Biblical Church Government

 

COPYRIGHT ©2017 - James M. Frye

All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.

For more articles on other issues, please visit our website at: www.seekingfortruth.com .

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Introduction

There are many different forms of church government in churches in our day. But how are churches to be governed according to the Bible? What is the Biblical form of church government? In this article, we will be examining what the Bible has to say regarding this issue. After seeing the form of church government that is set forth in scripture, we will then be prepared to contrast that Biblical form with the many unbiblical forms found in our day.

 

Biblical Church Offices

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

This verse lists 4 offices that existed in New Testament churches. Notice that the word "some" only appears 4 times in the text separating each of these 4 offices. Pastor/teacher, therefore, refers to a single office (contrary to the teaching of the “five-fold ministry”). The 4 offices are listed below:

1) Apostles

2) Prophets

3) Evangelists

4) Pastors/teachers

The first two of these offices, “apostles” and “prophets”, were only temporary in nature. God used these temporary offices in order to lay a foundation (Eph. 2:20) for the early developing church. There are no longer any apostles or prophets in our day. Please read my two articles entitled: "Are there Apostles Today?", and "Are there Prophets Today?” which demonstrate this fact from scripture. These articles can be read by going to my website listed at the top of this article. They are under the “Church” section.

Evangelists

 

The third office listed in Ephesians chapter 4 is that of evangelist. Unlike the temporary offices of apostle and prophet, there is nothing in Scripture that even hints that the office of evangelist was only temporary. So there are still evangelists today. But what is an evangelist? There are many people who call themselves “evangelists” in our day, but what is an evangelist according to the Bible? What function are they to perform?

 

To find the answer to these questions, we will examine the ministries of two men whom the Bible tells us held the office of evangelist. The first of these was a man named Philip.

Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

This verse not only tells us that Philip was an evangelist, but also tells us that he was the same Philip who was one of the original seven deacons chosen by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1-6). 

2 Timothy 4:5 But watch thou [Timothy] in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Timothy was also an evangelist and was, therefore, instructed by Paul to do the work an evangelist. But what is the work of an evangelist? What are they to do? Let’s take a look, beginning with Philip.

Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.

Jesus had told his followers that the gospel was to be preached first at Jerusalem, then unto all Judaea, then unto Samaria, and finally unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

As an evangelist, Philip was the first to take the gospel to Samaria. Before he went to Samaria, there was no church there. When he left, there was. Therefore, according to scripture, the work of an evangelist involved the following.

Preaching Christ in areas where the gospel has not yet gone and planting churches in those areas.

We see these same things in the ministry of Timothy as well.

Acts 16:1-3 Then came he [Paul] to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, [Timothy] the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him [Timothy] would Paul have to go forth with him

In Acts chapter 16 Paul, the apostle, is in the process of making his second missionary journey. Paul had 4 missionary journeys. They are listed on the next page.

Paul’s 4 Missionary Journeys

1. With Barnabas (Acts 13-14).

          2. With Silas, Timothy & others (Acts 15-18).

          3. With various others (Acts 18-21).

          4) To Rome (Acts 27-28).

In Acts chapter 16, Paul is in the midst of his second missionary journey. During a stop in Lystra, he decides to take Timothy along with him on the journey. Paul’s second missionary journey began with he and Silas returning to a few of the churches that Paul and Barnabas had previously planted on Paul’s first missionary journey (in order to confirm and strengthen them - Acts 15:40-41). But soon after picking up Timothy, Paul, Silas and Timothy went off to preach the gospel in new areas where it had not yet gone. They preached the gospel and planted churches in Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus (Acts 16:6-18:22).

As an evangelist (missionary) Timothy was traveling with Paul to:

Preach Christ in areas that the Gospel had not yet gone, and to plant churches in those areas. 

Those are the same things we saw in the ministry of Philip. Timothy performed these same functions. So we know from scripture that evangelists are church planters. We have them today, but they are referred to as “missionaries”. Notice that Timothy went with Paul on a “missionary” journey. The word “missionary” doesn’t occur in the Bible. But when we examine the ministries of those whom the Bible refers to as “evangelists’, we find them performing the functions of a missionary. According to scripture, Evangelists are missionaries.

 

Church Government under Evangelists

Church government functions a little differently in the early days of a new church which has been planted by an evangelist (missionary) than it does later on after elders have been appointed. We saw in the previous section that Paul took Timothy with him on his second missionary journey. This was a common practice of Paul. He would often have a number of men traveling with him. On one occasion Paul had seven men traveling with him.

