In every organization, a structure is established for order and accountability to the fulfilment of the mission. In government, the structure might be a prime minister and parliament. With a corporation, it might be a Chief Executive Officer and a Board. The true head of the church is our Lord Jesus Christ and He has given us a mission to complete in the ministry of reconciliation. The roles or offices in the scriptures related to the local church exist to organize and mobilize the members in the pursuit of this mission. In this lesson, we will learn about the following:
- The Positions: Offices
- Their Purpose: Overseers
- The Principles: Not Overbearing or Overlords
The Positions: Offices
There are specific offices mentioned in the Bible related to the organization or administration of a local church: elders, bishops (or pastors), and deacons.
- Elders provide overall care of the local church. Elders can also be bishops or deacons. Acts 14:21-23, Acts 20:17, 28-31, Titus 1:5
- Bishops teach and preach the Word to nourish the faith of the local church 1Timothy 3:1-7, 1Timothy 4:6, Titus 1:6-9, Philippians 1:1
- Deacons provide support to the ministries and the ministers of the local church Acts 6:1-7, Acts 19:21-22, 1Timothy 3:8-13, 2Timothy 1:16-18
- Elders and bishops appear to be interchangeable, but the Bible distinguishes between the elders who rule or govern and the elders who teach or preach the Word 1Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:5-9
Their Purpose: Overseers
The titles of these offices may vary from church to church, but the main purpose of each is to care for the church members.
- There are requirements to hold these offices as well as responsibilities while in these roles Romans 12:5-8, 1Timothy 3:10, 1Timothy 4:14, 2Timothy 1:6
- The care of the church involves spiritually feeding its members and watching against adversaries Acts 20:28-31, 1Timothy 3:5, 2Timothy 4:1-5
- Elders should be held in honor or respect due to their care and work 1Thessalonians 5:12-13, 1Timothy 5:1, 17, 19
The Principles: Not Overbearing or Overlords
As overseers, the elders are accountable to each member and ultimately to the Lord in facilitating faith without abusing their rule. 2Corinthians 1:21-24
- These offices or positions minister to the church but they do not replace Christ as each member’s Head 1Timothy 2:5, Romans 8:33-34, Romans 14:4-5, Colossians 2:18-19
- These offices or positions provide accountability to one another, so no one abuses their authority Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 5:21, 2Timothy 2:24-26, Titus 2:7-8
- The men in these offices or positions will give account to the Lord for their labor Romans 14:10-12, 17-18, 1Timothy 3:6, 1Timothy 4:13-16
Digging Deeper – Learning more about Church Leadership
The church at Antioch in Acts 13:1-3 has been considered a model for biblical churches today. What can we learn about this church and its leadership in these few verses?
- Acts 13:1 - Their emphasis on preaching and teaching, the diversity and accountability of its leadership
- Acts 13:2 - Their utter dependence on the Lord, their sensitivity to the leading of the Lord
- Acts 13:3 - Their recognition of the work of God in others, their investment in the fulfilment of the mission
Meditating on the Word:
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.