by John J. Grosboll
Let us review what we studied in Church Organization, part 1.
We saw from the inspired writings that Jesus wants unity. Remember we looked at John 17. God wants unity, harmony among His followers, and this unity is impossible without church organization. Church organization is indispensable – absolutely necessary.
When the Adventist believers came out from other churches that rejected the preaching of the third angel’s message, the Sabbath and the law of God, they saw from the second angel’s message that the other organized bodies that were not doing what is right were called “Babylon”. They said, “We do not want to be like they are. They are organized, so we had better not be organized.” Well friends, the Devil is organized.
This statement is what Ellen White wrote about these churches in New York. “I was shown that some have been fearing they should become Babylon.” Have you ever heard anyone say, “I don’t want to become Babylon. I am afraid that we are in Babylon.” They are afraid the Seventh-day Adventist Church is going to become Babylon. “I was shown that some have been fearing they should become Babylon if they should organize, but the churches in central New York have been perfect Babylon, confusion.” RH, 8-27-61. They were not organized and when you are not organized, the work of God suffers in the earth.
Here is another statement on why organization is so essential. Ellen White is talking about the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and she says, “Our numbers gradually increased. The seed that was sown was watered of God, and He gave the increase. At first we assembled for worship, and presented the truth to those who would come to hear, in private houses, in large kitchens, in barns, in groves and in school houses; but it was not long before we were able to build humble houses of worship. As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some from of organization, there would be great confusion, and the work could not be carried forward successfully.” RH, 10-12-05
What is our Job? Revelation 14:6,7 says the message about the hour of God’s judgment is to be carried to all the people in the world – every nation. If you have done any traveling you will know that different nations have different languages, which means you need to present your message in all different languages. Does that sound like a big job – spreading your message in all different languages, printing it in all different languages and having people who can preach in all different languages all over the world? How are you going to accomplish that? You are not going to do it if you are not organized. “To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth though the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable” Ibid.
First of all, you cannot have perfect unity without organization, and second, you cannot successfully prosecute the work of God without organization. Church organization is indispensable.
We saw it was not God’s will for His church to be organized like a hierarchy. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.’” Matthew 20:25-27. This is a hierarchy. You have one person at the top exercising lordship and authority over the next person, he in turn, exercises lordship and authority over the next person, and right down the line. That is the way a hierarchy works, and almost all organizations in this world are set up that way. The Roman Catholic Church is for sure set up that way; one man at the top to control the whole thing. Labor unions are set up in a hierarchical structure. But what did Jesus say? “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,” but it is not supposed to be like that among you.
This presents a problem as we saw in Church Organization, part 1. The only kind of organizations most human beings have ever seen are hierarchical organizations. That is the only way they know how to organize anything – to create what we call a chain of command, or as the workers call it, a “pecking order.” Jesus says you are not to do that. People who are used to hierarchical organizations think if you do not have a hierarchy, you are not organized. There are people who have been Adventists for years who do not understand this text. They think you have to have a hierarchy to have organization, and if you preach or teach against hierarchy they say you do not believe in organization because that is the only kind of organization they understand. They say you must be against church, you must be for anarchy. Oh, no. Everything God does is organized, but God does not work through hierarchies. It is contrary to the principles of his government. In the first chapter of The Desire of Ages, Ellen White says the use of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government. God’s method of government is to be the method of government and organization is His church, and it is not hierarchical.
What kind of Church Organization?
What then, is God’s method of government? “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.” Matthew 23:8. Is there a king among Christ’s followers? Oh, yes. Is there a Lord? Oh, yes, but the king is not a human being. They do not have a hierarchical system in heaven. They have one Lord there. That problem is solved. There was time when they did not have it solved. Someone else decided they were going to have two kings. There was such a severe disagreement over it that there was a war in heaven. When the war was over, Lucifer and his angels were cast out. He wanted to set up another throne and be another lord, another god.
Now, if God would not stand for it then, do you suppose He will stand for it now? No, He will not. He will not have anything to do with it. Lucifer was cast out of heaven, so in heaven they do not have a hierarchy, they just have one Lord. In a hierarchy you have many lords, right down the chain of command; but in heaven they have only one Lord, only one King. “The Lord has had a church from that day (the day of the apostles), through all the changing scenes of time to the present period, 1893.” 1MR, 355-356. The church is just one thing. “From the beginning of time faithful souls have constituted the church on earth.” AA, 11. Ellen White repeats this in various language over and over again showing the church is just one thing from the beginning to the end of time. We are not a new church, we are the remnant of her seed, as you read in Revelation 12:17. There has been an organized church since the beginning of time. There never will be more than one.
