|Governing The Local Church
The truth is this: the ways of God are higher than our ways. There is no clearer example of this truth than the study of church government. Jesus’
original design of the Church was simple. It looks like a wagon wheel. Jesus is the hub of the wheel and each of his twelve apostles at the end of
each of the spokes of the wheel. The One at the hub is the governing authority. This same model was given to His apostles to use as they
developed the Church beyond their original group. Paul was not in the original twelve but he was delivered the same model – we call it the apostolic
model – from which he was to help build the Church and the churches within it. This study deals with the local church family; we address the
apostolic sphere in other teachings.
The local church, I believe, is to be led by one who stands in the ministry office of pastor. (Romans 16:3-5 and Colossians 4:15) My reasoning for
this conclusion is that the pastor seems to be the one of the five (Ephesians 4:11) who is uniquely anointed as a caregiver. The pastor is better
suited for one-on-one discipling of the saints and for the direct care of the sheep of God. So, it is the pastor who is commissioned by Jesus as the
overseer of a certain flock of sheep. Consistent with the role of overseer is the task of governing by virtue of the anointing of the Holy Spirit to do
so. The apostle may also serve functionally as the pastor of a local church just as James did to the Jerusalem church. There is a “governing
anointing” upon the office of pastor and apostle while the other offices are better suited for other roles within the Church.
Do not reject this apostolic model just because it differs from the government models used in many local churches. I contend that most church
governments are the product of secular thinking; literally importing the organizational model into the church from such arenas as the business
sector, secular government, and education. This is a successful model in these arenas but not in the local church because it is not what Jesus
implemented; therefore, this organizational model is ill-suited for the holy work of the Kingdom of God.
A successful local church will have all five ministry offices operating in it; these men and women are called elders. One or more of the elders may
be resident within the church family and some will visit from time to time, but in any case the leadership of the church is comprised of all five ministry
offices. However, within the ranks of the eldership the pastor is considered the first among equals of the church’s leadership. He alone stands
before God as the commissioned head of that local church family. We say it this way: there is a plurality of leadership, but there is singularity of
headship. This is Jesus’ way of governing His church – through one man whom He has called and
anointed for the task.
This is not a ‘one-man-show,’ but rather a concerted effort by all five offices to produce the will of God by fulfilling His plan for that church family.
The pastor recognizes the importance of the anointings of the other elders. His church family needs each one if it is to mature into the stature of
Christ. The key is for each ministry office to fulfill its divine purpose and for the eldership to operate in full harmony as a team.
Functionally, the pastor will operate much as Moses did in his leadership of the nation of Israel. He will look to the elders as advisors for godly
counsel as any wise man does. He may delegate certain duties to elders and/or saints as the Spirit directs. Ultimately, however, the important
decisions are made by him under the guidance of the Spirit and in absolute accordance with the written Word of God.
1) The vision for the church family is received and cast through the pastor.
2) The appointment and ordination of elders and deacons is through the fivefold ministers with the pastor in the lead role in these matters.
3) The administration of the holy sacrifices (tithes and offerings) given to God by the saints is a non-delegated task. The pastor presents these
sacrifices to God on behalf of the saints. He is responsible to Jesus for the use of these holy monies.
The ‘natural man’ (one who sees and considers things as the world does - I Corinthians 2) may have difficulty with this biblical government model
since it supposedly relies upon one man. It actually does not rely upon one man at all but rather relies solely upon Jesus who is the Head of the
Church. It is simple. It is dynamic. It works.
I reject the notion of the use of a governing Board in a local church. This concept is one that has been introduced into the Church by the
Babylonian system that governs the world; it is not consistent with Holy Scripture. The committee concept tends to work against the flow of the Holy
Spirit who desires to simply speak to the one appointed and anointed by Jesus as pastor and to guide the local church family accordingly.
