Soon after sharing the gospel and churches were planted, it says this of Paul and Barnabas: “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.”
In the New Testament, no single pastor is left to run the church. Preeminence is given to none, and the work is entrusted to the Lord with elders given the responsibility of caring oversight, not government. It says of Jesus that the government will be on His shoulders and they lived like that.
Elders are to caringly interact, but are on equal footing with all. Any hierarchical leadership is usurping the Lord’s place and prohibits the Spirit from dynamically using the whole body. Being in charge (preeminence), whether desired out of lust for control, or for the noble idea of helping others, is not the way of Jesus.
Note these scriptures:
I wrote a letter to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be in charge (have preeminence), will not accept us. 3Jn1:9
Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers among the gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors act like tyrants over them. That’s not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to everyone. Mk10:42-44
But he said to them, “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? It is the one at the table, isn’t it? But I am among you as one who serves Lu 22:25 -27. This is not about disguising our ways, but changing our ways.
It is not that we are trying to lord it over your faith. On the contrary, we are workers with you to promote your joy, because you have been standing firm in the faith 2Co1:24.
Do not lord it over the people entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock 1Pe5:3.
People are entrusted to elders for their care, feeding and guiding, not to be governed over by them; for their serving, not for any authority over them.
All can speak with authority as the Lord uses them. And, the word of God is available to all to be our authority. Positionally, we have authority over the enemy, but not over each other. We are to serve one another and encourage one another in what the word says. We all have authority to use the word of God to teach, admonish and even command one another. The word is the authority, not us, or any position of authority. Jesus wouldn’t give positions of authority in the church if He spoke against this.
Hierarchical leadership in the body of Christ is like slavery was in the New Testament Church. If we treat one another as Christ would have us, then, in time, leadership will take on a form where the term leader, as we use it, is redundant like slavery became to the body of Christ.
Leading should be mutual and without coercion. Some may, at certain times, lead for longer periods in one or other area than others. Typically, elders may find themselves leading a lot more than others, but their leading is to bring the flock to a maturity where they too interactively lead as the Spirit uses them in their gifting and with God’s word.
Those of us that have tasted the freedom of life in the church without hierarchical leadership will never want to go back.