Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Jesus came to destroy the Temple. His resurrection was the formal ground-breaking on the New Temple - Your Body.

The reason the New Testament church didn't have buildings? They WERE the building.

The reason the New Testament church didn't pay their elders, shepherds and overseers? Because you don't pay your family members to love you or care for you.

The reason the New Testament church didn't have any blood sacrifice (as every other religion around them did)? Because not only was Jesus the first and ultimate sacrifice, but this new temple, the new priesthood (that's us) also became the living sacrifices as well.

So, fast forward 300 years and a Roman Emperor establishes a new way of doing church. He gives them buildings. He pays their leaders. This was a new addition. It had not been practiced until Constantine instituted it.

Fast forward another 400 years: The Church starts to require a tithe from their members. Before this only free will offerings were given.

Fast forward to our day and time: We're still paying our leaders and building temples to worship in.

I would submit that Jesus had a plan in mind for His Church. He communicated that plan eloquently. He modelled the leadership structure He expected. He knelt down and washed their feet. He told them to do the same to one another. He warned them not to "lord it over" their brothers or to call one another "Father" because they were all brothers and equals in the eyes of God.

The Family of God has one Father. His name is God. The Body of Christ has one head. His name is Jesus.

For over 700 years the church of Jesus took no tithes. All of the money freely given was collected and spent on the poor and the orphan and the widow.

That is New Testament Christianity. If you want to practice something else, something "new and improved" feel right at home. I do not condemn anyone for that.

But, as for me and my house, we will follow the New Testament and seek to "Be the Church" that Jesus commanded his disciples to plant, by the Grace of God.

If you want to study the subject you will quickly see that the New Testament knows nothing of hierarchy. Plenty of Biblical scholars from all backgrounds and denominations agree on this point...even Catholic scholars! The NT church was not a hierarchy, it was a family.

Blessings, Keith


Mark Main said...

Good post Keith. I'm trying to have my family follow the same path.

Thinking about it I would actually find it very insulting if my family wanted to pay me for loving them.

Anonymous said...


You write, "The NT church was not a hierarchy, it was a family."

Question: is a family not a hierarchy? Do parents not have the role of leadership, teaching, modeling, oversight, decision-making? Are parents not called to be "over" their children for their health and well-being? And are children not called to obey and honor their parents? This sounds like hierarchy, does it not?

Also, what about Apostles, deacons, and elders as seen in the NT?

I'd love to get your thoughts!

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Keith and Mark, I've also thought how odd it would be, if someone invited you over to meet their family, and you arrived to find something that looked no different than a corporation... Imagine being introduced to such a family... "Hey, this is Ronnie, my big-brother, we hired him in about two months ago..."

Keith Giles said...

Well "Anonymous" (if that is your real name), I'd simply ask you who the "Father" is in God's Family? Is it your pastor? Or is it God?

If it's God then you're on the right track. If your "Father" or "Boss" is a hired professional then I'd suggest this is not what God had in mind.

As for Apostles, Elders, etc. I've written a bit on that over at the [Subversive Underground] lately. One was a post on "Where Are The Pastors?" and the other is "What Is An Apostle?".

You can find both of those by clicking at the "[Subversive Underground]" link on the left.

The short answer is that Elders were old men, Overseers were more like facilitators and Apostles were missionary church-planters in the New Testament church.

A clear reading of the New Testament reveals that the Apostles did not "lord it over" anyone and allowed the church to be lead by God, through the power of the Holy Spirit (of which each person is/was a Temple).


Anonymous said...

Respectfully, you made a distinction between "hierarchy" and "family" claiming that the church was not the former, but the latter. You wrote: "The NT church was not a hierarchy, it was a family."

But, kindly, could you answer the initial question? Is a nuclear family not a hierarchy (dad/mom over children)?

If the answer is yes, if a family has hierarchy, and if a church is a family, , than a church is a hierarchy.

W'doya think?


Keith Giles said...

I think that if you place the emphasis on the hierarchy then your church will look very different than if you place the emphasis on being a family.

Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians, and in Ephesians, to operate as a loving family that encourages one another out of love. If we major on this then we'll hardly ever have to worry about who has authority over us.

When it comes to the idea of authority, the NT speaks of the Body of Christ working together to correct error and strengthen the weak. It doesn't appeal to those with authority (elders, overseers, shepherds) to exercise their power over the rest of the Church.


Anonymous said...



Keith Giles said...

If you think of your family as a hierarchy then I suppose your familiy is different from mine.

