Church Leadership

Summary

God wants many healthy leaders to lead His people. Instead of following after just one man (I Corinthians 1:12-13), we should validate (Romans 3:19; I Peter 5:2) the leadership of many leaders (Ephesians 4:11) based on their spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:4-6). Churches should order power amongst the leaders (I Corinthians 12:28), and test all of them routinely (I Timothy 3:10). In doing so, Jesus’ church will grow (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47).

Endorsements

All churches believe in leadership. Many organizations are starting to realize the single-pastor model can be improved (shepherdthoughts, proclaimanddefend, russellmckinney). John Piper teaches multiple pastors is more biblical and Craig Groeschel has a popular podcast dedicated to raising more leaders. The largest international ministries are ones that build house churches with thousands of leaders instead of a few, such as The Timothy Initiative.

Concepts

Aim to delegate power to more people.

While one man may hold full power, it should only be the case when there aren’t enough tested leaders available. Otherwise, it will lead to the “Celebrity Pastor” problem, where people stay for the man instead of the God-man (I Corinthians 1:12-13). Note how many verses use leadership in the plural (Ephesians 4:11; James 5:14; I Peter 5:1; Hebrews 13:17; Acts 15:2; Titus 1:5).

Validate leaders based on spiritual gifts.

Each person is given unique gifts (I Corinthians 12:4-7) based on the grace given to them (Romans 12:6) to serve each other (I Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:12). Each leader must decide which gifts the Spirit gave him, and perform that role. Instead of churches offering 5 or so predefined ministries, such as such as Children’s Ministry or the Worship Team, churches should encourage people to find their unique gift, service, and activity (I Corinthians 12:4-6). Then, each leader should be held accountable to metrics (Romans 3:19) he sets for himself, overseen by the leaders (I Peter 5:2).

Order a church’s power.

There are 5 primary church leadership positions: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher (Ephesians 4:11). All elders, deacons, and overseers should have these spiritual giftings. After the top level of power, power should be distributed based on this list (I Corinthians 12:28). 

  1. Apostles–have a God-given mission
  2. Prophets–can hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance
  3. Teachers–have studied and can explain the Bible well
  4. Miracle-workers–can do supernatural work through the Spirit
  5. Healers–can heal the physical, mental, and spiritual
  6. Helpers–what we call volunteers
  7. Administrators–do work given by the leaders
  8. Speaking & Interpreting Tongues–someone speaks God’s language and another interprets it

Prefer biblical terminology.

The terms elder (Acts 14:23), deacon, and overseer (Philippians 1:1) can be used interchangeably, though some believe elder and deacon are the same and overseer watches over them. They refer to anyone who leads a church (Hebrews 13:17). Examples of leaders can be found in the spiritual gifts, especially the fivefold ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). In recent times, additional words such as pastor, bishop, presbyter, priest, etc. have been used to refer to church leaders. While these words have value, we believe it’s better to use biblical terminology to ensure all needs are met.

Routinely test all leaders.

Although this can hurt someone’s pride, it’s a requirement that all leaders be tested against biblical rules before they exercise oversight of a church. Being “proven blameless” is a high calling (I Timothy 3:10). Remember that testing a man is not about one’s own subjective opinions on if they are good enough. It’s about quantifiably determining if they are repentant for any sins in the following commands:

  1. Core Doctrine: The leader must believe in core Christian doctrine (Titus 3:3-8) while not trying to add extra beliefs as requirements for division (Titus 3:9-11).
  2. Gentle: Leaders must guide through agreeableness, not angrily demanding orders or arrogantly quarreling about opinions (I Peter 5:3; I Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
  3. Above Reproach: The leader must not be known for constant sinning (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7).
  4. Male: Leaders must be biological men (I Timothy 3:2; GotQuestions). Women should participate in any role that doesn’t require teaching or exercising authority over male adults (I Timothy 2:12-13).
  5. Monogamous: Leaders must either be single (I Corinthians 7:6-7) or married to one woman (I Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6).
  6. Sober-minded: Leaders must not be drunks, on drugs, or under any kind of mind-based influence (I Timothy 3:2-3,8; Titus 1:7).
  7. Self-controlled: Leaders must have good control over their own time, money, anger, etc. (I Timothy 3:2,8; Titus 1:7-8).
  8. Partial Non-believer Respect: Leaders must be considered respectable by part of the world (I Timothy 3:2,7; kosmion‘s root is kosmos) and hated by others (John 15:18-19). There is no requirement for respect among Christians.
  9. Hospitable: Leaders must have a warm and open personality (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
  10. Teachers: Leaders must know enough about the Bible to teach others (I Timothy 3:2).
  11. Generous: Leaders must not love money (I Timothy 3:3,8; Titus 1:7).
  12. Good Father: A leader’s children must be submissive and noble (I Timothy 3:4-5,12; Titus 1:6). A leader can be without children (I Corinthians 7:8).
  13. Old Convert: The leader must have been saved for a year (I Timothy 3:6).
  14. Honest: A leader must love righteousness (Titus 1:8) and not be a hypocrite (I Timothy 3:8).
  15. Faithful: A leader must have a strong conviction that Jesus is God (I Timothy 3:9).
  16. Good Wife: Their wife must be good, not slanderous, sober-minded, and faithful (I Timothy 3:11).
  17. Evidence: Leaders are chosen based on character and evidence of success, not age or experience (I Timothy 4:12-13; Jeremiah 1:7).

FAQ

If my church leadership is unhealthy, how can I fix it?

If you are the leader of a church that needs improved leadership, follow these practical steps:

  1. Read this webpage.
  2. Develop a plan to distribute power based on spiritual gifts. One example is to pay 5-10 part-time leaders instead of paying 1-2 leaders.
  3. Test every leader against the biblical rules.

Is it ok to have a church run by a family?

While there is no rule against it, there’s no example of this in the Bible. God calls for leaders to be run by men with specific giftings (Ephesians 4:11). It’s very unlikely all necessary gifts are found in one family; so, family-run churches should only exist to help start up a newly planted church. There is a tendency for one man to want full control over other elders, so he feigns plurality by giving major power to only people in his family, but this never ends well for the church.