The distinction between institutional and non institutional Christianity, consists in the fact that, in the early Christian Church, the spiritual element was more present than the institutional one. It was a time when the institution was not there, it only started to be formed gradually. The Christians were persecuted and their communities were based on the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than on the exegesis of the written texts of the canonic Bible. There was a risk being Christian. I refer to the risk of martyrdom. During the apostles’ era, only people truly called by God came to God.
After Christianity became the official religion in The Roman Empire and a majority of people have been conditioned to become Christians, as a prerequisite in order to hold certain positions in the army or Roman imperial administration, the institutional Christian church was filled with opportunists. These were people who “believed” in God mainly because their earthly interests.
Institutional churches are full of worldly Christians, caring only the name of a Christian denomination and today they constitute the majority and decide the direction of the development of their religious institutions.
Here, below, I present an approximate model of how the first Christian communities were organized and how meetings were held in the early Christian Church.
I do not see why we would not return to them. Return to the apostolic origins of Christianity, does not mean to enter Pentecostal Church, so called apostolic, not just another religious institution but means a return to Christ, to His teachings and mostly to His presence in us.
Functioning model of local non denominational churches
This is an open model and contains no fixed or mandatory rules for the activity of a Christian congregation and is closest to how the Apostolic Christian assemblies held their meetings.
Non denominational churches are not completely, the Church invisible made visible. The One Spiritual Church, the true Church of God is in itself a spiritual reality, not institutional and its visible side is represented only by the true practicing Christians and not by the religious organizations.
They are spiritual-social centres, free Christian communities, which serve to prepare the faithful to enter into the true Church of God. Entry into the Church of God, spiritual and unique is through being born again and not only through the water baptism.
The entry into the true Church of God is not decided by any man alone, but, in the last instance, by God.
The faithful can aspire to enter the true Church of God but can not get there only by his or her unilateral decision to be baptized in water, only by his or her own will, or the will of his or her parents.
The entrance in the true Church of God can happen only through the human act of will, followed, necessarily, by the will of God. First is God’s calling to people, then their positive answer. After that they will be passed through the born again process, by God and they will be born from Him. Finally He decides to consider them members of His unique Church.
The membership in the true Church of God is not decided only by humans, unlike the appurtenance to a religious institution, in fact is finally decided by God alone. (Acts 2; 47)
One cannot say, in regard of others, who exactly is a member of the true Church of God and who is not.
Everyone knows, for himself or for her, if he or she is a member of the unique Church of God.
Entrance in the true Church of God is only for those who are born again, born from God, according to the teachings of Jesus, expressed in the Gospel of John, chapter 3; 3-6.
Entry into the true Church of God represents also the entrance into the Kingdom of God as far as it is manifested on this earth, because only by being born again believers come into this Kingdom. The visible part of the invisible Church is constituted only by the born-again believers and is not expressed entirely by any religious organization, as such. There are many Christian communities and denominations but just one Church of God. (Ephesians 4; 4)
The fundamental principle of the relationships between community members is the practice of the Christian love, as prescribed by Jesus in John 13 to 34-35. Practice of Christianity must follow any faith in God. Faith and love goes together, inseparably, together with hope. The Christian works are all determined by agape. The works of faith are the works of love. One can not love and do nothing for the ones who loves. Faith without love is nothing, doesn’t have any real value for salvation. (1 Corinthians 13; 2) Christian love is bigger than faith and without love faith has not practical value. (1 Corinthians 13; 13) Salvation comes through faith and love.
The local non denominational churches have not imposed doctrines and what they have in common is the personal faith, of every member. What is the most important common factor to all members is agape, the spiritual love, which one cannot possess except as a gift from God and which is the ground for the existence of a viable Christian community. (Romans 5; 5)
Opinions, rituals or believes are not obligatory and none of them can be imposed through religious authority. What brings and keeps together the members are their personal relationships with the same God. Believers are united by means of God not only in the name of God, meaning that they are united through the Holy Spirit and not in an institutional manner.
These communities don’t have a single confession of faith, uniform and binding. They don’t have a single creed or a set of dogmas of faith, or one doctrine. All Christian communities accept and declare Jesus as their savior and pattern of faith.
Jesus is not only a mean to our salvation He is also o model to be followed in His footsteps. It is not enough, for our salvation, to declare the belief in His sacrifice for us, if we don’t follow His way of conduct. (1 John 2; 6) Jesus is not saved in our place, He died for us but we have to live with Him. (Romans 6; 8-11)
Practice is more important, for the individual salvation than following the “right” doctrine or religious dogma. Any imposed religious authority is bad and damaging and hasn’t any legitimacy. Any imposed doctrine or dogma of faith is a sign of a religious decadence and a mark of the “beast,” such that it is presented by the book of Revelation.
The first local Christian Churches, which the book of Revelation makes speech, were non denominational churches because in those days still not settled dogma and creed mandatory doctrines were established. The apostolic communities didn’t have the canonic Bible. Many writings, which today are marginalized, were in circulation.
The first Christian communities were led directly by the Holy Spirit and not by various interpretations of the biblical texts. These communities were local, meaning they were not organized in huge religious systems and non confessional.
