It may surprise some of you to know that the early Christian community had neither special clergy nor professional priests to "conduct worship services" or "pastor" the various congregations. It may surprise you even more to learn that each local congregation was led or shepherded by older men called "elders." (If you are a student of the scriptures, please refer to Acts 20:17-29, 1 Timothy 3:1-10, and Titus 1:5-10.) The congregation of believers at Ephesus did not have a professional minister on its payroll, for when the apostle Paul sent for the leaders he asked "for the elders of the congregation" (Acts 20: 17). He charged these elders to "be shepherds of the congregation of God." In contemporary society professionally-trained men are imported to shepherd our congregations, the exact opposite of early practices.
There were no "pulpit ministers" 2000 years ago. In fact, there is no record of the ancient congregations having pulpits. The pulpit and "pulpit pastor" were invented many centuries later. Those of us who support these practices and claim to "follow the Book," had better take another look. We will find that the elders were the pastors.
You will be in no greater shock to know that the primitive congregations never once imported professional "ministers" to serve as their spokesmen men hired to go to God on behalf of the people.
Then how did the original believers function when assembled as a body? The records show that when they came together corporately they invigorated each other's faith by sharing mutually. (Again, if you are a biblical student, refer to Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 14:22-33, and 1 Peter 4: 10.) It should be noted that the same principle which governed supernatural gifts in the first congregations govern natural gifts today the principle of reciprocity or interchange. In short, sharing mutually.
In modern culture, we call such a gathering "group therapy." In group therapy, one or more persons lead, maintain order, and motivate others to participate. Growth and "therapy" come about as a result of participation. There would be very little growth and "therapy" if each session were controlled by one participant only. Such is the case in our institutional churches. Growth is largely missing, except on the part of the professional minister. Others do not grow because they warm pews while being spoon-fed. They are attendants, not participants. Even the growth of small X-Mozilla-Status: 0009 if denied the right to participate or use what they have learned. Is it any different with adults?
So, where are we? Simply that churches will remain spiritually dead until they return to the early pattern of equal participation or mutual interchange. My, my, how we have drifted.