Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



There are also some logical things in which the congregation should also be involved.

1. Large expenditures or major changes in direction of the Church.

These are logical in the fact that if they all oppose the major expenditure and don't give to it how can the leadership hope to accomplish it? If they are opposed to the change, again there will be no support.

The idea of the priesthood of the believer is very active in this area. If the congregation is opposed to an item that the boards have determined to do, then there is one body or the other that is not really tuned into the head of the Church - Christ.

2. Since every believer is a priest before God then it is logical that congregational input to the leadership should have some power of direction unless it is clearly against Scripture.

The leadership should find direction for the Church by proper use of the Scriptures. If the congregation is in opposition then it is up to the leadership to show from the Scriptures why they are correct and the congregation is wrong.


The elders seem to be the spiritual side of Church leadership.

1. They should first of all DESIRE the office of elder: I Tim. 3:1, mentions, "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work."

If there is no real desire, how can there be a real drive to do the job as it should be done? As I observe human beings, I see the person who desires to do something usually is successful. It is also observable that if there is no desire there is hardly ever success.

Why do we place men in places of leadership when they don't want to be in those positions?

2. It is a good work to be desired: I Tim. 3:1 Some might feel that if a person goes after a position in the Church that he is seeking status and position. Not so! God set the standard through Paul and God says that He desires leaders that desire their work!

3. Some of the elders teach: Heb. 13:7; I Pet. 5:1-4. Not all need to be teaching but all should be "apt to teach." The idea of Eph. 4 is that the Church leaders are training the people to do the work of the Lord and some of those leaders are teachers.

4. Some are paid for their ministry: I Tim. 5:17,18. "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the grain; and, The laborer is worthy of his reward."

This ties the elder to the rulers of Heb. 13:7,17 by the way.

This is not to say that he must be paid. It says that he should be given honor. The verse also mentions eating as part of the thought.

In many of our smaller Churches around the country the people have little money to share with their pastor, but they do have produce and meat from their farms and ranches. Many pastors know just how helpful these things are when the salary is small, and this is a perfectly permissible part of "honoring" an elder. This isn't to say that a mechanic couldn't do something in his line or a TV man in his. There are situations where a congregation cannot pay and this is all right. The elder will serve on a voluntary basis or leave. Many pastors today work full time to serve their congregations. Indeed, this is more to the scriptural end of things. The FULL TIME paid pastor is a relatively new thing. The elder of Paul's time was one that did it as a sidelight to his normal work. It may be that we should get back to this sort of standard. It would give the teaching elders more freedom to step on toes. A paid pastor often views his security of job along with his toe stepping and as a result uses foam rubber shoes. (see I Cor. 9:7 also)

The elder is not to be in the position for the money. I Pet. 5:2. I fear many today are in this very situation of seeking money, and I believe they will suffer lose when the Lord returns to reward His people. I Pet. 5:4.

5. There are more than one: I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7,17; Acts 20:17.

Some set forth the Revelation messages to the 7 Churches as addressed to the pastors of the Churches as proof there is only one elder. Rev. 1:20, "..The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches...." and 2:1, "Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus...." and the other Churches' introductions are to the angel of the Church.

The first problem is that very few scholars are sure what the angels are. Are they angels, are they representatives, are they pastors, are they ....? We don't know for sure. It is just as possible that it is the teaching elder from each Church. We can draw nothing about numbers of elders from these texts.

6. The elders are to direct the Church:

By oversight: Acts 20:28.

By rule: Heb. 13:7.

By example: Heb. 13:7; I Pet. 5:3.

By shepherding: I Pet. 5:1-4 "oversight"

By feeding: I Pet. 5:2 (directing is not in the context, however the proper feeding from the word will bring about leading and directing.)

7. They are not to be as "lords" over the congregation: I Pet. 5:3 In short they are not to be dictators, and they are not to think to highly of themselves. There might be a side to this thought for the congregation as well. The congregation should not think to highly of their leaders either. Not to say they shouldn't look up to them, but to hold them high may encourage the leader to raise his own thoughts of himself to high.

8. They are held accountable for their people as a shepherd: Heb. 13:17.

Any man taking the position of elder should consider this item of business for some time before taking on responsibility. When a man takes on a position of elder he also takes on the responsibility of the office for the people. This should never be done quickly.