Christian doctrines were established over time, long after Jesus' mission on earth and first appeared long after the apostolic Church. The come back to Jesus mainly means to be personally guided by His Holy Spirit and also means the opening towards all Scriptures which were circulating immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Apostolic faith is non dogmatic faith and is based on our personal witness of Jesus, every person in question, on our personal experience with Him. An authentic apostolic faith is based on an individual evidence of the power of God, a clear personal revelation.
The members of the local non denominational churches will remind constantly that their communities are not the unique Church of God, but they are spiritual-social centers of training, support and advice for the true Church of God.
All members are perfectly equal to each other and there is no spiritual hierarchy between them.
Apostle is any born again Christian who builds a local non confessional church.
Each born again member of the church is a pastor if he or she feels called, meaning that everyone willingly takes responsibility to shepherd people who want to know God and who are not familiar with the Christian faith.
Pastor is a personal guide, for those who are at their first steps in the Christian faith. The Pastor is not the head of the local non confessional church but he or she is a personal guide choice of one or more faithful to their first steps towards God. There is no N.T. pastor of the congregation; the pastor is the shepherd of individual souls, not of the religious organizations. The Great Pastor of all is Jesus Himself.
The new comers will be guided individually; the pastors, or born-again Christians, will accompany their spiritual path, as long as the new members see fit. Pastors have one important task and that is to put the faithful in a personal relationship with the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Prophets and all the people with spiritual gifts will work freely and unrestrained by anyone or anything in their spiritual activity. Exercise of the spiritual gifts is one of the main purposes of the local non denominational Church meetings.
Evangelizations will be free, based on everyone’s personal experience with God without conflicts and controversies with others. Among themselves born again Christians do not need human shepherds, as they are shepherded, directly by the Great Shepherd, Christ.
There isn’t any spiritual leader or board of the local non denominational Churches.
There is only a trustee or deacon and aid administrator, also deacon, who will deal exclusively with the administrative side of the organization, for the proper functioning of the center. Deacons do not have any spiritual authority or quality of judging, in spiritual matters or the conduct of other believers, they only deal with providing the necessary administrative functioning of the Centre.
Any decision, on administrative matters, takes a majority vote of those present. Decisions or recommendations with binding character, in spiritual matters, will not be taken. The personal conscience of the members is sovereign in spiritual matters.
It is presumed that, together with God, everyone is the only person responsible for his or her spiritual life and none needs any push or constraints from others.
The faithful should not be regarded as children in need of guardianship of any religious institution.
Judgment in spiritual matters, or who is guilty of sin and who is not, are not allowed. The only judge of the spiritual life of the human beings is God and that according to the teachings of Jesus. (Mathew 7; 1)
The local non denominational churches are centers for spiritual healing and also they are places where believers are supported in order to be born again, by Jesus.
In exceptional cases a person may be removed from the center, with the help of law enforcement if serious perturbation of public order will occur.
The meetings will be hosted and moderated in turn by one of the permanent members on a rotating basis by a list of members comprising the absolutely all permanent members, without exception.
When one of the permanent members is not present, the next permanent member on the list will automatically take place.
Sunday mornings will be not a religious ceremony but the present members will meet and discuss among themselves, will advise each other, will listen to their needs and demands and will establish spiritual relationships, and if possible will have a common meal. That will be a time dedicated exclusively to a real communion between Christians, addressing their real problems and also trying to address their questions awaiting an answer. On this occasion it will be taken the Lord's Supper.
Sunday evening, rotating two or three members will talk about their Christian experience, and understanding that each has on the Bible.
During the week, whenever they may meet, usually evening time periods, the meetings will be devoted to the analysis of the Bible and other books, important for Christianity. They will be held by members with good knowledge of the Christian problems.
Each member will make a review of an important book. The other days, programs will be artistic, with spiritual character, and other evenings will be reserved exclusively for prayers. Prayers will be both individual and collective, without a prescribed rule, but with a special emphasis on individual prayers that can be supported and reinforced by other members.
Dedicated groups will be constituted to be available at any time, 7/24, to pray and to be with the sick, members of the centre and others. There will be several groups that will rotate between themselves.
Births, marriages, funerals will be assisted by other members of the community as such as their family problem.
Poor and unable to care for themselves, members of a community, will be in the care of the local non confessional Churches and they will be helped as much as possible. Helping the poor is not limited only to members of that centre.
The centres will perform acts of worship such as: Lord's Supper or Eucharist, baptisms, blessings, marriages and funerals. All acts of worship will be performed by any permanent member of the Centre, whether man or woman, by rotation.
The meetings aim is to help the members to formulate their own best personal faith through open dialogue. The principle regarding the content of faith is respect for personal beliefs of each member in different matters.
Each member should have the opportunity to express his or her opinions in matter of faith and none, in any way, can be forced to believe something other than his or her conscience dictates. The only obligation is to argue, if possible, a belief about which reference is made in public. Even if the arguments are not convincing to others, none is obliged to believe other than he or she personally understands.
Permanent membership of the local non confessional Church is acquired by mere presence at meetings after a period of one year.
Women have equal and same rights with men and participate in all activities in rotation with men.
Centres are not special "places of worship" and for this reason they will be not particularly decorated, with icons, statues, or other symbols.
The local non denominational Churches, the preparation and assistance centres for the One Spiritual Church, the unique true Church of God, are just a frame assembly of believers, regardless of the Christian denomination, which they belong. Anyone can be or not a member of any Christian denomination and of a local non confessional Church, in the same time.