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  • Biblical Order of the Church

    We know that Christ is the head of the church, but what is the appropriate order of government in the church? We have a picture in the American church that the pastor is the man that God has placed in charge of the rest of the congregation, and he is to be considered the final stop in regards to church issues. However, is that the true biblical order of authority?

    It is assumed by many also that pastors, bishops and elders are all the same thing? However, bishops seem to be selected through the church government while pastors are selected by the hand of the Lord Himself. It would seem to me that a bishop/elder would be more similar in their roles than a pastor would be.

    We also have those who are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers as well. Now, let's all agree to put aside the "apostles and prophets are not for today" argument and focus on the order of government that the early church held to. Where do these other four roles fall into church authority and government along with the bishops/elders, deacons, etc.?
    "What you do does not define who you are; it's who you are that defines what you do."

    -- Dr. Neil T. Anderson

  • #2
    Originally posted by VerticalReality View Post
    We know that Christ is the head of the church, but what is the appropriate order of government in the church? We have a picture in the American church that the pastor is the man that God has placed in charge of the rest of the congregation, and he is to be considered the final stop in regards to church issues. However, is that the true biblical order of authority?

    It is assumed by many also that pastors, bishops and elders are all the same thing? However, bishops seem to be selected through the church government while pastors are selected by the hand of the Lord Himself. It would seem to me that a bishop/elder would be more similar in their roles than a pastor would be.

    We also have those who are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers as well. Now, let's all agree to put aside the "apostles and prophets are not for today" argument and focus on the order of government that the early church held to. Where do these other four roles fall into church authority and government along with the bishops/elders, deacons, etc.?
    You make some great points. Thanks!

    First of all, as a pastor of an independent Christian Church, it is not assumed or presumed that I am the guy in charge of the congregation. That is the role of our elders - of which I am a part.

    In the New Testament, we see repeated instances of the apostle Paul appointing elders in various churches. They/we are to be the spiritual shepherds of the church. In 1st Timothy and Titus Paul specifically elaborates on the qualifications of elders.

    Personally, I believe the pastor is a "preaching elder" and should be in every way qualified as an elder, or he shouldn't be a pastor.

    Deacons are mentioned as, basically, those who take care of the physical needs of the church. The "prototype" is mentioned in Acts 6, and there are several New Testament mentions of the roles & qualifications of deacons.


    In regards to apostles, teachers, prophets and evangelists... They, like everyone else, must come under the loving leadership of the Elders.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by jeffreys View Post
      You make some great points. Thanks!

      First of all, as a pastor of an independent Christian Church, it is not assumed or presumed that I am the guy in charge of the congregation. That is the role of our elders - of which I am a part.

      In the New Testament, we see repeated instances of the apostle Paul appointing elders in various churches. They/we are to be the spiritual shepherds of the church. In 1st Timothy and Titus Paul specifically elaborates on the qualifications of elders.

      Personally, I believe the pastor is a "preaching elder" and should be in every way qualified as an elder, or he shouldn't be a pastor.

      Deacons are mentioned as, basically, those who take care of the physical needs of the church. The "prototype" is mentioned in Acts 6, and there are several New Testament mentions of the roles & qualifications of deacons.


      In regards to apostles, teachers, prophets and evangelists... They, like everyone else, must come under the loving leadership of the Elders.
      Thanks for the input. Why do you believe a person who is called by the Lord to serve as a pastor should also serve as a bishop/elder?
      "What you do does not define who you are; it's who you are that defines what you do."

      -- Dr. Neil T. Anderson

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by VerticalReality View Post
        Thanks for the input. Why do you believe a person who is called by the Lord to serve as a pastor should also serve as a bishop/elder?
        I don't know that he has to serve as an elder, but certainly should be qualified to be an elder.

        Sorry I didn't make that more clear.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by VerticalReality View Post
          We know that Christ is the head of the church, but what is the appropriate order of government in the church? We have a picture in the American church that the pastor is the man that God has placed in charge of the rest of the congregation, and he is to be considered the final stop in regards to church issues. However, is that the true biblical order of authority?

