The focus of this course will be the biblical roots and definitions of the Church. Time will also be given
to the power, the call and the importance of the Church. New Testament church government will also be
presented in detail, as this is one of the most misused and misunderstood areas of church life.
The organization pattern by which a church governs itself. At first, church organization and government in the
New Testament was flexible to meet changing needs. But as the church became better established, it gave
attention to the right structures and procedures that would help it accomplish its mission. In the earliest days, the
APOSTLES directed the work of the church. Then seven men were chosen to assist the needs (Acts 6). Later,
PROPHETS, EVANGELISTS, ELDERS, BISHOP>S, and DEACONS were chosen.
No single pattern of government in the early church can be discovered by reading the New Testament. Thus,
numerous forms of church government are used today to provide order and structure for the work of churches.
Present expressions of church government may be classified into six forms.
Congregational. This form of organization allows a local congregation the freedom to determine what it considers
the will of Christ. Thus, each congregation governs its own affairs. Congregational freedom does not imply that
the local bodies are self-governing apart from the Lordship of Christ. But the members of each congregation have
the right to determine what they consider to be the will of Christ.
Presbyterian. This form of church government recognizes that Christ alone is Head of the Church, and that He
rules His church by His Word and Spirit. Thus, church officials have power, although it is ministerial and
declarative, not legislative. They declare, explain, and apply Christ's will as the Spirit clarifies the Scripture to
their understanding. They do not make new laws for the church. Presbyterians believe they find the authority for
their form of church government in the Bible, but they do not claim that Presbyterian government is the only kind
that God can bless.
Episcopalian. This system of church government views the bishop as the principal officer. Decisions are made
at levels higher than the local church, but common sense often dictates that the will of God and the opinions of
members should be given prayerful consideration.
Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics view the church as the continuing visible presence of Christ in the world.
Christ maintains His life on earth through the church. The clergy form a hierarchy that governs the church with
the pope as the highest authority. The pope is the "bishop" of Rome; his decisions are authoritative for the entire
church. The papal office is believed to be passed from pope to pope. This authority is believed to have originated
in Christ's declaration of Peter as the first pope, according to the Catholic interpretation of Matt 16:18.
National Church Government. This form of government recognizes that the supreme authority for church matters
is vested in the state and not the church itself. Supporters of this form of church government believe that
representatives of the state have the right to rule on all religious matters connected with the church.
Quakers. The Quakers reject any type of church ruler or official and almost every form of physical organization.
For the Quakers, everything depends on the inner light which any believer has the right and power to receive
directly from God. They have no specific rules for receiving members. Decisions are arrived at by mutual
agreement among the believers.
From the Greek kuriakee (NT:2960), "house of the Lord," a word which passed to the Gothic tongue;
Ekkleesia (NT:1577) in the New Testament never means the building or house of assembly, because church
buildings were built long AFTER the apostolic age. It means an organized body, whose unity does not depend
on its being met together in one place; not an assemblage of atoms, but members in their several places united
to the One Head, Christ, and forming one organic living whole (1 Cor 12).
The Greek means a called out or forth from their homes into an assembly.
The bride of Christ (Eph 5:25-32; 1:22), the body of which He is the Head.
The household of Christ and of God (Matt 10:25; Eph 2:19). The temple of the Holy Spirit, made up of living
stones (Eph 2:22; 1 Cor 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5).
Ekkleesia (NT:1577) is used of one or more particular Christian associations, even one small enough to worship
together in one house (Rom 16:5). Also of "the whole church" (Rom 16:23; 1 Cor 12:28). Ekkleesia occurs twice
only in Matthew (Matt 16:18; 18:17), elsewhere called "the kingdom of the heavens" by Matthew, "the kingdom
of God" by Mark, Luke and John.
