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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How is the Church led?

by Nelson Roth
In the early 1980’s, when I was being personally challenged in my Bible study with the  shift of the church being more about people than a place - my eyes were also being opened to another shift - how the church is led.  

What is it that God desires for us to see and practice in the area of church leadership?

No matter what our particular titles may be for various leadership roles or what our organizational chart looks like – are there some Biblical principles about church leadership that can help guide us?

As I studied the early church, I began to see leadership expressed as teams instead of one person in the lead role alone.  This team model, though a stretch at first, began to make sense in many ways.  For one, “Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18).  A shift from one person, or a human head of the church to a team would emphasize Christ as the head.

Next, I began to see that the term used in scripture for church leadership is elders (plural) and every passage in the New Testament relating to the organization of the local church shows a plurality of elders with no mention of one of the elders being superior over the others.

Having the right people in leadership roles is vital, whether it is one person or if your church takes a team approach.  Scriptures are clear about those chosen to lead a church and their spiritual qualifications (Titus 1:6-9; I Timothy 3:1-7). 

In the New Testament, the leadership team of elders was evidently made up of both pastors and elders - bringing their different Spiritual gifts and abilities to the team (Acts 13:1-3; Ephesians 4:11).  As a team forms, Alexander Strauch has an interesting designation in his book Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership - “first among equals.” This designation helps in understanding how early church leadership might have functioned.  As a church leadership team works together, they discover each person’s personal strengths and look to each other according to those gifts and abilities.

When the scriptures speak of the elders’ primary role, we find that they are to serve and care for the congregation. As described in I Thessalonians, the church leadership carries out their serving role as a team.

I Thessalonians 5:12-13 “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”

How much does your church value a team concept for leadership; and what does it look like?

How would a team approach to leadership, with each member contributing God given strengths, be different from one person being the superior?

What is the process for decision making in your church?

In order for Christ to truly be the head of your church what do you need to be conscious of based on your church structure, form of government, and leadership titles?

Click to post your comment. 

RM’s vision - to equip leaders to minister relevantly in churches that will be healthy and thriving.

Relevant Ministry Inc.
Training future leaders - Building healthy ministries - Serving on the Gulf Coast


  1. I really appreciate your reflections. They are helpful. The place where I differ is in the idea that folks guided by the spirit would necessarily be on one accord. At times in our history this has lead to some unfortunate outcomes in the life of the church with one group accusing the other of not being faithful or in tune with the Spirit's guiding. At times it had led one side or often both sides to accuse each other of being tools of the devil. It has led to fractions and splits. It has been said at times perhaps with a nit of hyperbole that for many denominations the number one method of church planting is the church split. Added to your reflection, I would suggest that there will be times when faithful spirit lead people will not agree. I believe in healthy congregations leaders accept and model this based on the type of approach suggest in Romans. The issues then may seem small to us today but went to the heart of the community in that they dealt with idolatry and Sabboth keeping. Healthy leadership also includes encouraging individuals to be true to their conscience (let each be decided in their own mind), accepting one another without condescension or judgement, and finding a way to maintain unity. Healthy congregations and organizations find a way to accommodate differences.

    1. Thanks for your response Horace. Making right decisions on any matter is always a challenge. We all have our 'lenses' we look through. Your thoughts challenge me in my 'walk in the Spirit' to be so 'filled' with Him and dead to my fleshly thoughts and ways. -Nelson

  2. Hmm...though this post is over a year old, it seems to be highly "relevant" to the church of today. I'm excited to see how the leadership team develops in Revolutionary Life Church, as we hope to model the church of the Bible.

    1. Good the hear from you Jason. This topic is some of the key teaching that Relevant Ministry does. And you're right, it doesn't get old. At RM, we do either a two day on location training at a church or a two day retreat at the Relevant Ministry Center in Pass Christian, MS. The entire training for those two days is around this topic is - The church, how is it organized and led? Blessings to you and your group as you seek the Lord in forming your group. -Nelson


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