9. They are to be examples: Heb. 13:7 It should be obvious they should be "good" examples! It is shocking to me that some Churches now are asking that prospective pastors give permission for the Church to get a credit report on the prospect. This tells me that those Churches have had one or more poor examples in their past. It also shows a basic mistrust of all pastors - brothers in Christ - which is inappropriate.

10. They are to feed the sheep: Acts 20:28 Now to feed sheep the shepherd must find some food. Many pastors are preaching sermons that have absolutely no nutritional value what so ever.

11. They are to take heed for the sheep: Acts 20:28 There is an element of watching for their safety. This may require warning them from time to time. This might be done from the pulpit of possibly in some cases personally. The warning must come if there is danger.

12. They are selected from the congregation: Acts 14:22-23 This is where Paul returned to the Churches that he had started and ordained elders. Some say there were probably Jews well trained in Judaism in the congregations and that these are the ones that were ordained. I would tend to agree however they were lay people in the Church. Today we have many lay people that are quite well prepared to lead in Bible studies and are capable of leadership. If a person has been in a Sunday school class regularly for many years he has all of the training in the Bible that he needs. He might need some teaching courses to help him understand the "how to" of teaching, but even this should be in place if he has been awake in the past.

13. They were ordained: Acts 14:22,23 There seems to be an approval system of some sort in the ordination process for Paul exhorted Timothy to lay hands quickly on no man. I Tim. 5:22

Scofield note 2 on page 1306 sums up the elder very nicely. Read it if you can get a copy. (Scofield, C.I., "THE NEW SCOFIELD REFERENCE BIBLE"; New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) He is clear that there was a plurality of elders, and that they were to rule, teach, guard the Word, oversee the church, etc.

We have seen that the elders are to care for the flock and seem to be concentrating on the spiritual side of things. We need now to move on to the office of deacon and its responsibility.


The deacons seem to be the physical side of Church leadership.

1. They were designated originally to serve tables or the idea of distribution to the needs of the people Acts 6:1ff. They may have had responsibility for money and the purchase of food etc.

2. Stephen, one of the first deacons is later stoned for the sermon that he preached before the Jews (Acts 7). Preaching deacons are not wrong. Indeed, in many Churches the deacons do the ministry at the rescue missions in cities. If they have the ability, they should be given the opportunity. We will see more concerning the spiritual gifts later, but we might mention at this point that the elders and deacons do not have all the gifts. There may well be a teacher that is not a part of the Church leadership, and that teacher should be teaching. God gifts the local assembly with the gifts that are needed for the work that He has for the GROUP to do.

3. Epaphras was a praying giant of sorts Col. 1:7; 4:12. He is called a servant which is the term for deacon. History tells us that he was a deacon in his Church. He was a messenger as well, so did work for the Church.

It should be remembered they are responsible for maintaining the physical aspects of the Church ministry, but this is not to say that the congregation and elders shouldn't be involved in "cleanup day" if at all possible. This would be part of the elders example. Indeed, the thought in our current mentality is that if there is someone specified for a job then heaven forbid that I get involved. For example, if a Church has a janitor the people automatically can't clean up a mess - that is the janitors job! Not so! All believers should get involved in any way they can.

While teaching at a Bible Institute, I was honored to know a man that had a unique concept for living and serving. He felt that if he saw a job that needed doing, it was his job to do. He practiced this principle, and you never knew what you would find him doing next. Anything from planting flowers to vacuuming the floor.

More could be said of Deacons, however most governments recognize this office. The only difference would be they should not have the heavy spiritual leadership they have in most Church government systems.

In keeping with what has been given previously there are many things that each group is to do.

Logically speaking there are some other things that the groups should do for the operating of the Church.

1. The elders are to give general direction to the Church however, within the confines of the congregations dictates.

Example: If the congregation is determined to be evangelistic, then if the elders decide that an evangelistic campaign is needed, it would be the congregations place to do all they can to assist in the work. If the evangelist that the elders have hired is a rank liberal then the congregation should say no and let the elder board know they are all for the campaign but with a good evangelist.

2. The elders should oversee the deacon board and it's activities. Not to dictate what they do but to make suggestion of direction and to keep tabs on their activities, making sure they are following the desires of the congregation.

