The church of Jesus Christ is a glorious thing to behold! The church is the people of God, and it is the manifested 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
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
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 beautiful 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. 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. They are 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 to provide a 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 enhance God’s ability to adequately
minister to each and every one of us through the under-shepherds He appoints over us.
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.
Because a biblical truth may be misused or even abused 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 and it is God’s idea.
Yes 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
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 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, in my estimation, is a good size for a church 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.
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