Tuesday, December 4

What does a New Testament Church look like?

*David Alan Black, professor of New Testament at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and textual critic, shares his convictions for What Does a New Testament Church Look Like? 

I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking leadership.

I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient -- efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

I am convinced that Paul's letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head. I am convinced that since all believers are "joints" in the body, ministry is every believer's task.

I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God's people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

*June 1, 2011 David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com Reprinted with permission.


Darrell said...

I agree with my brother David here Guy. The church he describes is the church that is my reality.

There is one thing that I don't understand and it has become more common in the last couple years. I read good stuff about church or disciple making by people who are not practicing what they are writing about. I'm not trying to pick on David here. For all I know he is the weirdest professor in seminary and is actually doing what he writes in this article.

A great example of what I'm NOT taking about is Francis Chan. Francis became convinced of what David here is writing about and he quit the "Pastor" job and started to do something in keeping with his convictions. I wish more people writing about this kind of thing were more like Francis.

J. Guy Muse said...


I understand where you are coming fromin saying that there seem to be a lot of people writing things for others that they are not themselves practicing. I have struggled a lot with this personally. I have come to the conviction that I may disagree with the way many of my fellow believers are choosing to express their walk with Christ, but they are still my brothers. I have no right to judge.

As an IMB missionary we live with a foot in both worlds: the legacy churches and their traditions, and what I believe is a truer picture of what the NT church was intended to be as expressed in Dave's article.

Just because my convictions lie more to the description in this post, does not mean that everything being done by those in the more traditional/legacy churches is wrong. I find myself often agreeing to disagree on matters of ecclesiology, and in return choosing to work together in what we can agree upon--which is usually quite a lot!

When it comes to either having a church that does not match my ecclesiological convictions, or not having a church at all, I yield to the former.

Arthur Sido said...

Darrell, Dr. Black has chosen the path of reforming the church from within the institution rather than leaving. You can debate the merit of that but not everyone who has come to similar conclusions has elected to shake the dust from their sandals.

Darrell said...

Guy please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here. I just wish more people would practice what they preach on this subject. I am only judging what they are writing and what they are doing with respect to what they write. I didn't say that I think everything done in a legacy churches is wrong. I didn't say I don't love, respect and work with people who practice a traditional church. I will partner with anyone who wants to make disciples who make disciples.

I'm not picking on you Guy. I feel like I am in the same role as you. I wish I could be with you and work with you!

Like I said Arthur I don't know Dr. Black. All I know is he is a professor in a seminary and that some of what he says he believes seems in conflict with what he wrote. If the good professor has a unique approach to his job that is in keeping with what he is preaching that's great! I don't hate Dr. Black. I passed Guy's article on to hundreds of people. I would love to talk to Dr. Black!

Darrell said...

Sorry I meant to say:

"All I know is he is a professor in a seminary and that some of what he wrote seems in in conflict with he job."

J. Guy Muse said...


I really didn't take what you wrote as "picking on me" and hope I didn't come across as being defensive in my response back to you. I was just trying to state that there are many of us who still have a foot in these two ecclesiastical worlds. That is the simple reality of today's church scene. I do see a shift that has been taking place as more and more people are beginning to question "church as we know it" and seeing another church in the pages of the NT. I agree with you 100% in that we will partner with anybody who wants to make disciples. I believe it is our task to do as Jesus commanded "go, make disciples", but it is His to "build His church" (I will build my church...)

Even though I have never personally met Dr. Black, I know three of his students and they are the ones who led me to check out some of his writings that are on his website (see link at bottom of post.) I am sure he can speak for himself if you would like to dialogue.

Jonathan said...

I find it encouraging to read stuff like this from someone who is well respected in his community. It's one thing if it was just a bunch of pew warmers like me who have grown unsatisfied with church as we've known it. I find an extra level of credibility comes when someone as knowledgeable and respected as this speaks out in similar ways.

David Sturgeon said...

It seems to me that understanding what the most accurate biblical picture of church looks like and being able to obtain that condition are two different things. I don't find Paul telling his ministry partners to abandon the church at Corinth even though they had problems, i find him encouraging his ministry partners to stay and fight for the true gospel to be lived out among God's people. I think there is a difference between being frustrated and abandoning God's children who are sometimes like sheep, and departing from unbelievers. As frustrating as traditional church ministry is right now I am not ready to say that the majority in traditional churches are lost and certainly the leadership on the national and seminary level are not lost, they are not teaching salvation by means other than grace through faith in Christ, as was the case with the Catholic church, requiring the reformers to leave. Substance should always trump structure no matter which direction the accusatory finger is being pointed.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. I agree with you. Seems more and more people are beginning to speak up about matters that for so long have been kept silent. Few of us want to "rock the boat" and it is a lot easier to just not say anything, but that's not right either.

J. Guy Muse said...


In Spanish they have a saying, "Del dicho al hecho hay mucho estrecho" - roughly translates: from the saying to the doing there is a great chasm.

One of the things I appreciate about the article is that even though these ideals are not our reality, they should not be dismissed as irrelevant.

What we find in the NT and what is practiced today in churches are two different things. What troubles me is that the NT patterns are the ones being criticized and questioned. We have opted for maintaining our traditions in place of realigning ourselves with Scripture.

J. Guy Muse said...

...sorry that last Spanish word in should be TRECHO, not estrecho!

Roger said...

Interesting article! And how it resonates what other scholars are saying.
Wowever I was a bit surpriseda about this:
"I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God's people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation."
Not about pastors-teachers, nothing wrong with those, but that he as a NT-guy misses the other three in Eph 4.
In this he seems more to follow the traditional church-model, that we exported to the rest of the world, more than the NT-material.
Thx for an interesting blog.
Roger, missionary in Paraguay from Sweden

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for your comment. You write, Not about pastors-teachers, nothing wrong with those, but that he as a NT-guy misses the other three in Eph 4. I will not try to speak for Dr. Black, but only to point out that I do not hear him discarding the role of the A.P.E.'s, but simply affirming the role of elder/pastor-teacher/bishop in local congreagations.

It is my own belief that APEPT are city-wide gifts. I do not believe there are necessarily all five functions in every local gathering of believers. What I see in the NT is that the APE's were more mobile working a region, while the PT's were more localized and fixed.

I am not saying this is what Dr. Black is teaching, just my take on the matter you bring out in your comment.

Roger said...

You're right of course, he doesnt write anything about the other three, so we can't know.
However, the teacher-pastor model is so assumed, we exported it to Latin-America too, that affirming it is rather main-stream. If it comes from the NT or tradition is hard to say. I wwould have lifted my eyebrows more if he had affirmed the other profiles as well. I feel, with Alan Hirsch and co, that what we need to encourage and emphasise are the other three, the APEs.

I'm a bit hooked up with the people at 3DM, Mike Breens lot, and they emphasise that the profiles in Eph 4 are for ALL believers, even though not in the same measure. Just another take on it.

Thx for your blog btw, always interesting!

J. Guy Muse said...


I totally agree with you about the APE's. It is my belief that the work of the church has been greatly affected by basically ignoring and marginalizing those who are gifted by the HS in these three areas. One of the reasons, though, is that those who claim to be APE are many times false versions and do more harm than good. Therefore, many dismiss the needed APE functions and opt for what they are used to: the pastor/teachers to lead, guide, teach, etc.

Jake Alexander said...

Thank you for sharing this post. It was very interesting and informative. I have always wanted to become a minister and am trying to find as much information on the church as possible.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.