I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, where a denominational headquarters is commanded and sanctioned by God. Sure, the rabbis in Jerusalem at the temple must have had some kind of a denominational headquarters in which they organized a system of synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. But how this man-made setup came into being is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure: God never commanded it; at least to where you can see it plainly in Scripture.
Moses had no covering; no accountability other than God. The same thing with Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul. Some have argued that Acts 13 and 15 support the idea that Paul and Barnabas had a covering: the church at Jerusalem. But it would be a real stretch of the imagination to see the basis for organizing a denominational headquarters out of such scanty evidence as this. All you have in those passages are some Christian leaders praying and worshiping God in Spirit and truth, and confirming to Paul and Barnabas that the Holy Spirit is calling them to preach the Gospel. If this event had not happened, then Paul probably would have gone preaching anyway, out of obedience to the vision of Jesus. In Acts 15, the so-called “Jerusalem Council” occurred, where they debated whether the ceremonial laws needed to be kept by Christians to secure their salvation:–for example, whether it was necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved. I don’t see Paul going to James and Peter at Jerusalem like going to a pope or bishop. I see Paul and other Christian leaders just meeting together and discussing theology. And I also see Paul, in another place, rebuking Peter for being a hypocrite, and coming under the influence of the Judaizer cult (Gal. 2:11). If Paul looked on Peter or James or the church in Jerusalem as his “covering” or his “accountability,” then why would he rebuke the infallible pope Peter? How could he have confidence before God to dare to correct his General Overseer? Easy. Paul’s General Overseer and Pope was none other than Jesus Christ who sits on the throne. 1 Peter 2:25: “For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Paul’s covering was nothing but the atoning blood of Jesus; some pastors seem to think they need a denominational headquarters, or at least a local elder to SUPERVISE THEIR PREACHING activities–because if they don’t, then the devil is gonna get ’em, because they are stepping outside of Biblical teaching. But where is this Biblical teaching? Show me one Bible verse; or one passage at length that deals with the concept. Even in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, and the Book of Acts–and I will listen to you. I can find no evidence in these Biblical books that Christian pastors need other pastors/elders to supervise what they are preaching or doing. I have respect for organizations like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA):–which keep a church’s financial records above reproach before the IRS and the public; to secure pastors from embezzlement scandals, and the like. But this is much different than saying, “Pastors can’t preach the Gospel unless they have a church board supervising them.” Where is this idea clearly taught in the Bible? It’s not! It seems the practice just arose out of necessity over time; men trying to control pastors; and administrate large church organizations. Yeah–it’s not in the Bible. Luke 22:24-26: “A dispute also 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.” This does not mean “servant leadership,” where the whole “supervisor” structure remains; and the guys at top just pretend to be “servants,” but still control, intimidate, and politically correctly threaten other pastors who are stepping out of line! (Side note: every denomination has one guy at the top, right? The Catholic Church has the Pope. The Southern Baptist Convention has its President. Assemblies of God has its General Superintendent. Who are the coverings of these three men? Who are they accountable to? God alone. Exactly my point. Then I see no reason why the same cannot be allowed for a non-denominational pastor, such as Jesus.)
The Pharisees once challenged Jesus about who was His covering and accountability board: “Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while He was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’ (that is, who is your covering? who are you accountable to? who ordained you?) Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from Heaven, or of human origin?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, ‘From Heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then He said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things'” (Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus was BAPTIZED by John the Baptist. He saw His own baptism as fulfilling all righteousness; and it was in His baptism that Jesus claimed prophetic confirmation of His calling to PREACH (Matt. 3:15). John the Baptist didn’t “ordain” Jesus; he was only a prophet who confirmed that God had anointed Jesus. And any man that feels himself called to be a pastor should have run-ins with prophets like this from time to time; I know I have.
Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5):–but there is no evidence he ever had a church board supervising his sermons every Sunday; and censoring him from preaching about Hell, repentance, and holy living!
Martin Luther–when he broke away from the Catholic Church…nobody was his covering or accountability except for God. Same thing with…
Richard Baxter and the Non-conformist Puritan pastors; they had no “coverings.”
John Wesley, when he decided to break from the Church of England.
William J. Seymour–his Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission was totally independent from a supervisory board; Seymour was the pastor and accountable to nobody but God. About 280 million Pentecostals speak in tongues today because of this one man.
Do you feel called to preach? Then what are you waiting for!? Obey the words of Jesus: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature!” (Mark 16:15).
You don’t need a preaching license; or any man’s permission (1 John 2:27): Jesus HAS ALREADY given you permission to preach…no, He has given you a command in Scripture: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature!” (Mark 16:15).
Wikipedia’s article on the “Pastor” says:
Observers, such as clergy counselor Rowland Croucher, suggest that the numbers of “ex-pastors” roughly equals that of serving clergy throughout the Western world. This would mean people who have left the ministry number in the six-figures. More pastors and priests may be leaving parish ministry than are lost to most other professions. Until the early 1990s, there were few cross-denominational ministries serving this group. Croucher collected data-based questionnaires of ministers of Protestant denominations.
