Leadership, First Century Style

Today’s topic will cover the positions within a church and how church leadership was back in the First Century. We can determine from scripture that there are five different names used for leadership within the church. The first name, and is a distinct position, is an apostle, or emissary, of the LORD. In today’s world that would be an evangelist who goes around and plants new churches. The second through fourth names are elder, overseer, and bishop. The final name is the deacon(ess). Each of these leadership positions has unique qualifications and I will highlight them.

Jesus commanded his disciples to go out to all the nations and make disciples of them in Matthew 28:18-20.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name*, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. –NIV 2011

*The original untranslated scripture just says, “baptizing them in the Name,”. Later on, editors altered and added, “name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” When they altered the text in Matthew, they forgot to alter the text in other gospels and in Acts about the specific way of baptizing just in the Name of Jesus. This is why the original text just says in the Name as a clear reference to only Jesus.

An evangelist must put away the desire for wealth, earthly comforts, and seek to do God’s work in planting churches. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we are to imitate him as he imitated Jesus. Paul, and other evangelists in his time, worked a second job while preaching and teaching the churches they founded. They did not seek fame or fortune in spreading the Gospel and neither should current evangelists.

The next set of positions are within the governing body of the church. They are all names referring to the same position which in modern times would be the pastor. The original Jerusalem church followed the model called First Among Equals. All of the elders of the church were equal, except for when handing down decisions regarding church affairs. One single person spoke for the entire group as they rendered important decisions for the church. In Acts 15 we see this in action as all of the disciples of Christ are there and James, the brother of Jesus, renders the decision about Gentiles coming into the church. Peter and Paul were given an opportunity to speak before the assembled group of elders and informed them of what happened in their missionary efforts.

The positions are elder, overseer, and bishop. These are merely titles for the same position. Each carried the exact same requirements, so we can safely assume from scripture that they are one and the same. The position they filled was that of pastors that guided the local church assembly. They were equal in running the affairs of the church, but one of them would always speak for the entire group when handling important church matters. First century churches were rather autonomous and reported to the Apostles in Jerusalem.

What does scripture say about the requirements for being an elder/overseer/bishop?

1 Timothy 3:1-7– Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to the be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach. faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Titus 1:5-9–The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

The scripture clearly paints a picture of someone that has great virtues and avoids the pitfalls of the devil. They are upstanding, holy, and disciplined in the way of the LORD. Disciplined as used in Titus refers to being a disciple and trained as such. Discipleship is an important characteristic since they are trained by the generation before them. Notice that there is no requirement for a person having degrees or other certificates of education? There were colleges back then, but this is not a requirement. The requirements leave it open for anyone that is led by the Holy Spirit to be an elder/overseer/bishop can be one. Man sometimes puts traps and pitfalls in front of those that are called to serve with false qualifications that is in the tradition of men.

For deacon(ess)’s the requirements are similar to that of an overseer, but this position is open to women.

1 Timothy 3:8-13–In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They first must be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

A deacon(ess) serves the church in a variety functions that are not related to the actual teaching of the Word. They are the point of contact for any person that comes into the door and must be hospitable to these guests in the House of the Lord. There have been many churches were deacons failed to be the point of contact and hospitable to those visiting the House of the Lord. They also have duties like collecting tithes and offerings, etc… However, the key point thing that they must do is show people proper respect and to have a humble attitude. Deacon as translated means servant. As I previously stated, I’ve been to plenty of churches where this humble and respectful attitude of the deacons was lacking.

May the Lord light and guide your path,

Reverend Richard Littles

A New Beginning

In the past two articles, I discussed how the Christian church was separated from the root of Judaism. I touched upon the heretical doctrines introduced and where those doctrines ultimately led to the Holocaust. In this article, I’m going to discuss what early church life was like and how we can recapture the original style of worship. Note, not everything that is for the Jewish people is the same for Gentiles. We follow three separate covenants. Jewish people follow the Mosiac covenant while Gentiles are under the covenants of Jesus and Noah.

The B’rit Hadasha is full of examples of how early worship was done in the first century. Christians, both Jew and Gentile, usually met at the synagogue for the weekly reading of the Torah and worship service there. Back then the synagogue service was more open and allowed people to speak their mind on various views. This allowed Jewish and Gentile Christians to convert more people to Christianity.

From my research the usual Shabbat service followed the following general format:

1. Reciting the Blessings of Praise at the opening of service.

2. This is followed by a reading of the Tanakh.

3. Singing of Psalms related to the reading.

4. Sermon that ties into the reading of the Tanakh.

5. Singing of Psalms again.

6. Open Dialogue

7. Reciting of the Blessings of Gratitude.

8. Closing Prayer.

9. Seder meal shared by the congregation.

If one wants to follow what was done in the first century then we can use this as a model. Since we now have the B’rit Hadasha we can include that in the reading of the Tanakh and for the sermon. The original hymnal for early Christians was none other than the book of Psalms. Sadly, the music that accompanies it is lost.  A word of note, this is for Sabbath service only. There are more blessings that were said during the daily service during the week.