Episcopacy was adopted in apostolic times as the most expedient government, most resembling Jewish
usages, and so causing the least stumblingblock to Jewish prejudices (Acts 4:8; 24:1). James, the brother of our
Lord, after the martyrdom of James, the son of Zebedee and the flight of Peter (Acts 12:17), alone remained
behind in Jerusalem, the recognized head there. His Jewish tendencies made him the least unpopular to the Jews,
and so adapted him for the presidency there without the title (Acts 15:13-19; 21:18; Gal 2:2,9,12). This was the
first specimen of apostolic local episcopacy without the name. The presbyters of the synagogue were called also
BISHOPS (see), or overseers. "Those now called `bishops' were originally `apostles.' But those who ruled the
church after the apostles' death had not the testimony of miracles, and were in many respects inferior, therefore
they thought it unbecoming to assume the name of apostles; but dividing the names, they left to `presbyters' that
name, and themselves were called `bishops'" (Ambrose, in Bingham Eccl. Ant., 2:11; and Amularius, De Officiis,
Deut 2:13.) The steps were apostle; then vicar apostolic or apostolic delegate, as Timothy in Ephesus and Titus
in Crete, temporarily (1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 4:21; Titus 3:12; 1:5), then angel, then bishop in the present sense.
Episcopacy gives more of centralized unity, but when made an absolute law it tends to spiritual
despotism. The visible church, while avoiding needless alterations, has power under God to modify her polity
as shall tend most to edification (Matt 18:18; 1 Cor 12:28-30; 14:26; Eph 4:11-16). The Holy Spirit first unites
souls individually to the Father in Christ, then with one another as "the communion of saints." Then followed
the government and ministry, which are not specified in detail until the pastoral epistles, namely, 1 and 2 Timothy
and Titus, the latest epistles.
Christian church buildings were built like synagogues, with the holy table placed where the chest
containing the law had been. The desk and pulpit were the chief furniture in both, but no altar. When the ruler
of the synagogue became a Christian, he naturally was made bishop, as tradition records that Crispus became at
Corinth (Acts 18:8). Common to both church and synagogue were the discipline (Matt 18:17), excommunication
(1 Cor 5:4), and the collection of alms (1 Cor 16:2).
I. Pre-Christian History of the Term.-Although ekklesia soon became a distinctively Christian word, it
has its own pre-Christian history; and to those, whether Jews or Greeks, who first heard it applied to the Christian
society it would come with suggestions of familiar things. Throughout the Greek world and right down to New
Testament times (compare Acts 19:39), ekklesia was the designation of the regular assembly of the whole body
of citizens in a free city-state, "called out" (Greek ek, "out," and kalein, "to call") by the herald for the discussion
and decision of public business. In this Old Testament sense we find ekklesia employed by Stephen in the Book
of Acts, where he describes Moses as "he that was in the church (the Revised Version, margin "congregation")
in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). The word thus came into Christian history with associations alike for the Greek
and the Jew. To the Greek it would suggest a self-governing democratic society; to the Jew a theocratic society
whose members were the subjects of the Heavenly King. The pre-Christian history of the word had a direct
bearing upon its Christian meaning, for the ekklesia of the New Testament is a "theocratic democracy" (Lindsay,
Church and Ministry in the Early Centuries, 4), a society of those who are free, but are always conscious that
their freedom springs from obedience to their King.
But Paul in his later epistles has another use of ekklesia peculiar to himself, which may be described
as the ideal use. The church, now, is the body of which Christ is the head (Eph 1:22 f; Col 1:18,24). It is the
medium through which God's manifold wisdom and eternal purpose are to be made known not only to all men,
but to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Eph 3:9-11). It is the bride of whom He is the
heavenly Bridegroom, the bride for whom in His love He gave Himself up, that He might cleanse and sanctify
her and might present her to Himself a glorious church, a church without blemish, not having spot or wrinkle or
any such thing (5:25 ff).
POINT OF DISCUSSION - THE REDEFINITION OF THE CHURCH
We are catching wind of the redefinition of the church today. It is frightening, for all
of our old props are about to be threatened. In America we have tried to make institutions and
corporations instead of the church, and our local church bodies are products of this “spiritual,”
cultural support system. We have made forms of worship that have become so rigid that we
can step into them, be “equipped” to look holy and worshipful, and no Holy Ghost anointing
is necessary. No one really knows for sure. Some wonder a little why more is not
“happening.” Most seem to think that all we need to do is patiently wait upon God more than
We have to accept more and more that God is going to pour new wine into new
wineskins. The pharisees didn’t understand the times of Jesus’ coming and criticized what was
going on. Similarly, we must realize that a new work will require a new container! Equipping
people means having the structure or wine skin in place that allows them to minister by not
having a structure oriented, building oriented, institutional or corporate structure created where
people simply are learning to look like they have something they really don’t have.
