Church Government

pen and paper

The book of Acts gives a clear pattern for the proper structure of Church government. The offices of Apostles and the Elders are the primary leadership of the early church. Acts 1-8 shows the Apostles essentially functioned as the first elders.[1] Along with the Apostles, there were those men called Elders at the church of Jerusalem; James being one of them.  The Apostles and Elders at the church of Jerusalem were not Elders of all the churches in the world; only for the local church. There is no clear New Testament evidence exists to suggest that local churches were governed by an outside body. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 should not be regarded as a permanent paradigm for regional authority.[2] Reading the account in Acts 15; an issue arose that caused the council to meet and discuss; a debate occurred laying out both sides of the argument; James came up with a solution which was voted on and affirmed by the council as a whole; and a letter was sent out with the decision made which the church in Antioch affirmed. In his missionary journeys, Paul appointed Elders in each church he established which shows each church is autonomous. I feel that a multiple Elders in a local church is ideal in the governing or ministering to Christ’s body. Having a multiple Elders in the church allows each to support and encourage one another and long with that encouragement to hold each other accountable. According to Romans 14:10-12, every believer is accountable to God.  The Word of God and the Holy Spirit help provide direction and inner control, but the accountability among believers help with this self-control. Scriptures such as Ephesians 4:11f, Hebrews 13:17, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 clearly show that the church are accountable to their leaders, but since a pastor/elder is part of the local body he too is account back to the body for what he is preaching and how he conducts himself in his life. I feel that ministerial accountability is on the local level because that is who knows him.

The other office associated with church leadership is the office of Deacon; however, the appointment of the seven in Acts 6 never calls them deacons it’s used as an example of this office.[3] This title was never used for this group, but the principle of designating a set of labors for servicing the needs for the church members could have led to the creation of this office at a later time.[4] Another name associated with the pastor of a church is mentioned in the book of Acts as well; in Acts 20:28, “overseer” is a term referring to the work of the elders.[5]

The church today should attempt to be an “Acts Church;” that is to use the book of Acts as a guide to establishing and operating a church today. The practice of church leadership laying hands on those that are being sent out as missionaries and/or men leaving to lead other churches is taken from Acts 13:2-3 when the church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas out to be missionaries. Even though the seven men in Acts 6 are not called Deacons, the practice of having men set aside to serve the church so the pastor can have time for studying God’s word was established based on the early church as shown in the book of Acts. I personally feel that we need to go back as a church and study Acts to better reach our world today. The simple approach is the best and simply loving others and sharing Christ worked very well with the first century church and it still works today.

[1] Mike Bergman, “Does the Bible Provide a Clear Structure for Church Governance?,”, August 26, 2011.

[2] Andreas Köstenberger, “Church Government: Congregationalism,”, June 29, 2007.

[3] Darrell L. Bock, Acts. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 259.

[4] Ibid, 262.

[5] Mike Bergman, “Does the Bible Provide a Clear Structure for Church Governance?,”, August 26, 2011.

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