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?


me too :)

Just for the record, I'm enjoying this enterchange between you and I. :)

Me too :). It feels like actual dialog instead of the diatribes I can sometimes fall into.

Clark: Timothy, or Titus were not "pastors" in our modern understanding of that word. The designation of these epistles as "pastoral" is a misnomer. A better term would be "itinerate workers." Timothy and Titus were apostolic co-workers, co-laborers with Paul. Check it out. Read the book of Acts as well as the epistles and notice whenever Paul mentions these brother's names, they are being "sent" somewhere to minister to the churches in his stead

Justin: I would agree that they are not pastors in our modern understanding of the word. We can't know, because scripture was silent, in what ways Timothy was called to organize the local church, to shepherd its people, or use scripture in educating them unto good works/Christian living. But we do know that Timothy was called to minister to the entire congregation, and that justifies reciprocation from the congregation, ie "The laborer is worth his hire" (1 Corinthians 9.14). People who are like Timothy and Titus are to be supported (ie salaried; paid) as they oversee their portion of the Church. People who are paid to do a job are called "professionals," which would make Titus and Timothy professional ministers or pastors. Again, I agree that we don't know the precise scope of Timothy's duties, beyond teaching from scripture, being an example to the believers, doing "the work of an evangelist," to "continue to study," and to further strive in developing his moral character. And he--and if not he, other ministers--is called to do this while being paid and supported by others. Professional academics, professional ministers, professional leaders of the church are a part of the biblical paradigm for evangelism and church building.

Justin: 1) "every scripture" refers to the OLD TESTAMENT. Check the previous verse, and you will see that Paul is referring to the scriptures which Timothy has known since his childhood. It is a big jump to use this verse to support Pauline inerrancy, since as you pointed out (we'll get to this) the early church had no New Testament to rely on.

Clark: 2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul's letters as "some things dificult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as they distort and misinterpret the rest of the Scriptures." So while some, particularly the Judaizers, questioned and challenged Paul's apostleship, it seems that Peter was one who placed Paul's writings as "Scripture." I have a high-view of Paul's letters as "profitable for our instruction, for reproof and correction of our errors" regarding church functioning, governance, etc.

It is fascinating that Paul on some occasions mentions when he speaks from personal opinion. But overall, I believe he wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Justin: I too believe Paul wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Looking at Paul's declaration, I return to my earlier point, which was that scripture, in Paul's argument, is not declared inerrant in fact, but profitable in ministry (because they are inspired by God's Spirit/"God-Breathed"). Those are two different things. If we extend Paul's argument about Old Testament scripture to the New Testament, and assume that we can also say that the New Testament, while perhaps not inerrant, in fact is nonetheless profitable in ministry--to "make one wise unto salvation"--then we must then say that II Peter 3.16, which identifies Paul's epistles as sacred writings on par with scripture, extends Paul's definition of and understanding of the value of sacred writing to all of scripture, Old and New. Accordingly, II Peter 3.16 is not, systematically, an argument regarding the inerrancy of Paul's epistles, but about their ability to "make one wise unto salvation" as "profitable" works of ministry (as opposed to the documents of damnation others are turning them into).

You and I have agreed on the point that written revelation, the scriptures, the Bible, have become a frequent point of idolatry in the Christian tradition. I believe this is especially true of the Protestant tradition, which in stripping away tradition as relevant to meaning in revelation has come dangerously close to abandoning the contextual relevance of any given statement, passage, or book. It is only under the paradigm of scriptural inerrancy that Bibliolatry can take place, because it turns a written document--and not the Spirit of God which inspired the document, nor the Christ who made that Spirit accessible, nor the God who is revealed not in scripture alone but in Christ and Spirit, in scripture and out of scripture--into the final authority on the Divine, and by extension THE DIVINE itself. I suspect that the creation of the New Testament, while well-intended as a means of establishing an orthodoxy against those who desired to take the church in unhealthy directions, was the beginning of a return to "the Law," and allowed people to substitute written instructions for spiritual encounters with the sacred.

The sacred may be encountered through scripture, and though the sacred is not contained to or limited therein, Protestants especially are eager to rely on scripture alone. In doing so they may condemn, to their own comforting, the vibrant variety of faith and worship of God in the world if it does not match the written instructions which they have decided, on their own power, is the sole and final authority against which even the directions of the Spirit must be measured--that's a bit like telling the President of the United States that he can't issue an executive order because it suspends some laws. In fact, the President DOES have that kind of authority, and the Spirit, likewise, may command expressions of the Sacred which do not seem aligned with the recorded or written expressions in ancient documents. And yet I say "seem" aligned, because for those with eyes to see, different instructions may reveal the same heart.

So I do not condemn the house church movement, but I cannot condemn other styles of church as well. To me, it does not matter if the scriptures don't explicitly say in Acts or elsewhere that there is a difference between "equipping" meetings or "worship" meetings--Acts reveals principles which, like all of scripture, can shed some light on how we ought to do church, but the details of application are not authoritatively final. Neither does silence on an issue mean freedom to do as we like, or condemnation in doing as we are--it is simply silence, and like silence in a conversation it must be interpreted in context.

"Are you okay, sweetie?"

The silence indicates I have done wrong.

"Is anyone there?"

The silence indicates 1) No one is there or 2) Someone is not responding. It doesn't mean I have done some wrong.

So when Acts fails to make distinctions between types of services, or does not give examples of dedicated church buildings, or when Paul does not openly support congregational meetings structured like as unto our own, modern congregational meetings, I can't--based on what I believe of scripture, explained above--justly conclude that any of those things are judgments for or against those things today. Yet the principles of mutual edification, of charity in all things, of judgment against wickedness and repentance unto salvation, of condemnation of hypocrisy, corruption, and sloth--these things I can uphold in a variety of ways, and know and be sure that I am acting in the Spirit of God, in either a large congregational meetings or small group gatherings or in any other aspect of life and faith.

Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life;
And these are they which bear witness of me;
And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. (John 5:39-40)