Leadership, Real Church

Church Governance 101

Church governance = the Holy Spirit + group consensus. In Acts 15:28 we read …it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us… (See also Acts15:22, 23). Here it clearly shows that neither James nor Peter was the head of the church as some would have us think, but that there was only one leader, Jesus, bringing about consensus through his Holy Spirit among His people who were living in unity demonstrated by their mutual submission.

Church leadership or eldership = Big brothers & sisters, appointed to lovingly help you along, carrying no more authority than you, except the Word of God. Acts 14:23 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.

Is this how your church is run?

What’s missing in your equation?

Are you able to trust God to do the job?

Rob Morley (expanded from my Tweets of 1 March 2012)

3 thoughts on “Church Governance 101”

  1. Rob
    I have read a couple of your blogs on leadership/elders and I really like the emphasis you put on plurality and serving. The one area that I find missing in your writing is that one of the spiritual gifts is that of leadership (Rom 12:8) yet you seem to say that Christ is our only leader and everyone answers to him. Paul appointed elders in every area he started a new congregation. In 1 Tim 3:4-5 one of the qualifications for an elder is to be able “to manage his own household well”. That does not look like “a big brother & sister” to me but someone that God has given clear direction to lead, feed, care for, support and provide for. In Heb 13:17 there is the command to “obey your leaders, and submit to them…as those who will give an account”
    I totally agree the the elders are not to “lord over” but i have a hard time seeing it in a way that there isn’t some human leadership given by God.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Unfortunately while blogs are effective ways to communicate, they are sometimes limiting.
      You are right, there is leadership given in the church by God. However, I see it as relational and not top-down. Someone has said that “leadership is influence” and there is more than one way to influence someone in a direction. For example, its God’s gentleness that leads us to repentance.
      Romans 12:8 (and elsewhere) uses the word “leads” or “rules”. This however, has some possibilities of meaning and also application. Often a hierarchical interpretation of “leads” or “rules” is how many read it because that’s the paradigm they’re used to. However, “leads” (Gk. proistēmi) as used here can mean any of these: to set or place before; to set over; to be over, to superintend, preside over; to be a protector or guardian; to give aid; to care for, give attention to; profess honest occupations.
      In the light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:25-27 and 23:2-12, I believe we have no choice in how we interpret passages when we have options given by Greek scholars. He is not only saying that we mustn’t lord it over one another, but also that we are not to have authority over one another. Simply put, Jesus is saying that He doesn’t want us to have authority over one another in the church, and that we are all brothers.
      The brother (sister) idea is not mine. If you think about it the term is frequently used to describe the relationship between church members. Paul the apostle (an elder brother) used it for those He worked with and those he shepherded.
      If we had never experienced church governance that was top down then the word “leads” would be fine as it wouldn’t be misunderstood as ruling over. I believe the passage should read something like, “He who guides and protects let him do so with zeal.”
      If the word is translated “rules” then the intention by the translators may have been to mean “to guide using a standard”, not necessarily ruling over with authority. If it is “guides” then this kind of leading can be done alongside and not over. However, this may not have been their intention. It seems translators may have had a negative influence on many passages, translating from the paradigm in which they were in. For example, some translations use the word “over” when “among” is more appropriate when speaking of leaders in Heb 13:17. Also, the word “submit” here doesn’t imply unquestioned obedience, but rather “allow yourselves to be persuaded.”
      The word “among” gives the feeling of “same as” or brotherhood, whereas “over” definitely gives a sense of authority and rank, which Jesus didn’t want us to have over each other. He is the head and His word is the authority. Elders should know Him and His word better and so they are able to help the others along, but we are all are directly subject to one authority, Jesus.
      If you have a chance, I would like you to read my latest blog, Shepherds of the Flock. You may not agree altogether, but it will explain my view on shepherding.
      Blessings, Rob

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