Church ministry and leadership

4. Local Church Government

Church government is theocratic

In the local church and in the church universal the basis for government will always be:

(Eph 1:22 NIV) And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church
(Isa 9:6-7 NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {7} Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

These Scriptures clearly declare that the government of the Church shall be THEOCRATIC (theos = God, and kratien = to rule). God rules, not God’s representative. The difference is significant.

God’s plan for the government of the Church is first, Christ the Head then by His direction through grace gifted persons, who are chosen and set in place by divine calling and intent. Democratic, bureaucratic, hierarchical or monarchial forms have no place in the government of the Church of the Living God.

What ministries does the New Testament reveal?

The New Testament reveals that the church was/is to be prepared and equipped by divinely appointed and Holy Spirit anointed ministers (servants). These are spoken of as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.

(Eph 4:11-14 NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

It is recognised that the five-fold ministries mentioned in Ephesians chapter 4 are all elders with oversight authority. Their titles describe their particular WORK in the Body of Christ. (i.e. prophet or pastor is NOT a title but a function.)

The simplest term/designation for the five ministries above is that of “elder” or “eldership”. They join with all elders in ruling and teaching the Church. But note that it is their ministry as elders that gives the authority to govern the local church. The five ascension gifts have other unique functions in the church universal.

The deacon ministry serves and assists the eldership in the management of the temporal affairs of the Church. They are appointed by the eldership.

Scripture teaches plurality of eldership in government

In the local church the word eldership indicates a compound unity. The Elders (plural) are to take the oversight.

i. Apostles and Elders are shown here in making ruling decisions concerning the church.

(Acts 15:5-23 NIV) Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. {21} For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” {22}Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. …

ii. Paul sent for the elders of the Church and he spoke to them as an apostle instructing them that they as overseers and shepherds were to keep watch over the flock of God.

(Acts 20:17 NIV) From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
(Acts 20:28 NIV) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

iii. Paul and Barnabas appointed Elders in each (every?) church.

(Acts 14:23 NIV) Paul and Barnabas appointed elders forthem in each churchand, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

iv. the Elders who direct the affairs of the Church …

(1 Tim 5:17 NIV) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

v. The elders of the church are to pray over the sick.

(James 5:14 NIV) Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

vi. Peter instructs the elders to shepherd (pastor) the Church.

(1 Pet 5:1-2 NIV) To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds 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;

vii. Obey your leaders (plural).

(Heb 13:17 NIV) Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

The qualifications of an elder

1.Tim.3:1-7. and Titus.1:5-9. set out the domestic, moral and spiritual qualifications required of those who desire the ministry of Elder in the Church. Note that this ministry cannot be given by man. Fellow Elders confirm the calling, but only after full proof is seen in the individual, both in the above terms and in ministry before and to, the flock of God.

Explanatory Note:- Due largely to custom and tradition many local churches call elders by various titles which are all titles of convenience and not warranted by strict scriptural interpretation. e.g. Pastor, Reverend, Bishop, Dean, Arch-bishop, Cardinal, No titles are given in Scripture. The disciples, for example Paul; began with “Paul, an Apostle of… No title, just his name, followed by the work he was called to do.

The function of eldership

The eldership in their function as bishops (overseers) are charged with the spiritual care of the Church, to oversee, superintend, guard, feed, guide, rule, teach and protect the flock of God.

The Scriptures confirm this fact:

1. Paul called for the Elders (presbuteron) of the Church at Ephesus and said they were “overseers” (episkkopos) telling them to “feed: (poimaino = shepherd) the Church of God. Acts.20:17 & 28.

2. Paul told Titus to ordain “Elders” (presbuteros) in every city….and they were “bishops” (episkopos) Titus.1:5 & 7.

3. Peter, who was an “Elder” (presbuteros) spoke to the “Elders” (prebuteron) and told them to “feed” (poimaino = shepherd) the flock of God, taking the oversight (episkopeo = bishopric.) 1.Pet.5:2.

The Elders were to watch over as bishops and tend and feed the flock as shepherds.

Hence:- The status is Elder or Presbyter. The duty is Bishop or Overseer. The function and work is Shepherd or Pastor.

Explanatory Note:- The office of Elder is a life calling. Although some , for reasons of age, infirmity or awaiting God’s direction are not active in the particular church, their mantle of Eldership is ever with them.

The scriptural standing and qualifications of the office of deacon

The word deacon (diakonos) has the primary meaning of servant. It has particular reference to the temporal work that is being done, e.g. doing the household tasks and management of the house.

All of God’s people are to have the servant spirit but the Deacon ministry is graced with the gift of serving the Church in the temporal management of the local assembly. Mark.10:43-45. Phil.1:1.

By their anointed work they release the Eldership into the ministry of the Word. Theirs is a vital function in the Body of Christ. Acts.6:1-4.

Acts 6:3 and 1.Tim.3:8-11 show the domestic, moral and spiritual qualifications required of those who are wish to serve as Deacons.

Explanatory Note:- Deacons are chosen and then set in place by the eldership of the Church. The appointment is usually for a specified time only, so that opportunity for service is possible for other qualified members, All such members may aspire to share the joy of serving the Church in this manner. Note that the Office of Deacon may only be held by those who are actively engaged in the task.

The Ascension gift ministries

(Eph 4:11 NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

i. An Apostle Ministry:
– is a spiritual teacher & father. 1Cor.4:15
– is humble & sacrificial. 2.Cor.11:22-23.
– lays down foundational truths. Eph. 2:20.
– establishes new churches. 1.Cor.9:1-2.

ii. A Prophet Ministry:
– exhorts, confirms and counsels. Acts.15:32.
– lays down foundational truths. Eph.2:20.
– brings divine revelation. Ephes.3:3-5.
– foretells future events. Acts. 11:27-28.

iii. An Evangelist Ministry:
– preaches as a herald the good news. Acts 8:5-8.
– inspires /stirs up the church. 2 Tim.2:15. 2 Tim.4:1-5.

iv. A Shepherd Ministry.
-tends and cares for the flock of God. Ez. 34:12-16.
– lays down his life for the sheep. Jn. 10.
– protects the flock. Rev.2:2.

v. A Teacher Ministry.
– builds on the foundation laid by the Apostle & Prophet
– establishes and confirms the saints in God’s Word. 1.Cor.3
– opens the Scriptures. Luke.24:44-45.