask the people to forgive them for disobeying God's word by conducting church in violation of the commandments the Lord gave us. If you are a pastor at such a church, quit your job as soon as possible. Then either find another line of work, or continue to be a pastor, but from now on be a true, biblical pastor instead of just another preeminence loving Diotrephes. Then live by faith, and instead of drawing a salary, ask the Lord to provide you with what you need. If living by faith with no salary seems outrageous to you, then it is probably better for you to work for a living anyway, since that life is not meant for everyone. You might still be a church leader, though, just not a paid one. If you are in a position to do so, sell the building and land you have been using for church meetings, and use the money to support missionaries who believe in doing biblical church. If the building is distinctly a "church" building that would likely be used by the buyer to continue to perpetuate some other brand of unbiblical church, seriously consider demolishing it and just selling the land.

If you are awake on this matter, stay that way. Never go back. You are part of a very privileged few who can see the plain truth even when it conflicts with popular opinion. What an amazing blessing. Thank the Lord for that, and never give up.

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Last edited 7/2/2018.