What if, in our “church” setting, we had a discussion break out amongst a few about
a certain thing? What if others gathered in another corner to pray while others worshiped a
little? Who said we have to have a certain pattern that keeps others from ministering as they
watch the “professionals” do it? If we allowed such a thing to happen we wouldn’t know what
to do or how to “deal” with it. Where does the sermon fit in? What about the offering? How
do we communicate announcements? Where is the structure of things done decently and in
order? What about the times when the church did meet and someone preached? Don’t we
have to facilitate that? And what is equally frightening is that there are people who think that
they know how it should function and that they know how to do it. But they’ve never led, so
they think the answer is simple. They never seen what God wants to do with His church. No
one has. However, God is still going to pastor His church through the five fold ministry
because they are called and being equipped themselves for such a task. They must learn,
though, just how God is equipping them and not how man has equipped them.
We must openly ask these questions to see where there are man made institutions that
are keeping God from moving freely through everyone. We say that we don’t “have church”
but that we are the church. But we don’t know yet how to walk that out nearly as fully as God
intends. It’s still event centered, building centered, and institutionally centered. Simply put,
we have too many props, and its easier that way because the flesh can be lazy and pampered
while the spirit in us remains unexercised and largely unused. And if we just quit doing things
the way they are it would basically fall apart because people are not spiritually prepared to step
up to the plate and be used or to accept what would be offered in an “un-micro-waved”
package. They sometimes don’t realize what is required to minister and often are unwilling
to pay the price. Or they may try to minister like someone else they’ve seen, and it gets so
fleshly that God can’t use them like He’d want. But here’s the equipping too.
I believe God’s way will be to stun leadership into thinking of the church as people and
Spirit instead of thinking of it as a building, a corporation and an event. We say we agree, but
we haven’t yet fully learned to live it. Leaders are going to have to trust God in their people,
and they are going to have to stop using the ministry to build their egos. They are going to
have to branch out into new vistas instead of continually feeding the same people until they
have over eaten and some are too full, fat and lazy to minister. Leaders like to minister. It
fulfills them, and that’s ok. But they must realize that others need the same fulfillment too.
I believe that to look closely at this issue and to take the steps towards it are going to
require people with no personal agendas. There can be no unresolved root issues that so color
the vision that we just continue to move according to the flesh. The fleshly props are there
because we have hidden from the truth within our own souls. They are there because of the
fears and other insecurities we have carried. They are there because the present system has not
challenged them sufficiently, and they are there because we have not wanted them to be
challenged. Whenever they have been challenged the church’s political, controlling forces
have quenched the leadership. In a very practical way the church has forced its leadership into
an institutional mold. That’s why Rick Joyner says that the church is going to have a civil war.
People want to be released. The Spirit in them wants out.
To see this progress towards the Spirit led redefinition of the church it’s going to have
to be just that, Spirit led. We can not read a few articles and then force change. God is going
to have to lead. Our part is first to begin to understand where God is leading us by asking
questions like we have been. If we can be aware, we can more easily recognize God’s voice
and avert local civil wars. We can open our hearts to horizons that expose where we still hold
to religious traditions that God is no longer moving powerfully in because they have become
religious traditions instead of Spirit led happenings. We can look at the scriptures with fresh
eyes to see what it really isn’t saying about what we must be doing and how we must do it.
We must realize that the redefinition of the Church is going to call for a redefinition
of our own personal walk with God. It’s going to be a part of true revival. Finally, we can
learn to let biblical principles guide our church experiences and realize that all of the human
expressions of worship are not wrong. The church has gotten to where it has, has influenced
the nation, and you have been saved because something has been done right!
In pursuit of church government, particularly the establishing of leadership, there are several areas that
I would like to clarify. Who are church leaders? How are they developed or equipped? What are their
characteristics? How do they function? Finally, how are we to operate in relationship to God's ordained
government? These areas will be addressed as we look at some principles of church leadership with the intent
of establishing the church.
