“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church…” – Colossians 1:17-18a
Proverbs 11:14 says “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” There is a plethora of ideas regarding leadership within the church today. In some cases, church bodies have acquired leadership models from our government. Other have mimicked that of past religious denominations. Still other have adopted business models as methods for leading and directing the body of Christ. One thing is for sure, the body of Christ needs vision and leadership. Proverbs again says “Where there is no vision, the people perish..” (Prov. 29:18a) Discussing which method is correct is outside of this devotion. Instead we look to the Word of God and find what the Holy Spirit directed Paul to write in his letters to two young pastors, as well as the church in Ephesus.
Before we take a look at a couple of leadership “offices” within the church, we must establish two things. First, no man or group of men is the leader of the church. Colossians 1:18 clearly declares that Christ alone is the head of the church. As such, His appointed leaders are to follow His model which was clearly laid out in Philippians 2. Not that a leader must physically die as Christ did, rather each leader should be filled with the Spirit in such a way that he or she is willing to be the “chief servant” of all. After all, leaders are to serve the body, not lord themselves over the church.
The scriptures lay out two primary offices. First is that of an elder or bishop (1 Tim 3:1 cp. Titus 1:5). These two words that differ in both Greek and English appear to be referring to the same leadership position, that of a person who provides spiritual leadership and accountability within the body of Christ. We will discuss qualification later on, however it should be noted that elders typically have the gifting, to some degree or another of that of pastor-teacher. Likewise, we find that God typically uses one of these to be the “first among equals”. That is God gives a vision for ministry and leadership to one or more of the elders. Notice that Paul is talking not in general to all the elders, but specifically to Timothy and to Titus. These appear to be what we might refer to as the “pastor” of their local church or churches.
Deacons are also mentioned in the above mentioned passages. The very words used describe a different but equally important leadership role. While both have requirements of godliness, a deacon’s focus appears to be more focused on meeting physical needs, rather than teaching and leadership. A great example of this contrast is found by reading Acts chapters 6-8. It is important to realize that deacons serve a very important function in the church. Acts records incredible sermons by both Philip and Steven. God used these men powerfully in the early church.
As you go through today, ask yourself if you know at least one or more of the elders and/or deacons in your local church.
Do you know what vision God has given them for you local church body? If not ask them and then find ways that you can get involved in helping them carry out that vision!