To: Brothers and Sisters in Jesus
From: Tom Ingram
Subject: 1) Study of Authority Roles in New TestamentChurch
2) Is the assumption of the “Pastor as Head of the LocalChurch” consistent with Scripture?
Revised : August 10, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters in The Lord,
I am amazed at how often this issue comes up. The impact on the effectiveness of our churches and small groups is significant. I’d like to share with you a study that Jeanette and I conducted in February of 2000, which we have recently updated.
Please do not give undue weight to what I say. Rather, I encourage each of you, according to 2 Corinthians 4:2;
“We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways; we refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth, we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
Attached is an examination of what scripture has to say about authority, roles, responsibilities and decision making in the NewTestamentChurch. This includes word studies (the Greek words) for bishop, elder, pastor, deacon, minister, etc. As nearly as I can tell, we have identified everywhere in the New Testament where these words are used to describe the roles and duties of authority in the Church.
My Conclusions: While much is debatable, I believethat an examination of scripture leads to several key conclusions:
1) In all New Testament cases, God called and anointed Elders (plural) to be responsible for the local church. There is no instance of a single individual being given full authority over the local church. This is particularly true of the roles of “pastor” and “minister”. These roles are always referred to in a “subordinate” context.
2) The Greek clearly has words to convey authority to a single individual. As nearly as I can tell, this is only used to refer to Jesus as the “good shepherd” (singular) in the New Testament church.
3) The idea that the pastor is the single head of the local church is unscriptural for the NewTestamentChurch. I believe that this notion arose with the Roman Catholic Church’s early emphasis on the priest and “chain of command”. The Old Testament did provide for this type of hierarchical authority structure, but we must remember that, in much of the Old Testament, the people did not have God’s law, did not have the Holy Spirit and were in rebellion by desiring to have Kings over them.
I believe we are continuing this mistake of “desiring a king” by desiring to set up a single pastor as head over the local church. Also, this arrangement appeals to the fallen nature of man. What pastor or priest or church leader would not want to be placed in a position of total authority? Who of us are sufficiently dead to self that we would decline being given this type of power and control? Or, is our flesh nature getting the better of us when we either desire these positions of authority?
4) We, the Elders, have abdicated our responsibilities to the paid professional pastor. The fault is by no means upon the pastors alone. Those of us who might meet the scriptural tests of elder, and therefore hold that responsibility, have been distracted by the cares of the world. We have let the paid professionals run the church, simply because it has been convenient. Have we sought to have kings over us so we do not have to bear the responsibilities of Eldership before God?
5) The pastor is subordinate to the Elders, or, a most, a Peer of the Elders. If you will examine each Greek word that translates to pastor or minister, you will find that the context is always that of a servant or subordinate.
What do we need to do? First, we need to come into agreement before God regarding the roles, responsibilities and authority of pastors and elders in the local church.
Second, we need to seek God for the changes needed in our churches, and act on God’s direction. Many of our churches are struggling. I believe that we will continue to struggle unless we get leadership aligned with “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:7-9).
I commend each of you to your own conscience in the sight of God.
Love In Christ,
Addition 9/19/06: Luke 7:2-10, Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Slave. Recall that the Centurion explains that he is a man under authority, and if he tells a soldier or a slave to do something, they do it. The new testament has no explicit statement that God intends this type of authority structure to operate in His church. Clearly, this type of authority was known and existed at the time. If God intended it for the church, why did He not say so in scripture?
Addition 2/15/07: The New Testament is very clear that the man is the head of the woman, and Christ is the head of the Man, and Christ is the head of the church. If God had intended for a single leader to be the head of a local body (church or small group), wouldn’t He have stated it in similar, clear terms? 1 Cor. 11:3 “…the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
Attachment 1: Summary of Verses Describing the Authority of Elders
Acts 11:29,30 - Relief for the Brethren Sent to Elders, Not A Single Head of the Church “And the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”
Acts 14:23 - Paul & Barnabus appoint Elders in every church “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.”
Acts 15:6,22 -Decisions Made by Apostles and Elders, Not A Single Head of the Church “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter…Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.”
Acts 16:4 -Decisions Made by Apostles and Elders, Not A Single Head of the Church “As they went on their way through the cities, the delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.”
Acts 20:17 - Elder’s Charge Reaffirmed “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church…”
Acts 20:28 - Elders given Authority “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [pastors], to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.”
Philippians 1:1- Paul Addresses Multiple Leaders, Not A Single Head of the Church “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…”
1 Timothy 5:17- Paul Again Addresses Multiple Overseers “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching;”
Titus 1:5 - Paul instructs the appointing of Elders in every town “This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…”
James 5:14 -Multiple Leaders Called for Healing, Not A Single Head of the Church “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…”
1 Peter 5:1-5 - Elders in Charge & Authority, Elder Conduct “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock… Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (underline indicates the responsibility the we lay leaders / elders often abdicate to the paid staff or single pastor.)