It is apparent from I Cor. 12:28 that God has set governments by men into the church. Men govern as
allowed by God. Government's basic definition may be called the direction, regulation, control and restraint
of a person or group. We personally govern ourselves in the Lordship of Christ, and govern others by the
calling of God.
1 Cor 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after
that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and
ordain elders (a senior, those who managed public affairs and administered justice, a term of rank as a judge)
in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Titus 1:7 For a bishop (an overseer, superintendent, a guardian of souls) must be blameless, as the steward
of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
Titus 1:5 & 7 indicate that the position of elder and bishop are synonymous. Further, Paul here shows
us that the pastor, Titus, was given the authority to set these positions in his and other churches.(1) It appears
that church government births church government.
From I Tim. 4:14 we also see that several elders, called the presbytery, imparted a spiritual leadership (
1) through the laying on of hands.
1 Tim 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the
hands of the presbytery.
1 Tim 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in
the word and doctrine.
I Tim. 5:17 shows that elders are also called ~ Further, as we identify this position, we see that some
elders are called to minister the Word of God,(2) yet some apparently do not. Preaching/teaching ministry
is not the only responsibility in eldership, nor is it essential to being an elder/bishop.
Acts 11:29-30 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the
brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 11:29,30 shows that another responsibility given to elders was the handling of finances, (4) in
this case money given in relief of the poor.
Acts 15:2,4,22, 28,29; 16:4 show that the apostles and elders were given authority and responsibility
to discern matters of doctrine.(2)
Acts 20:28 show that the elders, also called overseers, were to feed the church(2) over which the
Spirit had made them leaders. Also I Peter 5:1 shows this. Here Peter, being an Apostle, is also an elder.
Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made
you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
James 5:14 calls them to pray for the sick..(3)
Eph 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph. 4:11 - 16 shows that they are to prepare the body for works of service,(5) build them up, bring
them to maturity in Christ, keep them from being tossed about by doctrines,(6) and to establish them in
unity.(7) One of the fundamental purposes of authority in any government is unity.
It appears that a duly constituted and Spirit ordained government oversee the establishing and
perpetuation of the Church. Old Testament eldership seemed the New Testament example. These were
the seasoned, respected leaders of groups, both civil and religious. The disciples naturally incorporated this
into church life. It also appears that pioneers such as apostles or missionary pastors such as Titus recognized
eldership emerging in the Christian community and then ordained them into the church. Government coming
from government was the norm.
One of the biblical ways of recognizing elders was the government of God that was evidenced in their
households, I Tim. 3:5,12. It is said that if a man can not govern himself under Christ, than he is not fit to
govern in his family. If not in his family, than not in his church, and not in his church than not in his city,
state and nation is he ready to govern. Church leadership begins in the family, and should be the role model
for all forms of government.
Deacon - an attendant, one who serves and ministers to the necessities of others. It was an office of
responsibility, and one which served to safeguard the unity of the body through practical meeting of needs.
Summary of Eldership Responsibility
1. Establish and perpetuate church leadership and government
2. Superintend and minister sound doctrine
3. Minister to the sick
4. Oversee finances
5. Prepare the body for good works including establishing and facilitating purpose and vision
6. Protect and prepare the body unto maturity including biblically dealing with sin
7. Promote unity
Insights in Church Government
In light of what the Church has become over the years it is essential to understand what the bible is
and isn't saying about Church government. We have come to look at corporate government as church
government, and it is not. Instead of eldership installed by eldership, we have deacons governing from
appointments of the body instead of the eldership. One of the reasons for this was the motivation behind the
beginnings of our nation in reaction to oppressive Church government in England. The point is that
government needs itself to be governed. The greatest enemy of any level of government is self life.
Thusly, in the name of protection from oppression the Church has gone away from Biblical government under
God to self government by majority rule.
Today people are losing sight of what government is, and they are therefore losing sight of the need
for it. Anarchy has become the result. Procedure must be taught and acted on as to how to establish and
guarantee continuing effective government. Even declarations of independence require duly constituted
government or unity is lost. Our country did not form out of the fire of rebellion and anarchy in breaking
away from England. They formed a government that was tested severely by God.
