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     The Organizational Development of the Church

The Organizational Development of the Church

1. Throughout the second and third centuries, the word "church" continued to denote primarily the assembly of Christians in a particular place or "polis". Whatever the size and complexity of the congregation, its unity was represented in the fact that the local bishop was the leader and pastor of the entire congregation. Chosen by the congregation, the bishop was ordained with laying-on of hands by neighboring bishops, an indication of the fact that in this pastoral charge he was the representative not only of the community to which he belonged but also the universal church. Once elected and ordained, he was the ruler in the congregation, and administered the community's financial affairs, was its principal teacher, chose and ordained its other ministers (presbyters, deacons, and others), enforced its discipline, and presided at its baptismal and eucharistic assemblies.

2. the third century saw a growth in the number of offices or orders that served the churches. Increasingly distinguished from the laity, the occupants of these offices and orders included not only bishop, deacons and presbyters, but also from time to time, lectors, widows, sub-deacons, virgins, deaconesses, catechists, acolytes, exorcists, and doorkeepers. Most prominent among these officeholders were undoubtedly the deacons, who, as the bishop's personal assistants, not only played an important liturgical role but also were in the direct charge of carrying out the community's charitable work. Their number was often limited to seven in accordance with Acts 6:3

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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