IN HIS first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul expressed an important truth about God. Paul wrote: “God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” Then commenting further with regard to congregation meetings, he said: “Let all things take place decently and by arrangement.”—1 Cor. 14:33, 40.
2 At the very beginning of the same letter, the apostle gave admonition concerning dissensions that existed within the Corinthian congregation. Paul exhorted the brothers there to “speak in agreement” and to be “completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Cor. 1:10, 11) He then gave them counsel with regard to various matters that were affecting the unity of the congregation. Using the illustration of a human body, he showed the need for unity and cooperation. He urged all in the Christian congregation, regardless of their role, to care for one another in a loving way. (1 Cor. 12:12-26) Such harmonious cooperation among the members of the congregation implies that it would be organized.
3 But how was the Christian congregation to be organized? Who would organize it? What kind of structure would it have? Who would serve in appointed positions? By letting the Bible be our guide, we get clear answers to these questions.—1 Cor. 4:6.
4 The Christian congregation was established on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. What can we learn about the congregation in the first century? It was organized and governed theocratically, that is, under God (Greek, the·osʹ) rule (kraʹtos). These two words appear at 1 Peter 5:10, 11. The inspired account of what took place in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago leaves no doubt that the congregation of anointed Christians was established by God. (Acts 2:1-47) It was his building, his household. (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:19) The pattern of organization and operation that was set during the first century is followed by the Christian congregation today.
The pattern of organization and operation that was set during the first century is followed by the Christian congregation today
5 The early congregation began with about 120 members. Holy spirit was poured out on these first, in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29. (Acts 2:16-18) But that same day, about 3,000 others were baptized in water and brought into the congregation of spirit-begotten ones. They had embraced the word about the Christ and “continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles.” After that, “Jehovah continued to add to them daily those being saved.”—Acts 2:41, 42, 47.
6 The growth of the congregation in Jerusalem was such that the Jewish high priest complained that the disciples had filled Jerusalem with their teaching. The new disciples in Jerusalem came to include many Jewish priests who became part of the congregation.—Acts 5:27, 28; 6:7.
7 Jesus said: “You will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) And so it was that when great persecution arose in Jerusalem following the death of Stephen, the disciples living there were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. But wherever they went, they continued declaring the good news and making more disciples, including some from among the Samaritans. (Acts 8:1-13) Still later, the good news was preached successfully among the uncircumcised, non-Jewish people of the nations. (Acts 10:1-48) All this preaching activity resulted in the making of many disciples and in new congregations being formed outside of Jerusalem.—Acts 11:19-21; 14:21-23.
8 What arrangements were made to ensure that each newly established congregation was organized and governed God’s way—theocratically? Through the operation of God’s spirit, provision was made for undershepherds to care for the flock. In congregations that Paul and Barnabas visited during their first missionary journey, they made appointments of elders. (Acts 14:23) The Bible writer Luke relates information about Paul’s meeting with the elders of the congregation in Ephesus. Paul said to them: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:17, 28) They qualified to be elders because they met the Scriptural requirements. (1 Tim. 3:1-7) Paul’s fellow worker Titus was authorized to make appointments of elders in the congregations of Crete.—Titus 1:5.
9 As more congregations were formed, the apostles and elders in Jerusalem continued to serve as the principal overseers of the expanded international Christian congregation of the first century. They served as its governing body.
10 Writing to the congregation in Ephesus, the apostle Paul explained that by working in accord with God’s spirit, the Christian congregation could maintain unity through adherence to the headship of Jesus Christ. The apostle urged Christians there to cultivate humility and to maintain “the oneness of the spirit” in peaceful association with all members of the congregation. (Eph. 4:1-6) Then he quoted Psalm 68:18 and applied it to Jehovah’s provision for spiritually qualified men to serve the needs of the congregation as apostles, prophets, evangelizers, shepherds, and teachers. Such men, as gifts from Jehovah, would build up the entire congregation to a spiritual fullness that would be pleasing to God.—Eph. 4:7-16.
CONGREGATIONS TODAY FOLLOW THE APOSTOLIC PATTERN
11 Today, a similar pattern of organization is followed in all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Collectively, these form a united worldwide congregation built around the nucleus of spirit-anointed ones. (Zech. 8:23) Jesus Christ makes this possible. True to his promise, he has loyally remained with his anointed disciples “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” People brought into the growing congregation embrace the good news of God, dedicate their life unreservedly to Jehovah, and get baptized as disciples of Jesus. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 1:14; Acts 2:41) They recognize “the fine shepherd,” Jesus Christ, as Head of the entire flock, which is made up of the anointed members of the congregation as well as the “other sheep.” (John 10:14, 16; Eph. 1:22, 23) That “one flock” maintains its unity by loyally recognizing the headship of Christ and by submitting to the organizational channel, “the faithful and discreet slave,” that Christ appointed. May we continue to put our full confidence and trust in this channel today.—Matt. 24:45.
THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS CORPORATIONS
12 In order to provide spiritual food at the proper time and to get the good news of the Kingdom preached before the end comes, certain corporations have been established. These legal entities are recognized by the laws of various countries, and they cooperate with one another. They facilitate the preaching of the good news worldwide.
STRUCTURE OF BRANCH ORGANIZATION
13 Whenever a branch office is established, a Branch Committee of three or more elders is appointed to look after the work in the country or countries under the jurisdiction of that particular branch. One member of the committee serves as the Branch Committee coordinator.
14 Local congregations under each branch are organized into circuits. These vary in size, depending on geographic and language considerations as well as the number of congregations within the area assigned to the branch. A circuit overseer is appointed to serve the congregations in each circuit. His duties are set out from time to time in correspondence directed to circuit overseers by the branch office.
15 The congregations acknowledge organizational arrangements, which are outlined for the benefit of all. They accept the appointment of elders, who oversee the work in branches, circuits, and congregations. They look to the faithful and discreet slave for spiritual food at the proper time. The faithful slave today, in turn, adheres strictly to the headship of Christ, holds to Bible principles, and responds to the direction of the holy spirit. As all of us work together in unity, we enjoy results similar to those experienced by Christians in the first century: “Indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day.”—Acts 16:5.