“The Lord has had a church from that day, through all the changing scenes of time to the present period, 1893. The Bible sets before us a model church.” Ibid. Oh, how interesting. “The Bible sets before us a model church.” If we could find that model church in the Bible then we could figure out how the church is supposed to be organized. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? “The Bible sets before us a model church. They are to be in unity with each other, and with God. When believers are united to Christ the living vine, the result is that they are one with Christ, full of sympathy and tenderness and love. When anyone is drawing apart from the organized body of God’s commandment-keeping people (Notice that God’s commandment-keeping people are an organized body. They are not just a group of disjointed souls here and there.) when he begins to weigh the church in his human scales, and begins to pronounce judgment against them, then you may know that God is not leading him. He is on the wrong track.” Ibid.
The Bible Model of Church Organization
This statement says the Bible presents before us a model church. Where is the model church in the Bible? If you could just find it, then you would know how to organize a church.
“The organization of the church at Jerusalem was to serve as a model for the organization of churches in every other place where messengers of truth should win converts to the gospel.” CS, 73 also AA, 91-92. There you have the answer. The model church in the Bible is the church that was set up at Jerusalem. That is where the apostles first began their work. If you can find out how that church is organized then you will know how to organize and run a church. One reason we should be studying the book of Acts and books like Acts of the Apostles is to find out how that church is organized. Then we will know how we are supposed to be organized.
“Later in the history of the early church, when, in various parts of the world many groups of believers had been formed into churches, the organization of the church was further perfected (A church can be organized in steps. I can then be further perfected.),so that order and harmonious action might be maintained. Every member was exhorted to act will his part. Each was to make a wise use of the talents entrusted to him.” Ibid. So, every member of the church was part of this organization, and each member was asked to act wisely his part.
The first step taken to organize the church in Jerusalem was the ordination of the twelve apostles. (AA, 18). Well let me ask you something, since this is such a hot issue today, If you want to be an organized body of Christ, an organized church, should you believe in the ordination of people to apostleship of minister? You certainly should. If you cannot ordain, you cannot be a church. That is the first step. That was the first step of the organization of the church at Jerusalem, and it was to be a model church that all other churches were to be able to copy.
In the book of Acts we have the beginning of the work of the apostolic church – the Christian church. In the first chapter you will notice they were short on ministers, or apostles, so they chose another one. Then you have the coming of the Holy Spirit and the preaching and the increasing of the church. “Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47. “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Verse 44-45. They really took care of each other. That is quite a model for us today, isn’t it? When the church of Christ started there was no one who ever went hungry. People took care of each other in this church. “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.” Verse 46
Many people were coming into the church and fellowshipping together. They were worshipping together on Sabbath and spreading the news about the resurrection of Christ and that he was coming again. They were going all over town, creating a terrible ruckus as far as the Jews were concerned. Now in this church in Jerusalem, the church that is to be a model for all other churches, the time came when the twelve apostles realized they were not and could not do everything in the church that needed to be done. As the number of believers was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, or the Greeks, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
Acts 6:2-3: “Then the twelve summoned the multitude to the disciples and said,” Notice how they are operating. There are no kings here. The twelve apostles gathered everyone together and they talked this over and said: “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you…,” Notice carefully verse 3. Did Peter say, “Now look! I am the pope of this church and this is the way you are supposed to do it?” No, that is not what happened. The disciples had learned something from Jesus about how a church should be organized. They were going to select some leaders and call them deacons. How were these deacons selected? The apostles said, “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Who did the selecting? The church, the believers did. Isn’t that interesting? The disciples did not say, “We have been with the Lord and been Christians a lot longer than you and know a lot more than you do, so you let us decide how it should be.” They came together and to these people who were new Christians, who had not been with the Lord for years and years like the apostles had, and the apostles said, “These are the kind of people you need. You select them.” So the church selected those who should be deacons. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen.” Verse 4-5. There you have it from the model church, the way leaders are to be chosen in the church. “Whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.” Verse 6. The result of this good organization of the church was that the word of God spread more rapidly than ever. That is always a consequence of proper organization. The church grows and the gospel spreads to more people.
