6 Principles (and the bonus 7th principle) of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 6

28 06 2010

This is part six in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #6: Elders are Appointed

Acts 14:23 reads, “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Paul told Titus to “appoint elders in every town…” (Titus 1:5).  The word “appointed” is from the Greek verb, cheirotoneo, meaning “appoint,” “designate,” or “choose.”  Elders were chosen by the apostles and the local leadership of each church.

The early apostles knew that false teachers and heretics were growing in influence in the newly planted churches.  Indeed, one of the elder’s most important responsibilities was guarding the flock from false doctrine.  Thus, it makes sense that the apostles would have seen the need for the proper appointment of biblically educated elders.  In the context of Acts 14:23, “…they (apostles) commended them (newly appointed elders) to the Lord…”  The verb “commended” (paratithemi) implies entrusting something valuable (Strauch, ibid, p. 139).  The implication and meaning of this phrase being the value placed by the apostles on those whom they appointed to this task.

In 1 Timothy 5:17, the elders are the ones who “rule” in the local congregation. The word “rule” is the Greek word, prohistemi, meaning lead, manage, or direct.  Therefore, in crucial matters, such as the selection of leadership for the church, the overseers should direct the whole process (Strauch, p. 278).  For this reason, healthy eldership means that the elders are always on the lookout for new leadership that can be developed in the congregation.  Kenneth O. Gangel, professor and chairman of the department of Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary says, “The key to reproducing leadership is to clearly plan for it.  Church leaders need to produce leaders who will reproduce leaders precisely as it is done in the family—through experience, instruction, and modeling” (Feeding and Leading, p. 309 and 313, quoted by Strauch, ibid, p. 278-9).  These explanations provide us with new meaning to  2 Timothy 2:2 that reads, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” One of the most important qualities of strong leadership in a local church is the ability to raise up other strong leaders.

Benefits of Appointing Elders:

  • The leadership of the congregation realizes the need for strong team leadership
  • The elders of the church are able to observe and choose the most qualified men
  • The leadership must fast and pray and seek God before choosing new leadership
  • New leadership is constantly being perpetuated as the elders look for and develop more leaders

In Practicum:

The MSC board elder team selects new elders for the board.  The pastoral elder team, in consultation with the board, appoints new pastors.  All pastors at MSC are required to be building their ministries with other strong and capable leaders of character that can share the load of leadership and more effectively multiply their influence into their areas of discipleship.

Principle #7:  Elders are Men

For the Bible believing follower of Christ, the fundamental principle for male leadership is the person of Jesus.  God, the Father, sent Jesus, the Son, to the earth.  God did not send a daughter, but a son.  Jesus was the “last Adam” and the “first born son of David.”  It is the maleness of Jesus that is the marital picture used for Christ and the church in Ephesians 5.   His maleness was not an arbitrary matter (Strauch, ibid, p. 52). 

Jesus chose twelve men to “be with Him.”  Peter, James, and John became the first leaders in Jerusalem.  The twelve apostles in Jerusalem appointed seven men to wait on tables.  Paul became the first elder to the gentile churches and appointed only men in positions of leadership.  Timothy led the church at Ephesus.  Titus was the lead elder on Crete.  In every example of government structure in the New Testament, men are chosen to lead. Indeed one of the qualifications given for leadership in the local church is that the elder be, “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9).  Clearly stated, in God’s divine order, men are tasked with leading the church. 

Paul loves to use the household analogy when speaking of the divine order for the local church (see 1 Timothy 3:15).  Just as he teaches male headship in the family, Paul also teaches male headship in the local body of believers, the church (1 Timothy 2:8-3:7).  Since the home is the basic unit for social order, it should not be a surprise that Paul would take the same analogy into the order for the “household of God” (Strauch, ibid, p. 58).  In Paul’s mind the leadership of a biological family is an extension of His leadership over the church family.

For the sake of not being misunderstood in our 21st century world, I must be clear in stating that I believe that the biblical teaching regarding men and women is of full equality in dignity, personhood, gifting, and value, but distinct in gender roles.  In explaining what the Bible teaches about eldership in the church, I am not making a statement about the role of women outside the church (i.e. home, work, or politics, etc.).  My purpose is to only share what the New Testament teaches about roles in leadership within the church.

John Piper, one of the editors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, clearly expresses my heart concerning our differences:

Over the years I have come to see from scripture and from life that manhood and womanhood are the beautiful handiwork of a good and loving God.  He designed our differences and they are profound.  They are not mere physiological prerequisites for sexual union.  They go to the root of our personhood” (p. 32, cited by Strauch, ibid, p. 52).