We don't operate primarily as a hierarchy...and neither did the early, New Testament Church.

Are you being a family when you're operating as a hierachy? Or are you being a family when everyone shares equally and everyone's voice is heard?

I suppose what I want people to understand is the sweetness of sitting in a room with children of all ages and having them teach you from the Word of God with wisdom from the Holy Spirit and see how it ties into something an adult shares with the group.

If our church operated as a hierarchy only I would speak, or those I had assigned to speak or share, and the rest of the Body would be weaker for it.

Ultimately our discussion should be about what Jesus commanded us to be and to do, and what we can see in the NT that the apostles promoted and what the Church actually did.

If we look we can see that they didn't behave as a hierarchy, they behaved as brothers and sisters who supported and encouraged one another with Christ as the Head and the Holy Spirit as the ongoing, indwelling presence of God within the whole Body itself.

What God designed was a Body that lovingly taught, encouraged, prayed for, ministered to and discipled itself (or one another).

1 Corinthians 12 shows us that God gave various gifts to all of the members of His Body (not to one man) so that the entire Body could minister to itself/one another as He directed and filled them.


Like a Mustard Seed said...

Wow, never before have I seen someone instruct somebody not to leave any more comments on their own blog...

Anyways, felt like I had to throw my two cents in, as I've actually mulled over this very question about whether or not a family is a hierarchy.

The conclusion I've come to is no, it is not. Although the fact that as parents we have an "authoritative" role, as we discipling our children, and maintain order in the home, I think this gives a false impression that a family is actually a hierarchy. The whole goal of parenting is to see your kids grow into mature, capable adults, able to live life on their own. While there's plenty of instruction and discipline that happens early on, it would be completely ridiculous if you went somewhere and some a father cutting the meat for his 25-year-old son or something. Nor do parents have "reign" over their children for their whole lives. I suppose there are plenty of instances where that happens in the world, but that doesn't mean it's the way God designed a family to be. Hopefully, once you've taught, and been an example to (which is really the most important piece actually) your children, at some point they mature to become adults that you can have a meaningful, peer-level relationship with. That's our desire anyway. I want my children to grow up to respect me because they know I love them, and would do anything for them, and because they really see me living for Jesus, not some false kind of respect, based on the fact that I'm their father, and they have to do what I say.....


Anonymous said...

I think the church as the family of God is definitely a hierarchy. God is our father and Jesus is the older brother. We on the other hand, are all fellow brothers and sisters in the family of God. The father and big brother slot are already taken.

The Gospels record that the 12apostles were very concerned with hierarchy. Repeatedly they argued amongst themselves about who was the greatest. James and John attempted an end-run when they approached Jesus privately and tried to get him to place them over everyone else so they would sit on his right and left. A close look at how Jesus responded to his disciple's natural human inclination to exercise power over each other is very instructive.

- Brent

Like a Mustard Seed said...

As I was reading through your conversation, Keith, Brent & Daniel one thing popped out to me that seems at least worth mentioning. Brent, you mentioned a couple of times that God is the Father and that Jesus is the Big Brother, then finally in your last statement you mentioned the Gospels record that the 12 apostles were very concerned with hierarchy. Repeatedly they argued amongst themselves about who was the greatest.

First what I don't agree with is that Jesus is the/our Big Brother, because essentially Jesus came and remains The High Priest, fulfilling what was prophesied in the OT and severing the old hierachy you're describing.

This comes to mind:

2 Corinthians 3:12-17
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Yes, we are for a time as parents teaching our kids and at the same time, even our 6 year old brings forth new perspective to us daily, hence the emphasis on relationship. If I only saw myself as my kids mother, and that role would never change, like you see in the conventional church today, at what point do I relinquish this role, at what point does it become hindering and damaging to my child's growth for me to continue thinking that I have this authority over them?

See Matthew 10:24-25: 24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master."

It's a time or a season if you will, just as when I was a new believer, I needed people to come along side of me, share the word, their testimonies, their faith, reminding me of the narrow path, reminding me what God's word says, to encourage me that God is with me, and sees my heart always (at first this was hard to understand) & to continue walking even when horrible things happen, God is present and equips and strengthens.

I'm still friends with these individuals, but we're peers, brothers and sisters and they rejoice that I've matured and love the Lord with all my heart.

