B. Childress
Aug 17, 2007 08:00AM

Whenever we study church government, we should go to the Word of God to understand how God wants His church to
be established:  God has given us his guidelines and principals in His Word, but He leaves the responsibility of how to
apply those guidelines and principals to us.

What is the origin of the word "church."  The word "church" in 1 Corinthians 12:28, comes from the Greek word
ekklesia.  Ekklesia comes from another Greek word ekkaleo.  Ekkaleo is a compound word .  It is made from two word
ek-  and kaleo. Ek means "out" and kaleo mean "to call."  Thus, what the word "church" really means is "the called out
ones" or the "chosen ones" as translated in Ephesians 1:4.  When Paul said we were chosen in Him before the
foundation of the world, the same word is used

What is church?  First Corinthians 12:27-28 says,
"Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular."  Today,
the word "church" is loosely used to describe a building made of brick and mortar, which could also house a disco,
school, industry, or retail store.  The universal church is made up of every born-again believer on the face of the earth.  
Every group of believers who worships together is a segment of the "universal church."  Those segments that meet
together are "local churches."

The church has been called out.  If the church is the "called out" or "chosen" ones, there has to be someone calling or
choosing.  "God hath set some in the church." 1Corinthians 12:28  God is doing the calling or choosing.  Ephesians 4:
11 says,
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" -
but who is "he."  To understand we can look at Ephesians 4:8-10,
CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, AND GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended
first into the lower parts of the earth?  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that
he might fill all things)."
 The Lord Jesus Christ is the "he" who ascended, and the He Who gave gifts to men.

Referring back to 1Corinthians 12:28, God the Father is the One who sets the ministry gifts in the church:  these
ministry gifts are chosen by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in combined authority.  Jesus is the One who calls
and appoints the ministry gifts.  The One (Jesus) who does the calling has authority over the one He calls (whoever
chooses the ministry gift has authority over the one He calls);  whoever chooses the ministry gift has authority over the
one who is chosen.  So, who is head of the church?  Ephesians 1:22-23 says,
"And hath put all things under his feet,
and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body the fullness of him that filleth all in all."
Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church.  He was given that position by God the Father.  He was given authority over
the church by God the Father as well all ministry gifts He chooses to distribute.


The Greek word for "aged men" is "presbuteros" or "elder," in both the masculine and female tense.

"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the
Lord, on whom they believed."
 Acts 14:23

"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in
every city, as I had appointed thee: "
Titus 1:5

Elders and deacons are referred to as labourers in the Body of Christ (specifically in the local church) who are set aside
by those in the five-fold ministry offices apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher).

  • There should be more than one elder in the local church. Acts 14:23 states, "And when they had ordained them
    elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."  
    These elders were men of the Church who were mature, both physically and spiritually.  Such men were ordained
    (or anointed) and set aside for service by the laying on of hands.

Timothy is an example of an ordained elder.  Timothy was ordained through the laying on of hands.  God put the
ministry gift in him (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:28) and the elders laid hands on him as a witness - they
recognized his calling.  Ministry gifts are not given by the laying on of hands.  The anointing that comes with the laying
on of hands may help to stir up the gift from God that is in you, but it does not put it there.  The laying on of hands
becomes a point of contact and dedication.  The anointing will energize the ministry gift that is already there.  Laying on
of hands always represents the ministry of the supernatural, not the calling itself.  Neither can prophecy put the gift in
you.  Prophecy merely confirms what God has already done in your spirit.

  • In James 5:14, the elders in the local church are to be called to minister to the sick, "Is any sick among you? let
    him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  
    And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they
    shall be forgiven him."

  • In Acts 14:23, we find that Paul and Barnabas, "...had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with
    fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." So, we see that elders are ordained, whereas
    there appears to be a lack of scripture in support of the pastor being ordained. It appears that pastors were
    ordained in the office of elder.  Then, when they had proven themselves in that ministry, God promoted them to a
    higher office.

  • Acts 15:1 shows the relationship of elders to ministry offices, "And certain men which came down from Judea
    taught the brethren, and said, 'Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses; ye cannot be saved.  When
    therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and
    Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders  about this question."  

