Church ministry and leadership

Autonomy and self-government in the local church


Autonomy : right of self government ; personal freedom (auto= self ; nomas=law)
Liberty : being free from captivity ; being subject only to laws established on behalf of the community (L. libertas = free.) 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord , [there liberty].
Independence : not depending on authority, unwilling to be under obligation to others, congregationalist. having no reliance or trust in. (in= not, the reverse of; dependere= to hang.)

In the context of the governing structure of the local church autonomy is not to confused with independence. Autonomy does however have much to do with the idea of liberty as expressed within the biblical teaching. Understanding of the limits set by the structures revealed in the Scriptures of the New Testament Church can define autonomy for local church government.

The Church universal

It is accepted that the “Church Universal” is as stated in Matt 16:18_19. i.e. one Church. We are intending to discuss the ” churches”. These were in the days of the book of Acts, much like the Romans of that day who, whenever they met in assembly counted themselves part of the city of Rome. Believers when assembled saw themselves as part of the heavenly city. They were at such times Zion, the general assembly of the first born.

(Hebrews 12:22-24) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, {23} To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,{24} And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than Abel.

The local church

However within this universal church, there were many churches in many and various localities, all replicas and part of the whole. This is best seen in Matt.18:15_20.

Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

Clearly, telling it to the Church universal presents a virtual impossibility and makes evident the local church concept.

The essentials

Implied within Matt.18:15-20. is the authority for two or three believers to:

i. Gather together.
ii. Gather in/into His name (the only true place of worship, not to a denominational name !)
iii. Jesus will be in the midst. (He is always there as head of the Church. )
iv. Binding and loosing ministry is given and with it spiritual authority.

The churches in Acts

Many such churches grew up in the days of Acts. They were all part of the Church universal, they looked to the heavenly city Zion, they saw themselves as part of a great unity in the spirit. These local churches were of many kinds and structures ranging from small gatherings in homes to the very large church in Jerusalem. This Jerusalem church makes an interesting study as from it many truths were to grow and bless the church universal. It was the meeting place for the great council of the church over legalism and we have cause to give thanks for its contribution to our understanding of the faith.

It may well be one of the tasks of the new moves of God to give to the faith a similar unique contribution.

Jerusalem’s decline

Notice the reason for Jerusalem’s decline. Legalism, sectarianism, bigotry and because of the doctrine advocated by legalistic Judaizers; a mixing of law and grace. Paul found these things his greatest problem, as was the tendency towards centralising, which well meaning Jewish brethren sought to perpetuate.

No structures

In all, the book of Acts speaks of about 100 local churches in various locations. There is no indication of any governing structure over all these gatherings except for the respect and consideration given to those who ministered to the saints in various ways. e.g. Paul.

The apostles did not …

It is important to note what the Apostles the founders of the Churches, did NOT do with these churches.

i. They did not create a Denominational Church from all the local churches.
ii. They did not use Jerusalem or any other church as a “Mother Church”
iii. There was no centralisation or “headquarters” for all the churches. They did not establish provincial or national churches. e.g. Church of England.
iv. They did not have churches for nationality. e.g. The Greek Church.
v. They did not have district churches and bring all under a district.

Local government

All churches were locally governed. They were autonomous, and reproduced themselves accordingly. They were not welded into a great organisation, nor was the unity an organisational unity, but it was a unity in the spirit, by the Holy Spirit.

Man-made structures

The wisdom of this is evident in the world of today. The huge monolithic structures that man has built and called the church are filled with bureaucratic structures and groan under the weight of their own internal legislation.

The Church of Rome, the Church of England (to mention two) have a constant problem of struggles in church government and legalism, as will any structure that strays from the simple local autonomous church under multiple elders.


It matters not how you work out the plans, the result will be someone or some group wanting to have the control over others.This is NOT scriptural. If the saints do not recognise the authority of the Spirit in your ministry, legalism will not make any difference. True submission does not exist without Spiritual authority, because the principle of liberty has been cast aside.

