“In all that, Christ was on the one hand so one with God that what he did, God did, for he was none other than God himself acting thus in our humanity. And therefore there is no other god for us than this God, and no other action of God toward us than this action in which he stood in our place and acted on our behalf. On the other hand, he was so one with us that when he died we died, for he did not die for himself but for us, and he did not die alone, but we died in him as those whom he had bound to himself inseparably by his incarnation. Therefore when he rose again, we rose in him and with him, and when he presented himself before the face of the Father, he presented us also before God, so that we are already accepted of God in him once and for all.”
(Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, ed. Robert T. Walker)
The structure of the local church leadership must be a biblical structure. What do I mean by biblical? Essentially, church leadership is patterned after the examples and explanations within Scripture. The closer the structure of biblical patterns the more biblical the implementation. In other words, when the structure of church leadership looks like the pattern set forth in Scripture, then the structure of church leadership is biblical.
So what pattern of biblical church leadership do we see?
1) Plurality of Elders (aka. Pastors, Overseers, Presbyters, Elders – these titles are interchangeable)
Note, for example, Titus 1:5 (“appoint elders”), followed by v. 7 (“for a bishop must be blameless”). The very fact that the sentence in v. 7 begins with a “for” shows a connection: bishops are elders. Otherwise, why would Paul mention the qualifications of a group that were not whom Titus should appoint? In Acts 20:7 Paul calls the “elders of the church” of Ephesus together for a final meeting. Then, in v. 28 he addresses them as “overseers” (or bishops). Thus, any passage that deals with bishop is equally applicable to elders.
2) The leadership of the church from the earliest period always had elders, even if it did not have deacons. Young churches only had elders; more mature churches had both elders and deacons.
But the consistent Biblical pattern in the New Testament was for a plurality of elders. Note the following passages where either elder or bishop is used:
Acts 11:30–elders at the church of Antioch
Acts 14:23–Paul and Barnabas appoint “elders in every church”
Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4–elders at the church in Jerusalem
Acts 20:17, 28–elders/bishops at the church of Ephesus
Acts 21:18–elders at the church in Jerusalem
Phil 1:1–the church at Philippi has bishops and deacons
1 Tim 5:17–elders at the church of Ephesus
Titus 1:5–Titus is to appoint elders in every town
Jas 5:14–“the elders of the church”
1 Pet 5:1-2–“the elders among you”
And if there is any question as to what the role of these elders are, consider the book of Hebrews:
Heb 13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
Heb 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
Elders are a team of men who are set apart by God to shepherd the church, the Bible refers to these men as bishops or overseers or elders (terms used interchangeably). They have biblical qualifications as outlined in 1Tim3v1-7 and Titus 1v6-9. Functionally, I like to break down what they do by the 4 D’s:
Doctrine – Elders govern, teach & guard the doctrine that the church holds to.
Direction – Elders seek to shepherd the church in the direction that God is leading them.
Discipline – Elders seek to ‘discipline in love’ wayward church members to win them back to repentance and restoration.
Display – Elders seek to display a Christ-like character worthy to be copied.
A biblical church must have a biblical pattern of leadership- multiplicity of Elders. This also means, when a church plant is established, there must be a plurality of Elders/Pastors (meaning at least two). We can infer that a team of Elders are establishing the church plant- not a single Pastor. We can further infer a Lead Pastor with Support/Assistant Pastors. The point is there must be a plurality of Elders.
What are the qualifications of the Elders?
1) Blameless – A general requirement followed by specific areas in which the Overseer must be blameless. To be blameless is to be irreproachable. No one should be able to lay a charge against an Elder and make it stick.
John Calvin explains an Elder “must not be marked by any infamy that would lessen his authority. There will be no one found among men that is free from every vice; but it is one thing to be blemished with ordinary vices, which do not hurt the reputation, because they are found in men of the highest excellence, and another thing to have a disgraceful name, or to be stained with any baseness. In order, therefore, that a bishop may not be without authority, he enjoins that there shall be made a selection of one who has a good and honorable reputation, and not chargeable with any remarkable vice. Besides, he does not merely lay down a rule for Timothy what sort of person he must select, but likewise reminds every one of those who aspire to that rank, to institute a careful examination of himself and of his life.”