Three Categories of Leaders
To understand how a church should be organized we have seen that you look to the church at Jerusalem. That was the model church, the place to find out. When you look at that church you find out they had three kinds of leaders. There were the apostles, or what we today call ministers, the elders, and deacons. (Acts 14:23)
They had these three categories of leaders, but the leaders did not dictate to the church how things were to be run. They came to the church and talked to them. They had what we would call a conference or a council, and the whole church was involved in any important decision. Now the time came when there were some very serious disagreements among the Christians because the church had converted a lot of people who had been Pharisees. When those who had been Pharisees became Christian, they did not understand what Paul and Barnabas understood at all. They did not understand that the ceremonial law had no more significance after the cross. All through the New Testament you will see that the apostle Paul was fighting this. These new converts said, “The people must be circumcised. They have to keep the law of Moses.” When we look at this controversy, we find out more about how the church in Jerusalem, the apostolic church, was organized.
Association of Christian Churches
The result of this controversy was that they had a conference, or council meeting. That is all the word “conference” means. Some people, because of what has happened in our church, have become completely mixed up as to what a conference is. All a conference is, is an association of Christian churches of believers that counsel together. They can select leaders to do different things. A conference, or council, is different from a monarchy, a dictatorship, or hierarchy. There is a reason that in the Seventh-day Adventist church we have organizations that are called conferences. We do not have any organizations that you can call dictatorships, or shouldn’t have, or hierarchies.
So they came together in a conference and Paul and Barnabas had a dispute with these people. “When Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders.” Acts 15:2. They were going to go up and discuss this question with two of the leading groups in the church, the apostles and the elders. “So, being sent on their way by the church…” Verse 3. Notice, when a controversy arose, the whole church in Antioch did not say, “We are going to go up to Jerusalem.” They selected some leading representative men and said, “We want you to represent us and go up to the church in Jerusalem and talk to the leaders. Let’s get this problem settled.”
We still do that today. We select representative people from the church to go with people from other churches to meet in a conference, or council, to do business or make decisions.
“The apostles and elders (two groups of leaders) came together to consider this matter.” Acts 15:6. You will notice there was much dispute. Since they had the apostle Peter right there, why did they have to dispute? Why didn’t the apostle Peter just say, “Look! I am Peter, and this is the way it ought to be?” Because he was not the pope. He wasn’t what people had thought he was. People haven’t studied this chapter. Notice here that Peter stood up and gave a speech, but did Peter’s speech settle the issue? It certainly did not. Other people still had to give their speeches after Peter spoke. If they would have had a hierarchy with someone at the top and if Peter was the first pope, all he would have had to say was. “This is the way it is.” But that was not the way the church operated. They did not have a hierarchy. They did not have a dictator. You see, Jesus told them not to have anything to do with that kind of organization. He said, “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those that are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you…You are all brethren.” Matthew 20:25-26, 23:8
So they all met together. There were people like Peter, James and John, who had been with Jesus, had the gift of prophecy and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Do you realize, friends, other people who were newer Christians and were just elders of the church (what we would call local church elders) felt free to get up and argue with them? Does that give you an idea of what kind of an organization they had? It was an organization in which everyone was just a brother, and if you disagreed with Peter or Paul or any of the other apostles, you could stand up and state it – and they did. They did not have a hierarchy, they were meeting here in a council. They had a disagreement and were talking it over and people who were not apostles could get up and disagree with Peter and Paul. That is exactly the way it was.
Several speeches were given during this council. Some people think that James settled this dispute, but James did not settle it. He shared with them his judgment, but his speech did not settle it. How was this dispute settled? “Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch.” Acts 15:22. After they had been praying and talking they came to the place where not only the apostles but also the elders and the whole church agreed upon the way it should be. Friends, that is the way it happens when the Holy Spirit is working in the church. You do not have someone who says, “I am a descendent from the apostle Peter and the way I say it is, has to be.” You do not have a group of people saying, “We are the clergy and we know the way it is supposed to be. Just listen and do what we say.” The local elders were able to disagree with the apostles if they pleased, and the whole church could voice their opinion, but they were seeking the truth, and when they were finished the apostles and elders and the whole church came to the opinion of the way it should be. Isn’t that wonderful? Oh, friend, do you suppose there is grief in the Godhead tonight because we no longer operate like this? Do you suppose God would like to help us do this again? Oh, friends, if when we come together, instead of anyone trying to lord it over us, we would pray and talk over our differences and say, ‘Lord, lead us into a spirit of unity,” the Lord would do it. We could have the same wonderful experience as the early church had. Now they had some very strong differences of opinion, but when they were finished praying and talking, the Holy Spirit led them to the correct decision. They all agreed on it and there was unity in the church. This is the Lord’s way of bringing about unity.
