Archives For Ecclesiology

I recently did some study of elders, deacons, and church government. This was a topic I studied while in Seminary, 1 and  and I wanted to freshen up some of my beliefs about what the Bible says on these topics.

Below is a brief outline of my studies (with guidance Dr. Nathan Holsteen) and various views the different church denominations have. 

I.          ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH

A.        Elders

1.         Primary Texts are 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17-21; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5

2.         Qualifications of Elders

Elders are required to have certain character (1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:6-7), specific abilities (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:9), godly relationships (1 Tim 3:2, 4), experience (1 Tim 3:6), and a specific desire for service (1 Tim 3:1; 1 Peter 5:2-3).

3.         Responsibilities of Elders

Elders are supposed to shepherd (1 Peter 5:2) and teach (1 Tim 3:2).

4.         Plurality of Elders

There seems to be sufficient data in the New Testament to suggest that a plurality of elders was the custom and should be implemented. See Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2; 20:17, 28; 21:18; Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 5:17; Tit 1:5; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-2

B.         Deacons

1.         Primary Texts Are 1 Timothy 3:8-16 and Acts 6:1-6.

2.         Qualifications of Deacons

A list of qualifications for deacons is given just after the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

3.         Responsibilities of Deacons

Acts 6:1-7 is the only location we see deacons doing ministry.

II.        GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH

A.        In the Bible

1.         In the Book of Acts

The church in the book of Acts was in a transitional state, but it had an organized structure. A careful reading of Acts reveals that the church had a doctrinal confession (Acts 2:42), practiced baptism (Acts 2:41), had the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42, 46), had some levels of membership (Acts 2:14, 41; 4:4), helped people in need (Acts 2:44-45), and appointed leaders for specific tasks (Acts 6:1-7).

2.         In the New Testament Letters

The church in the Pauline and general epistles showed more organization than the church in Acts. Church officers were in place (Titus 1:5) and there was an enforced order within the church (1 Corinthians 14:40).

B.         In the Modern Church

1.         Episcopalianism

a.         Description

Government by a hierarchy of bishops. There are three layers of leaders: bishops, presbyters (or priests), and deacons. Only the bishop can ordain priests and deacons. It has the strongest emphasis on clergy and laity distinction. The local church does not own its property.

b.         Examples

Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion (such as Episcopalian churches), Methodist Church

2.         Presbyterianism

a.         Description

Governed by “elders” (presbuteros) in the form of church courts. Congregation chooses it’s pastor and elects elders. Places power of local church in a group of elders, not in one minister who derives authority from a bishop. The local church does not own its property.

b.         Examples

Presbyterian churches, reformed churches

3.         Congregationalism

a.         Description

The local church is an autonomous unit. Christ in the only person above a congregational church. The ultimate authority of the church rests in the members of the church. Can be “elder” led or “deacon” led. Each church calls its own pastor, approves its own budget, purchases property, and has ownership of its own property.

b.         Examples

Baptist churches, Bible churches, Plymouth Brethren Churches, Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), Church of Christ (restoration movement churches)

 

Notes:

  1. Special thanks to Dr. Nathan Holsteen of Dallas Theological Seminary. Some of this blog post has been adapted from the notes from his “Ecclesiology” class I took under him.

When talking with people about what is “church” I often hear someone say, “But hey, the Bible says ‘where two are gathered in Jesus’ name, I am with you.’ People will often use this phrase to describe how a small group is a church. Yet, the context of that passage has nothing to do with what a church is or what a church does. In Matt 18:19-20 the context is correcting another believer and prayer, not what is or is not a church.

What is the Church

Photo Credit: Peter’s First Preaching (The Bible and Its Story, vol 10)

With that said, let’s look at what the church actually is. From my understanding of the Bible there are seven key elements of a church.

I. MAKE DISCIPLES

First, the church is commanded to go into all nations and make disciples. Continue Reading…

Today I take a brief look at the doctrine of the church. This is commonly known as “ecclesiology.” I’m using the Evangelical Free Church of America’s statement of faith. That statement reads:

The Church. Article #7. We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.

A Summary of the Doctrine of the Church

Photo Credit: Russ Harlan

I. JUSTIFICATION, GRACE, AND FAITH

A. Justification Continue Reading…

An Effective Church

August 22, 2011

Churches need to play a significant role in our community in order to save lost souls.

Photo Credit: YWAM

To serve lost souls churches must be effective, but what makes up an effective church? There are a few things that I believe the church should be and do in order to play a key role in saving souls and helping people authentically live as Christ followers. From my own personal experience of what God has done in my life, from reading the Bible, and from observing my own church, I believe there are three core elements that allow a church to be effective.

I believe a church needs to be led well, it should have solid Bible-based teaching, and it should show love to the community. These three elements of an effective church in a community can be deduced from a small passage in the book of Acts that shows us how the early church performed ministry in an effective way. Let us start by taking a look into the early Christian church in chapter six of Acts.

THE BOOK OF ACTS

In the book of Acts there is a lot happening. Jesus has died, risen from the dead, been taken up into heaven, the day of Pentecost comes and with it comes the Holy Spirit, and the apostle Peter delivers an amazing sermon that saves 3,000 souls. Then, the early apostles begin to experience some opposition from religious leaders. (Please note that when I use the word “apostles,” I am using it in the context of the 12 disciples [minus Judas] that are now the current leaders of the early church.

The result is that the religious leaders release the apostles, and we can now read what they do after being released starting in Acts 5:42: 1 Continue Reading…

Notes:

  1. The passage of scripture we are studying is Acts 5:42 through Acts 6:7. However, for simplicity sake, throughout this paper I will refer to the passage as “chapter six of Acts.”