Also, with respect to your comments about the 12 apostles and their bickering over who was the greatest among them, I thought as you suggested that what Jesus has to say is very instructive:

Mark: 9:34-37
"What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Luke 22:24-27
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Even further, when you speak of hierachy, one thing that is so essential, is the understanding of the Holy Spirit (and His role) I know you've mentioned God the Father and that role is filled, and Jesus as our Big Brother (although I don't agree) but there's no mention of our TEACHER, the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

What we see in the church today, there's one person who is called Pastor, teacher, and that is exactly what Jesus said not to do:

Matthew 23:5-12
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

I fear we live in these times:
2 Timothy 4:2-5
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Overall, I think your perspective of family and church are slightly altered, yes there is Order, but don't confuse this with hierachy, as what I understand the only hierachy is, God the Father, Jesus our High Priest and interceder who bore our sin upon himself as our example of Love and obedience to the father, and the Holy spirit who is the teacher of God's word, which was layed on our hearts from the beginning, all are without excuse. They work together and dependant on one another, we are to be the same in this manner, if one is stronger then he should build up the weaker, so that he can in turn do the same for another, as we seek God together and enable the Holy Spirit to work.

For some reason I read this conversation and felt prompted to respond, hopefully Brent you can see the Big Picture behind what Keith is trying to say, as it's clear to me, but there may be something that is holding you back from truly seeing where his heart lies, as you're defending something that you believe to be right, and we ask that you'd pray about this before deciding for yourself that what he's saying is wrong, ultimately God if you're seeking with a pure heart will reveal the truth. Peace to brother, Heather

Keith Giles said...


Your insight is awesome and I thank you for sharing this.

However, I think (since I know Brent) that he actually does totally agree with us and is choosing to express it in an unusual way.

Thanks to both of you for these great insights.


Like a Mustard Seed said...

Hey, ya Brent I mistook you for the first anonymous, I assumed you were then adding your name. Oops, really I was speaking to the anonymous w/out a name as of yet ("Hi"). So sorry I was confused. Heather

Anonymous said...

My wife and I just decided to begin to give our "tithes" to the poor/hungry. It was a tough decision for us because it has been ingrained within me since birth that the 'tithe' goes to the 'storehouse' (a.k.a. the local church). But, we've realized recently that the 'storehouse' never released the 'tithes'...they horde the seed for themselves to pay the mortgage, salaries and a bunch of other crap that isn't in the Bible. So, call me a rebel (and some people will when they find out), but I'm cutting out the middle man. I hope God's cool with it! :)

---by the way, i really love your blog man! It is EXACTLY where we are right now in our lives...

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

Thanks for your contribution to this discussion. The scriptures you shared highlighting Jesus' response to his disciple’s desire for hierarchy is something we should certainly take to heart.

I thought I would clarify what I meant by calling Jesus our big brother. Jesus taught that his heavenly father was also our heavenly father. If we both have the same father, then as a practical matter, we are indeed brothers. More precisely however, I was reflecting on Hebrews 2:10-12:

10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."

When I said big brother however, what I really meant was that he is the firstborn eldest brother, with all that entails in the ancient culture. It is entirely possible that Jesus can be our brother and our high priest at the same time. Jesus can call us a friend or a brother without taking away the fact that he is also Lord and God. That’s how I’ve come to see it anyway.

Anonymous said...

I know you probably have answered this question elsewhere, but how do you handle 2 Cor. 9 when it comes to pastors getting paid?
(Mount Vernon, Oh)

Keith Giles said...


I have blogged about pastoral support here:


The passage you reference is mainly about offerings for the poor, not for pastors.

2 Cor 11 does make reference to something close to what you're looking for, but Paul is specifically speaking about missionary church-planters, like himself, not those who teach weekly in the church.


peterkevinson said...

Thanks for the link and the help. I'm a pastor of a "neighborhood" church that is only a few steps removed from a house church. I've been increasingly bothered by my salary, so much so that I took a cut in pay this fall and took on a part time job. I really want to stop taking a salary completely, but I've run into a lot of resistance to that idea in our church. My first part time job just ended, I taught a class at a local college, and I am currently looking for a new one... hopefully one that could turn into a full time job when I needed it, but I'm struggling finding one. Tomorrow I head over to the local pizza shop to apply to deliver pizzas. It's a cray journey we find ourselves on.

Anonymous said...

I give you much props for your stand on the salary issue! Most pastors use the excuse of "providing for their family" in order to ignore that nagging feeling that something is just not right. God is our provider and He will provide for us and our families, ESPECIALLY if we sacrifice to further His kingdom.