The Biblical Model for the New Testament Church

By Brannon S. Howse

We’ve seen that the communitarian church growth model is built on man-centered theology, pagan spirituality, and pragmatism. The CCGM is all about numbers and seeing the pastor as CEO or manager. People sitting in the pews are customers, and there is really no concern as to whether the customers are sheep or goats. The CCGM emphasizes the social gospel rather than the biblical Gospel, which simply means applying religious terminology to social justice. The CCGM is also committed to dominion theology and globalism. 


But what is the biblical model for the New Testament Church? I’ve outlined below some characteristics of a biblical New Testament church. 


Number One: A biblical New Testament church is about equipping the saints for the work of ministry. We’ve already seen this characteristic in Ephesians 4:11-12.

In addition, Romans 10:13-17 declares: 


How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?


A New Testament church equips the saints for the work of ministry, which includes sending people out to preach the Gospel to the world, not bringing the world into the Church, and catering to them.


I’m not suggesting that we don’t want unbelievers in our churches. What I’m saying is that if an unbeliever comes into our church, he or she should hear the Word of God preached. We don’t cater to unbelievers by dumbing down the message of Christ and by avoiding such topics as sin, the judgment of God, the wrath of God, dying to self, picking up our crosses, and being willing to suffer for the Gospel. Our goal should not be to deliver a message that makes the unbeliever feel comfortable, but to deliver a message that makes an unbeliever feel uncomfortable in his or her lost and sinful state. If the Gospel is being preached, the unsaved should be uncomfortable and under conviction, as we see in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11:


Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.


Today’s seeker sensitive church growth model has given us churches filled with false converts because they are not hearing the Gospel. 


By contrast, Acts 6:7 shows what happens when people hear the truth: “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”


How did the disciples or followers of Jesus Christ multiply? Through gimmicks, entertainment, a fitness or weight loss plan? No! The disciples multiplied because of church members speaking, preaching, and teaching. The Word of God spread, people were saved, and God added to the Church. That is what we should be doing, equipping saints for the work of ministry, sending them out to preach the Gospel.


You’ll recognize that this is not what Rick Warren is equipping and training his congregation to do—or the 500,000 churches he claims have been following his leadership. Warren has says “the Pulpit is the ultimate tool for church growth.”


But pastors or teachers are not to use the pulpit as a marketing tool. More than 50 years ago, Merrill Unger warned of what we’re seeing today: 


To an alarming extent the glory is departing from the pulpit of the twentieth century. The basic reason for this gloomy condition is obvious. That which imparts the glory has been taken away from the center of so much of our modern preaching and placed on the periphery. The Word of God has been denied the throne and given a subordinate place.


Number Two: A biblical church has godly leadership.

Number Three: A biblical church faithfully preaches the whole counsel of the Word of God.

Number Four: A biblical church prays for God to build His Church.


These characteristics are all made clear in Acts 6:3-4:


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; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.


“The ministry of the word” is a reference to peaching and teaching Scripture. So, how is a New Testament church to be conducted, and how does a New Testament church grow? By picking godly men with godly reputations as leaders, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, who will preach and pray. The Scriptures are clear that God adds to His Church as people are being saved. 


And how is the unbeliever saved? By hearing the Word of God and being convicted by the Holy Spirit of sin. This results in godly sorrow that produces repentance unto salvation. 


Communitarian church growth books and conferences do not train and equip pastors and church leaders in the biblical model of evangelism to create true converts. David Eby, writing in Power Preaching for Church Growth, reveals this from his research of typical church growth resources: 


…of the forty-eight books, besides many brief passing references, only twenty pages were devoted to preaching, and only twenty-eight to prayer. Granted, this may not be a scientific survey, but the message is obvious. Think of it. Over 10,000 pages on church growth and under 50 on preaching and prayer. Something is out of balance. Then I dove into ten books on church renewal, all of which have been influenced by the Church Growth Movement. And the finding? Over 2,000 pages of print, and besides the now-expected passing references, only seven pages devoted to preaching and sixteen to prayer.


Clearly the communitarian church growth movement is not interested in theology. Its proponents are not interested in doctrine. They’re not interested in preaching the whole counsel of God. What they do want is not friendly toward God’s purposes. James 4:4 says: “Do you not know that friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend to the world, makes himself an enemy of God.” It is obvious that when you bring people who embrace the occult into church, you’re embracing the world and are at enmity with God. The bad news is clear: Such people are under God’s wrath.


Number Five: A biblical church loves the Lord and not the world. 


First John 2:15 says “Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love the Father is not in him.” 


Number Six: A biblical church is not ashamed of the Gospel. 


A Bible-based church does not water down the Gospel or avoid preaching the Gospel in order to make sinners feel comfortable. A Bible-based church is not ashamed of the Gospel. We preach the Gospel, pray that the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers, reveals their sin to them, and that they come to faith in Christ.


Many CCGM pastors and authors call for the “contextualizing” of the Gospel. What they really mean is that the church needs to dilute the Gospel so it is more appealing to the culture. Such influencers believe we need to make the Gospel more relevant, but let me make this really clear: Either the Holy Spirit reveals sin to unbelievers and they are convicted, repent, and are saved, or they harden their hearts and are lost for eternity. We can’t make the Gospel any more (or less) relevant. All we can do is be faithful to preach the Gospel.


Contextualization, as practiced by the false church, is not preaching the biblical Gospel that transforms people living in the culture but is, rather, the preaching of a social gospel by people who were transformed by the culture. Yet Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek.” And 2 Timothy 4:1-4 picks up the theme: 


I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves (false) teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.


Such “myths” and pagan spirituality are taught by false teachers like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Drs. Amen, Hyman, and Oz. 


Number Seven: A biblical church will suffer persecution. Second Timothy 3:12 cautions, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 


Neutralizing the Opposition

I believe the communitarian church growth movement is a deliberate strategy to infiltrate the Church and transform it from being an opponent of the demonic New World Order to being a willing participant and promoter of its goals. Whether you call them communitarians, Fabians, globalists, statists, internationals, New Agers, or progressives, the goal is global governance. Whether they know it or not, these people are building Satan’s kingdom, but I have news for them: Daniel 2:44 promises that God will crush Satan’s kingdom and that God’s Kingdom will have no end.

Until that glorious day, we are to assist in building God’s Kingdom in the spiritual realm as we fulfill the Great Commission. We are not to build an earthly kingdom of God on earth, as Jesus explained in John 18:36. Christians who preach the Gospel and teach according to God’s Word are ultimately the greatest obstacle to Satan building his temporary kingdom. 


Globalists seek to neutralize, infiltrate, compromise, and co-opt the opposition and create a religious Trojan horse.


Too many pastors and Christian authors have endorsed the books and conferences of men like Rick Warren. Christian leaders and Christians are being deceived because they are not familiar with the philosophies of the day, such as Fabian socialism, communitarianism, internationalism, globalism, the Hegelian Dialectic Process, postmodernism, New Age spirituality, dominion theology, the New Apostolic Reformation, social justice, and religious syncretism. Colossians 2:8 warns, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”


The reason many Christians are so easily deceived is that they lack discernment. Yet discernment comes from the study of doctrine. Doctrine reveals the will of God for our lives, and it presents biblical truth.


God’s Word has given us a clear description of what a New Testament church should be. May we have a commitment to the model God has laid out. The Church is not a building; it is the people of God. Christ died for the Church, so let’s live to defend His Church and add to it as we preach the Gospel without compromise. 

Copyright 2012 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. Banner