The Local Church
Acts 2:46-47 (NKJV)
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,
they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
An independent, self-governing, self-supporting church that has it's own identity and unique name.
Too good to be true? Is it even biblical?
Local churches have been in existence since the Day of Pentecost. Since the day Christ said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), groups of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior have gathered in simplicity and power together all across the world to form local congregations. In those congregations they could worship God, exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit, teach His Word and evangelize the community. In this He was building His church.
Over the past centuries, many local congregations have chosen to identify with various groups and associations (often called denominations). Today, many people can only conceive of a group of churches with one authoritative, central office and one leading officer who directs the affairs of all the associated churches. This kind of church organization is usually controlled by the central administrative authority of the church group and the designated officers. Money is also usually an issue in these kinds of churches: each local church must send to the central office a certain, designated, mandatory amount of money each year for maintaining the central office, its officers, and its programs. In time, problems often arise in these kinds of church groups over issues like control ("who is in charge of the group and each of our churches?"), authority ("who will make the decisions for our group and each of the churches?"), and doctrinal integrity ("what will all of us believe as the core teachings of our group?").
Is this the only way to understand how local churches are to be governed?
Throughout all of history there have been independent, local churches free from outside control, dependent simply upon the Lord Jesus as the head and the Holy Spirit as the power and our guide. The churches established by the first century apostles of Christ began as independent local churches and appointing elders and pastors for every church (Acts 14:21-23, Titus 1:5).
Those churches were self‐governing which means they:
• chose their own church leaders (Acts 6:1‐6) according to a Scriptural standard (1 Timothy 3:1‐13)
• exercised their own discipline (1 Corinthians 5:13)
• handled their internal problems as an individual congregation (1 Corinthians 6:1‐5)
• were responsible to preserve the true teaching of the Bible in their church (1 Timothy 3:15)
The churches begun by the first century apostles of Christ were also self‐supporting which means they:
• supported their own local ministries through regular, systematic giving (1 Corinthians 16:1‐2; 2 Corinthians 9:6‐8)
• financially supported their own pastor (1 Timothy 5:17‐18)
• took care of their own local people in financial need (like widows, 1 Timothy 5:3‐16)
2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Following this pattern, each of today's independent local churches depends only upon the Holy Spirit's direction (Acts 13:1‐3) and in complete freedom chooses its own name (not conforming to another church’s name), vision, mission, government, ministries, relationships, partnerships, and programs. They are also free to support, through their own training, their own people and preparing their men for the Gospel ministry.
The self-governing of each "local" church is one of the most important Bible teachings.
The acceptance or rejection of this biblical doctrine will influence all other decisions that a church makes because rejection of this doctrine, whether in whole or in part, turns over decisions of a local church to the will of a higher, earthly body. This removes the church leaders ability to pattern their local church after God's will.
The Bible simply offers no other method of church oversight beyond that of the local church and its leaders. The examples of New Testament churches are clear: Each local church was equal in rule and was to have bishops (pastors), elders and deacons who were to oversee the affairs of their local church. Moreover, each set of church leaders was limited to the oversight of the "flock among them" (1 Peter 5:2).
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
Without faith it is impossible to please God
If the church cannot have faith towards God for provision, how will it please Him?
Even though the New Testament teaches the autonomy of the local independent church under Jesus Christ alone, autonomy is meant that each church grows in its dependence upon the Word, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and fellowship with other like-minded churches. Jesus Christ is the Head of each church and He requires their godly submission in all areas of church life. They are to look to Him for the provision of their every need as a church. This type of church encourages prayer, faith, and spiritual growth among all of its members. The body of Christ transcends all earthly denominations and organizations (Ephesians 1:22‐23). It is composed of all who have trusted Christ as Savior, regardless of organizational affiliation.
Biblically independent churches strive to be loyal to Christ and His Word rather than to any organization, network, or denomination. They seek to establish, preserve, and expand local churches and the body of Christ according to the New Testament pattern.