presence of God on the earth revealing Him to the world.  Another way of referring to the church is to use the term
“the body of Christ.”  The people of God are the “called out ones” in whom God has chosen to dwell.  The church is not
an organization, neither is it a denomination, nor some specific group but rather it is the mystical tabernacle of God not
built with human hands and it is comprised of regenerated man. (Hebrews 9:11)  

The local church is God’s idea. The local church perhaps can best be understood using the analogy Jesus uses about
sheep. He likens His people to sheep. He names Himself as the Great Shepherd. But the question is this: “How does
the Great Shepherd oversee and care for His sheep?  To find the answer let’s go to the sandy shore of the Sea of
Galilee as Jesus is speaking with His disciples. (John 21:15-17) As you read the passage notice Jesus says three times
to Peter that His sheep are his responsibility.  Peter is commanded to feed, care for, and nurture the people of God
because the Great Shepherd has willed it.

From this passage we come into the understanding that Jesus has chosen to shepherd His sheep through certain
ones He calls to this Kingdom work.  We might call these chosen ones His under-shepherds.  The New Testament uses
the terms elders, overseers, bishops, etc. to denote these particular servants of Christ.  It is interesting to note that
Jesus first called 12 men to fill this newly created rank in the church.  These he sent out to enlist others who would do
the same.  Not everyone would fill this certain role as elder or overseer, just the ones Jesus calls.  But the fact that
many such under-shepherds were raised up reveals to us another truth about shepherding the sheep of Jesus, and
that is that it takes many under-shepherds to do the work.

Simple logistical reasoning easily understands why this is true. Vigilant care and intimate oversight of God’s people is
not done in mass.  It is done in sheepfolds.  We call these sheepfolds local churches. A good model for the church is
given to us in the feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6:30-44.  Notice in verse 39 Jesus commands the disciples to instruct
the multitude to sit down to receive dinner in groups of hundreds and fifties.  What we see is the principle of
delegation of authority.  Jesus delegates to the disciples the authority to lead His people and guide them into His will
and plan.  He then administers dinner through these twelve men.  Jesus does not directly feed these people gathered
there on the hillside; He feeds them by first giving the food to His chosen servants who in turn are commissioned to
feed the people.  

Each group seated on the grass we might say represents a local church.  The large mass of people is separated into
small groups for ease in feeding and caring for them just as are the people of God in local churches.  This idea is not
meant to divide the body of Christ separating it into thousands of smaller, self-serving groups each with its own
agenda, but rather it is to provide a good way to adequately handle the precious treasures of God – His people.  

The entire crowd was one congregation that day on the hillside.  They were all gathered there for the same reason,
which was to see the man Jesus.  Separating them into groups did not damage the oneness of the multitude nor did it
hinder Jesus’ ability to feed every man, woman, and child.  On the contrary, the use of groups enhanced the feeding of
the multitude.  So it is with the body of Christ today.  Our groups (local churches) enhance God’s ability to adequately
minister to each and every one of us through the under-shepherds He appoints.

Jesus tells us in Ephesians 4:1-6 that it is His will for the people of God to live in unity with one another. He
emphasizes this by saying that there is “…one body…” and goes on to say there is “…one faith…”  From the earliest
days of the church’s existence, however, there have been erroneous doctrines espoused that tend to undermine the
integrity, the purpose, and the structure of the church.  One such false doctrine is the notion that the local church is
an unscriptural idea and that it is opposed to the will of God.  The proponents of this notion point to the “…one
body…one faith…” passage (and other passages) from which to attempt to build support for their theory. Their idea is
that distinct entities called local churches divide the body of Christ and counter the “one body, one faith” doctrine.  
They are correct in their understanding that only one church exists; however, to come against the local church
concept flies in the face of the system God implemented for His church.

Those who advocate the “no local church” theory do so as a result of what they have seen in the church.  They have
seen groups rise up believing their particular group is better or more holy or right and all others are wrong. They have
seen saints wrongly worship the organization rather than Jesus, and place more emphasis on the church entity than on
relationship with God.  They have seen the fallacy of men’s traditions and the attempts to preserve their group’s
beliefs or practices even to the point of forsaking the truth of God’s word.  As a result of reacting to these errors, they
have erred themselves by throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Any biblical truth may be misused or even abused. Just because this is true, we must avoid the temptation to fear it or
to discard it altogether. Perhaps that is the easier way to handle the matter, but it is not God’s way.  If God implements
something, we must strive to preserve it regardless of how others may pervert or twist it.  The local church is one
such thing we must work to preserve.  The local church is a good idea - it is God’s idea.

