The Worship and Service of a Local Church

“A scriptural assembly is a company of believers gathered together by the Holy Spirit, around Christ, to worship and serve God.”

The composition of a local church is made up of elders, deacons, and saints or believers. This model is evident in Philippians 1:1, where Paul addressed his letter to the Philippian church saying, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus, who are at Philippi, with the bishops, overseers, elders, and deacons.” In addition to this pattern, every believer in the body of Christ has also been given a spiritual gift and the sufficient grace to use it. In Ephesians 4:7 Paul said, “But unto everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of Christ’s rich and bounteous gift.” Here, the word grace can be understood as strength and wisdom for believers to aptly use the gifts given to them.

In this section of Ephesians, Paul mentions five kinds of spiritual gifts: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. The spiritual gifts given to the first century apostles and prophets had supernatural qualities, because they were given by and attributed to the ascended Lord. (See Ephesians 4:8) Certain men and women received these gifts for the advancement and maintenance of the local churches. Three of these five spiritual gifts should be evident in the ideal local church.

First, Evangelists are those who have a burning passion for the lost and share the news of the Gospel with others, as we see Paul praising in Romans 10:15: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” Secondly, Teachers are those who can explain and expound the Word for others to hear and learn. The Teacher has an unbridled desire to teach the pure, uncluttered, and unadulterated principles of the Word. Thirdly, Pastors are identified as Shepherds who have a deep compassion for the saints and are responsible for taking care of the needs of the flock. It is significant to note the distinguishing features of a pastor described in the Scriptures. As an example, Timothy was a pastor or shepherd of the flock. If we look at Paul’s letters to Timothy, he exhorted and advised Timothy, serving in the church in Ephesus, to “neglect not the gift that is in you” and “stir up the gift of God which is in you.” (1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6) Timothy’s gift was feeding and nurturing the sheep and lambs. He also cared for the needy of the flock in the way a shepherd would feed and protect the flock, by gathering the lambs in his arm, carrying them in his bosom, and gently leading those who have their young, just as Isaiah 40:11 describes.

Another useful illustration for the pastor in Scripture is that of the Good Shepherd from John 10:11-27. Jesus proclaims, “The sheep hear and recognize My voice.” Jesus is intimately acquainted with each sheep in His flock and calls them by name. Jesus also leads them and goes before them so that the sheep follow Him because they know and trust His voice! Let us consider an example of the Great Shepherd, the Lord, in more detail. In Psalm 23, David wrote, “The Pastor is my Shepherd, he feeds, guides, and shields me. He makes me to lie down in fresh, tender green pastures. He leads me besides still and restful waters. He restores and refreshes me. He leads me in paths of righteousness. Though I walk through the deep, sunless valley of death, I will fear no evil, for He is with me. His rod protects me. His staff guides and comforts me. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He anoints my head with oil. My cup runs over. Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” When we review the preceding and following psalms of David’s, Psalm 22-24, we see the same Great Shepherd, but portraying other qualities in His great character. In Psalm 22, we see how David considers him as a Good Shepherd, who “took me out of the womb; you made me trust while on my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon you from birth. From my mother’s womb you have been my God.” And in Psalm 24, warrior images characterize the Lord, the Chief Shepherd, who is “strong and mighty,” “mighty in battle,” “the King of glory” and “Lord of hosts.” The Lord is indeed the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd supreme over all the body, the ultimate Pastor shepherding his flock.

Reigning over all of these roles and spiritual gifts stands the risen Head who gave these gifted Christian men to the church. Paul also reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts to all believers for service, not just the first century Christians. The permanent spiritual gifts given by the Spirit are: ministering or helps, administration or ruling, exhortation, giving, showing mercy, and faith. These six gifts of the Spirit, combined with the three given by the risen Lord, are necessary for the well being of the church. So let each believer ask himself, “What is my gift?”