Leadership at the Old Hickory church of Christ
The “Christian” world today has many ideas of hierarchies and leadership for local congregations and beyond. These have sprung up from men’s ideas which go beyond or ignore God’s plan as provided in His Word.
Who is to oversee the church?
In the New Testament, we are given the examples of the leadership in individual churches. When Paul and Barnabas made their return journey from their first evangelistic trip, they appointed “elders” in every church (Acts 14:23). In like manner, Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every city (in Crete) to set things in order (Titus 1:5). Peter reminds the elders of their important positions in I Peter 5:1-4, and relates two other characteristic duties of these men. These two are “shepherding the flock among you” and “exercising oversight”. Paul also relates the two descriptions “elder” (Titus 1:5) and “overseer” (sometimes translated “bishop”) (Titus 1:7) to the same position when describing the background of a man who is qualified to serve the church in this capacity. In Acts 20:17 Paul initiated a discourse with the elders from Ephesus, and described their responsibilities as “overseers” and “shepherds” in verse 28. Thus these three descriptions refer to the leadership roles in local congregations of God’s people.
Are there multiple levels of leaders?
We have no scriptural evidence for elevation of one of the leaders above another. In fact, Peter, referred to all elders as “fellow” elders in 1 Peter 5:1. The only leadership above the elders of each local congregation is the Chief Shepherd, who is Jesus Christ (I Peter 5:4). Although the “Christian” world has elevated certain of their leaders to positions of prominence, either within a congregation or over multiple congregations, this does not follow the plan in God’s Word. Both Peter (1 Peter 5:1-3) and Paul (Acts 20:28) let us know that the oversight of bishops is limitted to their local flock.
Who can be an elder?
The New Testament has provided us information on the types of people who may be appointed to be elders in local congregations of God’s people. There are two lists of attributes for those wishing to become elders in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. An extensive study of these two passages (and others which infer abilities to fulfill descriptions of their duties) is not provided here. However, there are some things which should seem obvious to anyone who reads these lists, such as being the husband of one wife which would preclude those who are unmarried, and those who are not men. One would be wise to study these passages, and strive toward attaining these attributes in their lives as well, following the examples of their elders (1 Peter 5:3).
What about deacons?
Deacons are people who have the attributes indicated in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The term deacon is a description of their work thus it is translated “servant” in various verses in the New Testament. They are not described as “Junior Elders” or as leaders of the local congregation. However, their importance is shown in that Paul addressed his letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phillipians 1:1).
What about Pastors?
The term “pastor” found only in Ephesians 4:11 is translated shepherd elsewhere in the New Testament. Peter lets us see that the term shepherd is associated with the elder’s duty (I Peter 5:1-4). Thus one who does not serve as an elder would not be referred to as a pastor. Also, one who does not have the attributes required of elders should not be referred to as a pastor. This term is abused in today’s “Christian” society, thus elevating some who are not qualified to be leaders beyond what God’s Word authorizes.
Who are the elders and deacons serving the Old Hickory church?