2) The Husband of One Wife – Better understood as a “one woman man” It is not a requirement for Elders to be married but men who are married to be married to one wife. This is an express prohibition of polygamy for an Overseer/Elder.
I believe Paul has Genesis 2-3 in mind. The language establishes the issue of “one woman man”. Paul confirms the Old Testament teaching that God’s command from the time of creation is a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two shall become one flesh. The Elder must be blameless with respect to the law of God concerning marriage.
3) Vigilant – Sober, not drunk, clearheaded, self-controlled, frugal, prudent, reasonable.
An Elder must be on guard and alert, just as a shepherd must always be watching for wolves and anything else that might endanger the flock. An Elder who is not vigilant in his private and public life will not be watchful over and care for the people of God.
4) Prudent – Thoughtful and self-controlled. The greek word refers to wisdom, good sense, a sound mind, and good jugdement.
6) Hospitable – The meaning of the word means “One who loves to be a host” – whether for friends or strangers. It’s all inclusive. He loves to be a host regardless of who he is hosting.
7) Skillful in Teaching
8) Not given to much wine
9) Not a violent man – Does not strike, wound or cause harm due to a blow.
10) Not fond of shameful gain – Shameful gain is anything that a man gets by dishonest means, or which itself is shameful or wicked.
12) Not Quarrelsome – Not given to quarrels, disputes, or strife, uncontentious, not a brawler.
13) Not loving money
14) Ruling his own house well
15) Not newly converted
16) A good testimony to those outside (the church)
What are the qualifications for Deacons?
1) Reverent – The qualifications for Deacons follow on the heals of the qualifications for Elders. Grammatically verses 8-9 of 1 Timothy 3 depend upon verse 2. “Reverent” is the first of five qualifications in the first sentence, which covers 8 & 9.
2) Not double-tongued – Also known as talking out of both sides of your mouth. He must not say one thing but mean something else. He must not say one thing to one person and the opposite to another person.
3) Not given to much wine – Paul uses the same word here as he wrote to Timothy saying, “to devote oneself to reading, exhortation, and teaching in 1 Timothy 4:13. Deacons are not to devote themselves to wine as they would to the important things mentioned previously.
4) Not fond of shameful gain
5) Holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience – Deacons like Elders must be instructed in right doctrine, should know the Scriptures well, live according to them, and be able to use them kindly in all situations that occur in daily life.
6) First be tested – Both Deacons and Elders must be tested prior to taking office in the church. This testing can take many forms but it must not be done in haste. The office of Deacon must NOT be looked upon as the bottom of the church leadership ladder, as it were. A Deacon is NOT a “Junior Elder”. It is not wise to put a man in the office of Deacon to “try him out” and see if he does well. And if he does well, let him continue in that office or move on to Elder.
7) Blameless – Different word than verse 2, but meaning is identical.
Differences between Elder and Deacon
In essence, the qualifications for both Elder and Deacons are virtually the same- even described with different words, but the meaning is the same. The significant difference is Elder is skilled at teaching. The deacon is the servant of the Elders and by extension the servant of the congregation at large. The deacons are given charge for specific duties to spread the burdens of the Elders and make the burdens light.
Acts 6 provides us with good detail as to the nature of the office of Deacon.
“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Deacons are appointed to serve. They are to lead by serving. They are the ones which exude servant leadership most. To put it in common language, they are the table waiters of the church. This is not derogatory or demeaning. This is glorious and wonderful- to exude Christ-likeness in serving others.
Who should be a Deacon? Look for those who are faithfully serving others above and beyond the rest. The test prior to taking the office of Deacon? Are they serving?
An important note to make here. The “Deacon Board” is not a competing board of power versus the “Elder/Pastor Board” – It is the Elders who oversee the Deacons- giving them direction. The Deacons then make their decisions based within and upon the direction the Elders have given them.