The first writers to explore this research area used questionnaire surveys to look at factors such as age, education and family relationships as contributing factors to decisions to leave the ministry. Other writers have explored ex-pastors within particular denominations and/or focused on particular related issues such as burnout, stress, marital stress, sexual abuse, celibacy, loneliness, organisational factors, and conflict. One common cause of conflict occurs when differing approaches to ministry compete in the minds of clergy, congregation and community, as Norman Blaikie found in Australian clergy from six Protestant denominations.
Doesn’t look so good to do denominational ministry to me; personally, I’d rather not do pastoral ministry in a denomination or anywhere with a church board. Biblically, the pastor is responsible for developing the spirituality of his church (Hebrews 13:17). The only way for this to happen, is if the church follows the pastor’s directions–not the other way around. THE PASTOR IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE (CARNAL) DIRECTIONS OF ELDERS OR A CHURCH BOARD–that is nowhere in the Bible! So long as church leaders are in rebellion to the principles of righteousness–its a counterfeit church they’re running.
Is It Spiritual Pride to Say That
Independent Revival Ministry Is God’s Will?
Some may think that I’m just deceived by spiritual pride; you may think that I just need to humble myself, stop rebelling, and submit myself to the powers that be in these denominations. Not going to happen! Pride is an insidious sinful attribute of all men by nature; and I do not claim to be exempt from it. But as it regards this subject, I don’t feel the accusation of pride really fits the picture. What fits the picture in my perspective is CONSCIENCE and BRAVERY:–two concepts you don’t hear very much about in the Christian ministry these days. I don’t want to go to Hell; “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16):–even if it means being anti-denominational with regard to pastoral ministry. I just simply don’t have the conscience to do it; I think it is sinful; the Seeker-Sensitive Movement is simply too widespread for me to waste my time. Experience teaches me, that it is more in keeping with the spirit of humility, to stand for Biblical righteousness even when it requires sacrificing the limelight of a denominational pulpit. On the contrary, pride or vanity, is intentionally seeking the limelight of a denominational pulpit at all costs:–even your integrity, your theology, your morals, and your conscience. Of such men, the Bible says, “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). Satan wanted to ascend the throne of God; he wanted to receive praise and worship (Isaiah 14). May I NEVER come close to that spirit! And neither may you be a vain, limelight-seeking preacher who just tells people what they want to hear (God’s love, etc)! May we with the old saint say, “I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live!” (Job 27:6).
[UPDATE–7/21/14: I refuse to submit, or “be teachable,” under an ungodly church system that muzzles preachers of righteousness, waters-down the doctrine of Hell, or erases it completely, and refuses to even mention the word “sin”; a system that controls and manipulates pastors to be feminine, not evangelistic; program-driven, not prophetically-led; and formalistic, not revivalistic (2 Timothy 3:5). Such a religion is CURSED!]
[UPDATE–7/31/14: Some may accuse me of pride, because I maintain a stance against the majority of evangelical pastors:–that they are in the wrong for compromising the Gospel for the convenience and expedience of seeker-sensitive ministry opportunities. To this accusation, I reply:
I am automatically prideful in my sinful nature (Romans 7:23):–the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16), in that sense, is virtually inescapable. If you know how to be free from it completely, then tell me, and I will take it under consideration. But to say it is “pride” for me to be an independent, non-denominational pastor committed to revivalistic standards; or, to speak strongly against the Seeker-Sensitive Movement:–I admit, it is pride, but godly pride! I’M PROUD OF CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL OF LORDSHIP SALVATION; and very, very proud that He bled under the wrath of God for my salvation from Hell; and proud that all He requires of me is repentance, faith in the cross, and imperfect obedience to His commands.]
Further Reading on Pastoral Independence from Church Boards
Broadbent, E. H. The Pilgrim Church. London: Pickering & Inglis, 1931. Chapters 8-13, from Luther, to the Puritans, to Wesley and the Methodists:–traces the history of reformation and revival in the church; Chapter 11: “English Nonconformists” has a section on independent Puritan churches.
Kennedy, John W. The Torch of the Testimony. Gospel Literature Service, 1965. Chapter 14: “From the Midst of Tragedy,” has a section on the Independents in the time of Queen Elizabeth and the Puritans that followed.
Newbold, Charles. The Harlot Church System. Knoxville, TN: Ingathering Press, 1999. Chapter 14: “Witchcraft in the Church” and Chapter 16: “The Demons of Witchcraft”; in no uncertain terms, flatly exposes the sins of manipulation frequently committed by church boards.
Viola, Frank. Reimagining Church. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008. Chapter 11: “Reimagining Spiritual Covering” and Chapter 13: “Reimagining Denominational Covering.”
Books on Biblical Pastoral Ministry
Baxter, Richard. The Reformed Pastor. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974.
Chu, Brian. Ministry and Money: How to Start Your Own Ministry, Church, or Non-Profit Organization. Miramar Beach, FL: New Hope, 2012.
MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005.
Oden, Thomas. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1983.
Enroth, Ronald. Churches That Abuse.
—–. Recovering From Churches That Abuse.