The Devil’s Way of Unity
The devil’s way of getting unity is with a hierarchy, just have one man at the top who says, “Do it this way,” and everyone does it that way. But that is not the way things happen in heaven. Although having absolute power, the rule of Jesus Christ in heaven before sin entered this world was so mild, Ellen White says, that when Lucifer talked to the other angels it almost came to them as a surprise that there was a law. God wants His method of government to be manifested in his church, and it is not a method where someone says, “I am the clergy, so do it this way”, “I am the elder so you have to do it this way”, or “We are the deacons and you should do it this way.” There is not to be a trying to lord it over each other in the church. People are to come together and pray, look at their differences of opinion and study the Word, and ask the Lord to lead them into unity of spirit.
One of our greatest problems with church organization is the devil is constantly trying to get in to pervert it. The following are a few statements from the Spirit of Prophecy the Lord has given to this church to keep us from being pulled off into some tangent, some extreme position, on church organization. We have already seen that one of the primary things the devil tries to do is institute hierarchical methods. “We fully believe in church organization; but…” Now this is a big but, are you ready? She first says, so no one will misunderstand, “We fully believe in church organization,” but because people are so confused and think you cannot have organization without hierarchy, she follows it up by saying, “We fully believe in church organization; but this is not to prescribe the exact way in which we should work.” Isn’t that interesting? We fully believe in being organized and church organization, “…but this is not to prescribe the exact way in which we should work, for not all minds are to be reached by the same methods.” 6T, 116
In the apostolic church, they did not prescribe how everyone should work. Let me give you an example. There was a man by the name of Philip who was selected to be one of the deacons (Acts 6). He was not an apostle or an elder. He was just, if I can use the word “just”, a deacon. (According to the New Testament a deacon is a very high office.) Now the apostles and the elders were in charge of the ministry of the Word and the spiritual interests of the church. They were in charge of things like evangelism, so the way human people are, you would not think they would have liked it if a deacon decided he would do the work of an elder, do you? “Oh, no! What are you doing evangelism for? That is our job!” That is the way many people think. “I am the preacher around here; this is my pulpit. I am an elder around here; that is my job to take care of evangelism.”
Philip was not an elder; he was a deacon, and he went to a city in Samaria and started his own evangelistic campaign. Even the twelve had not yet done this. They were preaching the gospel only to the Jews, and here was a deacon who went and preached the gospel to the Samaritans. He was very successful too, and many were won to the Lord. Did the apostles come and say, “Look, this is our work; you are a deacon. Go take care of the widows and the orphans and distribute the food. This is our job.” No, they did not.
That is not all Philip did. Once, while in Samaria, the Lord told him to go to Gaza. He made the long journey to Gaza and met an Ethiopian eunuch along the way. Remember, he was just a deacon, not an elder or an apostle, and he went and baptized this Ethiopian eunuch without asking anyone. That is the way the apostolic church was organized. People were free to do the Lord’s work and no one was standing over them saying, “Oh, no! That is my job.” That is restrictive. People were free. If someone believed the Holy Spirit was leading them to do a certain work for the Lord, they could go and do it – and the church grew. We need this nonrestrictive type of church organization again.
Where did the restrictive type of church organization come from? Around the year A.D. 1090 the Waldensian church, which was the development of the apostolic church in the Middle Ages, had a big debate with the Roman Catholics. One of the subjects of that debate was that the Waldensian church let women preach. The Catholic Church said, “Oh, no! Women cannot preach. Only men can preach.” In the apostolic church, women were involved in evangelism. That is very clear in the New Testament. Paul had women in his evangelistic team. In the New Testament church people were not restricted, so no one said, “I am a woman so I cannot be involved in the Lord’s work” or “I am not a church officer so I guess I cannot do anything.” Everyone was out working and spreading the gospel and was not afraid they could not do it because they were a woman, a church officer, or whatever. Everyone had a job, they were organized, and the work was growing fast. Friends, we are going to have to get back to that nonrestrictive type of organization if we want God’s work to grow fast again.
