The New Testament is not as clear about church leadership as one who is not familiar with the Bible might expect. There is information, but it is not presented in a manner that allows us to readily assemble a solid model of how church leadership should work.
Here are a few of the key items you need to start understanding to begin to form an understanding of church leadership according to the Word of God.
Member of the Body of Christ
At the time someone becomes a believer in God through Jesus Christ, they assume a core identity as a brother or sister in Christ. A sibling in full standing before God the Father with all the rights and privileges of a child in the family of God.
Gifts and Functions
In addition, the Bible identifies a number of spiritual gifts which are given by the Holy Spirit to believers when they are regenerated and receive the Jesus Christ into their life. These gifts provide each believer to begin to operate with new spiritual capacities and function in the Body of Christ in as much as they learn how to walk in step with the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
- Word of Wisdom
- Word of Knowledge
- Distinguishing between spirits
- Interpretation of Tongues
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 & 1 Corinthians 12:28
- Gifts or Kinds of Healings
1 Corinthians 12:28 & Ephesians 4:11
1 Corinthians 12:28
Elders and Deacons may be gifted in any of the gifts previously mentioned.
- Brother (aka Sibling) in Christ
These six titles also represent functions in the Body of Christ. The emphasize of the Bible is on proper functioning, not asserting titles. In fact, the Bible shows us that these titles can be used in a “false” way. The best way to understand between the “false” and “true” form is how it is used. If it is used for selfish (fleshly) purposes then it is “false”. If it used according to God’s will in submission to Him, then it is “true”. Most believers operate with a mixture of “false” and “true” in their walk. This is why God set us in a family of siblings with various functions.
Hierarchy versus Family
In most realms of life, leadership is structured in a hierarchical fashion. In the Old Testament, this is also true when it comes to how the children of Israel were organized. The tribes were set in order according to families with leaders over various numbers of individuals.
The New Testament established something new. God established a new kind of relationship with man which allowed His spirit to dwell in us. This means each believer in God through Jesus Christ has a direct connection and line of communication with God at all times.
God did this in the context of a family with One God and Father of us all. The only distinction is in “age”. The Bible is not perfectly clear if this is our spiritual age/maturity or our physical age/maturity. However, it does say to look to those who set a good example. Think of them as being further down the path on a one-way trail. All are on the same trail, but some are ahead and closer to completion.
The difficult part of this arrangement of many siblings is that can end up in disarray. So many expect strong leadership, but they think of strong leadership in terms of other arenas of life that are hierarchical in nature rather than familial.
— A. Layman