          It is assumed by many also that pastors, bishops and elders are all the same thing? However, bishops seem to be selected through the church government while pastors are selected by the hand of the Lord Himself. It would seem to me that a bishop/elder would be more similar in their roles than a pastor would be.

          We also have those who are called to be apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers as well. Now, let's all agree to put aside the "apostles and prophets are not for today" argument and focus on the order of government that the early church held to. Where do these other four roles fall into church authority and government along with the bishops/elders, deacons, etc.?

          You are confusing the religious organization and its institutions we call "church" today with the Body of Believers called "Church" in Scripture. The church today (religious institution) was not established by Jesus (He called out Believers to follow HIM not to form religious organizations) and has placed itself under secular control by becoming a government recognized not-for-profit corporation. The structure of the religious institution varies from church to church. The instructions in Scripture for the Church are for the Body of Believers wherever they meet (in Bible days it was in homes).
          In Him,
          Bob Allen

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by VerticalReality View Post
            We know that Christ is the head of the church, but what is the appropriate order of government in the church? Where do these other four roles fall into church authority and government along with the bishops/elders, deacons, etc.?
            In our church, here's how it works:

            1) Pastor has the last say in all spiritual matters, since he alone is accountable

            2) The ministry leaders (elders) have the last say concerning all business.

            3) The deacons are not leaders - they are servants, hence the greek definition of the word deacon. They serve the congregation in most capacities.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jeffreys View Post
              I don't know that he has to serve as an elder, but certainly should be qualified to be an elder.

              Sorry I didn't make that more clear.
              Greetings Pastor Jeffreys,

              Since you are a pastor, perhaps you can help with a question that has arisen in our church. We are members of United Reformed Church of No. America. This federation of churches is descended mostly from Canandian Reformed, and as such have always elected elders/deacons for three to four year term limits. We are presently looking at the argument of electing elders/deacons for life, after thoroughly training potential prospects through Biblical Eldership.

              Can you give me your insight on whether it is biblical to install elders/deacons for life or for term limits? With the three year term limit, we find it is becoming very difficult to find qualified men desiring the position, because after working hard for three years on particular issues that arise, it is very difficult to find all your effort go by the wayside with the next new group. Anyway, your wisdom and insight on this would be much appreciated.

              Many Blessings,
              RW

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sold Out View Post
                In our church, here's how it works:

                1) Pastor has the last say in all spiritual matters, since he alone is accountable

                2) The ministry leaders (elders) have the last say concerning all business.

                3) The deacons are not leaders - they are servants, hence the greek definition of the word deacon. They serve the congregation in most capacities.
                I'm going to take an edumacated guess and say you're part of a Baptist church?

                The reason I'm thinking that is because a really good friend of mine, who pastors a Baptist church, speaks of their "deacons" in the exact same terms of which we speak of our "elders". I'm not sure exactly why they use different names for the same leadership role, but they do.


                I guess the really important thing is to be sure we're doing the Lord's work, doing it intentionally and with accountability.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by revrobor View Post
                  You are confusing the religious organization and its institutions we call "church" today with the Body of Believers called "Church" in Scripture. The church today (religious institution) was not established by Jesus (He called out Believers to follow HIM not to form religious organizations) and has placed itself under secular control by becoming a government recognized not-for-profit corporation. The structure of the religious institution varies from church to church. The instructions in Scripture for the Church are for the Body of Believers wherever they meet (in Bible days it was in homes).
                  I'm not sure where you think there is confusion . . .

                  I didn't mention anything about the secular world or the church's relationship with it. The Lord gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and the Word also mentions the roles of bishops/elders in this church as well. This post is about the order of authority in the church. It doesn't matter if these churches on in homes or some designated building. It would still have the same members with different functions. The Lord has placed some in position to lead. This post is to discuss the order of that leadership.
                  "What you do does not define who you are; it's who you are that defines what you do."

                  -- Dr. Neil T. Anderson

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jeffreys View Post
                    I don't know that he has to serve as an elder, but certainly should be qualified to be an elder.

                    Sorry I didn't make that more clear.
                    Would you say the same about an apostle, prophet or evangelist? Should they also be qualified to serve as an elder?
                    "What you do does not define who you are; it's who you are that defines what you do."

