Who leads the church?
There are two different, yet complementary, answers to this question.
The first answer is the SIMPLE and ULTIMATE ANSWER.
It is simple and ultimate. At the same time, it may seem like a Sunday School answer.
Jesus leads the church.
In Matthew 28:18 – 20, Jesus tells the disciples what they and those after them must do. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.”
Jesus tells the disciples in John 13:34-35 that if they love one another as he loved them, people will know they are His disciples. Their love will show that they follow Jesus.
Through the inspired writing of Paul, the Lord gives the requirements of a church leader in First Timothy 2:12 and 3:2.
In Second Timothy 4:1 – 2, Paul exhorts Timothy and others to preach the Word. He says this preaching must correct, rebuke, and exhort.
In each of these verses, there is either an authoritative claim of Jesus or direction from God on how the church should work.
Ultimately, the church is under Jesus Christ’s authority.
Now, the COMPLICATED ANSWER.
God has given specific people roles in the church. The specific roles are the congregation, elders & deacons.
At Trinity Baptist Church, we believe in meaningful membership. Because of this, the congregation has a responsibility for the spiritual health of the whole church.
This responsibility makes itself known in several ways.
As discussed in last week’s preaching and the Church lesson, there is a mutual ministry of the Word each of us, not just the preacher, needs to be involved in. We disciple others and seek to be discipled by others. If we are a gathered body of Gospel believers and Jesus followers, we must live out and guard the Gospel.
As we will discuss in next week’s Discipline and the Church lesson, we want to encourage each other to live godly lives. When there is serious, unrepentant, the loving, restorative, God-glorifying process of church discipline needs to happen (Matthew 18). As a congregation, we bring in church members through a vote, and this vote is so much more than an election. It is a commitment to one another.
As a congregation, we are also responsible for the physical care of one another through the benevolent fund, the election of deacons, and the personal looking out for one another.
At Trinity Baptist Church, we also believe in the two Biblical church offices of elders and deacons.
Elders are godly men “commissioned by God and appointed by the congregation.” The deacons and the elders have very similar qualifications in the Bible. However, one difference is teaching the Bible (1 Timothy 3:2). This teaching can but does not always present itself as preaching to the whole body. It includes teaching smaller groups, children, and individual mentoring relationships. As the whole church is responsible for guarding the Gospel, the elders have a special gift and responsibility to do the same. This shows itself in the way elders care for the spiritual well-being of God’s sheep and model obedience before the congregation. (1 Timothy 3)
First Peter 5:1-3 provides clear directions for the elders.
Therefore, I urge elders among you, as your fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and one who is also a fellow partaker of the glory that is to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not with greed but with eagerness; nor yet as domineering over those assigned to your care, but by proving to be examples to the flock.
In Acts 6, we see the use of the Word deacon as the disciples appoint seven men to serve tables so they can focus on the Word and prayer. The deacons will serve the church and the elders while the elders lead the church through prayer and the Word.
The Deacon Ministry Handbook by Alan Witham lists several ways deacons serve the church (remember, the church is people, not a building or meeting time).
- Deacons serve by helping the church navigate conflict in healthy ways – Acts 6:1 (Deacon Ministry Handbook).
- Deacons serve by engaging in shared ministry with the pastor – Acts 6:2, 4 (DMC).
- Deacons serve by meeting physical needs within the church and community – Acts 6:3 (DMC).
- Deacons serve by helping the church maintain a healthy balance between in-reach and outreach – Acts .6:7 (DMC)
Three key words that describe deacons and deacon assistants are mercy, servicing, and mobilizers.
H.B. Charles Jr. provides a basic explanation of the difference between elders and deacons.
“If elders serve by leading, deacons lead by serving.” H.B. Charles Jr.
11/12 Discipline & the Church
11/19 The Gathering of the Church
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