I will build

Much more could be said on this subject but the essential point is that man is not called to build the church universal. Jesus said “I will build my Church”

The instructions given to the believers are to assemble together under local oversight to worship the Lord. Extending His kingdom (as many rightly see it) is effected by planting other such assemblies, no more and no less. A movement of God is not a call to build yet another organisational structure like all the rest, an idea which the church has been plagued with over the past two thousand years. A movement is a great swell of revelation which comes to inspire God’s people and motivate them to bring into being more and more local churches. To provide for the lost a safe local sheepfold in a weary land, is the biblical pattern for giving reality to the call of the great commission and sharing the hope of the gospel.


In creation

In Gen 1.28 the Creator spoke and said, “Let us make…”

Within this simple statement, there began the revealing of a principle concerning the creative nature of the Lord God and how he moves within His creation. He is manifestly triune and is seen to move in plurality.

This concept has for us a guiding principle, which when applied to the corporate life of the church will be for us all a guard against the pathway to iniquity, which has in the generations of the church been the downfall of many who have started with such promise to answer the call on their individual lives. Fruitful and often wonderful ministries, great world movements, spectacular evangelism, but in the roots a seemingly minor deviation from the principles we are about to discuss leads to downfall. Open rebellion is not the only cause of failure, as many a well meaning and sincere believer has discovered. More times than enough loss of blessing and ending up with second best has its roots in our lamentable tendency to make excuses, or to relegate portions of Scripture to the status of being unimportant, or not so important, and so move them all to the mental backburner. These are the things that like the little foxes, chew at the roots of the vine and poor fruit results.

Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? (A good question to ask ourselves in this matter? )
Song of Songs 2:15: Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines tender grapes.

The thinking and attitudes that we have held for years without number are the ones most likely to entrap us. Constant reexamination of our ways in the light of Scripture is the only safeguard.

The call to plurality

When considering the way God moves in His creation and relating it to the church we might well begin with these Scriptures.

2 Corinthians 13:1. This the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
Proverbs 24:6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors safety.
Ecclesiastes 4:12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Consideration of these extracts shows the way in which the Lord desires us to stand and resist the wicked one. Clearly we are to stand together, seek counsel one of another and share the responsibility and spiritual tasks of the church. Strange, but it seems to be the last thing we wish to do, or allow to be done in the church.

Judges over Israel

The book of Judges tells how the Lord gave to Israel men to judge the actions of the people, to dispense justice and to guide the nation. Under their guidance each man in Israel did what was right in his own eyes. This could have meant that each lived carelessly, but a more likely interpretation is that each accepted the responsibility for his/her walk before the Lord and took up the spiritual priesthood for his household.

Judges 21:25 In those days no king in Israel: every man did right in his own eyes.

Being human however man finds it difficult to continue in what can sometimes be tedious. It is oft times difficult to see how this tedious way is going to get us anywhere. We didn’t do this in the old days….or perhaps a new idea will be better, anything but steadfast obedience.

How typical of modern man were these people of Israel. Even recent history shows mankind loves to have dictators, kings, emperors and unitary gods (as the heresy of Arianism shows). Sadly, Israel persisted in this egocentric desire to do it their way.

1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us

The story of Saul and his rule over Israel was a poor second to the guidance of the judges, who were the Lord’s preferred leaders.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

Even the elders of Israel grew tired, it seems, of the burden of self responsibility. When the sons of Samuel became perverted in their ministry of judgement the elders sought not after new men to continue the work God had ordained, but they also cried out for a new way (method) to guide the people. This is always the great danger in such crises and it is so today. New ways and ideas are fine but they must conform to the Word of the Lord, neither be against it, or set it aside in those moments of enthusiasm.