                    -- Dr. Neil T. Anderson

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RogerW View Post
                      Greetings Pastor Jeffreys,

                      Since you are a pastor, perhaps you can help with a question that has arisen in our church. We are members of United Reformed Church of No. America. This federation of churches is descended mostly from Canandian Reformed, and as such have always elected elders/deacons for three to four year term limits. We are presently looking at the argument of electing elders/deacons for life, after thoroughly training potential prospects through Biblical Eldership.

                      Can you give me your insight on whether it is biblical to install elders/deacons for life or for term limits? With the three year term limit, we find it is becoming very difficult to find qualified men desiring the position, because after working hard for three years on particular issues that arise, it is very difficult to find all your effort go by the wayside with the next new group. Anyway, your wisdom and insight on this would be much appreciated.

                      Many Blessings,
                      RW
                      I guess what I'll say first of all is, "Just do everything the way WE do it - because we do EVERYTHING RIGHT!!!!!"

                      Okay, enough smart alec junk... And also let me honestly say that I absolutely do NOT have all the answers. Therefore, I'll share with you my opinions in this matter.

                      First of all, no matter how good your structure, your leadership will only be as good as the people in leadership. If you have leaders who are jerks (and I've been around a fair share that fit that bill) it won't matter whether they're chosen or appointed, whether they're permanent or serve terms. The quality of your leadership is more important than specific roles.

                      Second, I believe that God has given us much grace in regards to church leadership. (This is a position I would not have taken 20 years ago.) I clearly see the New Testament setting up the structure of Elders leading churches. They were (and still are) the spiritual leaders - Godly men of passion, purity, integrity, knowledge and experience. Frankly, I don't think it matters greatly whether we call them "elders" or "bishops" or "presbyters", so long as they possess the qualifications.

                      Beyond the oversight of the Elders/Bishops/Presbyters, church leadership can vary greatly. Deacon Board, Leadership Teams, Committees, whatever... So long as their cooperating with the leadership of the Elders, and the work of the Kingdom is being done, I don't see any absolutes.

                      Third, I don't know whether "elder for life" is any better or worse than elders who serve specific terms. Elders need to be both qualified and willing to serve. If they are no longer either, or both, of those things, they should no longer be elders. I know of churches where "elder candidates" are selected by the current elders, if there is no Scriptural objection from the congregation, they are appointed for life. It seems to be a perfectly fine system. On the other hand, there needs to be some means of accountability, so that if an elder is no longer willing or qualified to serve, he can be "removed".

                      Fourth, I don't know whether it's better to elect or appoint elders. Elections often become popularity contests, or worse, power struggles (I've know all too well how destructive the latter is).

                      The bottom line is that Church Leadership needs to work, work well, and work to the glory of God.



                      By the way, I'm familiar with Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Churches. I've got two good friends who pastor those churches respectively. Absolutely fantastic guys! Are you either of those two denominations, or another "branch"?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by VerticalReality View Post
                        Would you say the same about an apostle, prophet or evangelist? Should they also be qualified to serve as an elder?
                        I guess I can't answer that with an absolute. And part of the reason I cannot say absolutely, is because that would bring in the debate as to whether or not there are current day prophets, etc.

                        What I do believe is absolute is that anyone claiming these "gifts" or "roles" should operate under the leadership of the Elders.

                        Does that make any sense?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I met a local pastor of a free church. What confused me was where did he get his authority and teaching from? Coming from an Anglican background, there are colleges and Bishops to ordain. But if you are in a free church, you are saying, in many cases, you don't consider nominations biblical - at least that is what he said - and need to be free of their false teaching.
                          He then went on to say he had been part of a very small denomination and been trained and ordained by them. Later they had split in half. He didn't only say all denominations weren't biblical, but that his original mini denomination had split in half because of false teaching and over 2 years, 50 churches he had accepted, he had visited and didn't accept any more.
                          It seemed to me, everyone was so unbiblical everywhere, that he was telling me that if he hadn't returned to being a pastor - the congregation were doomed.
                          But i hope you get my point - if a church is 'free' - it is therefore impossible to then get outside authority for you pastor/ minister, elders, deacons or any position - if you believe you have to be free of all the unbiblical teaching. Surely it would be wrong to go to a bible college run by unbiblical people to get a qualification on the grounds that you agreed with their teaching when you didn't. Simply put, you lied!
                          The only option left with any respect would be for the congregation to appoint a competant man to lead, and have him guided by the Holy Spirit. His authority would then only be relevent to those who asked him to lead - and not recognisable to anyother denomination or wider society/ legally - weddings, funerals etc.
                          Funnily he then told me of all his christian brothers and sisters worldwide. Supposedly those people living in darkness, with the blind leading the blind? Not surprisingly he'd appointed an elder to cover if he was ill or away, who medically couldn't do serious training or handle stress/ pressure. No threat to his total authority.
                          1 Corinthians 1:12-13 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

