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What Does The Bible Say About Church Leadership Structure

Lesson 5: The Responsibilities Of Church Leaders

What does the Bible say about elders?

Many writers agree that there is a leadership crisis in the churches of America, but they do not agree on the solution to the problem. Many import American business principles into the local church, without much regard for what the Bible says about the requirements and responsibilities of church leadership.

Thus many modern pastors minimize their responsibility of preaching Gods Word and focus rather on being the CEO of the church. As church entrepreneurs, they envision and implement growth plans. They view the church as a product to be marketed to the consumer. As in the retail business, you have to give the customers what they are looking for. Many of these pastor-CEOs are very successful, building impressive church campuses that cater to thousands of weekly customers. They write how-to books that share their proven principles for building the church.

If Scripture is sufficient for life and godliness , and it equips Gods people for every good work , it should say something about the important matter of church leadership. Since Christ promised to build His church , we should look to His inspired Word for direction on what church leaders should be and what they should do. Two weeks ago, we looked at our text from the standpoint of the duties of church members toward their leaders. Today we will reverse this. While our text is not comprehensive, it does give some vital principles about the responsibilities of church leaders. We learn

Church Two Meanings And Origin

The first sense for which the word church is used, what we call local, is defined by its geographical setting. The churches in the New Testament were identified by the name of a city, never by the name of a country or region. For example, one would speak of the churches of Galatia in plural because Galatia was a region with many cities, and therefore, many local churches. When talking about Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, etc., the singular form is used and the name of the city identifies the church. For example, the church in Corinth or the church in Ephesus each one of these churches was comprised of the Christian residents of the same city.

The second sense, called universal, refers to the collection of believers in Jesus Christ from all times and places. This church consists of both Jews and Gentiles. The first meeting of the universal church will occur during the rapture: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangels voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord .

How The Church Uses Technology

In sharing the gospel, we find one of the most defining marching orders for the Church in Paulâs words to the church at Corinth:

âTo the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save someâ .

  • Letters
  • Internet
  • Social media

I understand there are discussions surrounding the pros and cons of different types of communication technologyâmost notably today the influence of social media. Regardless of what you think about the impact of social media, hereâs what you need to know about the Churchâs use of technology throughout history:

The Church could not have reached as many people with the gospel without the benefits of technology.

Not only has the Church benefited from information technology, but the Church has also benefited from other forms of technology, including:

  • Engineering technologyâe.g., worship facilities, electricity
  • Medical technologyâe.g., medicine, medical equipment
  • Computer softwareâe.g., church management software, mobile giving
  • Transportationâe.g., cars, vans, buses

Today, from social media and the Internet, thereâs an explosion of new innovative communication tools your church can use to connect with people. How much time or money you devote to these tools will depend upon the bandwidth of your staff, volunteers, and budget. But as you use these new tools, there are two significant limitations to technology you need to be aware of, which leads us to the next point.

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The New Testament Churchits Leadership

Colossians 1:15-20 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Fathers good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Matthew 23:8-12 But do not be called Rabbi for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called leaders for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Church Development And Leadership

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God is a God of order and organization. That is obvious as you consider the immense universe around us which was created by God. That is also obvious when you look closely at the church in the New Testament. While some may suggest there was no organization in the early church, the Bible tells us members, were added , job descriptions were present , votes were conducted to expel immoral members , and votes were taken to elect church officers .

The church also organized a missionary team and sent them out . There may even have been some order of service in the early church. Paul advised, Let all things be done decently and in order . To accomplish this task, the Holy Spirit endows certain ones with the gifts of government and leadership . The church is organized and ~ equipped to carry out its purpose, which is the Great Commission.

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Godly Church Leaders Are Responsible To Work Together

Leaders is plural. The New Testament clearly teaches that leadership in the local church is to be plural . Plural leadership is a safeguard against the abuse of authority. Also, the task of shepherding a local church is far too great for one man, unless the church is very small. There are two implications of this truth:

A. Godly church leaders are called to work together.

In our text, the author works closely with Timothy and with the leaders of the Hebrew church. He tells the church to greet their leaders . It is the leaders who keep watch over the souls of the flock . Obviously, they could only do this by working together as a team.

