Uncovering what biblical church organization and leadership look like
How is Christianity supposed to be organized? If you look at the countless denominations we have today, you will see a wide variety of interpretations regarding leadership. With some, it all boils down to one individual leader. With others, it is a committee of several. In many cases, those in authority have the responsibility of delegating who is to oversee each of the local congregations. With so much variety, have you ever wondered if there is actually a right way to do all of this? If we’re able to go to church and feel blessed, does it even matter?
What did the early church do? How did they decide which church leaders would lead where? Did the apostles give us a God-sanctioned system to perpetuate leadership for the flock all down through the age until now?
Jesus set the example
The first and perhaps most important aspect of Christian leadership is what Jesus himself dramatically instructed. The night before his crucifixion, his apostles were discussing amongst themselves who would be greatest in the kingdom. When they sat down to eat, Jesus as their teacher and master, humbly washed their feet. His message was simple: I am greater than all of you, and yet I am humble before all of you. Any greatness you may strive for or achieve requires you express this same kind of humility.
Jesus would teach them many things that night, but no other lesson was so profoundly demonstrated as their feet washing.
The New Testament describes Christian leadership by using a variety of words. We read about pastors, bishops, overseers, elders and shepherds. We first ask if these all represent different positions within a hierarchy in the church. Most of Christianity has adopted this approach, but what if this system was not the intended result? What if the New Testament writers (Paul and Peter specifically) had something else in mind? To find out, we need to see how these responsibilities are written about and their requirements.
What is meant by "ordain"?
Another critical aspect of Christian leadership is how it is decided who is put in a position of responsibility. Today when we think of church leaders, we think of individuals who are “ordained” or appointed. The Bible does say to “ordain” elders in every church, but was it by the same process we use today? Remember, there were no seminary schools in the early church. This means the logistics of finding and placing congregational leadership was entirely different. Here again, we need to understand what the intentions of the New Testament writings were.
All we have done here is raise a lot of questions! Check out our August 24, 2020 podcast, “Does My Church Leadership Have it Right?” for answers. We examine the meanings of pastor, bishop, elder and the others to see how these responsibilities dovetail together. Then we dig into the process that Paul specifically relayed to the churches about how their leadership was to be established. We find what we believe to be simple and inspiring biblical truth. Listen in and tell us what you think!
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