We see that there were elders (plural) at Jerusalem.  They were a group distinct from the apostles.  The ministers
(apostles) and elders are seen working together in Acts 15:22,23,  
" Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the
whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely Judas surnamed
Barsabas;...And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greetings unto
the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia."
 These apostles were in Jerusalem and worked
together with the elders:  the dispute being whether to keep the law or not.  Peter became the spokesman for the
apostles and James arose as the spokesman for the elders; apparently James was the chief elder - the pastor.  He
(James) ruled over many other elders in the church.  Elders are to assist the pastor with the scriptural oversight of the

  • The function/responsibilities of elders in the church can be found in Hebrews 13:7, "Remember them which have
    the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their
    conversation."  Key words are "rule," "spoken," and "word of God" for they indicate the function of the elder's
    office in the local church.  Anyone who is mature in the Lord is an elder, but the office of an elder is different.  The
    main function of the elder's office was that he ruled and taught in the local church - he shared the pastor's

  • The same responsibilities can be found in 1Thessalonians 5:12, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them
    which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you." Key words are "over you" (which
    represents ruling) and "admonish you" signifies the teaching responsibility.

  • The responsibility of the elder can also be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-4, "This is a true saying, If a man desire the
    office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop must be...apt to teach...One that ruleth well his own
    household, having his children in subjection with all gravity..."   The word "bishop" here refers to an elder who
    gains responsibility:  one must stand in the office of elder to become a bishop.

  • First Timothy 5:17 further clarifies the two major responsibilities of the elder - teaching and ruling, "Let the elders
    that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine."  Again, we
    are talking about ruling and teaching.  This verse is specifically talking about the pastor as the chief elder, but the
    qualifications for a pastor also fit the qualifications for an elder.  The term "double honor" does not refer to a
    double reward in heaven some day or double respect, but double salary: study is work.

We can look to 1 Timothy 5:18 for a greater explanation, "
For the scripture saith,'Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that
treadeth out the corn.'  And, the laborer is worthy of his reward."
 The word "labor" in verse seventeen speaks not only
of diligent effort, but also of an occupation.  The pastor is the only one in the church whose full occupation is the labor
of the Word.  Being worthy of one's reward (verse 18) refers to salary.  The analogy of the ox relates to the pastor's
work - he treads out the grain for the benefit of the people.  The corn represents what they bring into the store house;
their offerings.  So, to be worthy of double honor means that a pastor should be paid well - he should receive double
honor over the other elders, associates, and leaders in the church.

-  The elders function is outlined again in Titus 2:1-3, "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:  that the
aged men <elders> be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.  The aged women likewise, that
they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things."

-  Paul conveys the responsibilities and qualifications of elders in Titus 1:5,6, "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that
thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:  If any
be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."  Elders are the ones who
function in the "spiritual" part of the church.

  • Titus 1:7-9 continues, "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry,
    not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (a lover of money); but a lover of hospitality (invites people
    into his home and ministers to them), a lover of good men (associates with good people), sober, just, holy,
    temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to
    exhort and to convince the gainsayers (those who come against the Body)."

In verse 9, an elder is taught that "he may be able by sound doctrine (as he has been taught) both to exhort and to
convince gainsayers (those who come against the Body; non-believers).  This is the role of the elder: a spiritual
overseer in the Church, involved in blessing the people spiritually.

Dedication and faithfulness are the qualities that make a person a success - serve with a willing heart.


Both "bishop" and "overseer" are translated from the same Greek word, episkopos. It conveys a meaning of
definite leadership and official position.

"This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work.  A bishop then must be ...apt to
teach...One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity, (For if a man know not how
to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?."
 1 Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5)

  • A bishop oversees other elders.  He is an elder with added responsibilities.

  • In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the bishop's qualifications are the same as the elder in Titus 1:5-9.  Both are required to have
    the same qualities of maturity and knowledge of God's Word - they both teach and rule.

  • A bishop must first be an elder.  After proving himself in that office, he can be given more responsibility as a

  • The qualifications for the offices of elder and bishop are found in 1 Timothy 3;1-7 and Titus 1:7-9.  The list is
    presented below as taken from the New International Version of the Bible.  All men and women chosen for the
    office of elder should be:

1)  above reproach;  *2)  The husband (wife) of but one wife (husband);  3)  temperate;  4)  self-controlled;  5)  
respectable;  6)  given to hospitality   7)  able to teach;  8)  not given to much wine;  9)  not violent;  10)  not a lover of
money;  11)  patient;  12)  not quarrelsome;  13)  not covetous;  14)  able to manage his or her own family well;  15)  not
a recent convert;  16)  having a good reputation in the community;  17)  a good steward;  18)  not self-willed, but
submissive;  19)  a lover of what is good;  20)  upright;  21)  holy;  22) disciplined.

*  Does not mean he or she is never to have been married before.  It is perfectly clear in God's Word that divorce is
sanctioned in certain cases (Deuteronomy 24:1 and Matthew 5:32).


