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Persecution and church structure

Submitted: 7/25/2004
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Question: In the 8th chapter of Acts, we see a born again body of believers evangelizing the world as a result of physical persecution. Considering the impact that spiritual wickedness is having on the world and the church today, can we draw an analogy of a spiritual persecution that is rising and could the Lord be using this to 'scatter' believers from the confines of traditional church and force us out into the world again where we can be more effective in winning souls? During the physical persecution in Acts 8, what did the operational structure of the church look like (i.e. single pastors vs. various gifts working in the body)?

Answer: We believe that persecution of the church is on the rise and will increase exponentially as we get closer to the coming of the Lord. It is already severe in many nations. In the US we live in a kind of protective bubble. But eventually the bubble will collapse and it will breakout here as well. The signs of this are all around us. We discussed this subject in our book The Glorious Church in the section titled “End-time Power and Glory.” You may also find our article titled Night of Broken Glass interesting. Look in the Apostolic Free Library under The End-times.

During the Acts 8 period, the twelve apostles were still leading the church in Jerusalem and were developing a team of elders they could appoint as pastor-overseers. By Acts 15 we read of “the apostles and elders” and later only the elders. The apostles apparently left Jerusalem to fulfill their mission of preaching the gospel to every creature. Since we believe that local assemblies are founded by apostles and prophets but are later led by teams of elders, we believe that all the local assemblies at that time were somewhere in that development process. We never read of any assemblies under a single pastor. We also read in many of the Epistles that God gives gifts for ministry to every member of His body (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 1 Peter 4:10).