How should a
church be led?
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One of the major controversies that spring up in churches and among believers from time to time revolves around how church is to be governed or lead. Aside from the opinions of men, what does the Bible itself have to say about this subject?
When God created Adam and Eve he told them to rule over the earth, not each other.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
"Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' " (Genesis 1:26-28)
Moses was sent by God to the elders of Israel while they were slaves in Egypt. The children of Israel were organized within their tribes and had seventy elders representing them - and had such an arrangement years later (Exodus 24, Ezekiel 14, 20). Moses eventually appointed people to be over groups of 10, 50, 100, etc. others for a reason. Did he do the selection all by himself? No. The people recommended those who they thought were wise and Moses officially appointed them.
"How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’
So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes. Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him.'" (Deuteronomy 1:12-16).
Some believe that the the rebellion of Korah, delineated in Numbers 16, concerned a group of people who refused to place themselves under the government Moses set up. This is not true. Their rebelliousness stemmed from certain Levites questioning why God had given Aaron a position above them. Moses' comments regarding this uprising are in Numbers 16.
"Moses also said to Korah, 'Now listen, you Levites! Isn't it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord's tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?'" (Numbers 16:8-11, NIV)
The Punishment of Korah
Fresco by Sandro Botticelli
God destroyed Korah and those who followed him.
"But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in THE WAY OF CAIN, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the REBELLION OF KORAH." (Jude 10-11, NKJV)
In 1Samuel 8 the elders of Israel went to Samuel asking for a king. God, though not happy with their decision, gave them what they wanted.
"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, 'Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.' " (1Samuel 8:4-5, NKJV)
It was many year later that the elders decided to make David their king. Although God had anointed him king when he was very young, it was the elders that placed him on the throne.
Deacons in the New Testament
Does God want his church to be ruled "from the top-down?" No! When the first seven deacons of the New Testament church were chosen the BRETHREN chose converted men and took them to the apostles to be appointed.
"Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out FROM AMONG YOU seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business'" (Acts 2:2-4)
What does it mean to LORD it over the CHURCH?
The New Testament warns that those who serve as overseers should not "lord it over the flock" (1Peter 5:3). In 2Corinthians 11 Paul corrects the Corinthians for them allowing someone to rule harshly.
"For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face." (2Corinthians 11:20)
The apostle Paul exercised rule by example. Those who consider themselves ministers and leaders need to yield to members who have more expertise in an area than they do. Church elders do not have the right or authority to dictate how to live your life. Leadership in the church should be determined by factors such as knowledge, overall conversion and the gift to inspire others. The goal of any church should be to promote love and peace, not division and strife.