Acts 20:4 And there accompanied him [Paul] into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.

If you will look back over the names of the cities that Paul was visiting on his second missionary journey you will see that the cities listed above were among those cities. Paul began the journey with only Silas, but as he went from city to city various men from those cities would be called of God to go with him. He first picks up Gaius in Derbe, then Timothy in Lystra, etc. etc. So, Paul would pick up people who felt called to be evangelists (missionaries) and take them along with him to train them on the missionary journey.

As Paul was preparing to leave a church that he had planted and move on to a new location, he would often leave behind one of his traveling companions (an evangelist) to be in authority over a church until men became qualified to be elders. Although he is not directly referred to by the term “evangelist” Titus clearly performed this function.

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I [Paul] thee [Titus] in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

On Paul's fourth missionary journey in route to Rome, He gained some converts on the island of Crete and thus a new church was born. When Paul departed, he left Titus behind to “set in order the things that were wanting” (lacking). That is, to set up the church in the way it was supposed to function. Evidently, the gospel spread to the other cities on the island because Paul gives instruction to Titus regarding multiple cities.

Titus was also instructed by Paul to ordain elders to be in authority over each church in each city. In the verses that follow, Paul gives a list of qualifications that must be met by someone before Titus could ordain them as an elder (Titus 1:6-9). So Titus was to remain behind on this island to be in authority over these churches and teach these people until such a time that men became qualified to be elders.

Timothy was also left behind by Paul to perform the same function.

1 Timothy 1:3 As I [Paul] besought thee [Timothy] to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

Here again, we have Paul leaving a church he has planted (this time in Ephesus) to travel on to another area (Macedonia). And as his practice often was, Paul leaves an evangelist behind to be in authority over the church. He tells Timothy to make sure that no one is allowed to teach false doctrine. So clearly Timothy was left in authority over this church. Paul then goes on in Chapter 3 to give Timothy instructions on how to go about appointing elders. Again there are qualifications that must be met.

So we see the third function of an evangelist. Not only did they preach Christ in areas where the gospel had not yet gone and plant churches in those areas, they also stayed there and were in authority over those churches until men became qualified to be elders. Until elders were appointed the evangelist was the sole authority in and over a church.

In some cases people became qualified to be elders quickly. It only took a few months in the churches at Lystra and Iconium (Acts 14). Sometimes it took longer. It took over 3 years in the church at Ephesus (Acts 20). Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus, but when it came time to move on into Macedonia (Acts 20:1) he still didn’t have elders and left Timothy behind to appoint them (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:1-15).

Why were they able to appoint elders quickly in some cases when in other cases it took years? It all had to do with whether or not there were people available who were qualified. Take the church at Corinth for example.

Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Now the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not Crispus became an elder, but he sure would have been a good prospect. This man had been the chief ruler of the synagogue prior to coming to Christ. He would have studied and taught the Old Testament for many years. It would have taken very little work in his case to meet the qualifications to become an elder. Many of the churches undoubtedly did not have a Crispus or anyone like him. For Paul to take a bunch of pagans in Ephesus, who had previously worshipped the false goddess Diana (Acts 19:27), and turn some of them into elders would take some time.

It is also important to note that once elders were appointed the evangelist left. They would then go on to preach the gospel and plant churches in new areas. This is important to understand because many missionaries in our day go to the mission field, plant a church and stay there. Such was not the case with Biblical missionaries (evangelists). Their job was to get a church up and running, appoint elders and move on. Sure, they might return to those churches from time to time to check on them to see how they are doing (Acts 15:36), but they did not stay there for their entire ministries as pastors.

Evangelists preached the gospel in areas where it had not yet gone, planted churches there, and taught the people until men became qualified to be elders. Then, they appointed elders and moved on to a new area to do the same all over again. The goal was to repeat this process over and over again.

 

Pastors/Teachers

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Now let's take a look at the third office of pastor/teacher. In this section we will learn two things about this office.

1. The terms pastor, bishop, and elder are used interchangeably in scripture.

 

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

When writing to the Christians at Philippi, Paul refers to three distinct groups: the saints (believers), the bishops, and the deacons. We will examine the office of deacon later on. From this passage we see that there are only two offices in the local church - bishop and deacon. Did Paul write to this church and rudely leave out a greeting to the pastors and elders? - No, of course not. In scripture the terms pastor, elder, and bishop are used interchangeably to refer to the same office.

Titus 1:5-7 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless...