                          Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?

                          KJV

                          May the power of the Spirit of our God unite us. SofTy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            ServantOfTruth, you make some great points.

                            I serve a "non-denominational" church. But non-denominational does not mean no structure. Nor does it mean that any and everybody gets into leadership positions, although that certainly can happen.

                            Personally, I have both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Pastoral Ministry - which includes extensive education in everything from Theology to Counseling to Leadership to Exegesis. Please don't take that as bragging, because I feel horribly inadequate to face most of the challenges of ministry - and that certainly keeps me humbled (sometimes humiliated). But it's my way of saying that us "free" churches do have structure, training, education, etc.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jeffreys View Post
                              I guess what I'll say first of all is, "Just do everything the way WE do it - because we do EVERYTHING RIGHT!!!!!"

                              Okay, enough smart alec junk... And also let me honestly say that I absolutely do NOT have all the answers. Therefore, I'll share with you my opinions in this matter.

                              First of all, no matter how good your structure, your leadership will only be as good as the people in leadership. If you have leaders who are jerks (and I've been around a fair share that fit that bill) it won't matter whether they're chosen or appointed, whether they're permanent or serve terms. The quality of your leadership is more important than specific roles.

                              Second, I believe that God has given us much grace in regards to church leadership. (This is a position I would not have taken 20 years ago.) I clearly see the New Testament setting up the structure of Elders leading churches. They were (and still are) the spiritual leaders - Godly men of passion, purity, integrity, knowledge and experience. Frankly, I don't think it matters greatly whether we call them "elders" or "bishops" or "presbyters", so long as they possess the qualifications.

                              Beyond the oversight of the Elders/Bishops/Presbyters, church leadership can vary greatly. Deacon Board, Leadership Teams, Committees, whatever... So long as their cooperating with the leadership of the Elders, and the work of the Kingdom is being done, I don't see any absolutes.

                              Third, I don't know whether "elder for life" is any better or worse than elders who serve specific terms. Elders need to be both qualified and willing to serve. If they are no longer either, or both, of those things, they should no longer be elders. I know of churches where "elder candidates" are selected by the current elders, if there is no Scriptural objection from the congregation, they are appointed for life. It seems to be a perfectly fine system. On the other hand, there needs to be some means of accountability, so that if an elder is no longer willing or qualified to serve, he can be "removed".

                              Fourth, I don't know whether it's better to elect or appoint elders. Elections often become popularity contests, or worse, power struggles (I've know all too well how destructive the latter is).

                              The bottom line is that Church Leadership needs to work, work well, and work to the glory of God.



                              By the way, I'm familiar with Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Churches. I've got two good friends who pastor those churches respectively. Absolutely fantastic guys! Are you either of those two denominations, or another "branch"?
                              Pastor Jeffreys,

                              Thank you for your words of wisdom. We are the newest members of this church, just over two years. What we notice is that electing leaders has become not only a popularity contest, but also a political power struggle....ugh..a real pain....But we recognize the problems, and that's part of the fix...right? Anyway, we are truly seeking to choose according to God's way, and hopefully through this new training manual by Alexander Strauch "An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Eldership" (have you heard of it), we will implement suggestions that will benefit the congregation, and bring glory to God. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond, I'll share what you have given with the elders in our church.

                              Our church broke off the Christian Reformed Church about 11 years ago when there appeared to be a real weakening in leadership...duh...go figure, will we learn nothing from our past mistakes?

                              Many Blessings,
                              RW

                              Comment

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