God’s divine gender roles really matter.  Like the play, Romeo and Juliet, each actor has a role. When the roles are played according to the script and guided by the producer, a wonderful play is produced.  So it is in the church of Jesus Christ.

Benefits for Appointing Male Elders:

  • The Bible clearly states that male headship results in the proper divine order for the home and church
  • Men who lead with love (Ephesians 5:25) will imitate Christ and give their lives for the church
  • When the biblical roles of divine order are observed, the result is a unified and smooth governorship
  • Men and women, functioning in their proper roles, result in a more effective church ministry

In Practicum:

All of our MSC board and pastoral elders are men.

In Conclusion

As I finish this white paper, I feel compelled to conclude with the admonition of Peter, “above all things have fervent love for one another…” (1 Peter 4:8a).  When we read the first letter of John, we are constantly reminded of the vital importance of love in everything we do.  Love is the definer of what we believe (see 1 John 3-4).  Love is the greatest commandment (see Matthew 22:35-40).  This commandment is defined by our actions of loving God and people.  We cannot say that we love God and then hate our brother (see 1 John 3-4).  Therefore, the most important testimony of love for God is our love for God’s people.  Every elder must lead with such love.  Great love is great leadership.

A loving Jesus raises up loving elders.  Loving elders build loving churches.  What we need today are loving churches.  Churches built on walking in the truth of love (see 2nd and 3rd John) are churches which are impacting the world with the “agapeo” of Christ.  The most important function of leadership in a New Testament church is that of love.  Such love cascades down into the body and touches every member.

In conclusion, may love be our aim, may love be our vision, and may love for one another be the hallmark of our church.

6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 5

21 06 2010

This is part five in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #5: Two Levels of Leadership

The ruling leaders of the New Testament churches are called bishops, pastor-teachers, elders, and overseers.  Paul states clearly, “Let the elders who rule [lead, direct, guide, manage] well be counted worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17a).  Dr. Grudem writes, of the main purpose of the elders: “One of the major roles in the New Testament is to govern the New Testament churches.”  He then references 1 Timothy 5:17 and 1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ibid).  Dr. Alexander Strauch writes, “Elders…lead, direct, govern, manage, and care for the flock of God” (ibid, p. 25). So, the Bible is clear that certain men are given the responsibility and gifting to lead the local church toward the purposes of God.

Besides the elder ruling structure, we also observe the use of deacons in the local churches.  There is much less in the New Testament in regards to the role of deacons compared to elders, bishops and overseers.  The word deacon is a translation of the Greek word, diakonos, which is the ordinary word for servant, whenever it used in the context of dealing with church officers.  Deacons are mentioned in Philippians 1:1: “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”  We find no specifics as to their function, other than a distinction from the elders/bishops.  Deacons are also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 in reference to the needed qualifications for those in such responsibility.  The list of character and moral qualifications for deacons follow closely the list given for elders.

From the list in 1 Timothy 3, we observe that the deacons must have had some responsibility with finances, administration and counseling.  The best example of the elder and deacon branches of leadership might be found in Acts 6: 1-6. 

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

Grudem comments:

The noun deacon is not found in Acts 6:1-6, but a related verb (Gk. diakoneo “to serve”) is found in verse 2… “Here the apostles who ruled over the Jerusalem church found it necessary to delegate some administrative responsibilities to others…” It seems appropriate to think of these seven men as deacons even though the name deacon had perhaps not yet come to be applied to them as they began this responsibility, for they seem to be given tasks which fit well with the responsibilities of deacons hinted at in 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (ibid, p. 919).

The deacons had a distinct role of serving the local church through serving the leadership of that particular body.  It is significant that nowhere in the New Testament do we find deacons as having ruling status in the churches.  The role of the deacons is clearly one of serving the elders in tasks that would pull them away from their primary function of ministry to the Lord, the people, and the spiritual ministries of the church.  (In this regard, there is no biblical reason that women would not also occupy such a position.)  Thus, there are two primary branches of leadership in the New Testament church:  the elders who rule over the spiritual direction of the body, and the deacons who serve the administrative and leadership needs of the elders.

