Gene Aptaker is a Christian writer who has asked (and is trying to answer) the question: What is church? His understanding of what today’s church is, along with what it SHOULD be, is thought-provoking and should lead most Christians into some sincere soul-searching. The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with the editor and owner of the site titled www.whatischurch.org.
How does the early/ Apostolic Church compare to the typical church of today?
“The early/Apostolic Church functioned as the body of Christ, with flaws and imperfections, of course, but they expressed Christ, which is our calling. The typical church of today does not. It does many kinds of things, but expressing the life of Jesus is really not one of them, as critical as that may sound.”
Do you belong to a “house church”? Is that the ideal church, for 2013?
“The “ideal” church will hotly pursue the Lord’s agenda, and express His life and nature. That’s about the extent of it. This may sound like a free-for-all that most can’t tolerate the thought of, but I can tell you from experience, it is not.
For a good picture of how a body may actually function, and serve the Lord’s purposes, see http://whatischurch.org/the-living-body-of-christ/. The experience I share in that story, by the way, is radically different than anything I’ve experienced in corporate “church” life here in the States.”
Is there any way to “save” the larger church denominations/ institutions- while keeping them relatively intact per their own beliefs and worship?
“I’m sure they will continue in their own beliefs and worship, in spite of being in obvious decline. Jesus said, though, that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God’s way is truth. Man’s way is religion. (There is a) huge difference.”
You’ve said that pastors should not be paid a salary for their efforts, time, and work. Why is that?
“In a church that is more of a corporate entity than a Biblical body of believers, then they should be paid for their efforts, and this is what we see in our day and age.
In a functioning body of disciples, however, things will be different… with a plurality of elders serving the Lord and serving the body in order to help bring about “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
The church system as we know it has been around for ages, and rather than growing up into the stature of the fullness of Christ, we remain in perpetual infancy, anemia and powerlessness.
The early church turned their world upside down, in spite of intense opposition and persecution. We are basically irrelevant.”
The average Protestant pastor earns about $40k per year. The typical Catholic Priest earns between $25,000- $30,000/ year (+they receive housing and a per diem). The overall median income in this country is roughly $50,000. Clearly, people are not entering the ministry in efforts to become rich. If a church group does not pay their pastor (leader), how will said person pay their own bills and sustain themselves and their families in an honest way?
“Regardless of the level of “pay” or motive, God’s way is very different than man’s. In God’s way, elders (plural) will serve the body and receive ministry from the body. It’s not a job, and they won’t have to worry about keeping the shareholders happy and content, or possibly losing their employment.
When following God’s design, there will not be the overwhelming burden upon one man’s shoulders, which causes the phenomenal level of “burnout” so common in today’s churches.
There are different scriptures that are taken out of context, and misapplied, to justify paying “the pastor” a salary. I will address just one of them here:
1 Corinthians 9:14 says that God has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. This is generally taken as a scriptural mandate for a paid pastorate.
The problem is, Paul was referring to itinerant… traveling… apostles or evangelists, not to local elders in a congregation.”
Churches which have 300+ members in their congregations normally will require a pastor to frequently be available to them for funerals, weddings, counseling, and the like.
In a large congregation, the amount of hours this would take would not allow for a person to also have another fulltime job. In these cases, is it appropriate for a congregation to pay their pastor?
“If you want a corporate-style, CEO-driven church, functioning within a framework of cultural Christianity, then you will certainly need to pay them and provide “benefits”.
The pastors will also need to be careful to keep the board and shareholders (congregants) peaceful and content, which makes it very difficult to truly challenge them to live out God’s calling, because those kinds of challenges tend to ruffle feathers. The leaders of Israel succumbed to the same pressure, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace.
If you want a Biblical body of Christ, that’s an entirely different story, but Christians today, for the most part, don’t want to hear about that.”
What is your version of the ideal local church? What does it look like? How many people attending a Sunday service? Where does that take place? How long is the service?
“ALL Christians and pastors will say that the Lord is the head of their church. Go ahead and try it… ask, “Who is the head of your church?”
The plain truth, though, is… He is not.
If Jesus is the head, then the church will look like He wants it to… it will have the number of people He wants, until it grows too large to function as a family, at which point it will divide and separate into two, then four (etc.) functioning groups. They may all come together at times, but they will not lose functionality. A large church with one man, and perhaps a board, running the show does not function… at least not according to the Lord’s design.
It will not have “services”, because that’s a man-made thing… clocks, printed schedules, agendas, sit, stand.
The church may gather in different homes, or a park, or a small commercial property… wherever the Lord wants. People will come and go as they please, or as necessity dictates. Some will leave earlier… some later. Some will function more, some less. There is liberty in the Lord, and everyone will potentially have something to offer and contribute.”
What level of experience or training/education should a pastor have? Or, do they just need a sincere love for the Lord?
“There are two prerequisites I can see. The first is that they be born of God, which many in the pastorate today are not. This is a simple, undeniable fact. (Writer’s comment: I am not sure if this simple OR undeniable. More to follow in a potential follow-up.)
The second is… has God laid His hand upon them and called them to serve in this or that way? This calling should be acknowledged by the other brothers and sisters because they have seen and experienced the person functioning in their gifting and calling. It’s not about training or education at all, but about the Lord equipping as He sees fit, and living in and through His people.”
What is your goal of your new site- whatischurch.org ? Who do you want to meet and interact with there?
“My hope is to connect with others… globally and locally in Knoxville, TN… who are willing… because they can see truth and reality… to abandon religion and the quest for position and power, and cast themselves upon the Lord to find mercy and the true path of knowing, serving and following HIM.”