So often the church finds the way of the Scripture too hard and turns to the worldly ideas and begins to copy the many successes which ” good” men bring to pass in the world. The multiplicity of “Christian” organisations ” specialising” in some aspect of ministry typifies this falling away from the church’s true calling and specific ministry structure.Then again, at the other end of the spectrum is found man’s ideas on how to rule the church. These range from the one man pastor to the monolithic Roman system with its pope.( who is looked upon in the same manner as an emperor, after the pagan tradition of Rome of Constantine’s day.) All from the neglect of simple, seemingly unimportant Scriptures! An end time fulfilment of Israel’s cry for a king?

Yet for all this endeavour by man, the basic and all important instruction has little or nothing to do with the building of empires, be they big or small. The words of the Master still echo down the years…

Matthew 16:1 I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Was this remark addressed to all of the saints or a special “clergy” class. This is another illustration of being very sure we know and obey the Word rather than make up rules to suit our idea of propriety. If we ALL are being spoken to here then ALL must teach and baptise. (And that does put a cat among the pigeons doesn’t it) If only the “clergy” are addressed, then all the rest of us can have a rest and let them get on with it. An example of specialisation is found where the lay person in many denominations cannot preach from the pulpit or preside over a communion service.

Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, unto the end of the world.

These words which we all know so well as the great commission, need to be seen against the backdrop of Matt 16:1 above to keep our hearts and minds guarded against the thought that we are in the building organisations business. It is still true that:

Psalms 127:1 [Except the LORD build the house], they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain.

In particular the word ‘teach’ needs our attention. It is matheteuo which is more effectively translated ‘to disciple’. That is ,to cause to abide in the teaching and follow after its instruction. ‘To observe’ in verse 20 is tereo, to watch over and keep, and points to the stewardship responsibility in regard to the teachings of Jesus.

Not a select few, but all of the saints, are to be watching over the doctrines and keeping them safe. These broader understandings open up a much wider canvas to the teaching and shepherding mission and a greater participatory responsibility comes to rest on each individual in their walk with God.

The church is to disciple its members and this involves a far greater intimacy in their day to day lives. EACH member partakes in the responsibility of teaching one another (discipling) while at the same time each has a duty of learning (being discipled) by another. Mutual dependence and mutual helping is basic to the growth of the whole.

Ephesians 4:13. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

Each and every one is called to climb the ladder of growth in “all things I have commanded you”. A special call devolves on the local eldership as they seek to provide a framework which will supply the needs of the flock in their care. But be aware that this does not mean that in some unique way this call sets those same elders apart as clergy.We have in days past made far too much of words such as ordain, pastor, minister and the like. Yes, it is true that there are some who by virtue of their God given skills and talents are led by the Holy Spirit to guide and teach those not so well endowed. But the end products, i.e the people of God, must have constantly demonstrated to them, that they are also to desire to grow towards a discipling and shepherding ministry, at whatever level the grace and blessing of the Lord brings them unto. Not by following after a king (or a pastor/elder) but by being themselves a king/priest unto our God. Stewardship and leadership is for all to keep in their hearts, (tereo = a watching over and keeping function).

It is essentially true that anyone appointed to do the work of an elder has as an objective mature sheep. That is mature sheep who as king/priests can, and do, walk in a daily teaching and discipling ministry.

Ephesians 4:12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

This preparing and building up should be seen as an enabling or facilitating function, so that each and every sheep may grow up into the great commission. Within that concept we must remember that elders are sheep also and must be seen to be so. Function within the body of Christ must never be seen as a title or a lordship over the flock. In this overall picture of the discipling task in the local church some thought is also needed as to the interplay of the pastoral and teaching task. The commitment of the heart as against the intellect, attitude interacting with knowledge, the place of inner self and learning of the nature of creation all are called forth in our response to God.