We need to learn the principles in this inspiring and very important statement: “A great many of the difficulties that have come into our work in California and elsewhere have come in through a misunderstanding on the part of men in official positions concerning their individual responsibility in the matter of controlling and ruling their fellow laborers. Men entrusted with responsibilities have supposed that their official position embrace very much more than was ever thought of by those who place them in office, and serious difficulties arose as the result. Simple organization and church order (remember that word, simple) are set forth in the New Testament Scriptures, and the Lord has ordained these for the unity and perfection of the church. The man who holds office in the church (now here is what he is supposed to do) should stand as a (1) leader, as an (2) advisor, and a (3) counselor, and (4) helper in carrying the burdens of the work.” Paulson Collection, 298. So, if you are selected as a church officer or an elder in the church, what are you supposed to do? You are supposed to be a leader, counselor, advisor, and helper.
Here is what you are not supposed to do if you are a church officer. “But he is not to order and command the Lord’s laborers.” Ibid. You are not to order or command. “The Lord is over his heritage. He will lead his people if they will be led of the Lord in the place of assuming a power God has not given them. Let us study the twelfth and thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and the fifteenth chapter of Acts.” Ibid. Some of the most wonderful committee meetings I have ever attended have been times when no one knew what to do and we knelt down and prayed and asked the Lord to lead us; and the Lord led us and wonderful things happened. The trouble comes when we decide we know everything and try to force everyone else in our opinion. When we realize we do not know and we pray and seek the Lord’s council and ask for the Holy Spirit to come in and lead and guide us, do you think God is interested in what decisions are made in a local church in a committee meeting? If we will seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit when we come together, the Holy Sprit will lead and guide us. That does not mean we will not counsel with each other. Remember, an elder or officer is supposed to be a leader, counselor, advisor, and a helper. But he is not supposed to be a dictator or a commander.
How the Devil Tries to Disorganize God’s People
The devil wants to disorganize God’s people. Anytime you try to organize a ministry, a local church or anything that is not under a conference, there is someone to say, “Oh, don’t do this! Don’t do that!” The Spirit of Prophecy counsels us to organize and if you are not organized you will not succeed in doing anything successfully for the Lord. The following is a statement on the importance of not having anarchy and being disorganized. Here is what the devil wants to do. “Oh, how Satan would rejoice to get in among this people, and disorganize the work at a time thorough organization is essential, and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprising and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God!” TM, 228. Oh, friends, right now there are heresies and fanatical ideas going all over the world in Adventism. Have you seen it? There are all kinds of reinterpretations of prophecy. The books of Daniel and Revelation are being reinterpreted by some and people are becoming confused. What can you do about this? Unless you are organized you cannot do anything about it, or not very much. But Ellen White says organization “will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings and to refute claims not endorsed by the Word of God.”
If you or I hear some new doctrine or teaching, what should we do? We should study and look at it and pray, but before we accept it, if we believe in gospel order and church organization, we should talk to the elders and deacons in our church. One of the reasons for elders and deacons is to give counsel. If someone says, “I have a new interpretation of scripture, is this right?” we should talk to the elders and deacons about it. If they do not agree, we should hold off and pray and study some more. But today, I say this not to criticize anyone, but with some considerable sadness, because I see people losing their souls. There are people who are publishing books and all kinds of things and sending them all over the world when they have never gone to the elders and deacons in their local church to seek counsel about it. Church organization is essential. If there is some new light you have found in the Word of God, before you share it with others, tell it to the leaders in your local church and ask, “What do you think about this? Look at this.” Ellen White says that after we have gone to men of experience to show them our new light, if they do not agree with it, let it lie. Now, we may have new light and the men of experience may be wrong, but if they are wrong, God can correct them. God has ways of doing that if they make mistakes.
Another danger is that the devil tries to intercept, to make church organization deceptive. Can church organization become perverted so that it is deceptive? Yes, it can, and this is how that can happen. “Institutions, unless kept by the power of God, will work under Satan’s dictation to bring men under the control of men; and fraud and guile will bear the semblance of zeal for truth and for the advancement of the kingdom of God. Whatever in our practice is not as open as day belongs to the methods of the prince of evil. His methods are practiced even among Seventh-day Adventists, who claim to have advance truth.” TM, 366. What does “as open as day” mean? It means our practices are not secret; they are open and anyone can look at them. It means nothing is done under the table; there are no secret deals going on. Jesus said, “I spoke openly to the world…In secret I have said nothing.” John 18:20. He did not operate in secret. We have been warned as a people not to have anything to do with secret organization. What the Lord does is open and you can look at it; it is reasonable and just and right.
