Acts The Church and Ministerial Training

Kaitiaki's picture

Basically this is just a "what do we learn about the Church from Acts?" thread. As we watch Paul and Barnabas and then Paul and Silas building the Church in Acts, what can we learn about their concept of the Church as a whole? Robert suggested my original plan was too cumbersome so asked me to create new threads.

Thread Moderator: Kaitiaki

There are two aspects to this thread: the training of the local congregation (for the work of ministry - as in Ephesians) and the theological training of ministers (or pastors).

Acts shows us local congregations that trained young men (and women) for every appropriate aspect of Church work. That included the work of ministry and missions. Discuss this statement. Do you think it is valid? What implications (if any) are there for the present system in almost every denomination of sending young men to a seminary to be trained? How does your Church seek to apply those implications in the way they train ministers and missionaries?

CLARK E. WADE's picture

Fascinating subject..

Hi Justin,

I dearly appreciate you taking the time to go through the passages I cited but I need to start with this. My time is rather limited so I will do what I can to answer and honor both of your contributions.

My personal take on the synagogue is that it was more like Paul's description in I Corinthians 14 than our current order of service. In the synagogues, there were several elders, "two or three" as Paul writes in Corinthians, that spoke in these gatherings. If a newcomer would walk into these meetings, he was actually expected, or at least asked, to share their own insights in the passages they were sharing. These were dialogical meetings. We see in Acts 13:15 this invitation given to Paul and Barnabus at Antioch of Pisida:

"Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation, say on."

It seems there was also a plurality of elders. No synagogue was instituted in any place unless there were ten men who could exercise oversight.

It seems it was also Ezra, who may have started the synagogue practices of gathering together around the scriptures:

"They read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gage the sense, so that they understood the reading." (Neh. 8:8)

So the exposition of the scriptures took a central place in the synagogue. In this way Justin, you are right that Protestantism essentially followed the synagogues in placing the book of scriptures at the center of its services.

And yet, there seems to be a departure from this practice in the early church in that the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, took the place of prominence in the meetings of the early church. As Jesus said:

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, that am I in the midst of them."

In these words, our Lord established for all time the focus on Himself, on His headship in the assembly, as the principle thing.

Our Lord also seemed to set up a different order than was so popular with the synagogues in taking some issue with their "seating arrangement":(Matthew 23:6):

"And they take pleasure in and [thus] love the place of honor at feasts and THE BEST SEATS IN THE SYNAGOGUES, And to be greeted with honor in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi (teacher), for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone [in the church] on earth father, for you have one Father, Who is in heaven. And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant."

Here's what Jesus says regarding the order He came to establish:

"And Jesus called them to Him and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles LORD IT OVER THEM, and their great men hold them in subjection [tyrannizing over them]. NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, And whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave--Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free]" (Matthew 20:25-28).

I would prefer the synagogue model over most of our current meetings because there really was more freedom of open participation in these meetings compared to our own. I know of a church in Oregon that actually has a meeting they refer to as "the synagogue meeting" and this is exactly what happens. They are more "round-table" meetings based on the synagogue model rather than the pulpit to pew model. I think this is headed in the right direction.

I do think Justin that you are partly correct in stating that it is from the synagogue that we have derived some of our current practices, but only in part.

The Protestant order of service contains these essentials:

The greeting
Prayer or scripture reading
The song service led by a choir or worship leader
The announcements
The offering
The sermon
The benediction

Will Durant wrote that the Catholic Mass was "based partly on the Judaic Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation."

It was Gregory the Great (540-604) who we give credit for forming the medieval Mass.

Luther came along and made some minor adjustments in the Mass, but kept its essential elements intact.

The major thing that Luther changed was the center place of preaching over the Eucharist.

Luther also performed the Mass in the language of the people rather than Latin.

He gave the sermon the central place of the gathering.

HE introduced congregational singing.

He abolished the idea of transubstantiation.

He allowed the congregation to partake of the bread and cup.

Here's Martin Luther's "order of service":

Admonition to the people
Lord's Supper
Post-Communion prayer

But again, this apple didn't fall far from the Catholic Mass. As William R. Estep wrote in "The Anabaptist Story":

The Reformation was a revolt against papal authority but not against the Roman concept of the church as an institution."

Elton Trueblood wrote

"Now, after more than three centuries, we can, if we will, change gears again. Our opportunity for a big step lies in opening the ministry to the ordinary Christian in much the same manner that our ancestors opened Bible reading to the ordinary Christian. To do this means, in one sense, the inauguration of a new Reformation while in another it means the logical completion of the earlier Reformation in which the implications of the position taken were neither fully understood nor loyally followed."