To answer all these needs calls for a return to the concepts underlying God’s appointment of judges in the days of old. A realisation that we are called to a plurality of ministry in all parts of the church. The dominant error that has arisen in the oversight of the church is found in the setting aside of this concept. To fulfil the New Testament pattern a plurality must be evident and demonstrated by the people of the local church.Particularly among those appointed to oversee ( bishop = overseer) and shepherd (pastor = shepherd) the flock. Nowhere can support be found for the concept of some elder being called ” Pastor” and setting him over the local church in solitary splendour.

Unfortunately this is the typical pattern. Many and varied are the types of structure based on this one man at the head principle, and they all find a host of problems arising. Take for example the very human problem of an individual’s need to have one person to whom they can relate at a personal level. Someone, that is, who has a shepherding function in their life. Almost inevitably this need focuses on the unfortunate elder who has been burdened with the erroneous title of “Pastor” (or priest, or Father,or Captain, or whatever).

No matter how carefully the structure is planned, anyone else but the “Pastor” is felt to be second best by distressed sheep. This is a state of affairs to be deplored and avoided.The concept of co-equality of elders can hardly be disputed. That every elder is an overseer, bishop and shepherd (pastor) is clearly taught in Scripture, as is plurality of elders in governing the local church.

Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds (Pastors) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:2 Be shepherds (Pastors) of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;

Notice the plural of overseer and the singular of flock. These and other Scriptures show that all elders, men/women, are bishops in terms of their office, and their work is shepherding or pastoring.

Status is Elder or presbyter.
Duty is Bishop or Overseer,
Function and work is Pastor or Shepherd.

These people do not have titles … They are brethren (brothers and sisters).

If this understanding of the place and function of elders is accepted as being correct in terms of the Scriptures, the churches have need to re-examine much that is commonplace in today’s oversight structures. In this area are some of the little foxes mentioned at the beginning of this discussion.

e.g. Consider these propositions:-

There should not be only one person in the local church titled “Pastor” etc.(if titles are used)
All Elders should be seen to be shepherds and have reality to the flock, as pastors and overseers of equal status.
One Elder cannot constitute adequate oversight of the local church.
A Senior Elder/Pastor as chief/Bishop etc. is not needed since this is a “Saul” relationship with the people of God and not God’s perfect will. (1 Sam.8:7.)

There is much to be argued in favour of the above propositions. A minimum of three persons might well be appropriate as oversight of any church.

2 Corinthians 13:1. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

What is often termed “the set man” or the “senior pastor” or some similar title needs to be carefully re-examined. We can indeed mount very convincing argument by analogy from other times and other Scriptures for this concept but the idea is not clear cut and definite by any means.

It could be that a different approach to this often vexed question might avoid much of the idolising and “we want a king over us” that is evident in many, many churches in this day and age. One could cite as an example numbers of world famous names who have great organisations with their personal names emblazoned upon them or through them. Some local churches also are headed up by some person to whom people turn adoring attention, but the result is the same in all, and the cause identical. If there is no such king, there is no such danger.

No matter how great the ministry, submission one to another is written into the structure of the local church. Even death of a great minister of God cannot upset the continuing life of the flock, IF the people have always related to him/her as one of a number of elders in the midst. We need to be aware also of cultural influences, as many nations are strongly based on the idea of a single person heading up a clan, a tribe or a group. Note that Theocracy is God rule, not God’s representative ruling.

But how could this be organised one might well ask? One quite simple beginning would be to make the first full time appointment in any local church that of an administrator. He/she may, or may not be, an elder, preferably a deacon in fact, and given that there will be always a plurality of elders responsible for spiritual matters eldership could then carry on with their function, free from the administrative constraints which burden many a valuable oversight ministry.

Even in large churches the only organisation of elders needed might be to have one of them act as chairman of elders to give some order to the decision making process .(this function need not be permanent.) The concept of some kind of Moses figure is not needed and I believe not suggested by Scripture. (Remember that Moses & David were first shepherds, then kings ) They foreshadowed and were types of the great shepherd king, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not appropriate to use Moses as a type of the “chief elder”. Note that Israel was baptised “into Moses” in the same sense believers are baptised “into” the Lord Jesus Christ. This further confirms the type.

