What Does the Bible Say About the Free Church?

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Being a “free” church means that each individual congregation is the body of Christ in its fullness, while at the same time being part of the universal church and cooperating with other local congregations. There is no denomination or governmental authority over the congregation, but Jesus is the head of the church and each local congregation is led and funded by its own members who choose their own pastor. In each church there needs to be local leadership, responsible for the “flock” that is there. The free church consists of all who have voluntarily become a member of the body of Christ and joined by faith and baptism. Each individual member is a “priest” in the kingdom of God and therefore has the opportunity for direct contact with God. All members have the right to speak their minds and together listen to God’s will. All members together are the body of Christ and for the body to function as intended, everyone needs to be more or less active. When difficult issues arise, representatives of different congregations meet to talk, testify, pray and study the Bible together in order to agree on a common position. When one congregation is suffering or in difficulty, the other congregations help with whatever resources they have.

Bible Verses

1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.(1 Pe 5:1–3)

23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.(Ac 14:23)

17Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders [presbyteros] of the church to come to him.28Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [eposikopos], to care [poimaino] for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.(Ac 20:17, Ac 20:28)

9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.(1 Pe 2:9)

21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.(Jn 17:21)

3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(Eph 4:3–6)

Study Questions

  1. What is the difference between a free church and a state church?
  2. How should things be decided in a free church?
  3. Is there a difference between priest [presbyteros], pastor/shepherd [poimaino] and bishop [eposikopos] or are they synonymous words for the spiritual leadership of a congregation?
  4. Why don’t we count the children as members of the church?
  5. What relationship should a free church have to the other churches around it and to the wider Christian community?

Additional Bible Verses

Acts 15

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