In the above passage, Paul was writing to Titus to give him instructions for ordaining elders. But, notice that in verse 7 Paul refers to those whom he previously called “elders”, as "bishops". He says that "elders" are to be blameless, because a "bishop" must be blameless. He uses both terms to refer to the same office. As I stated earlier, the three terms pastor, bishop, and elder are used interchangeably in scripture to refer to the same office. Why are there three terms? The three terms refer to three different responsibilities of the one office.

The chart on the next page explains this.

 

Term

Meaning

Responsibility

Pastor

Shepherd

Feed (teach) the flock

Bishop

Overseer

Watch over (protect) the flock

Elder

More mature (spiritually)

Lead the flock (by example)

 

The term pastor refers to the responsibility to feed the flock. The term bishop refers to the responsibility to watch over the flock to protect it (false teachers are called wolves). And the term elder is used to refer to the responsibility to go forth leading the flock by example. But all three terms refer to the same office and are used interchangeably.

1 Peter 5:1-3 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed [do the work of a pastor] the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [do the work of a bishop] thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples [examples - the work of an elder] to the flock.

For those of you who like to see everything from Greek, the word translated "feed" (poimaino - Strongs 4165) is from the root word "pastor" (pomen - Strongs 4166). One means pastor (as in being a pastor), and the other means pastor as in the activity (pastor a church). The word translated "taking the oversight" (episkipeo - Strongs 1983) looks very much like the word "bishop" (episkopos - Strongs 1985). Again one means bishop as in being one, and the other means bishop as in doing the work of one.

Acts 20:17, 28 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

In making them elders, the Holy Ghost had also made them bishops (overseers) and pastors (those who "feed" the flock). Once again for those who wish to see it in Greek, the word translated "overseers" (episkopos - Strongs 1985) is the same word that is translated as "bishops" in our first two passages (Phil. 1:1, and Titus 1:7). The word translated “feed” (poimaino) means to do the work of a pastor. In making them elders the Holy Spirit also made them pastors and bishops.

 

2. Pastors/elders/bishops are to be Plural in Number and Equal in Authority.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Notice that the word “bishops” is plural (bishops not bishop). There were multiple bishops in the one church at Philippi. We read nothing about senior bishops or assistant bishops. All of the bishops were equal in authority.

Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders [plural] in every church [singular], and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

There were multiple elders ordained in each and every church. Once again they are all equally referred to as elders. There are no senior or assistant elders. And since elder is the same office as pastor, there are no senior or assistant pastors.

Acts 20:17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders [plural] of the church [singular].

Again, there were multiple elders in a single church all equal in authority.

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

There were multiple elders in each church and one church per city.

So, we see from scripture that elders/pastors/bishops were always plural in number and equal in authority. We never see one elder/pastor/bishop in authority over another elder/pastor/bishops. Biblically, there is no such office as a “senior pastor” or “assistant pastor”. Such offices are not Biblical but are the product of the doctrines and traditions of men which Jesus condemns (Mark 7:6-8).

According to scripture a person must meet certain qualifications (Tit. 1 and 1 Tim. 3) before they can be appointed as a pastor/elder/bishop. We are not to put just anyone into the office so that we can have a plural number. There are situations, especially in the apostate times in which we live, where there may only be one person who is qualified to be a pastor/elder/bishop in a given church. That is okay as long as that church is open to, and actually desires, to have more than one pastor/elder/bishop should another man from among the congregation to be called of God and meet the qualifications for that office.

 

Deacons

 

There is one other church office in Scripture that was not mentioned in Ephesians 4 and that is the office of deacon.

 

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

The word deacon means servant. In scripture deacons were servants of the church (and of God) but never had authority over the entire congregation. We see the first deacons appointed in Acts chapter 6.

 

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

In the church at Jerusalem daily provision was being made for the older widows who had no one to care for them. Paul also speaks of this practice in 1 Timothy chapter 5. The Grecians felt that their widows were not being cared for equally with the Hebrew widows.

 

Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve [do the work of a deacon/servant] tables.

The apostles who were running the church in Jerusalem at this time decided that it would not be proper for them to take time away from preaching and teaching the Word of God in order to serve tables, so they appointed deacons to take care of this responsibility. For those who wish to see it in Greek. The Greek word that is translated deacon (diakonos - Strongs 1249) is also often translated as "servant" (Matt. 23:11, John 12:26, etc.) for that is what the word means. The word translated "serve" in the above passage (diakoneo - Strongs 1247) is the same word in its verb form.

 

Acts 6:3-4 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

 

Acts 6:5-6 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them [ordained them].