1 Cor 10:2 (NIV) “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”

The idea of having such a “Moses” headship does wonders for the building up of a professional clergy but is that really the thrust of the great commission? An argument often heard in this regard is that the people and visitors “need” someone to relate to in a leadership role. Exactly what Israel said about their cry for a king. (“We want to be like the rest of the nations!”(churches?))

1 Samuel 8:20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

This is the ultimate avoidance of individual responsibility and unwillingness to accept the role of king/priest which EVERY believer is called to.

We who are the church need to keep the wonder of the vision spoken of by John, constantly before us, lest we fall back into the pattern of Saul and Israel again.

Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, {6} And hath made us KINGS AND PRIESTS unto God and his Father; to him glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (The capitals added for emphasis. N.B. The “US” means ALL of us.))

The headship of the local church rests in the hand of Jesus, the Lord of the universal church. The rulership is given to the elders who are guided by the Holy Spirit and who keep in submission to one another, and acknowledge Jesus as Lord over the local church in all things The priesthood is given to each and every believer.

Addendum: (some comments on Scripture)

The triune nature and leadership

One exegetical point of view in regard to leadership centres on the idea that there is a leadership order in the Godhead. The Father is suggested as being first and hence in some way higher or having headship. Consider the following Scriptures in this regard.

Gen. 11:7 The Lord said,”Let us” Note not; the Father said,”Let us”
Gen 18:1 The Lord appeared as three men. No indication of a “headman”
Isaiah 9:6. Jesus called everlasting Father.
Acts 2:36. This Jesus has been made both Lord & Christ.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. This is the wonderful name:
Everlasting Father … Lord
Prince of Peace … Jesus
Counsellor … Christ
… and He will be called The Mighty God.

This is He who is appointed to be head over everything for the church.

Ephesians 1:22 And hath put all under his feet, and gave him the head over all to the church

There is need to be very careful in using the triune Godhead as a type for church government. It is not the man Jesus who is head but the fullness of the Godhead bodily. The man Jesus submitted to the will of His Father during His stay on earth as a man. He was at all times God but there is need to remember that He came to be an example to us as a man, that we might follow His example. He laid aside His prerogatives to act as God, and became dependant upon the Father’s will for any exercise of these attributes. In this state He was like dependant man. In this state the type is appropriate and Jesus may then be likened to the eldership. (i.e. dependant, under authority and submissive to the Father’s will) But this was only for a season and those divine attributes were taken up again.

Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly,that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

The concept we are considering is triune in nature and speaks of completeness. There is a wholeness aspect to be seen in all the examples of oversight that is more appropriate than seeking heirachy. e.g.
in the Gospel example:
in the Church
in the Family
as a Type (function)
The Father
Lord Jesus
Light source











In line one above are the providers of all things needful. They have headship and spiritual authority.

The next level has spiritual authority because of and through the headship of line one, They guide, nurture, shepherd, bring to birth etc.

Line three gives expression to this by multiplying its effect in and through their service.


The difficulty with hierachy is that ” all ” elders are instructed to take the “oversight” of the “whole ” local church.( Not part of it.) A typical multiple level system,( e.g. pastor ,ass’t pastors, junior pastors ,elders, has four levels and this can be more) The elders at the bottom level rarely have oversight. They are so far down the pecking order that any real contribution to “oversight” is lost in the multiple levels. Usually only the “pastor” goes to ministry conferences, contacts other churches, speaks intimately to other ministers etc. and he/she makes the “real” decisions, and the other elders end up going along with them as a matter of convenience, expediency or follow the leader mentality. An examination of any big church having a senior pastor will show this to be true. No amount of elders meetings or such, changes this to any degree. Any competent leader if appointed as head of a heirachy must lead, and this implies and requires imposition of authority. Our thesis is that in the church, no one man has that right, such authority is vested in multiple Elders.