Our settlers, in forming Church government which became the model for the U.S. Constitution,
instituted a constitutional republic in which they believed that God could choose through them if they truly
lived in love towards one another. That covenant love that made a resolute commitment to stand against the
self life has been lost in the American Church by in large. Tremendous c8sualties have resulted as we have
seen the falling away of so many ministers and parishioners. Accordingly the motives of. the governing are
essential to examine. Authority without love is control and manipulation. Morality must be essential.
4 Elements of government
Purposes for being must determine the directional element of government. Too often we have come
to merely living from Sunday to Sunday and existing as churches to satisfy the egos of ministry.
Regulation must come from defined moral limits in living. It also includes the life of experience in
facilitating all of the responsibilities of the elder.
Loss of control comes in Church government when confidence is lost. This is one of the greatest sins
against a church or any government. Control is not wrong with a right heart. Authority in the church is a
voluntary issue. People submit to the Lord through His written Word and thereby give the right to be
governed to the men God has given to them. Leaders only have as much authority as their people give them.
To demand or attempt to force authority for the Church leader is always wrong. God never forces His will.
Restraint is vital to check ungodly pursuits, to set limits. As the leadership demonstrates restraint in
life to the flesh's desires he learns to exercise restraint in all areas of government.
Direction, regulation, control and restraint are but four areas that define government that must be
continually checked. Abuse in these four areas must be guarded against. Is the purpose focused and kept? Is
it effective? Is the control from a voluntary submission by a heart of love? Does restraint exceed or neglect
discipline and rebuke? Concerning the standards of government and of the Church, do they reflect the life
of the Church, or are they above or below the lifestyle? Is there an increasing tendency to make more Church
by-laws? (More laws indicate an increased lawlessness in the hearts of people.) If these areas are lacking
in the Churches then the elder's personal lives are probably in need of help. Consequently those in
leadership must recognize their inability to govern alone - of their ability to fall if left to themselves.
What system of checks and balances are there to guard against tyranny? What accountability is there?
Is an adversarial condition or attitude fostered through immaturity when challenges arise? The answer to
this begins with the preparation of leadership, the testing and refining, and how this preparation is
handled. Paul said that though I give my body to be burned, if I have not love, I am nothing. Great looking
abilities mean little in an elder if the character of Christ has not been burned into them. So before we look
at perpetuating government, we must understand qualifications for these elders.
In New Testament Church life bishops often received ordination by apostles and were elected by a
congregation to ratify their call from God. Other elders were ordained by apostles or bishops. Deacons were
ordained solely by the bishop or apostle as his assistants to serve him. They visited the sick, poor, widows,
orphans, prisoners, collected the offerings, and informed the bishops of the people's needs. Therefore their
qualifications according to I Tim. 3 must be high. They would be privy to much sensitive information, and
they must have the proper character to handle it.
One of the hallmarks of government in the church as it relates to qualification is the principle
of the cross. The flesh has many wrong motives that God deals with through the circumstances of maturity
development. As an example, one young prospective missionary was told to be at the missions director's
office at 6 o'clock in the morning. After driving several hours he arrived, only to sit and wait several hours
in the hall. When the director finally called him into his office, they exchanged pleasantries. He was then told
that he to be recommended for a position. "But what about our interview?" "You just had it," said the
director. He passed the interview by patiently waiting for several hours and not complaining when called in!
We often look at the academic qualifications, the ability to teach or preach, or other gifts. These are
not qualifications, but gifts. God does not call the qualified in this sense. He qualifies those He calls. True
qualification in the sense of character and in the commitment to live the Word makes or breaks a ministry,
a church, and its leaders. For example, government is not about demanding rights. It is all about mercy and
our need of it within the framework of justice. Kingdom government should be based upon being members
one of another. Rom. 12:5. If one suffers, all suffer... I Cor. 12:26 Government and leadership should be
moving towards this in the church because it has been faithfully proved out in their lives.
