Others would structure the church like a Fortune 500 corporation, complete with detailed organizational charts, job descriptions, boards, committees, and subcommittees. The Holy Spirit, they hope, will operate within the rigid framework they have constructed. They will reject any bold, new proposals because “We’ve never done it that way before.” These people tend to underestimate the strength of the new nature and the power of the Spirit.
Both extremes are wrong; the church is neither a highly contrived corporation nor a loose commune, but an organism. It has both an organic unity and an operative life principle, since all members are connected to its living Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet just as living organisms require structure and organization to function, so does the church.
The early church set the example of a living, interdependent organism. Their unity and power gave them a testimony that swept Jerusalem. Multitudes had come to faith in Jesus Christ. No persecution or opposition from the Jewish authorities could stop the spread of the gospel. The believers’ love for each other, expressed in the sharing of material goods, had made a profound impact on the community. As a result, even unbelievers held the church in high regard (5:13).
The church’s explosive growth had brought with it the need for further organization. It was already somewhat organized. They knew (at least early on) the number of converts (2:41) and members (4:4). Someone must have been keeping count. They met together in specific places at specific times. The believers also met for meals in private homes. Money and goods were collected by the apostles and distributed to those in need. Sin had to be dealt with. All those activities also demanded some level of organization. The church became further structured as its life and growth demanded.
That illustrates an important principle: Biblical church organization always responds to needs and to what the Spirit is already doing. To organize a program and then expect the Holy Spirit to get involved in it [Acts 1–12, page 177] is to put the cart before the horse. We dare not try to force the Spiritto fit our mold. Organization is never an end in itself but only a means to facilitate what the Lord is doing in His church.
In Acts chapter 6 the church faced its first serious organizational crisis. To eliminate a potentially divisive problem required further organization. From this first organizational meeting four features stand out: the reason, the requirements, the roster, and the results. ( to be continued)