The following diagram illustrates the two branches of leadership and how they function at MSC.  This is a visual of how God has led us to design the flow of leadership from Jesus Christ, the head of the church, through the elders to the congregation:


Benefits of Two Levels of Government Structure:

  • The ruling elders are not limited in their ministry and leadership by the physical/administrative needs of the congregation
  • The ruling elders can stay focused on the spiritual vision and direction of  the body, while the deacons take care of the needs of the elders
  • The deacons can provide support and healthy leadership in the day to day functions of the church while the elders can oversee such functions
  • The gift mix needed for each function is very different, and more people can be utilized throughout the leadership structure of the church
  • More people will be served by utilizing the different branches of government, thus enabling a healthy, more productive fellowship

In Practicum:

As stated earlier, MSC has an elder team made up of pastoral and board elders.  Pastoral elders are on staff and focus on preaching, teaching and oversight of the day to day ministry of the church.  Board elders focus on governance.  The roles of both Pastoral elders and Board elders are complimentary and have some overlap, as necessary.  We believe in the function of the deacons but do not use the term.  We consider associate staff, support staff and volunteer leaders who are ministering alongside our pastors, as functioning in the role of deacons.

6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” Part 4

15 06 2010

This is part four in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #4: Qualified Leadership

In Paul’s letters to the lead pastors, Timothy and Titus, he very clearly spells out the qualifications of leadership in the local church:

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Paul also instructs Titus in the importance of qualified leadership:

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you– 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled (Titus 1:5-8).

Peter gives us his list of character qualifications in his first epistle:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3). 

One of the clearest mandates of New Testament churches was the need for qualified elders governing the church.  The requirements are laid out so specifically that there is no doubt that the early church considered this of paramount importance. The overriding concern of the early church was to have men of Christ-like character who could model the life and ministry of Jesus to the fellowship of believers.  Alexander Strauch emphasizes this:

The overriding concern of the New Testament in relation to church leadership is for the right kind of men to serve as elders and deacons.  The offices of God’s church are not honorary positions bestowed on individuals who have attended church faithfully or who are senior in years…The church offices, both eldership and deaconship, are open to all who meet apostolic, biblical requirements.  The New Testament is unequivocally emphatic on this point” (ibid, p. 68).

Paul insists that the leadership under Timothy’s care not only be of the utmost in character qualities (see 1 Timothy 3:1-7 above), but also that the leaders must “…first be tested, then let them serve…” (1 Timothy 3:10).  This indicates that the qualifications for an elder must be clearly observed in the person before they are selected for leadership.  This was not just a set of qualifications to be used in interviewing a potential candidate, but rather was an observable lifestyle noticed by the other elders.

Elders who govern the church well are men who have access into the lives of her people.  They enter homes, love the hurting, counsel marriages, and pray for those in distress.  They are men who are aware of confidential information that will affect the lives of those of whom they have relationship.  These governing elders are leaders who teach God’s Word and model the life they teach.  Such men must have irreproachable character because of the ministry responsibility they carry.

In addition, church leaders are to be examples to the flock (see 1 Peter 5:3 above). Their beliefs and lifestyle are to be models of conduct that everyone in the fellowship would want to emulate.  John MacArthur writes, “Whatever the leaders are, the people become.  As Hosea said, ‘Like people, like Priest’ (4:9).  Jesus said, ‘Everyone, after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher’ (Luke 6:40).  Biblical history demonstrates that people will seldom rise above the spiritual level of their leadership” (ibid, p. 70).  Leaders have a tremendous responsibility in leading the church well.  They will be followed and even copied in how they talk, how they react, and how they live.

These are the spiritual fathers of the church.  Their lives will be seen as examples to the flock.  If the elders have a contentious spirit, the people will become contentious (see 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).  If the elders are greedy, the people will become greedy (see 1 Timothy 3:3).  If leadership is allowing immorality, the entire church will be negatively impacted by immorality.  Stauch writes, “Much of the weakness and waywardness of our churches today is due directly to our failure to require that church shepherds meet God’s standards for office.  If we want our churches to be spiritually fit, then we must require our shepherds to be spiritually fit” (ibid, p. 71).