3. The Deacons should assist the elders in carrying out their desires for the Church. If the elders plan the evangelistic campaign then the deacons will be responsible for housing, feeding, and paying the evangelist, as well as many other details.

4. The Deacons should be able to have input into the elder board concerning the direction of the Church and be able to share what they hear from the congregation.

5. The congregation should have input to both boards concerning needs and desires. This should be available on an informal basis with the members of the boards or possibly through written notes to the chairmen of the boards. A congregational meeting from time to time for exchange of information should be used to open communications among all three groups.

6. The deacons should have a certain latitude in spending for the upkeep of grounds etc. Large expenditures should be submitted to the elder board for presentation to the congregation.

This would indicate a need for monthly meetings of elders and deacons for mutual business and information.

A safeguard between boards might be to have a representative of each board exchanged to the other board to be a non-voting member and each reporting to his own board of the activities of the other. This would be a good check and balance to the operating of the boards.

7. There is an overall need of SPIRITUAL - TRUSTWORTHY leaders as well as a SPIRITUAL, TRUSTING CONGREGATION!


Elder (or bishop) We have included a complete Scriptural listing of the terms elder, elders, deacon, and deacons in Appendix two for your convenience.

This term has five Greek words which show the different aspects of the office.

1. "presbuteros" or elder: This term is used in reference to the Old Testament elders that were in place in the Jewish form of religion during Christ's time. Matt. 26:59; Mark 11:27.

It is used to show an "older son" Lu. 15:25; of officers of the Church - elders Acts 14:23; 16:4; in reference to elders in the heavenly scene Rev. 4:4; 5:14; and of older women I Ti 5:1. In light of the Old Testament concept, it may well relate to age in years as well as in spirituality.

2. "episkopos" or bishop (Used five times in the New Testament): Acts 20:28 "the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers"; Phil. 1:1 shows the office with deacons; I Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:7 shows the listing of qualifications for the bishop; I Pet. 2:25 pictures Christ the shepherd and bishop or overseer of our soul.

These two terms ("presbuteros" and "episkopos") are used of the same office. Titus 1:5 elder and 1:7 bishop. Some submit that bishop pictures the functioning of the office and the term elder is the title of the position. The elder then oversees or bishops the group of believers.

They also ruled I Tim. 5:17; taught the truth Tit 1:9; and took care of financial things Acts 11:29,30. This shows that the elders have some control of the financial end of the Church. Since they seem to be the general oversight of the body then they probably should have ultimate say concerning money.

3. "poimeen" which literally means to pasture the sheep: It is used of a sheep type shepherd Matt. 9:36; 25:32; of the pastor teacher in Eph. 4:11; and of Christ the shepherd of our soul I Pet 2:25.

4. "kerux" a preacher to a congregation: I Tim 2:7 shows that Paul was a preacher; II Tim. 1:11 indicates that a preacher may not be a teacher; II Pet 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher.

5. "didaskalos" teacher: Rom. 2:20; I Cor. 12:2; Eph. 4:11; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5

We now need to consider the question, "HOW MANY ELDERS?"

Since the early Church met in homes some believe that the plurality of elders was in each house Church. Each assembly had plural elders. Others hold that the plural elders are to be viewed as the elders of several Churches within a city, each assembly only having one elder. Thus when the plural is used the author is speaking collectively of all of the singular elders from the individual Churches in a specific location. (If there were ten house Churches at Jerusalem, then elders would mean the ten pastors of those ten Churches.)

Rev 2-3 would be cited to show this and they would hold that the angels of the Churches were the elders.

The text which shows Paul returning to the Churches which he started deals with elders in the plural and in the time frame indicated it would seem unlikely that he started more than one Church in each town thus indicating that each assembly had more than one elder. Indeed Acts 14:23 states, "And when they had ordained elders in every Church...." Another text that seems clear there were plural elders is James 5 where it speaks of calling the elders (plural) of the Church (singular).

B. Deacon is the Greek term "diakonos." It is translated servant 20 times and minister 7 times. The usage seems to indicate a concentration on the temporal, secular and social care of the Church Acts 6:1-6.

It was a specific office rather than just people who were serving for we see in Phil 1:1 they are linked with elders, "with the bishops and deacons:"

Acts 6:1-6 shows the first deacons and the selection process while I Tim 3:8ff lists their qualifications.