This brings us to my question of “Trustees” – Trustees, as related to legal issues, should be the Elders, not the Deacons. Why?
Elders rule over the congregation in general and Deacons more specifically. The Deacons do not have ruling power, other than to serve and appoint others to help serve in the “table waiter” functions of the church- today we would classify this as grounds, building, fellowships, meals, finances, etc… But at the same time there are Elders over these areas to give direction for the overall implementation of the tasks.
This means Elders must be Trustees. Because those outside the church (i.e. government with legal requirements) see the Trustees as the leaders of the church. The Elders are those who are the leaders and rulers of the church and must be recognized as such outside the church.
In typical form, there is the pastor, the deacons, and the trustees. The trustees really should be called “deacons” and the deacons “elders” in such a model and trained to be so accordingly. If a deacon functions as an Elder/Pastor, then they should be called as such.
To reiterate the bottom line, when government interacts with the “Trustees,” they should be interacting with the Elders since the Elders are truly the leaders and rulers of the church.
I have not addressed every issue nor every word or verse regarding the roles of Elders and Deacons. That is beyond the scope of this note. You may find “holes” in this note, but it may be my intention not to address that point at this time. I have written this quickly and wanted to present the case for the conclusion that I see naturally flowing from Scripture.
With that in mind, comments welcome!
Further thoughts – responses to people’s questions.
from what I see in Scripture, the Elders are the leadership and the Deacons are, as you say, leaders of teams/committees. I would not classify them as a “board” since there is nothing for them to discuss. In Acts 6 we see that the Deacons were appointed to specific tasks- at that time it was to help provide food and possibly other things to the widows.
I would see this in practical application today in the following ways:
An Elder would be Overseer of various ministries of the church- grounds and technology for instance. I see the Elders appointing Deacons to a specific task- a Deacon of Grounds, a Deacon of Technology..
The congregation would then affirm who the Elders have appointed.
I see the Elders appointing people and the congregation affirming the appointments (this is also key). The Deacons would then set up teams to fulfill the duties (with approval of the Elders).
An aside, if the congregation can not trust the appointment (or anything) the Elders have made, then maybe the congregation should replace those Elders with Elders they trust. Hence, the appointment / affirmation helps keep the Elders accountable (hence Steve Camp’s article on keeping Pastor’s accountable is key).
Further, I see Deacons as “team leaders” who specialize in their particular area. You want a Deacon who knows technology to be the Deacon of technology. You want someone who knows something about grounds keeping to be the Deacon of Grounds. And so on….
The Elders, then can Oversee things give direction to the Deacons. The Deacons do not need to meet as a board b/c their duties do not intersect for the most part-
Maybe they can meet to discuss how they implement their duties- but that would be once a year at most? That’s up to the Elders on how they want to implement that.
The point is to free up as much time for the Elders to devote to prayer, teaching and the Word. This does not mean they have no more administrative duties. They must administrate, but the actual carrying out of the duties are done by the Deacons. Further the Elders would listen to the Deacons and what they suggest as the means to carry out duties (budget, tools, etc..) but the Elders would appoint budgets and significant expenditures with congregational approval and give direction to the Deacons.
The Presbyterian form of gov’t is a good guide, really- even for non-Presbyterian churches. A church (with the structure I’ve outlined) plants a church with a Lead Pastor (Evangelist) and the other Elders of the Parent church help fulfill the plurality of Elders for the church plant.
I would further say, once the church plant becomes its own identity (officially becomes a church), that church should have a plurality of Elders inherently.
My resolutions for the 2015?
- To have the truth of God like steel poured in my backbone, and the grace of God to bend over backwards for others.
- To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God. ~Micah 6:8
- To rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. ~Romans 12:15
- To be very careful to fear, love and serve the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might and walk in all his ways, to Know that the Lord my God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. ~Deuteronomy 6:5, 7:9, 10:12; Joshua 23:11
- To remind myself that I am clothed with the Righteousness not my own; My sin, guilt, and stain are upon Another; I am forgiven; I can come humbly yet boldly to the Throne of Grace for Jesus, the Righteous One and Sin Bearer pleads my case to the Father Who claims me as His own, “Dave is MINE, no one can pluck him out of MY hand”.