Qualifications defined for Leadership/Eldership in the New Testament:

  1. Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  anepilemptos, meaning free from any offensive or disgraceful blight of character or conduct, particularly as noted in verses 2-7.
  2. The husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  mias gynaikos andra, meaning a “one woman man,” one who, if married, has a faithful, healthy monogamous marriage to one woman.  This would prohibit any questionable sexual relationships related to polygamy, homosexuality, concubines, or outside relationships other than one’s wife.  This passage is not excluding a single man, but rather defining the relationship of one who is married.
  3. Temperate (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  nephalios, meaning mental sobriety, self controlled, and free from debilitating excesses or rash judgment.
  4. Prudent (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  sophron, meaning self controlled with good judgment and able to keep a balanced, objective perspective in the face of disagreements and problems.
  5. Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  kosmios, meaning a sensible minded person with proper behavior and orderliness.
  6. Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  A concrete expression of Christian love in the church and in one’s family.  An open home to those in need.
  7. Able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  Able to guide and protect the body through the proper handling of Scripture.  A readiness to teach when needed and an aptitude in basic theology and doctrine.
  8. Not addicted to wine (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  Above reproach in the use of alcohol; not preoccupied with or overindulgent in the use of alcohol.
  9. Not pugnacious (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  A pugnacious man is mean spirited, bad tempered, and out-of-control with one’s attitudes and actions.  One who is prone to gossip, anger, and highly emotional.

10.  Gentle (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  Meaning forbearing, kind, magnanimous, equitable and gracious.

11.  Uncontentious (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  Meaning peaceable and not divisive in word or deed.

12.  Free from the love of money [sordid gain] (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3):  meaning not greedy but content.

13.  Manages his own household well [children who believe] (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9):  Meaning he can manage (prohistemi) lead and care for his wife and children in a responsible manner.  He must have a reputation for caring for and managing his family financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  A man who can manage his children graciously and consistently.

14.  Not a new convert (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  Meaning not new to the faith, not a beginner or a baby Christian.

15.  A good reputation with those outside the church (1 Timothy 3:2-7):  Meaning that the person is known for integrity, honesty, and fair dealing in the secular world.

16.  Not self willed (Titus 1:1-9):  Self willed means arrogant, prideful; the opposite of being gentle.  A self-willed man is stubborn and insensitive to the opinions and needs of others; he is headstrong, independent, self assertive and not a team player.

17.  Not quick tempered (Titus 1:1-9):  Quick tempered means a “hot head,” an angry person who is easily antagonized and hurt.  A destroyer of peace and unity.

18.  Lover of what is good (Titus 1:1-9):  Closely associated with hospitality, the word is philagathos, meaning one who willingly, and with self denial, does good and is kind.

19.  Sensible (Titus 1:1-9):  sophron, same as prudent.

20.  Devout (Titus 1:1-9):  hosios, meaning firmly committed to God and His Word; to be separated unto God and His purposes.

21.  Self controlled (Titus 1:1-9):  Meaning self disciplined in every aspect of life, particularly in physical desires.

22.  Holds fast the faithful Word (Titus 1:1-9):  Able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who distort and contradict God’s Word.

23.  Not under compulsion, but voluntarily (1 Peter 5:1-3):  Meaning one who willingly and joyfully gives of his time to help and minister to others.

24.  Not lording over, but proving to be an example (1 Peter 5:1-3):  Humble, not dictatorial, but a mentor to those in need. 

25.  Shepherd of the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1):  poimanate, meaning to tend, to know the flock, seek out the lost, gather the flock, and feed the lambs.

We might call these “The Top 25 Leadership Qualifications of the New Testament.”  This is perhaps the most thorough list ever written on leadership qualifications.  From this list we see the ethical, moral, and spiritual qualifications needed for leadership in the local church.  Without questions, if churches today took seriously the qualifications listed in the New Testament for all elder positions, our churches would be as empowered as the New Testament churches were.

Benefits of Morally, Ethically, and Spiritually Qualified Elders:

  • The leadership will more fully reflect Christ to the congregation
  • The leadership will live exemplary lives and model to younger members of the church how a Christian man should live
  • The church will be led and governed in a God honoring manner
  • God will bless a church that is seeking Him and His perfect will by giving revelation and guidance to the leadership
  • When problems arise, these men will seek God and lead the church with wisdom and humility
  • These men will guard the church from heresy and unscrupulous leaders
  • These men will follow the scriptures in all of their teaching and leadership, thus discipling the fellowship into maturity

In Practicum:

At MSC we take seriously the character qualities listed, and we use these qualities as a gauge in hiring all pastors and in the selection of all board members.  Whenever we have not looked closely at a man’s character, we have paid dearly.  In viewing leadership I utilize the 6 C’s of leadership.  I call these my “6 C’s of leadership at Mountains Springs.”  These are the areas we use as our measuring rod for hiring pastoral staff:

Calling-he knows that God has clearly called him into the ministry at MSC.  He knows that this is not a job, but a calling to be a servant leader

Character – he is living a life with the intent of the heart  and lifestyle that is exemplified by the qualities outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-8, and 1 Peter 5:1-3

Chemistry—he and his family have the vision, values and DNA of Mountain Springs

Competence—he has the skill, talent, and spiritual gifting to do the job assigned

Courage—he has the strength and courage to lead others with vigor and joy

Coaching—he is gifted to recruit, develop, and release other leaders in his area of ministry

6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 3

7 06 2010

This is part three in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.”  Enjoy.  If you want to catch up on the previous parts, scroll down.

