The nature of the church according to the New Testament
The universal church, also known as the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22‑23), the “family of God” (1 Pet. 4:17), consists of all true Christians everywhere, while a local church is the sum of all who belong to Christ in any given location (1 Cor. 1:2).
The only Head of the church local and universal is Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4). No human being can assume that place. Elders, men who meet strict qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1‑7) and who are recognized by believers as having been appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), have a special responsibility for governing the affairs of the local church (1 Pet. 5:1‑4). The New Testament distinguishes between a place of service (or office) and a spiritual gift. “Elder” is a place of service; “shepherding” or “pastoring” is a gift. No church in the New Testament is said to have had a man who served as “the pastor.” According to God’s Word, the office does not exist.
Spiritual gifts operate in and originate from the church: evangelist, exhorter, shepherd‑teacher and others (Eph. 4:11).
All teaching must be in agreement with and based on Scripture, and, along with all exercising of gifts, should have the goal of bringing the Body of Christ to maturity (Eph. 4:11‑16).
The church is to have regular open meetings (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 14:26) where all, as priests before God, participate in worship centered on the Lord’s Table, and men have the opportunity to participate orally as guided by the Holy Spirit.
The power that sustains the local body is found in the Spirit of God. No man‑made machinery can serve as a substitute. Zechariah told us 24 centuries ago, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6). This verse, originally addressed to Israel, is perfectly applicable to the life of the local church.
For additional information about our local church, see Advantages of the New Testament Church.