- To make war. ~Romans 1:16-17, 8:13; Colossians 3:5-10
- To look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. ~2 Peter 3:13
Defenses of Christmas aren’t much better than the attacks. Remember: cynics get intelligence, believers are good hearted, dimwits. Defending anything based on religion, such as Christmas, must rely on feeling and not intellect, says our culture. Christmas is good, because it is about family, as if family is an unmixed blessing for most people. Christmas is good, because it is about “belief,” especially in the spirit of Santa. Since Santa does not exist, and recent holiday movies demand we believe in him, this seems like a call to madness. Christmas is also supposed to be about the “child within,” but in a culture in dire need of grownups this seems dangerous as well. Jesus once said to be like a little child regard to humility, but irrational Christmas marketers aren’t saying that. Christmas seems to involve believing in the unbelievable in order to regress to childishness.
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God and Man. If true, it is [a pivotal] moment of history. If false, it is useless. Best reason and best experience argue that it is true. My heart bears witness to His gentle Voice. My mind demands that I accept the truth of history. This moment when Heaven and Earth were brought together is the answer to the pain of our existence and that is the very problem with both cynicism about Christmas and most defenses of the holiday.
The cynics see a world of pain and embrace it. Chaos is basic to their vision of the world, but their very rationality denies this view. The defenders act as if platitudes can solve problems. Warm hearts are not enough against cold reality.
Christmas is for a world of pain. Christmas is good news, because it shows God comes down to Earth and saves us. Such news makes merry, but remains realistic. It is for sin, but about redemption. It denies nothing about human hurts, but does not rest content in them.
~John Mark Reynolds
This is convicting and encouraging and exhorting and more. It is a must-listen by Matt Chandler about Racial Reconciliation.
And Darrin Patrick brings together a diverse group of people to discuss racial issues:How should we respond to Ferguson?
A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond? by Ed Stetzer
“I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more.”
We need to put our guard down, open up, and lean into this discussion so that we may learn, change, and most importantly display the light of the Gospel to the watching world.
Good thoughts from Thabiti Anyabwile – “Justice–that perfect justice ushered in by the Perfect Judge and Lord–will be final. When He comes it will be good news for those who love His appearing, and it will be eternally devastating news for those who love unrighteousness. His justice will not be blind; it will be perfectly informed, comprehending all the facts and all the intents of the heart. His blazing righteousness will be the undoing of everything corrupt and in His kingdom there will be no evil. I wait with panting for that Day. Until then, I labor with the faith and resolve that comes from knowing such a Day is coming and we’re called to live in light of it.”
“both sides are living under their own separate stories but the way forward requires us to live into the same story.”
Thoughts on Ferguson by Voddie Baucham – “In the end, the best lesson my children can learn from Ferguson is not that they need to be on the lookout for white cops. It is far more important that I use this teachable moment to remind them that “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Moments before his death, Michael Brown had violently robbed a man in a store. A man doing the best he could to make a living. Minutes later, Brown reaped what he sowed, and was gunned down in the street. That is the sad truth.
My sons have far more to fear from making bad choices than they have to fear from the police. The overwhelming majority of police officers are decent people just trying to make a living. They are much more likely to help you than to harm you. A life of thuggery, however, is NEVER your friend. In the end, it will cost you . . . sometimes, it costs you everything.”
A response to Voddie Baucham by Alan Noble.
But let’s remember: As Christians in this life, we walk in two worlds. Sometimes justice isn’t obvious. Justice is not always swift but it is sure. Jesus, the Son of David will administer justice and equity to all his people. The Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever.
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside his crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.”