Principle #3: First among Equals

Paul explains the principle of “first among equals” when he writes, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).  Paul is expressing a “first among equals” status for certain leaders who were especially called and gifted in teaching God’s Word.  John MacArthur, in his commentary on this passage writes, “Elders who serve with greater commitment, excellence, and effort should have greater acknowledgement from their congregations.  Implicit is the idea that some elders will work harder and be more prominent in ministry” (Study Bible, p. 1869).  It seems that God has designed spiritual gifts such that certain members of the church are given the gift of teaching and leadership in preparing and equipping the Body of Christ for ministry.  There ministry will have greater prominence in the local church.  Alexander Strauch also expresses this sentiment:

Although elders act jointly as a council and share equal authority and responsibility for the leadership of the church, all are not equal in their giftedness, biblical knowledge, leadership ability, experience, or dedication.  Therefore, those among the elders who are particularly gifted leaders and/or teachers will naturally stand out among the other elders as leaders and teachers within the leadership body.  This is what the Romans called primus inter pares, meaning “first among equals” (ibid, p. 45).

Even Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John as “first among equals” in relation to the other twelve disciples (see Luke 8:51; 9:28; Mark 14:23).  In all four gospel accounts, Peter is the prominent leader among the twelve disciples.  Peter also stands shoulders above the other leaders in the Jerusalem church (see Acts 2:14, 42; 4:33, 35; 5:12, 18, 29, 42; 6:2-6; 8:14; 9:27; 15:2-29).   Peter is the chief leader among the elders in Jerusalem in the first twelve chapters of Acts.  In the second half of Acts, beginning in chapter thirteen, Paul becomes the dominant leader among the apostles outside of Jerusalem.  In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he speaks of James, Peter, and John as the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem (see Galatians 2:7-9).

We further advance this principle of “first among equals” as we see who the pastoral epistles (1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus) are written to.  Paul directs his two letters to Timothy, and not the elders in Ephesus.  Paul sends his letter to Titus and not to the elders at Crete. Indeed, with Timothy and Titus are both taxed with the responsibility to “set in order the things that are lacking” and develop strong leadership in each church.

The pastoral epistles describe men who are the “first among equals” in building solid structure in teaching, church discipline, leadership qualifications, and church government.  The level of authority and the kind of teaching that Paul brings to these men make it obvious that they are to follow just what Paul admonishes Timothy,  “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).  Thus, Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete are acting in the capacity of being lead pastors over the governing leaders in each congregation. 

Accordingly, scripture shows that the main vision, values, and direction of the Jerusalem church came from Peter (see Acts 1-13), and that the main visionary of the churches outside of Jerusalem rested largely with Paul (see Acts 14-28).  The lead pastor in Ephesus at the time of Paul’s letter was Timothy.  The lead pastor in Crete was Titus.  Thus, the principle of “first among equals” is another strong principle of New Testament government.

Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology explains practically how “first among equals” can function in a local church:  

The senior pastor would be one among the elders in this system.  He does not have authority over them, nor does he work for them as an employee.  He has a somewhat distinct role in that he is engaged in the full time work of ‘preaching and teaching,’ (1 Tim. 5:17), and derives part or all of his income from that work (1 Tim 5:18).  He also may frequently assume a leadership role (such as chairman) among the elders, which would fit with his leadership role among the congregation…Such a system would allow a pastor to exercise strong leadership in the church while still having equal authority with the other elders” (p. 933).

Hence, the New Testament is very clear that God raises up men with a certain gifting of leadership and teaching that is used by God to build up and guide the local church toward the vision God has given that body of believers.  They are not more special or more gifted but do occupy a position of greater responsibility to the Lord and the elders in leading the church.