Church/community covenants made a pattern for most successful governments in America at
its beginnings. This vision that our settlers had recognized that the greatest enemy of covenant living was
the self life. The secret of the horizontal aspect of the covenant was, "Only at the foot of the cross can we be
truly united." Because of their understanding of sinful human nature, their covenants would be set up along
the lines of equality and government by the consent of the governed. Leadership was not forced but
recognized. In God's Kingdom, we only have as much authority as is given to us. It does not originate within
Leadership often makes mistakes. It is carried in earthen vessels. Not to acknowledge such, and
allow it, is to set leadership up to inevitably fail in its pursuit of perfection. It is to tempt them to believe
that everything that comes from them is from the very Throne. Thusly, all those involved must learn to trust
God implicitly. He is the one in control of our destiny, not men. And He is pleased to have it such. If a man
has not deeply learned to trust in God through the cross, he can not faithfully govern when under pressure.
He will either become a controller or he will be controlled. (Both are involved, but one rises to dominance.)
Concerning the establishing and refining of the foundation of America it has been said, "What
mattered to God was not what was done to them, but how they responded." Thusly, Church life must
see its leaders learning to endure injustice. Love is therefore essential to the well being of a people and its
government. It is as necessary as ligaments and sinews to the body, not some imaginary
thing. We can not have government without love in its leadership and as their goal. By this we are knit
together. Without it, unity -government's purpose - fails.
If we can not love, we lose our right to require standards. Morality is the highest good of any
person or group, and love lives to promote anther's highest good. Unfortunately, too many churches exist with
written standards yet they have not the love to lift people to those standards. This is poor leadership. At the
other spectrum is the misdefined love that has no sight of morality. It sees standards and love as living in
opposition to one another. With such, justice and judgement are impossible.
Congregational government, the basis for our so called American democracy, failed early on because
they didn't live their love. They didn't live in love enough to exhort, admonish and rebuke. The testimony of
the saints was such. They said that they felt that God could govern through the body, that He could guide,
and elect if they lived in covenant relationship. When they left their love, the church began to die.
In our day, as in theirs, the balance of liberty of conscience and commitment to corporate unity
has been lost. We have gone from one extreme to another because we have failed in the third office of
Christ, that of a King. (leadership) Few want to pay attention to it. Others focus only on it, and it becomes
a god. Our nation cried liberty and began to lose the commitments that come from covenant love. Today, as
a result of abuses of government in "pulpit and pew" we see little commitment. Membership means next to
Whether congregational or presbyterian (Eldership) styles of government are used, it is the
responsibility of leadership to recognize the fact that we need one another. We are here to help and support
one another. He uses this nurturing to accomplish His purposes. This covenant living must see us delight in
each other, make one anther's condition our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together.
We are not made for independence of our brother. Thusly, the heart of government must be the selfless,
loving character of the governors. The debate of eldership verses congregational government means nothing
without this. We can follow the procedures of New Testament eldership if we want, but the principles of New
Testament love will be the true determining factors.
"Thy neighbor as thy self,'1 is more important than one's own sovereign rights. It is not an excuse
for injustice, but a required measuring rod of character for those involved in disputes of justice, i.e. He said
this, she did that. I want this resolved!" The attitude of leadership must be to minister to the heart, not just
deal with the outward. For example, someone wants a position. My question may be, "If you do not get the
position, will you leave the Church?" "Yes!" Then that person has probably already made the decision not
to serve for the motive was wrong, and ruin was down the road. Or in the question of somebody said this or
did that, "and I want justice!" ("Or we're leaving." That's the manipulative message often sent.) It's obvious
that "Thy neighbor as thyself' is at stake, and it should be obvious how leadership would handle this. Or is
it? "Well then leave." No! Because we must look beyond this person's faults to see their needs as well without
giving in to manipulation. It's an issue of mercy, not merely governmental justice.
The formation of government must anticipate the very worst happening. The chief obstacle in a
democratic, congregational, system is a factious spirit. Controlling its effects is the best possibility. We can
not remove men's liberty by various means. We must guard against tyranny in leadership. As leaders, we
must understand that human government is based upon realizing our sinfulness. Therefore, government
that does not believe in a Saviour believes in its own goodness. Thusly, the form of government is not the
main point. We must be submitted to the truth of man's (our) depravity or become an instrument of self-
righteousness. When ministers lose touch with this in themselves, they lose touch with the people and
consequently lose their effectiveness to reach them.
Government in the Church must be based on principles, not procedures. It is servanthood that
models covenant life. Here's the measure of Christian commitment in leadership - "how willing am I to be
a servant to another, my neighbor as myself?" In the final analysis, it is not about procedures, titles, or forms,
but who are we as leaders.