The above service was the accepted model in most communities, but as time went on Open Dialogue was removed entirely to restrict Christians from seeking converts among the Jewish people. This closed off the Word of God concerning the covenant with Jesus/Yeshua. The one thing that is important is that no matter where a Christian was at in the Roman world there was always a synagogue to go to, unless they were in a village or city that lacked one. In that case, the early Christians met in a home and followed the same format that was found in the synagogue.

Open Dialogue was an opportunity for a Jewish or Gentile person to speak about their experiences with God. In modern times, the closest thing to it is the giving of testimonies in Christian Churches. Testimony was and still is an excellent way to praise God and give him thanks for everything that he’s done for an individual. The blessings and curses that we enjoy and endure as Christians comes from God, so we must show thanks to what he has done for us.

The seder meal is a very important part of Shabbat observance. It brings the entire Jewish community together and allows them to keep connections with each other alive. For the Gentile, the meal was called an Agape meal. Agape in Greek means love, so the meal functions as the same as the seder meal. It brings the community of believers together and allows them to maintain their connection to one another. Modern Christian churches still celebrate this type of meal, but call it by various different names.

Now that we have a firm basis on what to model our Shabbat service on then we end up with a service that looks like this:

1. Reciting the Blessings of Praise at the opening of service.
2. This is followed by a reading of the Tanakh or B’rit Hadasha.
3. Singing of Psalms related to the reading.
4. Sermon that ties into the reading of the Tanakh or B’rit Hadasha.
5. Singing of Psalms again.
6. Open Dialogue
7. Reciting of the Blessings of Gratitude.
8. Closing Prayer.
9. Agape meal that is shared by everyone.

By following a Shabbat service as above it will allow a Christian church to experience a breath of life and changing of how the congregation works together. This closeness will allow for God to work his miracles and change lives since a new person to the church can see this for themselves. In the process, this brings the entire church back to the nourishing root that is Judaism.

A time for a note, Gentiles that celebrate Shabbat are not held to the same standard as Jewish people. This means we, as Gentiles, are not tied to the rabbinic tradition of what constitutes work. However, I must stress that work related to business etc… must be avoided as this is the day the LORD gave us to relax. Have fun and enjoy the time with the family or with your friends.

Reverend Richard Littles

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

After the disastrous second Jewish Revolt, the seeds had been planted for the Gentiles to take over the leadership of the church. The holy see of Jerusalem saw the removal of the family of Jesus Christ and the replacement of former pagans take their place. This was not a unique situation since there were many more Gentile converts than Jewish ones due to the restrictions placed upon Jews that wanted to convert by both the Roman Empire and the Rabbinic Jews. This allowed the door to open for heresy to replace sound doctrine and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

A big part of the heresy was the complete rejection of anything Jewish from Christianity. They altered Jesus and his disciples by ignoring their Jewish roots. The former pagans also severed all ties to the Tanakh and rejected it. They began to formulate their own ideas on cosmology that was based entirely upon pagan ideas and thoughts. By removing the Tanakh, they severed the link that held Jesus and his disciples to the fundamental Jewish teachings and ministry. The replacement was pagan holidays instead of God mandated feasts, festivals, and Sabbath observance. Exchanging Judaic cosmology for a pagan one and perverting the core teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Gentiles ignored the warnings of Paul and his teachings as they pursued their own agenda. This agenda included the violation on altering scripture to suit whatever political and religious purpose they needed. One of the biggest parts of this heresy is the formation of the trinitarian doctrine of three persons in a godhead based mostly on Plato’s Theory of Forms. If they had not rejected the Tanakh and applied the theory of forms to every appearance of God in the Tanakh you would end up with over 100 individual and distinct persons in the godhead.

Wait, I thought that the church that Jesus founded was founded upon the principle of one God manifesting in any way he could. Scripture really supports this position in the New Testament (B’rit Hadasha). It wasn’t enough for these former pagans, so they violated the commandment that no one is to change the Word of God. Not one jot and tittle was to be changed. Yet they changed many parts of the B’rit Hadasha to support the trinity by adding in additional verses to Mark and altering the command to baptize in the Name of Jesus to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

One of the earliest heresies to the Gentile Orthodox beliefs, was called Sabellianism or modalism. Tertullian, an antisemite of some renown, took on the heresy to the heresy of the trinity. Modalism was an early attempt to get the Gentile Orthodox Church to follow the Jewish theology and cosmology and bring the church back to the nourishing root of Judaism. Due to the political weight the trinitarian former pagans held, they were able to crush modalism and declare it a heresy of their heresy. Confused yet?