Benefits of a “First among Equals” Government Structure:

  • A highly gifted leader or teacher can use his God-given gift mix to its full potential
  • As the church provides financial support for this leader or leaders, the whole body will be blessed by their full time commitment to the church
  • Such leadership can provide necessary protection from abuse, heresy, and bad teaching as the leader or leaders can give necessary time to the plans and preparations of leading the church
  • A lead pastor can have the time to seek the Lord for clear direction and vision for the local church
  • A lead pastor with strong accountability will be able to lead the elders in a plan and strategy that can in turn bless every member of the local congregation

In Practicum:

As the senior pastor and founding pastor at MSC, I am often considered the “first among equals” at Elder Board meetings.  I am equal and not above the other elders in all matters related to the board.  But because my role involves visionary leading and teaching God’s Word, God has given me a certain responsibility and equity with my spiritual and board elders that requires that I lead out on visionary matters.  In some church structures, I would be designated as the “teaching elder.”  MSC also has an executive pastor who is a “first among equals” with the other pastors as he leads them in the day to day ministry of the church.

How and by Whom are Decisions Made at MSC?

In the process of decision making, the question is often asked “How and by whom are decisions made at MSC?”  On both the pastoral elder team and board elder team, we have utilized several approaches to decision making.  All of these approaches have value in certain circumstances.  I will explain this process from the continuum of autocratic to democratic:

Autocratic à  Consultative àConsensus à Democratic

The Autocratic mode of decision making means that one man leads and makes all major decisions.  At MSC, we rarely use this approach.  Yet there are times when myself, or one of our other lead pastors or board elders, must make a decision quickly and singularly.  Even in those situations, we encourage that consultation be sought first.

The Consultative mode of decision making means that a leader consults, gets the opinion of others and from that consultation makes a decision with the group largely in agreement.  I prefer this model more than the Autocratic and find that this is often an excellent approach. We have, from time to time, had to make major decisions that will impact the whole church, and I have always followed the consultive and also the following, consensus model.

The Consensus mode of decision making means that the group agrees in unison on a given approach or decision.  This is my preferred approach to leading and managing MSC.  Almost all decisions made by the pastors and board fall into this category.

The Democratic mode of decision making means that votes are cast and the majority wins.  Although this is the approach used in many churches, I have rarely used this, as it has the potential to short circuit the deep prayer and consensus building needed to develop a solid team that hears God together.  However, at the point of a deadlock, this approach can be preferable.

On the Pastoral and Board Elder Teams we approach each issue and decision with what I refer to as the “75/100 Rule.”  This means that we will always seek 75% agreement on a decision, but 100% support once the decision is made.  After much dialogue, once a decision is made, even if there is not complete unanimity on the decision, when we walk out of the meeting, we will support the decision 100% in talking about or discussing it with the congregation.  This enables us to keep unity in the body, even when we disagree on certain matters.

6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” part 2

1 06 2010

This is part two in a series on the topic, “New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure.” Enjoy. If you want to catch up on the previous part, scroll down and find part one.

Principle #2: Team Leadership

Jesus modeled team leadership in organizing twelve men into an itinerate ministry that shook the Jewish world (see the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the eleven apostles immediately set out to elect a twelfth (Matthias) and reorganize team leadership for the days ahead (see Act 1:15-26). Even as it appears from Luke’s account that Peter and John quickly emerged as the strongest leaders among the twelve apostles (see Acts 1-5), the team leadership structure remained intact. With the structural problems that arose with the feeding of widows, the apostles chose a shared leadership structure by naming seven men who were appointed to distribute food (see Acts 6:3-6).

Even as the early church grew into the thousands with multiple locations, team leadership continued to be a hallmark of church polity. One of the earliest churches outside of Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, developed a leadership team built around Barnabas, Saul, and “the elders” (Acts 11:30). With the first missionary outreach came the expansion of the Jerusalem fellowship into church planting throughout the Mediterranean (see Acts 13-14). Paul and Barnabas realized the need for leadership structure through team ministry as they “appointed elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Acts 15:6 we observe that “the apostles and the elders came to together” to make a theological decision.

