As far as I know, all the thousands of denominations and independent churches around the world claim that their organizational structure is from God. (At least, I’ve never heard of a church saying: “Our church’s organizational chart is man-made.”)
Here are a few of the various organizational structures that various churches claim are from God. For example:
Apostolic Succession: This system puts authority in the hands of the apostles and those ordained to be their spiritual descendants. This authority is supposed to have been passed down from person to person by the laying on of hands. Many Christian denominations claim a continuous line of authority going back to the first apostles.
CEO Pastor/Bishop: In this system, one man is the head of the church, just like a CEO is the head of a corporation.
Congregational: This type of church organization centers its authority in the voice of the members. Major decisions are usually made by vote and majority rule.
Presbyterian: In this style of church structure various congregations (scattered here and there) are all apart of the same organization. Decisions are made by elected representatives (presbyters) from the various congregations who meet as a presbytery and make decisions by voting.
Each of these church organizational styles have many scriptures to support their structure. So which one is the Biblical one?
From my reading of the New Testament, I believe that the structure in the body (the church) is supposed to be spiritual and not organizational. All the parts of the human body function together because they are directly connected to the head (by nerves), not because they have a hierarchy or organizational chart. So in the church, we are all directly connected to the Head, Jesus Christ. He is the one who keeps us together, animates us as a body, and causes us to function as the ecclesia.
The church is not built on positional authority (coming from titles or positions), like a human organization, but on spiritual authority coming from the life of God actively working in and flowing through the various members of the body.
Jesus told His disciples that “the Gentles lord it over” each other, meaning that they exercise positional authority. Then He told His disciples that this is not how it is to be among them (something they soon began to ignore).
Allowing the Holy Spirit to be the Person in authority is a rarity. However, if you ever see a group functioning that way, you will be amazed. The glory of God is present.
Of course, no group is ever 100% free of the human, but that shouldn’t cause us to give up on the idea of a Spirit-led church. A group in Nashville meets every Sunday and seeks to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, apart from human direction and/or programming.
Come and see this style of church meeting in action at: The Salvation Army Berry Street Worship Center, 225 Berry Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37207. Sundays at 10:45 am.