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).
All churches believe in leadership, and the majority agree on the tests for leaders as well as their duties. There is some disagreement on if the supernatural positions, such as a prophet or healer, should be exercised. Many organizations are starting to realize the single-pastor model can be improved (shepherdthoughts, proclaimanddefend, russellmckinney). The early church used multiple pastors for a church, not just one. 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.
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).
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:
- Core Doctrine: The leader must believe in core Christian doctrine (Titus 3:3-8; I Timothy 3:9) while not trying to add extra beliefs as requirements for division (Titus 3:9-11).
- 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).
- Restorative: Leaders must restore the health of the church through accountability and correction, and excommunicate when necessary (Galatians 6:1; I Thessalonians 5:14; Matthew 18:15-17).
- Above Reproach: The leader must not be known for constant sinning (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6-7).
- 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).
- Monogamous: Leaders must either be single (I Corinthians 7:6-7) or married to one woman (I Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6).
- 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).
- Self-controlled: Leaders must have good control over their own time, money, anger, etc. (I Timothy 3:2,8; Titus 1:7-8).
- 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.
- Hospitable: Leaders must have a warm and open personality (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Teachers: Leaders must know enough about the Bible to teach others (I Timothy 3:2).
- Generous: Leaders must not love money (I Timothy 3:3,8; Titus 1:7).
- 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).
- Old Convert: The leader must have been saved for a year (I Timothy 3:6).
- Honest: A leader must love righteousness (Titus 1:8) and not be a hypocrite (I Timothy 3:8).
- Good Wife: Their wife must be good, not slanderous, sober-minded, and faithful (I Timothy 3:11).
- Evidence: Leaders are chosen based on character and evidence of success, not age or experience (I Timothy 4:12-13; Jeremiah 1:7).
Understand biblical terminology.
The terms elder (Acts 14:23), deacon, and overseer (Philippians 1:1) can be used interchangeably (Acts 20:17,28). 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.
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).
Order a church’s power.
Power should be distributed based on this list (I Corinthians 12:28). For example, if a church has teachers but they don’t have dedicated prophets that pray for God’s will, the teachers might not be teaching about what the church needs most (I Corinthians 14:1,4).
- Apostles–lead a God-given mission
- Prophets–can hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance
- Teachers–have studied and can explain the Bible well
- Miracle-workers–can do supernatural works
- Healers–can heal the physical, mental, and spiritual
- Helpers–what we call volunteers
- Administrators–do systematic work given by the leaders
- Speaking & Interpreting Tongues–someone speaks God’s language and another interprets it
The Great Commission is the most important thing Jesus wants us to do because it was the last thing He ever said: to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Discipleship is so much more than events and gatherings: it’s deeply desiring (II Corinthians 8:10-11) to exhort one another daily (Hebrews 3:13) to perfectly follow God’s will (Matthew 5:48), seeing the disciple as a “beloved child” (II Timothy 1:2). The reason administration is the 7th most important role in the church (I Corinthians 12:28) is because without systems, good desires devolve into neglect (Acts 6:1-3). Although ideally everything about everyone should be quantified (Matthew 10:30), we believe this is the best place to start:
- Needs: Are all financial, physical, emotional, and mental needs met (II Corinthians 8:14-15)?
- Discipleship: Is everyone discipling another (Matthew 28:19-20)?
- Prayer: Does everyone pray for at least 10 minutes a day (I Thessalonians 5:17)?
- Good Works: Is everyone fulfilling their purpose in life (Ephesians 2:10)?
- Learning: Each week, do everyone spend an hour reading the Bible, doing devotionals, or meditating outside of Sunday morning (Psalms 1:2)?
- Confession: Has everyone repented of every sin and forgiven everyone (James 5:16; Matthew 6:15)?
- Fellowship: Does everyone meet weekly with Christian friends that they would exhort to do more good (Hebrews 10:24-25; 3:13)?
Other leadership duties
- Teaching: A church must encourage each member to learn “all” Jesus taught, which is through personal reading of Scripture and hearing preachings (Matthew 28:20).
- Exhortation: Don’t preach about “nice” things people already know: teach them where they are failing in sin (Hebrews 3:13; I John 3:18).
- Baptism: A church must encourage baptism (I Peter 3:21).
- Communion: A church must give communion (Acts 2:42; Luke 22:19).
- Fellowship: A church must encourage its members to love and exhort each other to learn about God and do works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Singing: A church must encourage singing and worship through songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
- Unity: A church must encourage its members to unite in theology (I Corinthians 1:10).
- Excommunication: A church must excommunicate members who continually choose to sin in these 6 specific ways (I Corinthians 5:11-13).
- War: Christians must respect the laws of their land with regards to war (Romans 13:1) but must also respect God’s leading in if the killing is actually murder (James 4:2). Christians shouldn’t seek to finance war, for being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) is about spreading the Gospel of love and truth (Matthew 28:19-20). Satan believes in killing his oppressors (John 10:10), but Jesus believes in saving them (John 3:17).
- World Ties: The church cannot partner with non-Christian organizations (II Corinthians 6:14-15,16,17).
- Volunteer Balance: Most churches have 20% of its members doing 80% of the work out of compulsion, but they should be eager to serve, not overworked (I Peter 5:2).
- Financial Giving: Most finances should help those financially poor and in need (James 2:15-16; I John 3:17-18; James 1:27). A church must aim to increase this number instead of putting tithe money towards personal building or activity growth (I Corinthians 3:9).
- Salary: Employees should strive to preferably not get paid but at most earn their country’s middle-income salary (I Corinthians 9:6,9,12,14,15).
Why is my church not growing?
- Do you value prophecy as the 2nd most important role in the church (I Corinthians 12:28), or do you value helpers more?
- Do you have a discipleship program (Matthew 28:19-20) to track each of your members’ foundational disciplines (James 5:16,19-20) and needs (Acts 2:45)?
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.