Paul provides more insight as he writes Titus about the need for leadership structure: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5). Paul, in his instruction to Timothy writes, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17). James instructs the “elders” to come and pray over those who are sick (see James 5:14). In Paul’s final farewell to the church in Ephesus, he called “the elders of the church” together (see Acts 20:17, 28). Paul in writing the church in Philippi addressed, “the overseers (plural) and deacons” (Philippians 1:1, emphasis added). Peter instructed the “elders” to shepherd the flock in Asia Minor (see 1 Peter 5:1). In each of these passages we observe team leadership in the churches. A more through study would exhibit more evidence of this principle. (See also Acts 13:1; 15:35; 1 Corinthians 16:15, 16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13; Hebrews 13:7, 17, and 24)

Alexander Strauch writes in his book, Biblical Eldership, “The New Testament reveals that the pastoral oversight of many of the first churches was committed to a plurality of elders. This was true of the earliest Jewish Christian churches in Jerusalem, Judea, and neighboring countries, as well as many of the first gentile churches” (p. 36). Thus, we observe that the New Testament is a testimonial of shared leadership through a plurality of elders. From Jesus to the establishment of the church, the pages of scripture model a structure of leadership that is collegiate and collective in a team approach.

Benefits of Team Leadership:

• Team leadership covers and balances the weaknesses of the individual members

• Team leadership provides the synergy of different gifts and talents working together for the common good

• Team leadership holds each member accountable in his character and in his work

• Team leadership lightens the load of ministry duties and responsibilities

• Team leadership models a collegiate and loving group to the church

• Team leadership provides a group of men to relate to and work with, who become friends and brothers that make the ministry fun and joyful

In Practicum:

MSC has an elder team leadership approach. We have a “Pastoral Elder Team” made up of the staff pastors. The pastoral team leads the church in all matters related to the spiritual and pastoral direction of the church. We also have a “Board Elder Team” that guides the church in all matters related to legal matters, financial policies and procedures. As the Senior Pastor I am accountable to and reviewed annually by this Board Elder Team. The Board Elder Team is consulted and utilized in all hiring, firing, and disciplinary actions related to the Pastoral Elder Team.

6 Principles of “Those Who Turned the World Upside Down” Part 1

24 05 2010

New Testament Principles on Leadership Structure 

Because of the numerous questions I receive from pastors as well as members of Mountain Spring about our leadership structure I wrote a “white paper” for our website that reflects hundreds of hours of Bible study, discussion with our board, and consultation related to the structure of leadership in the local church.  Over the next couple of months I will be sharing parts of this research here.  Following is part one of six:

Why discuss Leadership Structure?

Many church planters and pastors have asked me over the years about church government structure and what I believe to be the most biblical approach.  Due to the growth of Mountain Springs Church (MSC), it has also become apparent that there is a need for a more thoroughly understood biblical approach to leadership and governing structure.  As our leadership needs at MSC have increased, so has our need to understand what the New Testament says about leadership structure.   

Thus, in order to discover a workable, pliable, and dynamic model for leadership/eldership in the local church, I have endeavored to dig into what the scriptures have to say on this subject.  This in no way means that my conclusions will be air tight or sufficient for some people, but it is my hope to cite what the New Testament has to say and set up the most biblical and practical leadership structure possible for Mountain Springs Church.

Though there are many books on church leadership structure, I believe that the scriptures themselves are our best guide.  As we seek to develop a more biblical model for leadership government at MSC, a thorough study of the scriptures must be our highest endeavor. 

Two Exciting Discoveries

Through study of leadership structure in the New Testament, we quickly discover two exciting things:  First, the ministry of Jesus and the churches planted in the book of Acts were all governed by a very functional and dynamic leadership team.  There are many examples of how Jesus and the early church were governed, and the principles of structure found in the gospels, Acts, and the epistles are anecdotal and prescriptive.  Secondly, the leadership structure in the New Testament worked!  The ministry of Jesus and the early church, and the structure utilized, were very effective in reaching thousands of people like no other religious or political movement in the history of the world.  In light of these two insights, it is apparent that if we desire to be faithful to not only the scriptural model, but also the spirit of the New Testament church, we must seriously learn all we can about how leadership functioned in the ministry of Jesus and the early church. 

Let us admit from the outset that we do not believe that a leadership structure is the primary cause of any great move of God.   However, the government of the churches was part of the conduit God used for the Holy Spirit to ignite a powerful move of the Holy Spirit, which resulted in “the word of the Lord being spread throughout all the region” (Acts 13:49).  But government structure is important.  Jesus explained the importance of structure when He said, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Luke 5:37-38).  Thus, Jesus uses a metaphor that anyone in the ancient Middle East would have understood—the value of a physical structure for containing an important product.  Jesus purpose not being the containment of wine, but the importance and uniqueness of physical structure for containing spiritual power and truth.  

