During Paul's first missionary journey with Barnabas they established congregations in Asia Minor. When they passed back through on their return, they passed through those congregations that had been established. And we are told they ordained elders in every church.
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:" - Titus 1:5
He goes on and talks about the leadership qualities, the qualification of these elders, Titus 1:6-9.
If we are going to be the church of the New Testament. We strive to pattern ourselves exactly as the pattern found in the New Testament. It shows us the organizational structure, and the pattern we must follow.
If you want the church set up in the right way, you go to the source. In this case, the New Testament.
The Leadership in the Church Must be by Authority of the Word God
We Can't Go by Traditions of Men
We need to follow not after the traditions of men. But, rather we must follow after the pattern that God gave in the word of God.
- 1 Peter 1:18
- Acts 7:51
We Can't Go by Our Conscience
Our conscience can be trained in the word of God. But, conscience by itself is not a good guide.
- Proverbs 14:12
- Acts 23:1
- The Decision of the Majority Cannot be the Authority of the Church
The church is not a democracy. It does not have a representative form of government. The Bible is our only authority in governing the church.
- 2 Timothy 3:16,17
- 2 Peter 1:3
- John 12:48
The word of God equips us for service, it gives us everything we need for life, and godliness. What's important is what His word says.
The Church of Christ Found in the Bible is a Monarchy
The Church of Christ is not a majority rule system. It is a monarchy. God, the supreme Creator, gave all things to His son, put all things under his feet, to be the Head of the Church.
- Ephesians 1:22,23
Jesus is the monarch. He is the king. He makes all the decisions for His church.
- Matthew 17:1-13
He is showing them that the law and the prophets were done away with, and all things were under His authority.
- John 14:26
Jesus promised them He would send them the comforter to bring all things to their remembrance.
- John 15:26,27
They would be able to bear witness so they could share the complete will of God, through Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 13:10
Shows us that that which is perfect, the complete will of God, would be complete in which we could derive all authority to govern the church. Jesus never delegated His authority to anyone on earth, except the apostles.
- Matthew 16:18,19
God would bind or loose His will in heaven, and then Peter and the apostles would then bind or loose on earth what had already been bound or loosed in heaven. That's where the authority of the scriptures came from.
The Leadership of the Church Has No Hierarchical Structure
As we look at the church, the New Testament church, we see in each congregation there is not any form of denominational structure. Each church is autonomous. Autonomy means the right of self governing, an independent body.
In the first century, each congregation was independent of all other congregations. We see no local congregations had authority over another congregation. In the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries forward we begin to see that kind of structure develop. The church of Rome, the elders of the church at Rome, began to oversee other congregations, which we know eventually led to the Roman Catholic church.
But, we read in the New Testament that each congregation was free and independent under the teaching of Jesus and the apostles to govern itself.They all had the same head, Jesus Christ. They had the same foundation, Jesus Christ. They constitute one body, but each local church is independent to be led by it's own elders.
History records a great departure from the truth came in the system of church government. The church structure began to reflect the organizational structure of the Roman empire. Instead of an emperor, they had a pope.
Leaders of a Congregation have no jurisdiction over other congregations.
The Leadership Pattern of the New Testament Church
- Philippians 1:1, with the bishops and deacons
We see the congregations have at least two elders in every church, a plurality. Not one single person was to have authority over the congregation, but rather a multiplicity of elders to lead under the authority of Christ.
Elders, bishops, pastors, and overseers, are the same office, but they are to oversee the flock, following the Great shepherd, Christ. They must be found in the qualifications of listed in the following passages.
- 1 Timothy 3
- Titus 1
They are to be concerned with the flock of which they are overseers.
- Acts 20:28-35
We see a good depiction of the work of an elder.
We see Three Greek Words Used for this Office
- Presbuteros, elderly person, 1 Timothy 5:17
- Episkopos, bishop or overseer, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:7
- Poiménos, pastor or shepherd (literally one who feeds sheep), Ephesians 4:11
In what Paul tells them in Acts 20, we see these Greek roots in the words he tells them.
- They were to be overseers which is bishops.
- He refers to the church as a flock, he says they are to feed sheep, a shepherd to feed the flock of God. They feed the flock spiritual food, sound doctrine from the word.
- Elders were to take heed of themselves, because problems were going to arise from among themselves.
- They are to help those who are week,
- Exhort in sound doctrine, Titus 1:9
- Encourage faint-hearted with longsufferning, 1 Thessalonians5:14
- Exercise oversight without lording over them, examples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:2,3
This is the work of the elders, the governing of the church.
- 1 Peter 5:4
If we are living righteously and living faithful to God, the chief Shepherd will appear and we will receive a crown of glory. That chief shepherd is Jesus Christ. He will return, and those who have heeded his voice will be raised to everlasting life.
To receive that crown of life, you must obey His voice. You can be added to the Lord's church, by believing on His name, repenting of your sins, confessing His name before men, being baptized for forgiveness of sins, and living faithfully with Him.