Accountability is to Jesus Himself. The pastor has a ruling apostle who stands in spiritual authority over him. The pastor is within the apostolic
sphere of the apostle who actually functions as his pastor. (II Corinthians 10:13-16, Titus 1:5)
The success of the local church family arises from the truth that each family member is equally as important as any other member whether they
are elders or saints. (I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12) Each member has a part to play in the overall plan of God. (Ephesians 4:16) The pastor
and the other elders are honored according to Scripture, but not venerated. (I Timothy 5:17) A mutual respect prevails which affords ease in
governing the local church family.
The Five Ministry Offices
Jesus has gone to great lengths to establish His church according to His Master Plan. The Book of Ephesians gives us some of the best details of
this Master Plan. One such detail has to do with the leadership of the Church. We find this information in chapter 4 verse 11 where Paul the apostle
lays out for us the five ministry offices that comprise the Church’s leadership, namely the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, and the
The fact that five distinct ministry offices are listed here is sufficient evidence that Jesus intended for each of these to be operative in the Church.
Furthermore, He would not have named five offices if there were no distinction between them; therefore, we must conclude that each is a vital part
to the Church’s structure and to its operation. There is nothing in Scripture that would lead us to believe that any of these no longer exists; indeed,
each is a viable part of the Body of Christ and important. Each ministry office has a particular purpose and each carries a unique anointing;
therefore, each is needed by the Church for its ultimate success during the Church’s age on the earth.
I will address each office in the order in which we find them in our text verse. This is not to imply that any one is of greater importance or possesses
some advantage over the others on the list.
THE APOSTLE ~
A study of the twelve men whom Jesus called as His apostles, along with others who came later on such as Paul, reveals certain aspects of this
office. They tended to be the ones who broke ground for the Kingdom of God in geographic areas in which the gospel of Jesus Christ had not been
preached. In some cases other people took the Good News to the lost and it was the task of the apostles to follow them in order to establish the
Church’s presence. The tasks of governing the Church fell upon their shoulders as well. And, they stood as overseers on a broad scope, standing
in authority over numerous churches and ministries.
THE PROPHET ~
The prophetic office is perhaps a little harder to describe. The various New Testament prophets seemed to operate with a measure of individuality
that defies description. The uniqueness of the office is the clarity with which they “see” into the spiritual realm. Their operation in the gifts of the
Spirit seems more refined and more highly visible than other Christians as well as fivefold ministers. This divinely installed ability to spiritually
discern is one of the primary tools the Holy Spirit uses to keep the Church on track with the divine plan of God. The passion of the prophet is for
THE EVANGELIST ~
Evangelism, or the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is the heart of the evangelist. The other four offices are very concerned about the Great
Commission, as well; however, their passions lay elsewhere unlike the evangelist whose every waking minute is focused on winning the lost to
Jesus and training the saints to effectively evangelize them.
THE PASTOR ~
The pastor is the shepherd of the sheep in God’s fold. His primary concern is protecting the sheep and feeding them and seeing them mature
spiritually. Discipleship is the passion of the pastor. Usually it is the pastor who will lead the local church fellowship simply because of his tendency
to be tender and loving in caring for the sheep.
THE TEACHER ~
The teacher possesses a unique ability to understand Scripture and to deliver it to the saints in an understandable and meaningful way. The Word
of God is his passion. Revelation truth seems to flow into him and out of him in power to benefit the saints. Usually it seems that a Teacher will
possess unique revelation on one or two subjects which are his "specialty."
It is important to understand that anyone who stands in any of the ministry offices can operate to some extent in the functional aspects of all of the
offices. For example, the prophet longs to see people born again and is inclined to witness to the lost and lead people to Jesus; however, he lacks
the anointing that is specific to the evangelist and therefore will only be partially as effective as the evangelist in soul-winning. The teacher or
apostle can prophesy by the Holy Spirit, but the prophet will operate on a continual basis in the prophetic gifts and with a higher level of accuracy
than his counterparts. One of the common qualities of any elder is to be able to teach; however, the teacher does so with a higher level of skill due
to the particular anointing that is upon him which is given by Jesus. What we see in this distribution of anointings by Jesus to the various ministry
offices is His design to form the Church’s leadership into a team. Each ministry office contributes its special gift to the overall work of the Kingdom.