Structure matters.  Leadership structure can either severely hinder the development and release of what God is doing, or it can be fluid and dynamic and result in the release of all that God desires in and through a Spirit filled and Word filled church.  It is apparent that the New Testament model of leadership structure enabled the flow of the new wine of the Spirit that was so powerful that the rulers in the first century described the church as, “these who have turned the world upside down…” (Acts 17:6).  At MSC we want the wine (the gospel of Jesus Christ) and the wineskins (structure) that together will enable us to turn the world right side up.

Principles of Structure

I believe a study of the New Testament provides us with “principles” of structure we can learn from. A “principle,” as defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary, is “a comprehensive and fundamental law; with respect to fundamentals.”  What we find in the New Testament are not exact rules, but rather fundamentals that point to a Biblical model for church government and leadership structure.  Principles of structural leadership found in the ministry of Jesus and the early church testify of a “wineskin” that is flexible enough to contain the “new wine” of the Holy Spirit in the people of God.

In the major features of description and design, eldership/leadership is plainly and amply set forth by the New Testament authors.  Yet, from the outset we must admit that the exact organizational structure of how such leadership was represented within churches is not spelled out.  George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982), author of A Theology of the New Testament, and a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary writes, “It appears likely that there was no normative pattern of church government in the apostolic age, and that the organizational structure of the church is no essential element in the theology of the church” (p. 534).  But a thorough study of the books of the New Testament attest to enough information from which we can learn much for our churches today.  There is enough description given for the development of a leadership structure that is faithful to scripture, flexible enough to expand with new changes, and dynamic for a fast growing church.  Following are New Testament principles that I believe are the irreducible minimum for the development of leadership structure for any church.

Principle #1:  Jesus is Head of the Church

In speaking of Christ and His headship over the church, the scriptures are clear: “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22, emphasis added).   In speaking of the role of a husband toward his wife, Paul uses Christ as the best example of headship.  He writes, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23, emphasis added).  In the imagery of the body of Christ, the scriptures clearly define Christ as the head over all men.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul expresses this conviction, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ…” (1 Corinthians 11:3).  The headship of Christ is one of the most important doctrines of the New Testament.

The first and foremost understanding to church polity must begin with Christ as the head and chief shepherd of the church (see also Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18; 2:10; 2:19; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).  It is Christ who rules over the church.  It is Christ who is building His church.  Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus will build that which is His.

All other structural principles are subordinate to the first and primary characteristic of a New Testament church—Jesus Christ is Lord and Chief shepherd over all.  It is the work of His Spirit that births new life into our spirit when we are born again (see John 3).  It is His Holy Spirit’s presence that brings joy and life to a fellowship of believers (see John 10:10). It is His love and power that builds the church (see 1 Corinthians 3).  It is His anointing that enables the gifts and ministries of the church to function (see Ephesians 2).  It is His strength and guidance that brings unity and purpose to the church (see Ephesians 4). The headship of Jesus Christ must be evident both in the life of the individual believer as well as the corporate gathering of a local church. 

Christ as head of the church insures that His purposes and plans for the church will be fulfilled through those whom He has called and commissioned to lead His church.  This is the first and most important starting principle for all discussion of church polity.  All other forms of church government are subordinate to the lordship and preeminence of Christ.  When the church gathers together, Christ’s spiritual presence  as Ruler, Overseer, Head, and Lord is the insurer of His glory in the church.  All other discussion related to the leadership in the local church is subservient to this central principle.

Benefits of Christ as Head of the Church:

  • When the church is surrendered to Christ, the Lord’s power and presence is free to move and touch the fellowship
  • When the leadership of the church is under the lordship of Christ, there is assurance of the fear and leading of God in all decision making
  • When Christ is ruling over all decisions made through the leadership, God gets more glory and honor
  • When Christ is worshipped as King through the leadership, there is assurance of godly character and holiness needed among the elders
  • When Christ is Lord over a fellowship, He builds His church and the gates of hell cannot prevail

In Practicum:

The MSC Vision Statement is “Experience the adventure of an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ”.  At Mountain Springs Church we believe that Jesus is truly the Head of the catholic (universal) Church and our particular local expression of His lordship.  Paul, in his introduction to the church in Colossae, sums it up best:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-18).

Thus, at MSC, we passionately desire to honor and glorify Christ in all that we do.  Worship and the teaching of God’s Word permeate all activities at MSC.  We desire to build up a body of believers that reflect His glory, through being equipped to love God and people.