The early church fathers, post-Apostalic age, were all pagans originally. They incorporated what they learned in their pagan worship into Christianity and severed the tie to Judaism’s root. They spent the next thousand years trying to keep their version of Christianity away from Judaism and actively preached antisemitism to inflame the masses against the Jewish people. They laid false testimony and bore false witness while completely rejecting the teachings of Christ to pursue a genocidal agenda that came to a head inside of Hitler’s Germany. The Holocaust is a tragedy that no amount of words of reconciliation can ever erase the massive sin that modern Christianity bears. Is it any wonder that the Jewish people are suspicious of Gentile Christians? For under 2,000 years, the Jewish people were subject to such racial prejudice and social pogroms that forced them to flee for their very lives at the hands of Gentile Christians.

I don’t know about you, but just knowing this massive crime was done in the name of Jesus would have the Jesus in the B’rit Hadasha speechless and in tears over how the perverted Christian church destroyed his chosen people. The people he was sent to first to minister and to bring them to salvation. I am speechless over it. Jesus taught to love your neighbor as yourself. Exterminating them is not love. That’s hatred. These Gentile Christian fathers sowed the seeds for the destruction of the Jewish people in complete violation of God’s commandments, covenants, and teachings.

Once again, most Gentile Churches and their parent denominations always attempt to wash their hands clean of the matter regarding their church fathers antisemitism. It would be hard for anyone to opening a dialogue with the Jewish people while having the sins of mass murder, apostasy, and spreading hatred to the very root they were grafted into originally.

Reverend Richard Littles

The First Schism

Many churches, and their parent denominations, do not like to talk about the schisms that occurred within the Christian church. As such, there is a little mystery as to how and why the Christian church ended up where it did almost 2,000 years after the founding by Jesus Christ. With a little patience and time, one can easily access documents and information that has been buried for centuries thanks to the internet. Today’s study delves into the mystery of the very first schism between Judaism and Christianity.

During the First Jewish Revolt, many Jewish-Christians helped the Jewish military to fight against the Roman oppressors in the hopes of having an independent state. These same Jewish-Christians worshiped alongside their fellow Jews in the synagogue and kept all the Laws of Moses. In the end, the revolt was crushed and Rome instituted tyranny. They expelled the Jews from Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. This only added salt to the wound and would cause animosity between the Jewish people and the Roman occupiers.

Sixty years later, this animosity continued and finally reached a boiling point. A man leading the armies of Israel rose up in defiance to the rule of Rome. His name was Simon bar Kokhba. During his revolt many Jewish-Christians were killed due to their lack of support for the revolt. This had to do with Rabbi bar Akiva naming Simon bar Kokhba a Massiach or Messiah. Since Christians already had a messiah they couldn’t say that there was two messiahs and this caused friction within the Jewish communities of Israel.

In response to the lack of support from Christians, Jewish or not, they were killed or ran out of the towns they lived in. They were expelled from the synagogues and made pariahs within the eyes of the rabbinic circles that supported Bar Kokhba and his revolt. The Jewish-Christians faced a tough decision of being Jewish or being Christian. If they chose Jewish they were allowed to stay, but expected to support the rebellion. If they were Christian then they suffered the fate described above.

The Jewish people are not wholly at fault here, because at roughly the same time Rome issued a decree to all Jewish-Christians that said you are either Christian or you are Jewish. You cannot be both. Those that chose to be Christian maintained a double life and held secret meetings in where they were far from the prying eyes of the Romans. If they were found out then they were executed as traitors to the state. Those that chose to remain Jewish were immediately executed as being traitors to the state of Rome.

This was a tough time for Jewish-Christians and Christianity as a whole. The belligerents on both sides forced Christianity from the hands of the family of Jesus into that of the Gentiles. The holy see of Jerusalem was lost to the Jews and replaced with pagan believing Gentile Christians. A true tragedy that continues to haunt Christianity and Judaism today. Imagine if both sides hadn’t forced Jewish-Christians to chose to be Jewish or Christian at how much richer in spirit the Christian Church would be. Imagine if Jesus’s family were able to continue to guide the church as he intended at the tragedies that the future held for the Jewish people at the hands of Gentile Christians that could have been avoided.

Without reconciliation, both Christianity and Judaism suffers. Christianity has lost it’s Jewish roots and support. Judaism has lost a budding branch that was grafted in and up until recently support from Christianity. Truly a tragedy of epic proportions.

Reverend Richard Littles

What is Christian Restoration?

What is Christian Restoration?

Christian restoration will attempt to undo the sins of past Christians that has harmed the Jewish people and to try to make amends for their antisemitic actions. In doing so, we recognize that the early church fathers and those that followed them erred in their doctrines as they severed the wild branch from the roots. They attempted to make the wild branch to be superior to the olive root that left death and destruction in their wake.

A part of this restoration is the move to have worship and sound doctrines follow what Jesus and his Apostles experienced and did. We reject the man-made traditions and doctrines of the early church fathers in the hopes of returning the wild branch back to the nourishing root. The worship style is the way it was back during the ministry of Jesus and his Apostles lifetimes. A brand new focus is on the relationship that Judaism and Christianity share in common on theology, tradition, and observances of the feasts, festivals, and Sabbath as defined by scripture.

Reverend Richard Littles