The Greek translation for Deacon is "diakonos."  

  • The first deacons were chosen in Acts 6:1,3,4, "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was
    multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in
    the daily ministrations...' Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy
    Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.  But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and
    to the ministry of the word." They chose seven men to be deacons, "...and when they had prayed, they laid their
    hands on them."  Acts 6:6

  • Deacons need to be filled with the Spirit and the Word.  This brings faith and power.  That is what to look for in a
    church when you appoint men and women into service.

  • The deacon's ministry is a divine gift from Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.  It requires more than mere
    natural ability to effectively fulfill this ministry, just as it does any other ministry.

  • The ministry of the deacon is more associated with the ministry of helps than with the pastoral office.

  • Deacons can be either men or women.

The deacon's ministry in the early days of the Church was especially connected with having charge of the alms of the
assembly and being an overseer of the poor and the sick.  Deacons help manage and coordinate the needs, activities,
and operations of a local church;  anything of service to people is deaconing.

In 1 Timothy 3:8-12 (New International Version), it says a deacon must be:

1)  worthy of respect

2)  sincere

3)  not indulging in wine

4)  not pursuing dishonest gain

5)  keeping hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscious

6)  first tested (meets the standards of Acts chapter 6)

7)  married to one worthy of respect - the wife of a deacon is not to be a malicious talker, she is to be temperate and
trustworthy in everything, and is to be able to manage her children and household well

8)  the husband of but one wife (and vice versa)

9)  full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith, able to use his knowledge of the Word of God, which is being full of wisdom.

First Timothy 3:13 states,
"For they that have used the office of deacon will purchase to themselves a good degree, and
great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."

Deaconship is a good work.  The Lord expects a deacon to be an example to his people in the church.

THE CHURCH TODAY - Is it scriptual for deacon boards or boards of elders to
run the local church?

In the early days of the Church when the Church was in the babyhood stage of development, the assemblies were put in
charge of local elders until ministry gifts could develop. The Greek word translated "elder" simply means an older
person.  These elders were older people, fitted to a place of position and responsibility.

The only ministries the Church had at first were the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.  A novice could not be set in as a
pastor or shepherd of the flock (1 Timothy 3:6).  So until some of those newly saved converts were called into the
ministry by God and had developed into pastors - and this takes time - older men with more maturity, both mentally and
in character, were put in charge of the flock.  

We don't have this situation today.  The Church is no longer in an infancy stage of development.  Ministry gifts have
already been developed in the Church.   Problems are created when people have said, "We want a New Testament
church.  Let's go back to the Acts of the Apostles."  Then they appointed elders to run the church when i
t is clearly the
pastors duty to assume the leadership role in the church:
 they would remain in a babyhood state of Christianity.  
The New Testament clearly reveals God's plan for the Church - that it grow up!

Elders appointed by men today have no call of God upon them.  They know nothing about the pastoral office, because
the call is not there; the anointing is not there.  It is unscriptual to appoint elders to oversee a flock and to run a church
when there is a pastor to oversee it - again, that is reverting back to the babyhood stage of development as in the Early

The Overseer - Originally in the Early Church, the term "elders" had special reference to age, maturity, and
standing.  Then as ministry gifts developed in the Early Church, the more official title of "overseer" or "bishop" was used,
which referred to those who were called and anointed by God to stand in the pastoral office,
"Take heed therefore unto
yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God,
which he hath purchased with his own blood."
Acts 20:28  In order to have fed the Church of God with the Word, these
people must have been teachers who were spiritually equipped to feed the flock.  They could not have been just older
persons who oversaw what was happening, but had no anointing or call to ministry.  But then, over the course of time,
some of these elders or older men who were put over the flocks did develop into ministry gifts because they had the call
of God on them.  God made ministers out of them.

The Bishop - Here is where we understand the similiarities in qualifications between the pastor and the bishop.  Notice
First Timothy 3:1 calls it the "office of a bishop" (or overseer according to the Greek translation), which is referring to the
pastoral office.  If this office is not the pastoral office, then it is an office Jesus didn't set in the Church because all the
ministry gifts are listed in Ephesians 4:11,12  "
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the
body of Christ:"
 There aren't any others.  No, this office of bishop must of necessity be the pastoral office because that
is the ministry gift that has the oversight of the flock.


Decently and In Order, Bob Yandian, Copyright 1983, 1987 by Whitaker House.

The Ministry Gifts,  Kenneth E. Hagin, Copyright 1998 by RHEMA  Bible Church.

The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit, Lester Sumrall, Copyright 1982 by Lester Sumrall Evangelical
Association (LeSEA).