Church Government

Posted by William Eaton on Monday, 28 December 1998, at 10:17 p.m.

This was something I wrote in response to a question about different ministries within the Church. I believe all believers have gifts (1Cor 12) but in this discussion I'm limiting myself to those gifts that are closely related to Church Government.

First some terms:

Disciples: We are all called to be disciples, which means a "learner". (Acts 11:26). All Christians should be disciples!

Minister: One who serves! All of us are called to minister/serve.

Apostle: My understanding is that an "apostle" is literally "one who is sent" and specifically has come to designate one who is chosen and sent by God to accomplish a particular task. It is one of the "offices" of Church listed in Eph. 4:11f which to me indicates that as long as the Church is in existence the office is valid. Do I know any apostles personally? No. *grin*

Elder: There are two types, those who are the spiritually mature "pillars" of the church and those who are among the leadership of the church. The classic OT example is the 70 elders that Moses chose to help lead the children of Israel. These would be the elders with the anointing to rule, but there were many more elders in the nation of Israel, in fact these 70 were chosen from a much larger group of elders.

In the church there are usually many who are considered elders because of their spiritual maturity but only a few of these would be placed in overseer type positions. This latter group would be considered the (grk)"episcopate" or overseeing elders, in the NT.

Deacon: Again, there are two types of (grk)"diaconate" mentioned in the NT. The word means "those who serve." In our time the word is used mostly as a designation for those who serve the physical needs of the church (table-servers--taken from the example given in Acts 6:2.) But in the NT the word is also used as a designation for those who serve the spiritual food to the church, i.e. Word ministers. (see Acts 6:4 where the same term is used to describe the Word-servers!)

Shepherd: Could describe those with the pastoral gift (one who feeds the flock) as well as those who have been given the oversight (episcopate.) The term is loaded with imagery and meaning from both the OT and new.

Overseer: Sometimes referred to as a "bishop," and falls into the category of the "episcopate." 1 Pet2:25 Refers to God as the "Shepherd" and "Overseer" of our souls. One translation uses the term "guardian" which accurately describe the "episcopate."

In summery, there are basically two groups in the NT Church that God uses to protect and mature His saints. The diaconate (specifically the "Word" servers) and the episcopate.

The diaconate can be summed up quite nicely by the list given in Eph 4:11f, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Each of these gifts are given by *God* to the individual and no one else has a say as to who gets what gift. These gifts are independent of men and are between the individual and God alone.

The episcopate gifts on the other hand are given only in the context of a group or groups of people and only have relevance with respect to that group or groups. The episcopate combines the ideas of overseer,(episkopos Heb.12:15--looking diligently) rulership,(heigeomai Acts15:22 Heb.13:7,17,24) and those who "stand before"(proisteimi Rm 12:8, 1Thess.5:12 1Tim.3:4; 5:12.)

Obviously, those with the diaconate gifts (Eph4:11f Pastors, Teachers, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists) need a group of people to be able to discharge their gifts effectively, but their gift is *independent* of these groups. They are given their gifts apart from the hand of man and must answer to God for the use or misuse of their gifts. For example a person with pastoral gifts might travel to another assembly and if given an opportunity to speak his message will be pastoral in nature (not that he would become their pastor, but the gift would be in evidence by the "feeding the flock" nature of his message.) In other words, his gift travels with him! The same thing could be said for the prophet, teacher, etc..

The episcopate (ruling) gifts on the other hand only arise when there is a need for them and only exist as long as the need exists. A person might be called into the position of elder and begin to function in that capacity, but if he travels to another city his "episcopate" gift doesn't travel with him. He would exercise no authority in any other assembly. His gift would not have meaning apart from his "sphere of authority."

Sometimes the two different giftings overlap and this makes it hard to distinguish between the diaconate and the episcopate. Usually a person with the pastoral (one who feeds the sheep) calling will also be given episcopate gifts to oversee and rule in the local assembly. Paul was both apostle (diaconate) and elder/overseer (episcopate) to the gentile assemblies.

I hope I haven't bored you with all of this, it has always been a favorite subject of mine!

I would welcome your thoughts on this subject.


Good info! Thanks! NT

Posted by jody on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 6:58 a.m., in response to Church Government, posted by William Eaton on Monday, 28 December 1998, at 10:17 p.m.

Re: Church Government--Evangelism Center or School?

Posted by William Eaton on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:02 a.m., in response to Church Government, posted by William Eaton on Monday, 28 December 1998, at 10:17 p.m.

