The Current Model
There are hundreds of denominations that call themselves Christian and there must be tens of thousands of smaller churches with all kinds of distinctions. (1) It would seem that they are all different, but in fact they almost all follow the same model. If you strip away the externals of dress, language and culture you will come down to the same basic structure.
1. They all have a person, usually specially trained and paid, to do all the holy things. Some of the titles used for this include pastor, priest, bishop, teacher, elder, apostle, prophet, teacher, facilitator, leader etc. Whatever you call him or her they perform essentials the same priestly or pastoral functions.
- Officiate at weddings, funerals and other milestones of life.
- Present a sermon, teaching, talk, lecture on a weekly basis.
- Serve communion, baptize, anoint and perform other rituals.
- Oversee the other ministries in the church
- Visit, pray for and comfort people
- Represent the church to the community
- In many churches this person will act as the CEO of the board
- This person may also be responsible for the upkeep of the facilities, the oversight of the finances and various other mundane administrative tasks
- Opening prayer (invocation)
- congregation singing
- A special performer may present a song
- An offering and announcements
- The specialist gets up and speaks
- Closing prayer (benediction)
They may have a thing called "Communion" or "the Eucharist", sometimes monthly and sometimes weekly. This is a cracker of some sort and a bit of juice. Some even use real wine and or bread.
There are many variations, such as the day of the week they meet or kind of songs they sing, but they are essentials the same in structure. Speaking of structure....
3. A building is nearly essential to most churches. In fact the very word "church" invokes in peoples minds the image of a white building with a tall steeple. This piece of holy architecture usually contains an area called "the sanctuary" where "the Service" is held. Some will call this building "The House of God". This is kind of sad, since most people only visit God in His house once a week.
4. They all run meetings and programs. There are programs for everything under the sun and most of them take place in the holy building. Programs for dads, moms, kids, singles, couples, addictions, and on and on and on. It's possible, in many churches, to be out every night of the week, participating in a program. It would seem the solution to every problem can be found in the right program.
5. They all have a statement of faith and practice to distinguish themselves from other groups. Some have to baptize with immersion, others sprinkle, some require a certain kind of dress, others are casual. The list is endless and the degree that people are required to follow them vary. This one thing is true about all of them; they have rules and you had better follow them if you are going to be a good Christian.
Next we will look at the model of the church presented in the New Testament.