 

According to scripture, the purpose of deacons is to take care of any matters which should arise that would take the teachers in the church away from the ministry of the word (studying, preaching, and teaching it) and prayer. Since there are no apostles today, this would apply to the pastors/bishops/elders who are the teachers and preachers of the word. Deacons were not “assistant pastors” as they did not have authority over the entire congregation, but only over their area of responsibility (in Acts the distribution of food to widows). And as is the case with elders, deacons are referred to in the plural. There were multiple deacons in a single church who were all equal in authority. There are no assistant or senior deacons in scripture. The qualifications for the office of deacon are listed in 1 Tim. 3:8-13.

 

Each church is to be Independent and Self-Governing

 

What you will never find in scripture is a hierarchical system of church government. Each church was independently governed by local pastors/bishops/elders. We do not see any men, other than the apostles, who were in authority over more than one church. The lone exception to this is an evangelist during the early days of a church where the gospel has spread to nearby cities (Titus 1:5). But once elders/pastors/bishops have been appointed, these pastors/bishops/elders only had authority over the single local church to which they had been appointed.

 

Since there are no apostles today, no person, or groups of persons, may ever be in authority over more than one church. Those who try to get around this clear teaching of scripture have erected a false man-made doctrine referred to as “Apostolic Succession”. This teaching says that the apostles supposedly passed on their authority over multiple churches to others whom they refer to as “bishops”. But their “bishops” are not Biblical bishops. They do not see these bishops according to the Bible, as an equal to a pastor/elder who is only in authority over a single local church. No, they make their bishops into “super bishops” who are in authority over many churches and over many pastors/elders.

 

As we have seen, scripture teaches no such thing. Christ alone is able to create offices in His church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22). No man has such a right! Only God can tell us what a bishop is, and He has told us in His word that every elder/pastor/bishop is equal in authority with the other elders/pastors/bishops. Biblical bishops were never in authority over anything other than the single local church to which they had been appointed. And scripture never teaches that the authority of apostles over more than one church was ever passed on to anyone. This teaching is clearly unbiblical.

 

 

Biblical Church Government

So far we have learned the following.

1. Evangelists are missionaries. They are to preach the gospel in areas where it has not yet gone and plant churches in those areas. Evangelists are to remain at a church as the sole authority over that church until such a time that men become qualified to be appointed as elders/pastors/bishops. Then evangelists are to move on to a new area and repeat the process all over again.

2. The terms pastor, bishop, and elder are three different terms which refer to the one same office. There are three different terms because each of the three terms refers to a different “responsibility” of that one office. Pastors/bishops/elders are always to be plural in number and equal in authority. The only exception to this is when no more than one person has met the qualifications required for that office.

3. Deacons are to be servants in a local church. They are to serve the local congregation (and God) by performing any necessary functions that would take the teachers of the word (pastors/bishops/elders) from their continual ministry of the word of God and prayer.

4. Every church is to be independent and self-governing. None but the apostles had authority over more than one church, and they never passed that authority on to anyone. According to what we have learned, Biblical church government should look like this.

This is what Biblical church government looks like according to the word of God. Each church is to be independent and governed by multiple pastors/bishops/elders. Deacons are only to be in authority over their area of responsibility. Nothing is to be added.

Unbiblical Forms of Church Government

The Episcopalian system

The word “Episcopalian” comes from the Greek word for bishop “episkopos”. The Episcopalian system is a man-made system in which churches are governed by “bishops”. I put the word bishops in quotation marks because these “bishops” are not true Biblical bishops as we shall see. The chart below is an illustration of this system.

There are multiple Archbishops in this system. Bishops are over multiple rectors and not just two. In some churches, “rectors” are instead referred to as “vicars”. Archbishops, Bishops, and rectors/vicars are all considered to be priests. This system is not only limited to Episcopalian and Anglican churches. Many other denominations have adopted this system in whole or in part. The Roman Catholic Church system is similar to this but adds multiple cardinals over the archbishops and has a single pope at the top.   

What is wrong with this system?

1.  Archbishop, rector, and vicar are not Biblical offices and are, therefore, forbidden. Only Christ has the authority to create offices in His church.

2.  Under the New Covenant, there is no office of priest. Every believer is now a priest (1 Peter 2:5, 9) and has direct access to God without going through any intermediary but Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).

3.  These “bishops” are not true biblical bishops: A. They are not co-equal with other pastor/bishop/elders over a single local church; B. They are in authority over the leaders of a local church instead of being among them; C. They are in authority over more than one church.