Everything that is not as open as day is part of the principles of the prince of evil. In our church organization, everything we do should be so open, so clear, that anyone in the world could look at it and see that what we have done is right – we have done nothing dishonest or secret, we have not made any deals, we have not been involved in bribery. This does not mean we do not keep confidence. We do not publicize people’s problems if they are in trouble, but in our church business, everything should be open, honest, clear.
Another danger in church organization is in departing from simplicity. In the previous statement given from the Paulson Collection it said simple church organization is ordained in the scriptures and we are not to depart from the simplicity of the way God has ordained for his people to be organized. Here is a statement on that from Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 461. “There is now very great danger of a departure from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ. What we need is less dependence upon mere form and ceremony, and far more of the power of true godliness. If their life and character are exemplary, let all work who will, in any capacity. Although they may not conform exactly to your methods, not a word should be spoken to condemn or discourage them. When the Pharisees desired Jesus to silence the children who sang His praise, the Saviour said: “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out’. Prophecy must be fulfilled. So in these days the work must be done. There are many departments of labor; let everyone act a part as best he can. The man with one talent is not to bury that in the earth. God has given to every man his work according to his ability. Those to whom larger trusts and capabilities have been committed should not endeavor to silence others who are less able or experienced.” This is good to remember if you are experienced. If someone is new in giving bible studies or teaching a sabbath school lesson, let them learn. Did you ever make mistakes when you gave bible studies? Did you make a mistake the first time, of even the third time? Others will do the same, but they have to learn.
“Men with one talent may reach a class that those with two or five talents cannot approach. Great and small alike are chosen vessels to bear the water of life to thirsting souls. Let not those who preach the word lay their hands upon the humblest worker and say: ‘You must labor in this channel or not at all.’” We do not have permission to say those things to people. If someone is impressed that the Holy Spirit wants him to do a certain work, we must let him do it. “Hands off, brethren. Let everyone work in his own sphere, with his own armor on, doing whatever he can do in his humble way. Strengthen his hand in the work. This is no time for pharisaism to control. Let God work through whom he will. The message must go.” Ibid. We must be simple enough to recognize that if someone feels they are impressed by the Holy Spirit to go and do something, we should allow them to do that very thing. I have had people come to me and say, “I think the Lord wants me to do a certain work.” I would think to myself, “How can that be?” and then realize if God has impressed them to do it, I need to let them alone because sometimes God impresses someone to do something we have no idea they can do. It has been an amazement to me to see the people who have done things for the Lord. Have you ever read or heard about blind people giving bible studies? If it were you or me, would we select someone who is blind to give bible studies? We probably would not. I read of a blind man who would have the one he was studying with read all the texts. In the process, they were converted and he won many souls to Christ. We would never have selected that man for bible worker, but God selects people we would not and we must not restrict them.
Then, we must never think the organization is an end in itself; it is just a means to an end. Who does the work, the church, the organizations and institutions belong to? Do they belong to the clergy? In some churches they have it organized so things belong to the clergy. That is the way the Roman Catholic Church is organized. The laymen have no title to any of the property; it belongs to certain clergy or certain orders. But who owned things in the apostolic church, the church at Jerusalem? Remember they had everything in common, in other words, the whole church organization belonged to the people! And, friends, we must never forget that. When we start thinking the church organization belongs to the leaders, ministers or someone else, we are way off base from the Bible. The church organization belongs to the people.
“All institutions created directly by the people, through either General Conference, Union conference, State conference, or a mission field organization, to be owned by the people (This was a decision made in a General conference), through these or such other organizations as the people may elect.” GCB 1903, 223. The people can elect what organization they want to work through and the people are the ones who own the church, the organization. They are the ones who own the institutions. Ellen White said our institutions belong to the people.
Do you like to belong to a church, where the people are the church and have a voice, everyone has a voice, in making decisions? That is the kind of church Jesus set up. I am so happy to belong to a church where no hierarchies are sanctioned – God has not sanctioned hierarchies in His church. We are all brothers. We are to counsel together and select leaders, but those leaders are to be leaders, counselors, advisers, and helpers and not dictators. We are to pray and study together and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to arrive at the right decisions and friends, when we do that He will.
(This is a transcript from the sermon with only minor editing, retaining the conversational style.)