C. Deaconesses: This is a controversial topic of discussion if you would like to start a good argument in some circles. Some say Titus 3:11 speaks of a 3rd office, that of a deaconess. It seems better, however, to the unity of the text to call these wives of deacons to me. Verses 1-7 speak of bishops, verses 8-10 speak of deacons, and verses 12-13 speaks of deacons. Why break into a list of qualifications for one office to insert qualifications for another and then revert to the first office?

The only other indication that it was an office is Romans 16:1 where Phoebe is called a "servant" and this is the word "diakonos." This need not prove an office, for Paul may just have been telling the reader that she was a real servant.

We don't really have any solid proof that it was an office or that it was not an office. Let it suffice to say, find your own feelings and act accordingly. If you have an office for deaconess then have them be qualified in a similar manner to the deacons. If you do not feel comfortable holding to an office of deaconess then don't have one.

May I suggest, however that you have women that do the work of a servant in your Church. You don't have to call them deaconess but allow women that desire to serve the Church to do so. The local Church would be hard pressed to function if it did not have some good old servants that love to do for the Church!


Heb. 13:7 "Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their manner of life:" Heb. 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you."

Are we bound to the New Testament principles of organization?


Does it matter if we are not following this form of government?

Churches have been working for centuries in all different forms of government which seem to work adequately.

Whether God specifically blesses a Church that is following a scriptural form of Government or not would not be provable, though It has been observed that some that shift to the Biblical form of government do blossom.

It would seem logical however, if God has specified a certain system then He would bless those that follow it. It would seem that we would want to be as close the New Testament principle as possible.

Possibly some practical applications of the duties of the offices and congregation would be of help in understanding the outworking of this system.

The elders would give general oversight which would include setting goals, standards and desires for the Church. They would be responsible for seeing to it that the Church is being built up and educated properly. They would be there for helping the congregation with spiritual problems and questions. They should make up a good portion of the teaching staff in the Church. This includes not only the youth but the Sunday School as well. I can't envision a better Sunday School staff than the elder board of a Church. They are the spiritually mature part of your Church so why not use them to edify the saints?

The deacons on the other hand, would be the overseers of the building, grounds and the congregations needs. The congregational needs should include financial, physical and mental. If there is a problem in the way the Church looks, then the deacons should care for it. The deacons are usually given a fund of money they can use for the beneficent needs of the congregation. They would organize and supervise work days, and see to it that the building and grounds are kept. They would gather and care for the collections of the Church, and see to the proper use of those funds, under the eye of the elder board.

The congregation can just sit back and let the officers do all the work. Correct? probably true in many Churches, but not correct. The congregation should be involved in prayer for the congregation, they should assist the officers in any way they can, and they should be ministering to one another. They are the witnessing arm of the Church and should be bringing new converts into the Church.


1. Do not - I, repeat do not go out and try to change the first Church you come to, into an elder form of government!

2. Think about the things that we have spoken of in this study. Chew on them. Put them on the shelf awhile - then think and chew some more. As an old timer once told me, "Chew and spit." Look this information over and consider it and refine it and then when you are sure that you are on Biblical ground begin to act on the conviction that the Lord has set in your mind and heart.

3. Study this out for yourself and be sure that what has been set forth is correct.

4. Pray loads before doing anything more than think and study.

5. If the Lord would seem to move you toward change in your Church, DO NOT - I, REPEAT DO NOT go to your board and say we are going to change the Church government. They will ask you to find another Church.

6. If you are a pastor and want to begin moving toward change, pick a book of the Bible that will allow you to step off into Church government at times in your lessons and sermons. Acts would probably be good. Just teach what you have found scripture to teach. As time progresses you will probably see some in the Church that will start tracking with you. Let this be their decision to change. Let them suggest a good study on the subject. If the people don't pick up on it step lightly and move forward. Quick change is NOT the answer! There have been Church splits because men have gone in and instituted change before the people were ready for it.

We need to move onto the important part of our study of officers and examine their qualifications and qualities. There are Biblical standards that the officers were to meet and we should be asking the leaders of our Churches today to have those standards in place in their lives.

We will look first at the Biblical qualifications, and then we will look at one man in the Bible that gives a few of the qualities that Church leaders should have. Both qualifications and qualities are important.