If there is no biblical pattern for the organization of the church, then we are free to do as we please relative to organizational plans. If it is not possible to restore the pattern, then a book like this is a waste of time. Because of this, I have spent a great deal of time focusing on the biblical text, early church history, principles of interpretation, and restoration concepts. It is important to know what happened then in order to know what should happen now.
This book is the result of many years of research and practical experience. In the preparation and research for this book, I have grown in knowledge and, when necessary, made changes in what I believe about the organization of the church. If we are unwilling to make changes, then there is no real point to Bible study. In some areas, I feel more confident than I ever have with what I have believed and taught in the past. In other areas, however, I have raised questions that I cannot answer. As a result, I am now less dogmatic on certain points than in the past.
I have approached this study with no prior agenda but to learn and know the truth on this matter. The goal of this book is not to win an argument, but to learn the meaning of Scripture. So, we should all rejoice if we learn the truth, even if it means that we have to change our belief and practice. Churches of Christ have not been as successful in restoring the organizational pattern of the church as many would like to believe. The lack of preaching elders in our fellowship is but one example, and the lack of honor for ministry is another. It is also likely that we have made some of the qualifications more stringent than they were ever intended, which has resulted in building a “fence around the Law” (M. Aboth 1.1) just like the Pharisees.
There are some things we have done right over the years but are now choosing to abandon, which is why I devoted one chapter to women’s role and another to the influence of culture on theology. The same arguments now used to promote an expanded role for women in leading the worship will be used in the future to appoint women as elders and preachers. Some are not quite there yet, but they will be there soon.
I would like for the message of this book to be in the spirit in an old sermon I once heard as a youth. The sermon was titled “A Way That is Right That Cannot be Wrong.” The lesson emphasized that in all things we must possess the spirit of doing all that the Lord has said (Exodus 19:8). In church organization, there is a way that is right. In many respects, the right way of church organization is clear and obvious and we should seek to do it. To have elders and deacons like they did in the days of the apostles is a way that is right and cannot be wrong. To have a bishop or a Pope, or choosing not to have elders at all, is not a way that is right. Our understanding may not be perfect about all that the Bible teaches on this matter, but the goal of doing only what the Bible says is a worthy goal, and it is a way that is right that cannot be wrong.
J B Myers