Yes, it is true, there are far too many local churches.  Please know God has not birthed every church in your
community. Far too many are the result of splits, doctrinal error, jealousy, pride, or other evil intents of the heart.
Which ones are of God and which ones are not?  That is God’s problem, not yours or mine.  Our task is to love as
brothers the believers in each church who name the name of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  We should pray for each as
if it were the best church in the world.  For even those not formed by God can be reclaimed by Him and made to be
pure and productive for His kingdom. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered
together in My , I am in the midst of them.”  (see also Mark 9:38-39 and Philippians 1:15-18)

Every local church should guard itself against the evil one. Satan hates the church and is always at work to undermine
it.  He realizes the church is the force of God empowered by His Spirit and armed with His Word, and he understands
that it is quite able to defeat him at every juncture. This is why he continually attempts to divide the church thus
reducing its power and ability to fight and sustain. (Mark 3:25)  He uses such weapons as strife, rebellion against
church authority, jealousy, judgment, religion, vain ambitions, and many more to cause believers to launch out on their
own to “start their own church.” He begins to foster such things as exclusivism into those churches. This is to keep
them away from the truth. He wants these people to build walls around themselves, walls of brick and mortar as well as
walls of doctrine. They soon lose sight of the truth that they are still only a part of the body, not the whole body.

People of God get hurt and hurt others in these local churches.  Pastors and church leaders hurt and get hurt in these
places.  God is not glorified nor can His plan be carried out because most things are just wrong there.  But because we
have a counterfeit here, should we discard the genuine altogether?  No.  The presence of something counterfeit does
not justify a system change; especially since it is God who has initiated this system we call the church.

Look and see how wonderful, how beautiful the local church can be as you read Acts 2:42-47.  This local church in
Jerusalem was just what your local church should be.  It was a place of prayer, it was doctrinally sound, and it was an
environment for the miraculous.  The saints of that church were close with one another and operated in selflessness
even to the point of caring and supplying for the needs of others.  The church had a good reputation in the community
and enjoyed a constant state of numerical growth as more and more people were born again into the Kingdom of God.
This is the model we should we use in our 21st century churches. It is simple. It is powerful. It is pleasing to our Father.

The intimacy and mutual love of the saints within the church was the backbone of the Jerusalem church.  When those
qualities are abounding in a local church great things happen and above all else Jesus is glorified.  Jesus emphasized
this in John 13:35 when He said, “By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The local
church is designed to be a haven of covenant relationship between the people of God called to be there. Yes, God
places each of us in the sheepfold in which He knows will fit our needs and where we can grow and serve. This is why
you need a local church. It will be the soil out of which you bloom into spiritual maturity and fulfill the vision of
Ephesians 4:11-16.

In academic circles there have been discussions on what is the optimum size of a local church.  No one knows for
sure; each of us has our own ideas on the subject. Ultimately, it is God who will determine the size of a particular
church, or perhaps it will be the people who decide its size based upon their own desires, sins, or notions.

The size of a church is an important matter to consider.  One that is too big and is without some sort of small group
system cannot adequately care for God’s sheep.  On the other hand, one that is small may have a good pastor/member
ratio but fails to have the resources of personnel and finances to handle the people properly.  Perhaps a medium-
sized church is best, if God wills.  Somewhere between 350-500 is a good size provided the right measures are in place
to individually disciple and minister to the saints. Of course, in rural areas or in very small communities this size of
church is probably not reasonable. But rather than concern oneself with size, let each of us simply be about the Father’
s business walking with the Lord, loving others, winning the lost, and serving one another.

The local church must see itself in the light of the community/region in which it is found. The ranking elder(s) of the
local church are part of the eldership of the community/region. These men and women of God called to lead in His
church comprise the spiritual leadership of the church in that area. Together they form the earthly headship of the
church when joined with all of the other elderships in all other areas. This unity forms the basis for spiritual authority in
that community/region.

Each local church has a spiritual realm of authority. Its realm of authority extends to those people God has called to
that local church. Local churches then come under certain apostolic realms of authority that exist at a higher level and
encompass numbers of churches and ministries. I believe every church/pastor should be under the spiritual oversight
of an apostle. A good study of this concept of apostolic oversight is found in II Corinthians 10:13-16.   

The local church’s realm of authority is then fixed within the larger realm of authority of the corporate body of Christ in
that area. At this corporate church level geographic implications are more readily accepted probably following the
lines of governmental authority.  All the local churches in a given area working in harmony will fulfill the plan of God for
that area.  It will take a joint effort if complete victory is to be achieved.  The need for church unity and harmony cannot
be overly emphasized.  Churches from various camps need not renounce their beliefs or traditions but they certainly
must agree to accept others who differ from them on the peripheral issues. (Romans 14)

The people of God are arising into the revelation of the church. What it is supposed to look like.  How it is supposed to
be ruled.  And just exactly what its mission and purposes are here on earth.  It is coming together.  It is becoming
stronger and stronger with each passing day because that which is false and wrong is being revealed and discarded.  
Indeed, the bride will be ready for her Bridegroom.

So, in conclusion, let’s rejoice that God has set in place a local church for us.  Thank God for a sanctuary of worship, a
spiritual place to experience the love and power of God along with the benefits of Christian fellowship with others of
like precious faith.  Let’s work to keep it pure.  Let’s pray for wisdom to know how to mesh it together with other
churches so we can fulfill the plan of God for our area.  That plan includes harvesting the lost for Jesus and exalting
the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Beauty of the
Local Church