Having looked briefly at the issues of character and vision for church eldership as well as having a
scriptural overview of an elder's responsibility, lets look at implementing some of this. An elder appearing
to be a part of the five-fold ministry, his "label" is synonymous with bishop or pastor, it is to be recognized
as a "called" ministry.
*Evidences are the witness of the Spirit by other leadership (pastor~, prophets, etc.),
*the natural fruit that begins to be recognized by the body,
*the personal convictions developed in the individuals life and family, and
*the proving out of one's call by lifestyle.
*Personal desire is probably the most common evidence. However, I usually tell people, if you can do
anything else in this world, do it for you are then probably not called. To stand up to the challenge and
sacrifice of the ministry you MUST know you are called. Obviously, this is a personal opinion.
Those called should then begin a life of relationship in being discipled by other leadership. What this
is implying is that preparation for ministry and the release into the ministry can be the natural outgrowth of
local church life. Who knows the leaders better than the body? Who knows the body and its needs better than
the local leader? It seems the scriptural pattern. Ministry ought to be rising out of the local body. We should
not conclude that our ministers should come from outside of the area as trained professionals because they
are without honor in their home town. This is not a Biblical requirement!
Training will include academic training as well as on the job training. Most of this should. be part of
the natural outworking of ministry life verses formal, scheduled training. It's more real this way. After a
period of time it will be recognized by the church leadership and others that the person is ready to be given
recognition as an elder in the body with authority commensurate with his gifts, character, and~.
responsibilities. These people are then to be the recognized leaders of the Church in all matter~ of
government both corporate and spiritual. Some of them will minister the Word, and others will not according
to their gifting, but all will be responsible to full function as an elder. They are to be considered pastors, and
as the Church is able, they are to be compensated financially for their faithful service.
The vision of this Church body is discipleship as the means to become the dwelling place of God's
Spirit. It encompasses the Great Commission as well as Paul's understanding that we are to be built together
as a habitation of the Holy Spirit, Eph. 2. This requires the five fold ministry as well as that of the deacon.
In accomplishing this we realize the need to restore covenant living with a sense of community verses the
traditional, historical corporate approach. In the community sense we care for one another as our own and
make disciples through the understanding of what an extended family is all about. It includes a closeness and
atmosphere of emotional, physical and spiritual safety. Where love verses doctrine, power, achievement or
performance of individuals is the true goal, we can experience the foundation upon which fruitful Christian
life can be nurtured. People are very tired of being wounded through Church life, and though this may be a
part of our refining process, it is no excuse to overlook the reason why there has been so much division. It
is because the Church has lost the vision and practice of living to love thy neighbor as thyself, to make
another's condition our own, and to live in the covenant understanding that what is mine is yours.
The early church understood this, so that when they quickly grew to several thousand they developed
the necessary practical structure to nurture it. A sense of community, closeness and love can easily turn the
church group inward as has almost always been the case. Yet, if the church has an outward vision of living
in the love that makes its witness credible, it may experience tremendous growth. Love has made it
trustworthy of God's power for it truly has sought love more than power. To maintain the life of closeness
and caring the New Testament church quickly found God's answer in the ministry of the deacon. His
practical job was as the steward of covenant living for the exploding church. The call of the deacon was never
to be the corporate custodians of a man made structure. Theirs was to live out the mandate of Christ to love
by ministering to the needs of the body. It is from this context that the Church could remain in its unity and
love and could continue to live in what we loosely term revival
Because of this insight, it appears that deacons are to be appointed by the elders as the need arises.
They are to be men of high qualification according to scripture. They will need this proven lifestyle with the
accompanying fulness of the Holy Spirit for they are accepting the most needed task of loving and thusly
preserving the unity of the Spirit. Since it is Satan's great desire to divide the Body of Christ and thwart the
moving of the Holy Spirit, it appears that the deacon's great underlying reason for being and their frontlines
warfare is to maintain the unity of the Body in practical acts and administrations of love. Perhaps if this
ministry were truly active in our churches, both pastor and flock would be advancing upon the enemy outside
of the Church instead of continually striving to stay alive.