Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, we conclude this 8 part series by examining a biblical understanding of church leadership.
8. Biblical Understanding of Church Leadership
A healthy church to grow in is not a fellowship under the control of a pope or one man dictator – this is to guard against the sinful flesh that all people struggle with. The local church is also not a place for anarchy – again because of the sinful nature. Neither is a fellowship meant to be run by democracy – because we all know that popular opinion does not make something right.
The biblical pattern is to appoint elders (or overseers as stated in the ESV) and deacons to care for the sheep and teach them. Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 spell this out clearly. Let's take a quick look at Paul's instructions to Timothy:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
This is not a job for human ambition. It is a fearful responsibility for men who fear God – men who will answer for their own lives and the lives of those they taught! A healthy church led by godly elders is a beautiful place to grow as a disciple.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
The following video is lengthy but nonetheless an excellent detailed look at biblical eldership by Charles letter when he visited Denmark in 2009. It is a really excellent sermon for people who live in countries and places where there is an absence of biblical churches and have little or no bearings on sound biblical church government. The lack of understanding and ignorance in this area has wreaked untold havoc on the modern church landscape and this video will serve you well as a tool for much needed reprogramming:
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Go Back To Part 1
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