4.  Each church is to be governed independently by its own pastors/bishops/elders.

The Presbyterian system

The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word for elder “presbuteros”. The Presbyterian system is a man-made system in which churches are governed by group of “elders”. Once again, I put the word elders in quotation marks because these “elders” are not true Biblical elders as we shall see. The chart below is an illustration of this system.

The General Assembly is over multiple Presbyteries and is not limited to just two. Presbyteries are also over multiple sessions and not just two. The letters “T” and “TE” under session refer to Elder and Teaching Elder.

 

What is wrong with this system?

  1. There is no such thing as a general assembly in the Bible, nor is there anything called a session.
  2. The word presbytery does occur in scripture (1 Tim. 4:14) but refers to the elders (pastors/bishops/elders) over an individual local church.
  3. Scripture knows nothing of a group of elders (presbytery) over other elders, or over more than one church.
  4. Each church is to be governed independently by its own pastors/bishops/elders. No one in scripture, except for the apostles, ever had authority over more than one church.

Presbyterians tell us that the General Assembly is Biblical based upon Acts chapter 15, but this is not the case. In Acts 15 we do see a group of churches appealing to the apostles in Jerusalem for the resolution to a doctrinal dispute (Acts 15:1-2). But this passage gives no support for having a general assembly over multiple churches in our day. First, this appeal was made to the apostles who did have authority over multiple churches. Since there are no apostles in our day, this passage does not justify people who are not apostles having authority over multiple churches. That is not what took place in Acts 15.

Second, this was a voluntary appeal regarding a single doctrinal dispute. The authority of the Presbyterian General Assembly is not limited in such a way. It is a permanent structure and those under its authority are required to submit to all of its decisions regarding all things at all times whether they asked for their input or not. Again, this is not what took place in Acts 15, nor do we see anything even remotely like it in scripture.

 

Congregational Systems

Congregationalism is term which refers to those systems of church government in which each church is self-governed independently from other churches. As we saw earlier, scripture does teach that each church is to be independently governed. Therefore, the true Biblical form of church government set forth earlier in this article could rightly be categorized as a congregational system. But there are many other non-Biblical forms of church government which also fall under the heading of congregationalism. We will examine the main ones in this section. There are three main types.

Type 1

Those called “deacons” in some churches may be referred to and as “elders” in others.

 

What is wrong with this system?

  1. There is only a single pastor over a church rather than multiple pastor/bishop/elders.
  2. When those in the second box are referred to as “deacons”, often these deacons are in authority over the entire church (as assistant pastors) rather than just being in authority over their area of responsibility as scripture teaches.
  3. When those in the second box are referred to as “elders”, we have the error of one pastor/bishop/elder being in authority over another pastor/bishop/elder, instead of being equal in authority as scripture teaches.

Type 2

Some churches may have an elder board rather than a deacon board.

 

What is wrong with this system?

  1. In scripture, deacons were never in authority over a pastor/bishop/elder.
  2. Deacons were never in authority over an entire church but only over their area of responsibility.
  3. Churches are to be governed by multiple pastors/bishops/elders rather than a single pastor.

 

Type 3

 

What is wrong with this system?

  1. There are no “assistant pastors” in scripture. Every pastor/bishop/elder in the Bible was equal in authority with every other pastor/bishop/elder.
  2. “Youth pastors” and “music ministers” are both unbiblical offices which no man has a right to create. Christ has told us in scripture how He wants things to be done in His church (1 Tim. 3:14-15) and no man has the right to do otherwise.
  3. This system has a single pastor as the primary authority over a church rather than multiple pastors/bishops/elders as scripture teaches.

 

Summary and Conclusion

  1. Apostles and prophets were temporary offices which no longer exist today.
  2. Evangelists are missionaries who are to preach the gospel in areas where it has not yet gone and plant churches in those areas.
  3. The terms “pastor”, “bishop”, and “elder” refers to the three different responsibilities of the same office. Pastors/bishops/elders are to be plural in number and equal in authority.
  4. Deacons are to perform any functions that would take the pastors/bishops/elders away from the ministry of the word of God and prayer. They are not in authority over the entire church but only over their area of responsibility.
  5. Every church is to be independent and self-governing. None but the apostles had authority over more than one church, and they never passed that authority on to anyone.

This is the way which God has shown us in scripture that churches are to be governed. Christ is the head of the church. The churches belong to Him, and are to submit to Him. Therefore, we are to follow the example of scripture on these matters, and no man or group of men have the right (nor the authority) to do otherwise. For proof of this see my article, “The True Worship of God”.