GOVERNMENT OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
As we know, Christ is the head and leader of the Church. All direction and authority comes from Him. As the head and chief cornerstone, Christ setup the prophets and apostles to be the foundation of the Church, and their writing, the word of God, became and remains the very foundation for the whole church.
They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2.42
God teaches us that He sets up specified offices to designate authority so the services of the Church are organized and handled in proper order. God knows that we as people need to have specified guidelines to maintain balance within any system, and the Church is no different. Once again we know God loves diversity, but local groups and local Churches are still to have some form of organization and service for the people.
But let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corin 14.40
For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body. 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; it is not therefore not of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now they are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary: 23 and those parts of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness; 24 whereas our comely parts have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked; 25 that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. – 1 Corin 12.14-27
for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, – 1 Corin 14.33
3 Primary Views on Church Governance
There are 3 primary different opinions of how each Church should be governed, as the Church receives their direction from God, and in the end it may be that God has setup all 3 ways each for its own purpose.
- Episcopal View – From episcopos meaning “bishop,” View that one specified bishop or overseer exercise authority over the Churches elders and congregation.
- Presbyterian View – From presbuteros meaning “older,” View that a signified board of elders holds final authority in the administration of Church affairs.
- Congregational View – While it may have elders and deacons, the congregation view holds to the people of the whole congregation approving all matters of the Church.
Difference between Offices, Talents & Gift
The Bible makes a distinction between offices, talents & gifts among the body of believers in the Church.
- Gifts – Gifts for the ministry are given by God alone; they are received spiritually by believers when they are saved by faith.
- Talents – Talents are specifically created God instilled abilities that people naturally or intrinsically have.
- Offices – The Church cannot give spiritual gifts but can create offices which are ordained by local Churches to establish a type of order for the services of the ministry.
Economics of the Church
Wages & Payment
The Bible makes it clear that a minister of the gospel should get, or has the right to earn his wages by working for the gospel. However, following Paul’s example, there are certain circumstances that when examined, will produce more fruit by not taking anything from the offering or gifts of the people. Sometimes, it is possible that a minister’s wages will cause the people of that congregation to stumble. In other circumstances it is best to have the minister’s wages determined by the givers of that Church community.
If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. – 1Co 9:11-18
Offices of Authority & Spiritual Gifts
Each office of authority is to be organized from most authoritative to least, with the most responsible and proper minister to fulfill the duties of each office.
Office of Overseers / Bishops / Elder
These are three terms that all refer to the same office of authority, maturity and dignity within most organizations. In the Jewish communities, the elders where rulers over the people. They assembled together with the high priests, scribes and other leaders to make decisions among the nation of Israel (Matt 26.3, 15.2; Acts 22.5)
In the Church, the term elder carried over from the original Hebrew meaning to designate the leaders that where to oversee the inner workings of the Church.
Functions and Qualifications of an Overseer / Elder
God gives us the qualification that a person must meet in order to be eligible to be ordained for an office in the Church, ready for service in the ministry.1. Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 no brawler, no striker; but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money; 4 one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (but if a man knoweth not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Deacons in like manner must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless. 11 Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Tim 3.1-13
For ye were going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. – 1 Peter 2.25
Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; – 1 Peter 5.2
holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers. – Titus 1.9
2. And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables.3 Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.4 But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word.5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus a proselyte of Antioch; 6 whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them. – Acts 6.2-6
And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. – Acts 14.23
[Here the apostles ordained, not elects the elders, as it was the congregation that selected the elders of the Church. ]
Overseers and Elders in the New Testament
Elders in Jerusalem
And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them, the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. – Acts 15.2
And as they went on their way through the cities, they delivered them the decrees to keep which had been ordained of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem. – Acts 16.4
Elders in Every City
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to him the elders of the church. – Acts 20.17
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge; – Titus 1.5
Elders in Every Local Church
And when they had appointed for them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. – Acts 14.23
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: – Phil 1.1
Necessity of an Overseer / Elder
As Churches begin to grow, or as any group of people begin to expand, it usually becomes necessary for a specified group of people to become responsible for maintaining the needs of the people of that group. They would also be responsible for keeping an organized administration. This is why God tells us to do all things in an organized fashion because he knows that when the human nature takes over and dominates any society, without organization it becomes a chaotic mess. The role of the overseer is to help maintain all the duties necessary to fulfill the needs of the people and bring a balance to the congregation. God who is sovereign is always the head or all things, but He will rise up the leaders He desires to oversee the things He has created!
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. – Exodus 3.10 [God chooses Moses to be the leader]
Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; – Eph 2.20
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. – Acts 2.42
Office of Deacons
The office of the deacon is to oversee specific potions of a ministry of a Church or the needs of a group that has been formed. Deacons are typically created roles to assist the elders and overseers in the Church.
1 Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2 And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus a proselyte of Antioch; 6 whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them. – Acts 6.1-6
Functions and Qualifications
8 Deacons in like manner must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless. 11 Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have served well as deacons gain to themselves a good standing, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 3.8-13
Gifts for Equipping the Saints
- Pastoral / Teaching
God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues. – 1 Corin 12.28
He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12. for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: – Eph 4.11-12
Apostle means ambassador, delegate or official commissioner, specifically of Christ in the New Testament. The Original Apostleship was a specific gift given to individuals in beginning of the Church for its structural foundation that was accompanied with sign and miracles and the writing of the word of God. This original apostleship ended with the first apostles as there was never any passing on of this first role.
the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. – Rev 21.14 (THE 12 Apostles)
being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone; – Eph 2.20 (foundation was built on the original apostles)
However, the Bible speaks separately of the gifting of apostles for the edification of the saints. Many are called to begin in this position to be ambassadors and begin new Churches in new location. God shows this kind of apostleship is open, to edify the body, in comparison to the apostleship that came only to the original 12, which was a special privilege for the original apostles to being the foundation, which is no longer necessary.
Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? – 1 Corinthians 12.29
till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: – Eph 4.13 (This gift of apostleship must continue to come until the time of the saints are fulfilled)
Prophets are people gifted with the ability to hear directly from God. Some individuals are called to be pastors and are over a Church or specific ministry. They are called to give a word to people directly as God instructs them.
Teachers / Pastors
All pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. Pastors and teachers are those specifically called to teach the word of God to people and in many cases to oversee all or specific parts of Churches. The pastoral gift is a specific role to be a shepherd to the sheep, or the flock of God. Many pastors retain the office of an elder, but not al elders are pastors because they may have received different gifts of the spirit.
Evangelists are those called to equip the saints to be witnesses. Evangelists are not called to be the witnesses in the church, this is a common misconception, in Eph. 4 we find evangelists are called to ‘equip,’ specifically all believers HOW TO witness and evangelize the world.
Other Spiritual Gifts in the Church
There are many other gifts each with their own specific purpose in the Church
Þ see Spiritual Gifts
Systematic Theology – In One Volume; Norman L. Geisler. Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN.