What does the model Christian church look like?

So, what does the model Christian church look like?  Experience with church varies from person to person.  Some of us have been in one denomination our whole life.  Others have had our fair share of testing the waters in different places.  You may be reading this and never stepped foot in a house of worship before.  The point is, ask 10 people and you may get as many different answers.

To answer this question, we should take a look at similarities between the modern church(es) we know today and then journey back to where it all started.  Has the church been consistent?  We shall see.  Be sure to read to the end.  By the end of this article, we hope your questions are answered.  If not, contact us anytime and we’d be glad to answer your questions.

What does the model Christian church look like today?

While modern-day Christian churches vary in style, we will first try to point out similarities.  Nearly every Christian Church will have the following:

  1. Weekly/Daily Services – Churches gather at specific times to worship God and learn.  Some denominations, like Catholicism, call this a mass.
  2. Worship with Music – This could range from a hymnal to a full out rock or gospel experience
  3. The Bible – All denominations of Christianity credit the bible with some level of authority ranging from “Sola Scriptura” (by scripture alone) meaning that the bible is final and perfect authority to beliefs that it is a guide for us on earth.
  4. Sermons – Weekly Christian services have a message from the bible meant to teach and promote the application of biblical principles
  5. Opportunities for Fellowship and Additional Study – Most churches have events outside of Sunday services with opportunities to connect and study with fellow believers
  6. Managed through Donation – This is not everyone’s favorite, but churches have to keep the lights on.  Most are supported by donations.
  7. Outreach – The Christian life is one that gives. A Christian church would generally have programs to help the world outside the four walls of the building.  This comes in local ministry and efforts abroad and is often called missions.
  8.  Led Solely by a Lead Pastor and/or Pastoral Team – Someone acts as a Pastor (title may vary) oversees the ministry.

You can add more to the list for sure.   But, these elements should be a quick answer to what does a model Christian church look like today?  However, is how we “do church” today the “model” church?  To get an honest answer we need to go way back to where it all started in the first century.  What was the church like at that time?  It seems logical that the original church would answer this.

What does the model Christian church look like 2000 years ago?

If we are going to take an honest look at the “model” church, shouldn’t we consider how the earliest Christians did “church”?  Wouldn’t that be the closest evidence we have as to how Jesus intended the church to be?

In this next segment, we will examine the early church and even point out contrasts between the modern-day church and the original church.  SPOILER ALERT – You may say “The church I go to is nothing like that”.  Don’t worry. Just keep reading.

Model Christian Church in the First Century

We have to look to the bible as it is the earliest viewpoint on the church structure.  Need a bible?  Download the FREE SOH App for a free digital bible and other great resources here – Apple and Android

In the bible, we find 2x when the Apostle Paul instructs the church on how it should be structured.  1 Cor 12:28  and Eph 4:11 (below)

And He (Jesus) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Eph 4:11-13

Let’s consider these characteristics of the early church and whether they line up with your experience.

1) The church was a community of people and NOT a place

Today, we associate the church with a building.  This was not so.  The church was the people.  In fact, the word in scripture that is translated to church is the Greek word “ecclesia”.   Ecclesia means “called out assembly”.  The church was a group of people or the congregation, called out to be God’s people on earth.  These people are what is known as the “Body of Christ”.

2) The purpose of the church was to gather and equip

As stated in Ephesians 4, the role of the gathering of the church was for a VERY special reason.  That role was to equip or “build up” the people.  Equip with what?  The simple answer is knowledge of God, personal growth, and understanding one’s gifts.  Why would we need to discover our gifts?   For the work of service, which is to make an impact on this earth for God.

3) People were “mission-minded”

Church efforts revolved around impacting the world around them through the Great Commission.  This was the mission mandated by Jesus.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt: 28:18-20

Here is a great article further explaining “What is the Great Commission?

4) The church structure was governed by gifts, not titles.

Today, we find most churches led by a Senior Pastor.  When we look at scripture, a different structure is encouraged. The church was an “Apostolic Church” NOT a Pastoral driven church.

What does the model Christian church look like as an “Apostolic” Ministry?

You see, the Pastoral role is a single (but important) gift out of 5 mentioned in scripture.  This is known as the “5 Fold Ministry” or 5 “Fold Gifts”.  The earliest churches had multiple leaders each with at least one of the following 5 gifts.  When all these gifts were present, it helped to promote powerful and bold Christians.

  1. The Apostle – From the Greek word “Apostolos” meaning “one who is sent”.  These are visionaries helping with strategy and to plan for growth, teaching sound doctrine, and establishing churches.  Apostles are bold and challenge the status quo.
  2. The Prophet – From the Greek word “Profitis” meaning predicter.  Since the Old Testament, certain people had gifts to hear the voice of God and speak to the people often casting vision for the future.  We can all hear from God through the Holy Spirit, which is prophetic, but certain individuals have the gifting to use that ability to help guide the direction of the church.
  3. The Evangelist – Deriving from the word meaning “messenger of Good news“.  Evangelists are the front line.  They speak of the faith and draw those seeking God toward a relationship with Him and into the fellowship with other Christians.  These are the enthusiastic people that love to share the Gospel.
  4. The Pastor – Means Shepherd.  These are the loving individuals that care for the congregation.  They can teach and assume roles of heavy influence but most of all this gift is attached to the person most interested in the comfort and well being of others.  As stated earlier, many modern churches are run by a pastor only.
  5. The Teacher – Teachers are individuals who both studies vigorously but also possess the ability to share information in a way that the congregation can learn and grow.  Knowledge is power and this gift is vital for a strong church.

What does the model Christian church look like with all these in place?

Think about it.  Based on the definitions we discussed, a church with all 5 gifts operating effectively is one that:

  • Has vision and direction and equips people to be effective for God (Apostolic)
  • Actively Hears from God (Prophetic)
  • Preaches the Gospel regularly to non-believers (Evangelistic)
  • Cares deeply for the well-being of others (Pastoral)
  • Places an emphasis on a strong foundation of knowledge around the faith (Teacher)

What does the model Christian church look like based on your experience?  For many, the experience has been different from those 2000 years ago.  Don’t fret, after a long time where the original church structure was near-forgotten, we are seeing a resurgence in the 5 Fold Apostolic Ministry gifts as found in the bible.  Even if your church doesn’t subscribe to the “verbiage” of the 5 Fold or Apostolic ministry, use the giftings examples above to determine at what level you and those around you are operating in the original structure and intention as the ecclesia.  Remember, you don’t go to church… you ARE the church.  Discover what your gifts are and start learning how to operate in them.

What does the model Christian church look like? We aim for this at Sound of Heaven.

There is no such thing as a perfect church.  We are all imperfect people.  With that said, Sound of Heaven Church strives to display the gifts mentioned in this article for the purposes intended.  That is to build a strong group of Christians that will rise up in this generation to do something great for God.

Always remember that God created you with gifts.  We are here if you ever need to discover them and apply them to make a difference in this world.  What does the model Christian church look like?  Hopefully, soon it looks like me and you.

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