autonomous churches

Hi all,

What scriptural principals can be used for or against the idea that autonomous churches are God’s chosen or desired model for His Kingdom. I am interested because i believe that this doctrine, although not essential, does have an impact in understanding how the Spirit appoints gifts in each separate church and also how we could perhaps better understand God’s view of the roman catholic model which is of one central/global leadership as opposed to unconnected churches being governed soley by the Spirit and the Word.

I mean, if one was to start a church in a remote place, one would have the bible which is sufficient for all godliness when preached by the spirit. look what happened in China. Yet there is also a case for having impartation from generation to generation, as with the apostles.

Is there only one way?

I sound confused i know, just a lot of jumbled thoughts gone astray here but basically im asking your opinion on autonomy…

What do YOU think?



  1. Thats true. It’s is often not taken into account that our idealistic theology needs to manifest itself within the context of a broken world, and hence a broken church.

    We dont have the luxury of starting over again.

    Just to comment on what you said, i fully agree with you on the topic of brotherly love between churches. Quite frankly though, that is not really relevant to authority is it? accountability yes, but leadership, no. Correct me if im wrong?

    I struggle with the idea of central church government. I feel that somehow, in my ideal universe, the Spirit is the sole governer of the Kingdom, who appoints and annoints in a local (read non-global) capacity , except for special cases, which are almost always mission-based, evangelistic work. Once a church is up and running, i believe it should have its own independent leadership.

    Of course, the ideal universe wouldnt need missions. What it would have though, is a God who is not grieved by humanistic efforts to justify another king for His kingdom.

    Is it too mystical too assume that the Holy Spirit can handle the job of connecting the millions of dots that we cant?

    What i do believe in though, is vessels, vessels who carry towels to where they are sent. But we should be careful of trying God’s boots on for size…

    What is the biblical perspective then, is autonomy a doctrine? Or is it an ideal?

  2. We still live in a compromised situation and we have lots of legacy issues regarding church structures. It is not the will of God to bring down everything quickly because leadership is important and leaders of smaller congregations do well to have accountability to other ministers.

    In the ideal world, all what we call “pastors” in a city really are the “elders” of the city. They should have fellowship with one another, proving their ability to love one another even when they don’t agree on all things. But many times there is strife between pastors so they don’t relate properly. There is a need for humility and following the Spirit’s leadership to establish righteous relationships and deal with hurts and misunderstandings.

    There is also a role for pioneers of church movements whom we might call apostles. God will raise up apostles to pioneer new churches when He wants to. These apostles are not like the 12 apostles of the lamb, they are basically gifted church planters with a commission from the Lord to start new churches. Its important to be sure of the calling of the Lord to start a church, as opposed to joining an existing one.

    An “apostle” who starts a church and raises up leaders to care for it after he moves on could have authority to speak into the leadership of that church after he leaves, it depends on the arrangement or understanding that was come to before he handed on leadership.

    So whether the churches are autonomous after the founder leaves depends on the agreement that those in question had in the presence of God before the handover of operational authority happened.

    Clearly Paul claimed some authority over the churches he started, like the one at Corinth. But Paul had a hard time assering his authority there. It wasn’t a dictatorial authority, but more a fatherly authority.

    A lot more study could go into this. But the difficulty we have is this: we are not working with a clean slate. All kinds of churches and structures are on the map, and it would be presumptuous to demand that in your timing or mine these churches radically change their leadership structure to accommodate some kind of idealistic church government structure.

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