“This habit that modern people often have of thinking and speaking of the new birth as if it could be perceived in the soul and is something to be possessed in themselves is a great snare to many humble and earnest believers; it drives them to despair or turns them into hypocrites, for though they try to live up to “born-again and converted” lives, they know secretly how sinful they are, and that considered in their deepest selves they are not new creatures. That is not the way of Jesus but the way of the Pharisees. Just as it is not in ourselves that we have to seek our righteousness but in Christ, so it is not in ourselves that we have to seek our new birth but in Christ alone. The animal is made to have its life in its own carnal experience, but man is made to find his life in God and not in himself. The Christian who lives out of his own experience of new birth is a carnal Christian, and has not yet learned to know that new birth is from above, and is of the Spirit, and therefore that it cannot be discerned below but only discerned above in Christ.
….Nicodemus was a deeply religious man, but it was precisely to him that Jesus spoke so strongly of the need for new birth and birth from above. There was another Pharisee of whom we know much more than Nicodemus, Saul of Tarsus, who had an outstanding conversion which changed his whole life and who, as born again and baptized in Christ, was known by a new name, Paul. But Paul never spoke of new birth or of conversion as a psychological experience; from beginning to end it was of “the new man in Christ” that he spoke, because it is in Christ that we are given to share in the new life of the new creation. It is in St. Paul that we find the perfect fulfillment of what Jesus Christ taught to Nicodemus, and it was St. Paul who said,’Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.'”
T.F. Torrance, pg 74-75 “When Christ Comes and Comes Again”
Much has been made by Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups of the absence of the article in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was A God,” is the preferred translation of such cults. There are good grammatical reasons to reject this translation and interpretation, but Arthur Wainwright (The Trinity in the New Testament, currently in print from Wipf & Stock) provides some additional contextual reasons. He points out that “THEOS is used with or without the article indiscriminately in the New Testament. In the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel it never has the article except in verses 1 and 2. In verses 5, 12, 13, and 18 it appears without the article” (p. 60).
So if the anarthrous form means “a God,” then, if one is interested in consistency, these other verses should also be translated as “a God.” Thus, John was a man “sent from a God” (v 6), and we become “children of a God” (v 12) through the will of “a God” (v 13). And “no one has seen a God at any time” (v. 18).
How does the New World Translation do? Verse 6 is translated, “There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John.” Verse 12-13 is, “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” And verse 18 is, “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him. ” In short, the translation of John 1 is, shall we say, something short of consistent.
We need a passion for Christ that cannot be quenched, a passion that is acted upon not merely fondly thought about and rooted for.
I am currently reading Dangerous: Engaging the People and Places No One Else Will. And while I am thinking hard about a passion for Christ and acting upon it, I read this:
There comes a point where you have to get tired of being inspired. We have entire industries that flourish on the idea of ‘inspiration.’ Songs to get you pumped up. Movies to make you feel heroic. Sappy Christian stories to ‘inspire’ you. At some point you have to get tired of reading books and watching movies about people who do interesting, courageous things, and begin to do those things yourself. Or let the dream die.
You need to read Dangerous by Caleb Bislow. It is, well, inspiring. He makes me want to go against the grain of conventional thought in missions.
Lots of praying to do.
And in our doing and acting on our passion for Christ (or Christ’s passion in us acting upon, in, and through us), as Christians, we need to know what other religious sects believe. Not everyone who claims Christ are true believers or claiming the true Christ – or denying Christ for that matter. With that said, we need to know what others believe. Here are three religious sects you should be aware of and know what they believe so you can share Jesus effectively.
Facts on the Mormons by John Ankerberg.
Facts on the jehovah’s Witnesses by John Ankerberg.
The Facts on Islam by John Ankerberg
Every so often I ask people questions. Not because I don’t have answers. I do have answers to these questions. But I like to get other people’s perspectives. Some answers are what I call Jesus Juke answers – you know the answers that spiritually trump all other answers – which drives me nuts. It’s like people don’t realize these other books and resources are good gifts of God through people writing books and resources to help, as well – so we can better prepare and think rightly about Scripture so we are prepared properly for the battle of engaging others for Christ. But I digress…
The first question I asked some friends:
1) What are your top 3 books that have helped you most in apologetics / sharing the Gospel to people?
Slightly different, although, very much related to my last question:
2) What books / resources have you used that prepared you to share the Gospel with specific people groups? (i.e. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc…)
I will share some of the answers I am given.