Church Development and Leadership

God is a God of order and organization. That is obvious as you consider the immense universe around us which was created by God. That is also obvious when you look closely at the church in the New Testament. While some may suggest there was no organization in the early church, the Bible tells us members, were added (Acts 2:41), job descriptions were present (1 Tim. 3), votes were conducted to expel immoral members (1 Cor. 5:4), and votes were taken to elect church officers (Acts 6:5; 14:23).

The church also organized a missionary team and sent them out (Acts 13:27). There may even have been some “order of service” in the early church. Paul advised, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). To accomplish this task, the Holy Spirit endows certain ones with the gifts of government and leadership (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor 12:28). The church is organized and ~ equipped to carry out its purpose, which is the Great Commission.

Purpose of the Church

The early church gives us insights into what the church was intended to accomplish. The first believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). “Continuing in the apostles’ doctrine” implies that there was a teaching ministry going on. The church was also to be a place of fellowship, meaning more than coffee and cookies in the church gym after the evening service. Fellowship occurs when Christians involve themselves constructively in the lives of other believers.

Mission of the Church

The mission of the church is set forth in the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them.. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, 20). In another place Christ commanded: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every living creature” (Mark 16:15). In yet another place Christ said “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). At his ascension Jesus told his disciples, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The pattern of evangelism was established by the first church. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). As those early Christians believed everyone without Christ was lost, they felt the need to present the gospel to everyone. Before long their critics accused them of having saturated their town with the gospel (Acts 5:28). Later others recognized their influence upon the world (Acts 17:10).

Obviously, whenever a group of people meet together, there must be an efficient organizational structure to insure that group accomplishes its purpose. This involves appointing a leader and often selecting others who have lesser leadership responsibilities in the group. The need for group leadership exists in the church just as it exists in other groups.

What The Bible Says About Church Leadership

The leader of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself

He is described as “the head of the body, the church” and the One who alone holds preeminence in the church (Col. 1:18). The Bible records the case of one church leader named Diotrephes and is critical of his desire “to have the preeminence among them” (3 John 9). That position belongs to Christ alone.

While Christ is the leader of the church, He has appointed pastors to provide leadership in the church through the pastoral office

Paul reminded the Ephesian elders of their pastoral responsibilities “to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Likewise Peter encouraged pastors to willingly be overseers of the church for the right motives (1 Peter 5:2). Pastors have this important responsibility because God holds them accountable for the spiritual well being of those under their leadership (Heb. 13:17). As church members, it is our responsibility to pray for, support, and follow our pastors as they lead.

Pastors are not the only officers in the church

God also established the office of deacons in the church. The word deacon could be translated servant which better describes the nature of this office. The first deacons were selected by the church and appointed by the apostles to do ministry and restore harmony in the church (Acts 6:1-6). As a result of their faithful ministry, “the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Most evangelical churches are congregational in government

This means that the church congregation itself is the final authority in major decisions such as the calling of a pastor, the purchase or sale of property, and the approval of the church budget. This congregational approach to church government is the same as democracy. However, the church is a theocracy under the Lordship of Christ. When Christians meet to make church decisions, they should vote on the basis of what they believe the Lord would like to see happen in His church, not on the basis of what they would like.

Jesus promised He would build His church (Matt. 16:18)

When we become fully involved in the life of the church, we are working with Christ in doing what He is doing (1 Cor. 3:9). That opportunity alone should motivate us to become as fully involved as possible in the ministry of a local Bible-believing church in our community.”

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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