A catch phrase has crept into the church to try to justify single leaders in the church. i.e. “First among equals.” This is a logical nonsense and just another way of saying, in very inaccurate English that we want someone to be the authority figure. It is also the custom to say that this person is in submission to his/her fellow elders. This is another piece of polite fiction. In most cases it means, I’ll listen to them and truly consider their opinions but if “I” feel before God or in” my” opinion, they are wrong I’ll decide my way. However , logical reality says that to submit, means you can be over-ruled, that the group can and does lead, that the best decision is NOT a one man choice. It also means that one shepherd in the local church is an impossibility.


In all these thoughts about church government one problem has not yet been examined. It is outside the theme of this paper but suggests itself as an important question confronting the church of the last days. A simple question. How big can a local church become before it becomes unmanageable by multiple elders or turns into a bureaucratic hierarchy which makes them ineffective in their oversight ministry.

Perhaps like the human body the principle we are seeking has more to do with variety than rigid rules. There are many parts to the body and they all work in a multitude of different ways. There are certain basic fundamentals which find their truth in the Word of God but outside of these the liberty of the Lord has sway. May we be wise enough to be pliable in His hands and not create a vision for the church that tries to make the many different parts of the body function identically.


Consider the experience of Moses. When he asked who shall I say sent me the Lord replied, “Tell them the “I am” sent you. Perhaps we are meant to be always “we” and are bound into the pattern of relationships which necessitates plurality, be it in leadership or any other service the Lord calls us too. Saying “I am”, the leader, the pastor, the senior etc may be a matter to be re- thought lest we usurp the place of the real head.?


It is also taught that the foundation of the church (churches?) is to rest upon the doctrine of the apostle and the prophet. This is plurality also and has implications for the local church structure.

Eph 2:20 (KJV) “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”


Titles are often discussed in the church and in most cases we go around the mountain again and again with little change. It is after all very comforting to have a title.

Then there is the stranger in our midst. How could one such know who we are, if there is no title to reassure them. After all it is not the man we are acknowledging, it is the position he/she holds ? These are some of the ways we use to justify titles but are they needed ?

The church at large has a vast collection of these titles. Archbishop, Bishop, Pope, Vicar, Deacon, Pastor, Reverend, Father, Cardinal, Monsignor, Captain, etc and the worth of them in building the kingdom of God is rather suspect to say the least.

It may be reasonably contended that in the local church governed by multiple eldership all these titles are superfluous. Certainly if the example of the Apostles are to be followed we are more correct in addressing ministering brethren by their first name. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles always began; Paul;.then he gave his calling as an apostle. I doubt that he and all the others asked to be addressed by any title!

It was so in the days when Jesus walked the earth.and among the Jews in particular. They loved to have titles. One such was derived from the word “rab” which primarily meant master in contrast to slave. This was extended to rabbi that meant my master. It was supposedly a courteous form of address but grew to become a title and a source of pride and wrong relationships. This is the problem with titles. We start off in a well meaning way but being flesh pride begins to threaten and adoring lambs add fuel to the fire. Jesus knew about this problem. In Matt. 23:5_12 He forbids the disciples to covet or use this title. Jesus rightly points out that they are to be servants and have only one master. This element of “being master” is what creeps in with titles be they Pastor or Vicar.

A similar instruction is given in regard to “Father” Matt.23:9

Throughout the New Testament the disciples avoided titles also and were known by the ministry they showed forth before the saints.


Historically the early Gentile churches had no officers in the strict sense. Well into the second century churches in at least half the great centres were ruled by a group of presbyters. There were also some cases of monarchical bishops ruling over a group of presbyters in the local church. Both ways seem to have been possible in functional local assemblies. (History of the Church. W. Walker.pp40-2)