In the New Testament, the only example of one dominant leader is negative. The apostle John confronts Diotrephes, who loved to be first among them, and who took it upon himself to put people out of the church . By virtue of personality, spiritual gifts, and spiritual maturity, there are examples of spiritual leaders who were first among equals. Peter was the spokesman for the twelve. James was a dominant leader in the early Jerusalem church . Paul became the leader of the first missionary team, even though Barnabas had been a believer longer than Paul had. But all of these men submitted to one another in the Lord and taught that as believers, we must do the same .

B. Godly church leaders put a priority on godly relationships.

Passages That Are Used To Justify The Structure Found Today

There are two passages where the word overseer is written in singular. Namely 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7. Titus 1:5 refers to the same people, and there you can see that it assumes there are several elders or overseers in a community. Here Paul describes the prerequisites for being an overseer in the community. He does not want to say that there should only be one. The description of the deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8 is written in plural, but this does not contradict the description in singular in the earlier verses. They are simply different ways of listing the most important requirements for both tasks. Its like saying: motorbikes usually have two wheels. A car, however, always has four.

In Hebrews 13 leaders are mentioned twice. In verse 7 the apostles and elders from the beginning of the church are meant. In verse 17 the elders at the time of writing the letter are meant. This is just another term for the elders or overseers which is another indication that the early Christians did not have official titles and positions.

Regarding the claim that Peter was the bishop of Rome or even the first Pope, we are preparing an article about the papacy.

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The Implications Of The Headship Of Christ For Church Leadership

There is nothing very controversial about the principle that Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. But there surely is room for a great deal of discussion when it comes to the outworking of this principle. Hardly any Bible-believing church would dare deny that Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, but all too few do anything to practice it. We have already said that in the New Testament, particularly in the life of the Apostle Paul, principle and practice are inseparable. . Any biblical principle must result in biblical practice. The major question for us, then, is How is the Headship of Christ over His church practiced? Out of this great truth that Christ is the Head of the church, I see at least two foundational and fundamental operational principles for the church. These two principles dictate to a large degree a kind of church government which does not square with what is being done by the world or by most churches.

Any form of church government which gives pre-eminence to men rather than to our Lord is unbiblical. Fundamental to the concept of headship is that of preeminence. He is also head of the body, the church so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything .

  • They wanted to elevate themselves over men, to be served, not serve.
  • They wanted to claim that which belonged only to Christ.

The Headship of Christ, then, prohibits the exalting of anyone but our Lord Himself, for His headship demands that He have the pre-eminence.

Does The Bible Provide A Clear Structure For Church Governance2

What the Bible says about Church Leaders

August 26, 2011 by Mike Bergman

Part Two: Church Authority and Conclusion

Last time In the last post, we began to consider whether or not the Bible provides a clear structure for the church. Specifically we examined what the Bible says about the leadership offices: Elders , and Deacons. This time, well look at the issue of church authority.

From the last post, I already posited one thing about authority: the deacons are not an authoritative office, except so far as theyre given specific and limited oversight of certain tasks as delegated by the elders. This leaves us with the question: does church authority rest with the elders or the congregation? As we will see, the answer is with both.

Church Authority

From my last post, we saw that the elders provide oversight and shepherd. Both these terms imply leadership authority. One who gives oversight is one who provides supervision. An elder in a church provides an oversight akin to the care a father exercises managing his home . But there is a balance here: a father who does not have authority over his family is weak, but a father who acts as a dictator is harsh and unloving. So it is with elders in a church.

And in all of this, an elder has authority. A father overseeing his family might listen to their say but he sets the direction. And a shepherd certainly doesnt follow the sheep to green pastures.

So what is the general pattern we see?

