It has been a hot minute since writing to you. It is a hard balance to keep on top of writing constantly – but what I have to tell myself is, “What’s next?” I come to you today after compiling a list of topics I wish to write on and unfortunately, I wrote a few and decided to not release them *yet. Here we are, finally with a topic that many of my readers may feel they don’t need to read or invest time into. But, I hope you stick around – I will keep it as brief and concise as possible.
I write this to you today because God has been speaking to me a lot about church structure. I’ve been in a new study about what I see scripturally (and not what I see in church today). God spoke to me this past week, “Church growth is determined by church structure.” God will move and grow a local church, but if the church isn’t structured in a way to handle 500 people than it would never reach that potential.
The Current Model
The current model for church leadership varies from church to church – but pretty commonly, we have a Pastor and then his leadership team. So, without admitting it, Pastor’s essentially have this type of leadership.
God (over) -> Pastor (sole, Pastor) -> Leadership Team (board, or ministry leaders) -> Sheep (or congregation)
Obviously, God would be considered to be over the Pastor – but, they are usually solely responsible for training, teaching, leading, equipping, and far too much. The current model is why we are experiencing so much Pastor burnout in the church today.
The current model is at fault, as you continue to read, I will illustrate what I believe the correct model to be within a church government.
So what are elders? Most people will likely already know they are the overseers and shepherds of the church. The chief scripture we find is in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. They both say nearly the same thing, so for sake of time and reading, I will only post one (feel free to Google Titus).
1 Timothy 3:1-7 [NASB]
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. ]An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation [d]incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
Let’s examine some key points I want to emphasize further:
- Above reproach – this is a lot harder said than done
- Husband of one wife – disagreement on this, but this would entail (according to most) no women can hold the office of the elder (another blog post will soon come on women elders)
- Able to teach – this is likely one of the larger roles of an elder, so keep this in mind
- Manages his own household well – this truly depends on how you define “well” but I believe the next statement does a good job of showing us
- How will he take care of the church of God? – Your household should be upstanding, so – in general accepted belief, if you have rebellious children or children/spouse unwilling to serve the Lord, you should not be an elder.
- Not a new convert – this is obvious, but I believe important to say that new convert is relative, someone could exponentially grow in 3 years and be an elder (if the Lord’s will, but I truly doubt someone could have all of these qualifications within 3 years)
Essentially, an elder has to be an upright person able to teach. They are overseers, able to discern spiritually and teach with a strong comprehension of the Word of God.
So what are deacons? Does your church still use the wording? What does the word “deacon” even mean? Originally, in Greek this word means literally “servant” or “waiting-man.” Immediately after the verses about elders, it continues about the qualifications of a deacon (or, servant).
“Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
Without going too in detail here, you can namely see almost the exact same requirements as an elder. You must be tested, of dignity, good managers of their own households, above reproach, etc. The only (real) difference between an elder and a deacon is the ability to teach. This is simply because deacons are called to serve the elders in the physical realm and the elders are to serve the church in the spiritual realm.
I have said for some great time that Pastors should not be put onto cleaning teams or yard crew teams – I don’t cling to this belief because “he just doesn’t want to serve” but because I desire to serve in the spiritual realm completely. I was telling my mentee that when I was his age I did everything I could to serve. I was always saying yes to any serving opportunity I received. But now, with age (yes, I am “young”) and maturity in Christ, God is calling me to serve as an Elder and serve the local church in spirit, more than with my hands and feet.
So, to make it very simple: Elders and deacons both serve, one spiritually and the other physically.
Deacons are esteemed as leadership (in my opinion) because they were set apart and obviously above reproach. But elders would not be able to accomplish all that Christ had for them without deacons. They are necessary to the body of Christ.
Here is when the deacons first came about:
Acts 6:1-5 [NASB]
“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation”
Ironically, I was telling my mentee last summer that I could not remain on the “yard crew” long-term.
Not because I didn’t want to serve, but because I knew I was called to serve differently.
I told him that once he was old enough to drive, I wanted him to take over my share of the church yard chores. Granted, it was only once every 6 weeks, so that is easy enough – but I understood that God has reserved roles for certain people. Not that elders are greater or better than deacons, but once again, that God has ordained elders to serve spiritually and deacons to serve physically.
Here is the diagram to represent what I believe to be (relatively) proper church structure:
God (over) -> Elders (plural, Pastor + others called) -> Deacons (plural, called to serve) -> Sheep (congregation)
Elders will be above reproach and gracious stewards of God’s word, exercising oversight with grace and teaching in truth. Deacons too will be above reproach and be the physical hands and feet to wait on the physical demands that running a church brings. Deacons specifically report to elders and elders are in complete authority over the body of Christ.
If you count yourself to have a good Pastor and good leadership team, that honor them and cherish them. For a good Shepherd and good leader (none are perfect) are worth their weight in gold. May God favor and poor out exponential blessing upon deacons that serve today.
Is the horse dead? That is all I have for you today my friends,