What is it that we mean by pattern? When Moses was told by the Lord to build the tabernacle in accordance with the pattern he saw on the mount (Exodus 25:40), did he have questions in his mind about the meaning of the word pattern? Evidently, some think that he should have; he should have critically reflected and asked the question, “What do we (you, Lord) mean by pattern?”
If a question needs to be asked about what is in mind when the word pattern is used by a person, then that question (or questions) needs to be asked. If clarity is desired, there is warrant in seeking clarification. However, since the word has a common definition (“a form or model proposed for imitation”), generally the problem won’t be in the meaning of the word, but in the mind of the one asking the question or contemplating on the word. If you make a garment from a “pattern” your intentions are to make that garment after the form or model of that pattern, is it not? Surely it is. Perhaps, within the garment pattern there are “built-in” options that allow for alternative products. The pattern, however, is purchased and used in order to get a desired result, for there is no other reason to use a pattern, is there?
When the Lord gave direction to Moses on the mountain, He wanted a “cookie cutter” pattern to be followed. To Moses, He gave no option concerning what he was to make. If, to Moses, He gave options, it was the prerogative of the “pattern maker” to give that option; that fact that He did not, however, is important to note.
How should we use the “pattern” concept with respect to churches today? To begin, we must have a starting point, and that starting point is the New Testament. In the New Testament we can see that churches were established in various communities and those churches were made up in a certain way. Is that a pattern for us to follow? It is if the apostles set the churches up, and they did so by the authority of the Holy Spirit. If there were incidental related to the setting up of the church they are….well, incidentals. I suggest to you that spiritually discerning people can make a distinction.
A pattern, then, is a form or a model of a desired product. In today’s environment, those who desire to pattern themselves after the New Testament will not only pattern their individual lives after the model of Jesus, but they will desire to be part of a church patterned after the model of the church in the New Testament, the Lord’s pattern.