1 Cor. 11:3 – No statement in New Testament conveys sole authority over church to a single person, as authority is conveyed in other places “…the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”
Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders…” Note that this reference is plural. No instance in New Testament where followers are directed to follow a single leader set over a local church by God.
Conclusion: Church is to be led by a plurality of Godly men, with a preaching/teacher elder as peer. (Not to be led by a single pastor in charge, or by the democratic decisions of the flock.)
Attachment 2: New Testament Word Study of Authority, Roles, Responsibility and Decision Making in the LocalChurch
Tom Ingram 2/7/2000
I. Overview: Following is an attempt to examine the New Testament to see what God has to say about how the local church should be organized and governed. The study approach used was:
- Identify the main Roles in the New Testament church such as Bishop, Elder, Pastor, Deacon, Minister, etc.
- Provide two different sources for the Greek definition of each word in order to examine what the New Testament writers really meant in the Greek language. We used Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, Hendrickson Publishers, (no date of publication listed), and Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, W.E. Vine, et. al., Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985.
- List each verse where that Greek word appears, so that the reader can observe the context and application.
Note: The Strong’s definition of each Greek word includes the English words that most closely translate. For your ease of reading, I have underlined and bolded these words.
II. Greek Words, Definitions and Verses.
1247 - diakoneo - (Strong’s definition) from 1249; to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend or [fig] teacher); techn. To act as a Chr. deacon; -- (ad-)minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.
(Vines definition) signifies “to be a servant, attendant, to serve, wait upon, minister.” It is used (a) with a general significance, (b) of waiting at table, “ministering” to the guests, of women preparing food, etc., (c) of relieving one’s necessities, supplying the necessaries of life; more definitely in connection with such service in a local church; (d) of attending, in a more general way, to anything that may serve another’s interest, as of the work of an amanuensis,; of the conveyance of material gifts for assisting the needy; of a variety of forms of service; of the testimony of the OT prophet, of the ministry of believers one to another in various ways.
Matt 20:28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matt 25:44 Then they also will answer,, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’
Mark 10:45 For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Rom 15:25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints.
1 Tim 3:10, 13 And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons….for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Heb 6:10 For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.
1 Pet 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
1 Pet 4:10, 11 As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1248 - diakonia; (Strong’s definition) from 1249; attendance (as a servant, etc.); fig (eleemosynary) aid, (official) service (espec. Of the Chr. teacher, or techn. Of the diaconate); -- (ad-) minister (-ing, -tration, -try), off, relief, service (-ing)
(Vines definition) “the office and work of a diakonos”, “service, ministry”, is used (a) of domestic duties; (b) of religious and spiritual “ministration,” (1) of apostolic “ministry,” (2) of the service of believer; (3) of the “ministry” of the Holy Spirit in the gospel, (4) of the “ministry” of angels; (5) of the work of the gospel, in general; (6) of the general “ministry” of a servant of the Lord in preaching an teaching; (7) of the Law, as a “ministration” of death.
Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?
1249 - diakonos, (Strong’s definition) probl from an obs. diako (to run on errands; comp. 1377); an attendant, i.e. (gen.) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); spec. a Chr. teacher and pastor (techn. A deacon or deaconess); deacon, minister, servant.
(Vines definition) primarily denotes a “servant,” whether as doing servile work, or as an attendant rendering free service, without particular reference to its character. The work is probably connected with the verb dioko, “to hasten after, pursue” (perhaps originally said of a runner). “It occurs in the NT of domestic servants, the civil ruler; Christ; the followers of Christ in relation to their Lord; the followers of Christ in relation to one another; the servants of Christ in the work of preaching and teaching; those who serve in the churches; false apostles, servants of Satan. Diakonos is, generally speaking, to be distinguished from doulos, “a bondservant, slave”; diakonos views a servant in relationship to his work; doulos views him in relationship to his master. See, e.g. Matt 22:2-14; those who bring in the guests are douloi; those who carry out the king’s sentence are diakonoi.
Matt 20:26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant.
Mark 10:43 But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
Rom 13:4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.
Rom 15:8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
Gal 2:17 But, if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent (minister) of sin? Certainly not!
Eph 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power.
Eph 6:21 Now that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.
Phil 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Col 1:7, 23, 25 as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf…provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister…of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
Col 4:7 Tychicus will tell you all about my affairs; he is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.
1 Thess 3:2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you,
1 Tim 3:8-13 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for gain; they must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then if they prove themselves blameless let them serve as deacons. The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Tim 4:6 If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed.
1984 - episkope, (Strong’s definition) from 1980; inspection (for relief); by impl. superintendence; spec. the Chr. “episcopate”; -- the office of a “bishop”, bishoprick visitation.
(Vines definition) besides its meaning, “visitation,” is rendered “office”; “the office of a bishop,” lit, “(if any one seeketh) overseership,” there is no word representing office.