“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” – Joel 2
The single greatest protection against and correction for abuse, sin, and corruption in the body of Christ is the individual believer. Every believer, regardless of their primary function, is also called by Jesus to work in the quality assurance department of His kingdom. With a firm foundation in their relationship with Jesus, all believers as priests are commanded to use their influence and insight to lead other believers and reach non-believers by their dedication to living their faith with integrity and supporting others in doing the same.
The living body of Christ does not rely on just a few believers set apart to guarantee its quality, to stop what is evil, or accomplish what is good. The body of Christ is established, healed, maintained, and developed through a completely distributed system of correction, leadership, and quality assurance at every level, which creates, preserves, and restores health while rapidly destroying disease and dysfunction by its connection in every part to its soul and origination, Jesus Christ. Every believer has both the right and the responsibility to end evil and produce good and to empower those within their influence to do the same.[As an aside, in the business world the concept of Total Quality Management works so well because in large part it follows this pattern laid out by Jesus more than 1800 years before Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum were even born.]
In the Christ’s plan for His kingdom, every local church is free and independent. There is no franchise, no universal orthodoxy, no standard doctrine, no licensed or authorized business model, no established educational requirements for leaders, no external constraints on legitimacy, and no pursuit of control over what is taught or who teaches it from community to community because each local church is truly local and truly independent. However, there are limitless possibilities for sharing best practices, sending financial support, offering training and seminars to build on successes, publishing books and materials, and many other collaborative and supportive functions that local churches can offer to build up the work of other local churches by means of the free market exchange of goods and services that bring actual value to ministries far beyond the reach of the local church. This free exchange is the organic result of the broad spectrum variety in the practice of Christianity that does and should exist because it is not and never will be the truth or our understanding of it that unites us as believers — it is and always will be the love of, and our love for, Jesus Christ, the one and only God of heaven and earth, that binds the global Christian movement into a single body.
The independence of the local church comes from the fact that its mission and vision is determined by the preacher who is called (ordained) by God to lead it. And each local church survives so long as there are believers who hear the gospel preached there and so choose (ordain) to follow and support it. Because there are no capital assets beyond the local church, there is a fluidity to the formation, dissolution, and reformation of these local churches that does not exist where wealth has been amassed and must be managed in any restructuring. And so rather than requiring command and control organizational patterns to protect against abuses and offenses in the leadership or body of the church as is necessary in denominational settings, local churches have the agility to step away from evil and empower good simply by the participation and/or avoidance of those in their body.
In Christ’s vision for His church, every believer brings the influence of their presence and the support of their contribution to establish and maintain their local church, and because these churches are cash economies, when the believers choose to leave, start something new, or find a new preacher to follow, their ongoing cash donation and leadership influence goes with them and they have lost nothing; and wherever they find or establish to worship and serve gains their necessary support immediately.
The success of the local church is dependent on there being preachers from among the priesthood of all believers who God calls (ordains) to preach, to lead, to teach, to empower, to organize, and to administer. They have no special dispensation of powers beyond those of all their fellow believers, for all are similarly priests. But, like all the believers who choose (ordain) to follow them, preachers can introduce people to Jesus Christ and His church through baptism and offer the full redemption of Jesus Christ through the Holy Supper. They can read, study, and pray and so discover the eternal messages of scripture and with the vision granted them, interpret the words of God for the purpose of discerning His will and having a meaningful relationship with Him. They can offer blessings, prayers, consecrations, and every other aspect of both their witness and their testimony. They can share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. In short, preachers can do everything that all believers can do, with only one thing truly distinguishing them from among the priesthood of all believers — they are called by God to dedicate their entire lives to the professional work of building and facilitating His kingdom as a career. And for this reason, preachers rightfully profit from the support of those who resonate with their teaching and so follow them because they stand as the sole proprietors of the communities they establish and lead, as Jesus Himself modeled and taught.
As with any profession, preachers will and should pursue education and training that is useful for their work. However, preachers should not be trusted because of the letters after their name or the endorsement of this or that institution. Preachers should be followed and trusted only when (and to the extent that) those who follow them hear and perceive the word of God and the good news it contains when they open their mouths to speak and see His will being accomplished where they lead. In this way the quality assurance of the individual believer and the priesthood as a whole is made effective as a check and balance to the leadership in the local church.
“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.” – Matthew 24
At the heart of it, Christianity is built upon the fact that there is no separation between the living church “on earth as it is in heaven”. And while this cooperation within the body of Christ is managed, executed, facilitated, maintained, administered, and governed by believers because they are priests it must be noted that it is created, established, directed, empowered, organized, ordered, prioritized, enlightened, structured, and given life at every moment exclusively by Jesus Christ, because He is the life and soul, the leader and creator of our community as believers, and we are all living in His presence as members of His body, ready to move at His direction, to accomplish His purposes, and fulfill His vision for His kingdom. We are called. We are chosen. And we can bring our influence, our leadership, and our contribution to our local church and so be a part of His kingdom throughout the world, on mission, and on target to bring the good news of salvation to all people in His name.