Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Leadership in the church

Three words are commonly used in the New Testament to describe leaders in the church: diakonos (servant or minister), episkopos (overseer or bishop) and presbuteros (elder). A careful reading shows that these words do not denote different offices in the church, but different areas of responsibility for the same person. Neither is there any sense of a hierarchy, of one church leader having authority over the others.

The qualifications for church leadership are that a man be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

These are not qualities that can be learned in a Bible School or Seminary. They are virtues that are best attested to by those who know the person well – the members of his own congregation. In addition, this person must be called of God and of the congregation, he must not take the responsibility of leadership upon himself.

The New Testament gives instructions for providing material support for a leader, but not for making him an employee of the church. The leader should be able to support himself and his family, but the congregation should help when responsibilities of leadership demand travel or extra expenses. The apostle Paul worked as a tent maker, but welcomed gifts during the times he was in prison.

When the simplicity of the New Testament pattern is ignored it creates many troubles in a congregation. A leader may assume lordship over the church and demand conformity to his way of thinking. Congregations divide over personality differences or small differences in practice that cannot be reconciled. Individuals start their own churches. Small rural churches close because they believe they need a trained pastor, but cannot afford to pay one.

The New Testament leadership pattern is workable and blessed of God when it is followed by those who are true believers.

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