For the Church to be successful, it must have all five offices fully operational.
The Church is just now coming back around to the truth that Jesus gave five ministry offices to His Church. For far too long we have only
recognized the pastor and the evangelist, especially within the evangelical ranks; but that is changing. Men of God with the will to accept truth over
the need to preserve a particular denominational perspective are rising in greater and greater numbers preaching and teaching this doctrinal truth
of the fivefold ministry. The Lord is pleased to see this happening.
It has been my observation over many years of ministry that ministers operate in a primary office and to a lesser degree in a subordinate office. My
use of the words “primary” and “subordinate” are not biblical terms; they are intended only to show that one office is dominant over the other. Paul
describes himself as an apostle (primary office) and a teacher (subordinate office).
The obvious benefits to identifying your primary ministry office are, first of all, it will increase your effectiveness in ministry when you are functioning
in accordance with God’s calling on your life, and, secondly, it will go far in helping to avoid the frustration that accompanies being misplaced. The
benefit to the Body of Christ are that when her leaders are properly positioned and operational in their respective ministry offices the Church
functions like a well-tuned machine at its fullest capacity and thus a heightened fruitfulness.
This brief essay cannot fully cover this truth of the fivefold ministry, but what it can do for you is to help lead you to the understanding of where you
fit in the Body of Christ. Your life and ministry will be far more fulfilling to you, not to mention far more fruitful to the glory of Jesus, our Lord. It is
important to remind ourselves that Jesus is the One who positions us in these five gifts; none of us has the right to choose the ministry office in
which we will function. We are a gift to the Body of Christ.
It may be that you do not know what ministry office you are called to. If that is the case, do not be concerned at this point. Be diligent to follow the
leading of the Spirit of God. As you seek this knowledge about your calling, the Lord will reveal it to you. Along with that knowledge, He will also
begin to refine your ministry to adapt to the specific anointing that is upon your life. The results will be wonderful!
One final admonition is in order. Let us not become title oriented as we move deeper into this truth. We must refrain from making value judgments
of one ministry office over the others. Each office is equally valuable and each is to be equally respected.
Headship In The Church
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church; He is the One who created it as well as the One who stands in supreme authority over it. Jesus established
the Church and prescribed the way in which His Church is to be led. Our responsibility as Elders within the Church is to do things His way and not
attempt to re-make His divine prescription for Church leadership. Proper leadership in the Church is an important key to the fulfillment of the plan of
God for the Body of Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ is led by a plurality of leaders; namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11) For
the Church or for a church to be truly effective, constantly fruitful, and ultimately lasting, it is necessary for it to operate under this model of plurality
of leadership; no other model will stand the tests of time and fire. When the five ministry offices work in cooperation with one another as a single
unit, the whole ministry of Jesus Christ is manifested and Jesus is glorified. This doctrine of plurality of leadership has come to be accepted by
many streams within the Church; however, in the local churches (and in some cases within the broader scopes such as within apostolic spheres)
this concept of plurality is taken too far and confusion arises usually resulting in destruction. The missing piece to this puzzle is the truth that in any
unit there can be only one head; this is true regardless of the size or scope of the unit, whether it is a family, a Bible study, a local church
fellowship, or an apostolic sphere. Leadership is plural; headship is singular.
This paradigm is revealed to us in the Godhead. We know God is three Persons yet They (He) are One. Through the teachings of Christ while on
the earth, He reiterated many times His own submission to His Father in heaven, recognizing His Headship over Him. He went on to teach us that
the Holy Spirit is in subjection to Him [Jesus] as it relates to the Church because the Father has entrusted the Headship of the Church to Jesus.