Here’s what William A. Beckham writes in “The Second Reformation” about the church’s decline from the original genius and power of the early church:

The Lord’s Supper changed from a common meal to a ceremony.
Worship changed from participation to observation.
Witness changed from relationship to salesmanship.
Ministry changed form personal to almost exclusively social.
Leadership changed form gifted and called servants to professionals.
Growth changed from multiplication to addition.
Missions changed form being to supporting missionaries.
Confession changed form public before a small group to private in a confessional.
Discipleship changed from on-the-job to classroom training.
Fellowship changed from in-depth in community living to more surfaced in large meetings.
Body life changed from lifestyle to membership.
Gifts changed from edification to entertainment or extinction.
Empowerment changed from God’s power to man’s ability.
Building changed from functional to sacred meeting places.
Administration changed from integrated to compartmental.
Membership changed form producer to consumer.
Child-care changed from parental to church responsibility.
Bible study changed from doers of the Word to hearers of the Word.
Evangelism changed from “go structures” to ”come structures.”

I think one of the declines of the church is the centrality of the Living Word of God in our meetings that has been supplanted by the written word of God. The synagogues placed the scriptures at the center of their meetings and Jesus seem to be addressing these kinds of meetings when he said:

“You search (exegete, expostulate) over the scriptures thinking that in them you have eternal life, but you won’t come to Me for that life.”

It appears the Reformation placed the scriptures as the center-place of the meetings just as the synagogue did as well.

When I spoke of being “People of the Book” more than “People of the Man” I was called to account. But I do see a difference. Of course, the Book of scriptures cannot be separated from Jesus Christ. I concur with that. But I think we have done something amiss in focusing so much of our time together in teaching the bible apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ in those scriptures.

In Christianity Today, Dr. Wallace shared the following feelings in his article entitled, “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit.”

"In the midst of this “summer from hell,” I began to examine what had become my faith. I found a longing to get closer to God, but found myself unable to do so through my normal means: exegesis, Scripture reading, more exegesis. I believe I had depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him I didn’t know how to relate. I longed for him, but found many community-side restrictions in my Cessationist environment. I found a suffocation of the Spirit in my evangelical tradition as well as in my own heart.

"The emphasis on knowledge over relationship produced in me a bibliolatry. For me as a New Testament professor, the text is my task—but I made it my God. The text became my idol…

"The net effect of such bibliolatry is a depersonalization of God. Eventually, we no longer relate to Him. God becomes the object of our investigation rather than the Lord to whom we are subject. The vitality of our religion gets sucked out. As God gets dissected, our stance changes from “I trust in.…” to “I believe that…”

William Law wrote this:

"The Christian church is in a fallen state for the same rejection of the Holy Spirit, who was given to be the power and fulfilling of all that was promised by the gospel. And just as the Pharisees rejection of Christ was under a profession of faith in the Messianic Scriptures, so church leaders today reject the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit in the name of sound doctrine.”

William Law rote that over 700 years ago. I think it is just as applicable today.

Paul writes of a certain kind of church assembly where all are testifying of Jesus Christ. There is no mention in these meetings of a professional clergy class doing the testifying but of “all.” (Acts 14:23-26):

"Therefore, if the whole church assembles…[and] ALL prophesy [giving inspired testimony and interpreting the divine will and purpose] and an unbeliever or untaught outsider comes in, he is told of his sin and reproved and convicted and convinced BY ALL, and his defects and needs are examined (estimated, determined) and he is called to account BY ALL,

"The secrets of his heart are laid bare; and so, falling on [his] face, he will worship God, declaring that God is among you in very truth.

"What then, brethren, is [the right course]? When you meet together, each one has a hymn, a teaching, a disclosure of special knowledge or information, an utterance in a [strange] tongue, or an interpretation of it. [But] let everything be constructive and edifying and for the good of all.”

Brother Justin, we are far from these kinds of meetings, but I believe we are inching closer. There is no quick process here. We are learning by experimentation and some failure and falling on our face before God in seeking Jesus Christ to express Himself in our meetings, through “all” of us.

I believe it takes the whole body of Christ to express a whole Christ. Paul’s emphasis is not on special teachers here, but on something pretty amazing! I know not what course others shall take, but for me, this “right course” that Paul talks about here is something worth pursuing and not resting until we see Christ being expressed through all the members of His body so that people can really say “God is truly in the midst of you.”


a common brother,,