It goes without saying that there were no seminaries in the NT, and any foundation that was laid in the life of the believer, occurred in the context of the assembly with it's God ordained leadership. Of course there would also be a certain amount of private tutoring between those knowledgeable in the scriptures and those that are "ordained to eternal life," but generally speaking most of the discipleship came from the teaching of the word of God in the assembly.

The NT Church functioned more like a school than a place of evangelism. Evangelism occurred on those occasions where an unbeliever happened into the meeting, but primarily the Church was the place where believers could mature as disciples.

A Church full of mature disciples are able to evangelize much more effectively than if it were left up to the pastor and limited to a Sunday morning message. Mature disciples can evangelize around the clock seven days a week!

It's hard for this maturing process to occur when most of the sermons are geared toward reaching wayward unbelievers that *might* show up on a given Sunday.

Eph 4:11-16, shows that those with the special "word" (diaconate) ministry (See note on Church Government) gifts are to "grow" the saints into mature believers so that they can in turn fulfil their work of ministry. It's a complimentary cycle that leaves no one out. Each individual in the body of Christ has a function that contributes to the well-being of the whole. Those who are called to minister the Word in more of a teaching capacity (the diaconate) are called to teach other believers how to best utilize their gifts, so that they in turn, can minister effectively.

Does your Church focus on disipleship or evangelism?


Re: Church Government--Want to reach a billion souls? Choose your best tool--Body Ministry!

Posted by William Eaton on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:10 a.m., in response to Re: Church Government--Evangelism Center or School?, posted by William Eaton on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:02 a.m.

Let's say that a church had a strategy for reaching 1 billion for Jesus in the next 30 years. This could be accomplished without much of a fuss if we employed the concept of body ministry. Here is the illustration:

If you had an evangelist that was capable of reaching 1000 people a day with the gospel for 30 years (assuming all of them responded to the message) you would have 10,950,000 converts in that period.

If you wanted to have almost 100 times that many in a 30 year period, all you would need is to start with *one* disciple with a mission to convert *one* person to Christ each year!

He could spend the whole year teaching the new convert and then the next year, repeat the process, letting the new convert do the same thing, converting just one person and then teaching the new convert the art of discipling!

This method would assure that the converts had the opportunity to be trained in the faith as well as giving them practical experience in sharing their faith.

Instead of having 11 million at the end of the 30 year period you would have an army of 1,073,741,824!!!

I believe that the Christian church is capable of this, what do you think?


Re: Evangelism vs. Discipleship

Posted by Arden from OR on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:40 p.m., in response to Re: Church Government--Want to reach a billion souls? Choose your best tool--Body Ministry!, posted by William Eaton on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:10 a.m.

You asked the question: Does your church focus on evangelism OR discipleship, and my question is, does it HAVE to be an either/or proposition? Has anyone found a church that actually has a nice balance of BOTH? I guess that is what I yearn for, because my church pays lip service to claiming that both are important, but when the rubber meets the road, it's the evangelism that wins the day over discipleship, at least in the worship services. We have many small groups in which discipleship is also going on, so I don't want to be a malcontent and complain. I'm just curious how others feel.

Re: Evangelism vs. Discipleship

Posted by William Eaton on Wednesday, 30 December 1998, at 6:27 a.m., in response to Re: Evangelism vs. Discipleship, posted by Arden from OR on Tuesday, 29 December 1998, at 10:40 p.m.

Hi Arden,

I guess that was my point... if the primary focus is discipleship--then evangelism will occur (the balance will be there!). The disciples do the evangelizing and those blessed with "Word" ministry gifts feed the flock.

I don't want to over-generalize, but in many Churches today you have evangelists trying to pastor the Church. The Church doesn't need evangelizing, it needs to be built up in the faith. (Eph 4:11f)

In the Eph 4:11f passage, only one of the ministry gifts is given specifically for the purpose of evangelizing (evangelist) the other four ministry gifts (Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers) deal with the heath of the converted.

So you are right, it isn't an either/or proposition, but it seems that presently we don't see a proportional balance in many Churches. (My own opinion, of course!)

Why would anyone need to bring the lost to Church so that John 3:16 could be heard. John 3:16 can be preached by even the newest convert and once converted, that convert can come and hear messages that are designed to strengthen him in the faith.

Billy Graham would have never been effective in his ministry if he functioned like so many today, by finding a Church and spending all of his time evangelizing the faithful. He took his evangelistic message to the lost!

What do you think?