The Three Leaders, if you please, work in wonderful harmony and unity in a plurality of leadership; in this paradigm we also see how singular
headship operates within the plurality of leadership. So it is with the leadership of the Body of Christ. The five ministry offices function as the
leadership (Eldership) of the Church yet within distinct measures of sphere there will be only a single head; other leaders in that sphere are in
submission to that one who is head of it. For example, within a local church the pastor stands as the head of that church even though there may be
prophets, teachers, or evangelists who are assigned there. The particular anointings of the other Elders will usually extend beyond the walls of the
local church and their callings are recognized where they serve and minister.
It is important to understand that headship does not necessarily equate to being “the most qualified” or to “the most mature” or certainly to “the
most anointed.” Headship over any measure of sphere exists solely because Jesus sets in place the one He desires. That is why all other Church
leaders readily discern his/her headship by the witness of the Holy Spirit within them.
Headship carries with it the responsibility for final judgment. Study Acts 15. This passage is a good study of headship. Here we see the leadership
of the Church come together so they can decide on several very important doctrinal issues. After the debates and discussion have ended, James
stands up and declares by final judgment what the truth is concerning the pressing questions. By virtue of his headship, final judgment came. The
other leaders present as well as the saints all submitted themselves to his final ruling, respecting his headship over the Church. James was an
apostle who also functioned as the senior pastor of the church at Jerusalem. Whether his headship in this meeting came as a result of being the
ruling apostle or because this grand meeting of Elders took place within his church, we are not certain. In either case, it is apparent headship
existed within the plurality of leadership in the Body of Christ. This truth gives rise to the phrase "the first among equals."
What we are talking about here is divine order. Divine order exists at all levels in God’s creation; divine order is how God has always done things.
We see even in creation God’s divine order: planets are given prescribed orbits; wild animals have territories; the seas have boundaries; and
mankind from earliest times have realized the need for order within their villages and regions. Divine order exists to fulfill the plan of God. Divine
order is good. It makes good sense. This is why it also makes good sense for the Church of Jesus Christ to maintain divine order in its structure
and operation. Divine order facilitates ease in the advancement of the Kingdom of God, as well as, it helps to avoid confusion, self-centeredness,
and jealousy in church leadership.
Divine order recognizes and accepts measures of sphere within the Body of Christ. A measure of sphere is simply the assignment one has been
given by Jesus. That assignment may be a group of believers within a small group or in a local church fellowship or the assignment can be to a
certain teaching or doctrine given for the edification of the Body of Christ. Regardless of the scope, size, or perceived significance of the
assignment, the one whom Jesus calls must fully understand his assignment and the vision associated with it. All other church leaders are required
to respect that leader’s assignment realizing it is God-called and in His divine order.
As the Body of Christ rises in this revelation truth of headship we will see fewer and fewer problems arise in churches and ministries. Church splits
and acts of rebellion and spiritual mutiny will have thinner soil in which to grow and manifest. Churches will be stronger and more fruitful, not to
mention, they will be more pleasing to Jesus the Head of the Church.
My final admonition is this: I encourage you fivefold ministers to genuinely seek the face of God to determine and fully understand your God-given
measure of sphere. Once you have this identified, you will also discover your own headship. Then, dedicate your headship to the glory of Jesus
Christ and make a solemn vow of stewardship over that headship. Also, I encourage you to seek to identify and
distinguish the measures of sphere of other leaders. Vow to never attempt to challenge the headship of a fellow leader who is co-laboring with you
for the sake of the Kingdom. In the case of those leaders over whom you have direct spiritual authority, I also suggest strongly that you allow each
one to operate his ministry under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not yours. This is particularly important for apostles who have authority over
pastors and other fivefold ministers. Your task is not to dictate how these ministries are governed or led. In the case of severe, overt, and
continued grievous sin, other measures of authority will be taken. This lesson is not intended to deal with this issue.
The glorious church will arise in these last days, my brothers and sisters, and we are privileged to be a part of this great end-time Church!