  • Congregations have the authority to select and appoint their own leaders.
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    A Consistent New Testament Pattern

    To hear some scholars speak, you would think the Bible doesnt say one word about church elders or church government. But that is not true. The New Testament records evidence of pastoral oversight by a council of elders in nearly all the first churches. These local churches were spread over a wide geographical and culturally diverse areafrom Jerusalem to Rome:

    • Elders are found in the churches of Judea and the surrounding area .
    • Elders governed the church in Jerusalem .
    • Among the Pauline churches, leadership by the plurality of elders was established in the churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in the church in Ephesus in the church in Philippi and in the churches on the island of Crete .
    • According to the well-traveled letter of 1 Peter, elders existed in churches throughout northwestern Asia Minor: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia .
    • There are strong indications that elders existed in churches in Thessalonica and Rome .

    Who Builds The Church

    Jesus declared that building or edifying the church is something He would do personally. He said: I will build my church , but that does not mean that He will not also use others for the task. One of the most well-known metaphors used to refer to the church is the body of Christ. Jesus Christ states that He is the head, and that all believers form His body. The emphasis of the metaphor is on the union of Christ and the church and between the believers themselvessome- thing indispensable to the understanding of how the church functions under the authority of Jesus Christ.

    According to Paul, every believer has a function in the church, just as the different parts of a body have a specific function. The idea of a group of clergy taking responsibility for all Christian ministry while a mass of laypeople simply receive the benefits is totally foreign to Scripture. Bishops, elders, pastors, deacons, and new believers are simply members of the body of Christ with distinct responsibilities and roles, according to the maturity and gifts of each one. A believer that behaves like Diotrephes in 3 John usurps the place of Christ.

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    Three Things That Lead To Church Growth

    Oftentimes, we see a renewed focus on these three things that serve as a catalyst to growth. Notice how these three things involve both the spiritual and the practical.

  • Vision. Pastors must continually remind the church why she exists, calling people to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and challenging them to live out the great commission in their worlds. In addition, casting a clear and compelling vision for the future is often a catalyst for healthy growth. In addition to casting a preferred picture of the future, vision should also include strategy, answering the question how will we get there. Learn more about creating a clear growth plan in our course Building Your Ministry Plan. You’ll also be introduced to our preferred template, simply called The Two Page Plan.
  • Leadership. Whether its leading staff, lay leaders or volunteers, when churches focus on leadership development, good things happen. The result is often healthy growth. In the church, leadership is really discipleship. Its equipping people to discover their calling, use their gifts, and build up the body of Christ. If you want helping building a simple pipeline and find content to use every step of the way, check out our course on leadership.
  • Focus. When churches come to the conclusion they are too busy, they rightly focus on how God has uniquely called and equipped them. Thats why, for many churches, the key to growth is not starting something, but stopping something.
  • We pray.

    The Organization Of The Church

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    Definition

    Apart from the foundational offices of apostles and prophets, the early churches had qualified leaders, elders and deacons, who served the church under the lordship of Christ, guided by both the Scriptures and the Spirit.

    Summary

    The New Testament presents a consistent, though perhaps not completely uniform, pattern of church leadership. One of the offices was variously called elders, overseers, or pastors . These leaders were charged to lead, shepherd, teach, and equip the flock entrusted to them. The other office, that of deacon, was intended to serve the needs of the flock and to enable the elders to carry out their responsibilities. Other offices mentioned in the New Testament either refer to a foundational role or a role not tied to an individual congregation .

    The organizational structure of the early church was simple, even if not completely uniform. Churches had qualified, designated leaders who served the church under the lordship of Christ, guided by both the Scriptures and the Spirit. Although various titles were used to describe leaders in the church, oftentimes multiple terms could be used to describe the same office. But how many church offices do we find in the New Testament?

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    Can Only Men Be Church Leaders

    Some people think that the qualifications for church leaders recorded in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 apply only to men. They believe the implication in these passages is that only men can be church leaders.

    The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are those of a respectable householder. And while the qualifications were written with men in mindit was usually, but not always, a man who was in charge of the householdall of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 can be readily applied to both men and women who are householders.

    Note that the masculine personal pronouns that appear in many English translations of these passages, as well as the word man that appears in many English translations of verses 1 Timothy 3:1 and Titus 1:6a , are entirely absent in the Greek. And note that Paul does not state that only men can be overseers or church leaders.

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