Our Leaders

The word “preacher” is derived from the word “preach” which means to proclaim a message. So, a preacher is one who proclaims the Gospel. An evangelist is essentially a preacher of the Gospel, or of the good news. Ephesians 4:11-12 makes it clear that God intended to have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (elders), and teachers to do the work of the ministry of Christ in edifying, or building up, the body of Christ which is the church.

A study of the Scriptures would show that the work of the apostles and the prophets ended when the inspired Word was written for all future generations. Now evangelists, elders, and teachers preach and teach the Word left behind by the inspired writers of the Bible. The office of a preacher in the Lord’s church is very important and comes with great rewards for those who preach the truth and nothing but the truth. Why? For one to be saved, he must hear the Word, believe the Word and obey the Word. Hearing is accomplished when one hears the Gospel of Christ preached, according to Romans 10:13-17: Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord for salvation must hear, believe, and obey the gospel. Proclaiming the Word to the “whoever of the world” is the work that faithful preachers and evangelists of the Gospel do. The apostle Paul told Timothy, a preacher and an evangelist in the early church, what to preach, how to act as a preacher, how to preach and how some would turn away from his preaching. Read 2 Timothy 4:2-5. Gospel preachers must be careful not to turn away from the truth and fall into false teaching. The Bible cast woes upon this type of preacher. When a local church has a strong, knowledgeable, competent preacher, the congregation he is among will generally be strong in their faith and in the truth of the Gospel. In a sense, all disciples of Christ are preachers and teachers of the Gospel as those disciples were in Jerusalem. They were, by persecution, scattered abroad preaching the word (Acts 11:19). What is here indicated is not a formal preaching by the believers who were scattered from Jerusalem, but a general testimony they gave about Christ to all with whom they came into contact.

Elders in the Lord’s Church

The church established in the New Testament had an “earthly” organization.  It was composed of elders, deacons, and saints (Philippians 1:1).   Elders were rulers over a local church and deacons were servants of the church.  Both elders and deacons hold an office or position.  The elders exercised spiritual oversight over a local congregation of Christians (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5).

The word “elder” is used throughout the Bible to describe those who, by virtue of age and experience (seniority), were best fit to govern.  In the Old Testament, the word primarily referred to heads of families or Jewish communities.  In the New Testament and after Christ established His church, the word refers to the heads of the various churches in different localities.  When the word refers to the office of elders, it is always used as a plurality and it always refers to men.  Where you find the singular use of the word, it refers to an individual or person holding that office, not the office itself.

These rulers are called by other names to denote a peculiar role or aspect of the office.  For example, elders are called “bishops” or overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-2).  This word occurs five times in the New Testament, but on one occasion it was applied to Christ: “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).  This denotes that Christ has the ultimate oversight for our souls.  The other four times uniformly referred to one who had a leadership role in an early Christian congregation.  In addressing the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17), Paul stated, “the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (bishops), to feed (to pastor) the church of God” (Acts 20:28).  Paul greeted the “bishops and deacons” of the church at Philippi (Philippians 1:1).  The qualifications of a bishop are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-2.  A similar list of qualifications appears in Titus 1:5-9.  Verse 5 uses the word elders and verse 7 uses the word bishop, both referring to the same official.

Elders are also called “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11.  Pastor means “to feed” (Acts 20:28) which describes one of the responsibilities of the office.  They provide leadership (1 Timothy 5:17), they feed the flock with God’s word (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), they guard the flock from false teachers (Acts 20:29-31), and they watch on behalf of souls (Hebrews 13:17).

Elders are ordained or installed in the churches, not self-appointed (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).  A high standard of morality, a vast knowledge of the Bible and an unquestionable character is required of men serving in this office.  Read carefully the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.  If a man desiring this office falls short in any one of these traits, his ability to function in the office would be tarnished and his effectiveness would be hampered.

Church members have a duty and responsibility toward their elders.  They must obey them and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17).  They must not bear accusations against them except at the mouth of two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19).

In denominations and synagogues around the world, many different types of religious organizations exist and a variety of titles are used for their leaders.  Consider these titles and names in view of what the New Testament says or does not say:  Pope, Cardinal, Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, Reverend, Doctor, Saint, and even Elder and Deacon.  Does your “faith” use one or more of these titles that are not even found in the Bible?  And, if you do find the word, is your church properly using the position, i.e., in accordance with New Testament teaching on the word?  Is God pleased with the changes men have made in the organization of the different churches and their leadership?

Deacons in the Local Church
In God’s wisdom, He authorized elders to rule over His local church, He authorized preachers and teachers help spread the Word, and He authorized deacons to be servants.  The word “deacon” means servant, waiter.

The characteristics or qualifications of a deacon are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13,

“8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Deacons hold an office or position, “…let them serve as deacons…”  This is a special position in the church with special qualifications and with special responsibilities, that being a servant to the local congregation.

Since the role of deacons in the church is that of a servant, they would naturally be charged with doing things to relieve the temporal affairs and burdens from the elders and preachers.  Their duties are not specifically listed in the Bible, so their duties are left primarily up to the elders.  Their duties generally include, but not limited to, taking care of the members needs and taking care of the meeting place.  Often, deacons arrange the assignments for services to insure an orderly worship service.

For example, the early church at Jerusalem had many things taking up the time of the apostles.  One such matter was relieving the needs of the widows as found in Acts 6:1-6,

“1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”
The widows were being neglected in the daily ministration (verse 1).  The apostles were busy preaching and teaching the Word of God to the extent that they needed to stop “serving tables.”  So, seven men were selected by the disciples and presented to the apostles for approval.  The disciples were given criteria to use, “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” (verse 3) 

These men were not called “deacons” but, clearly, they were servants of the church.  It is noteworthy that two of these men, Stephen and Phillip, later became evangelists.

While this is one example of the use of deacons, a necessary inference dictates that they are charged to relieve the elders and preachers in matters that would distract them from discharging the responsibility of caring for the spiritual needs of its members.

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