How Should a Church Be Led?

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One of the major controversies that springs up in a church revolves around how it should be governed or led. Aside from the opinions of men, what does the Bible itself have to say about this subject?

Moses was sent by God to the elders of Israel while they were slaves in Egypt. The children of Israel (the "church in the wilderness") 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. people (the church in the wilderness). Did he do the selection all by himself? No. The people recommended those who they thought were wise and Moses officially appointed them.

But I cannot take care of all your problems and settle all your arguments alone. Each tribe must choose some experienced men who are known for their wisdom and understanding, and I will make those men the official leaders of their tribes.

You answered, "That’s a good idea!" Then I took these men, who were already wise and respected leaders, and I appointed them as your official leaders (Deuteronomy 1:12 - 15, CEV).

Korah's rebellion

Some churches errorneously use Korah's rebellion (Numbers 16) to justify their hierarchical view of how God's people, in modern times, should be governed. They use it teach that the Lord requires average church members to unquestionably obey those placed over them (the "ordained" ministry).

The problem (among many) with the above teaching is that Korah's rebellion had nothing to do with the average Israelite who left Egypt. It concerned Korah and his followers who, as Levities (priests), were already leaders blessed with the task of helping Israel serve the Eternal (Numbers 16:8 - 9). Their rebellious behavior stemmed from their rejection of Aaron as High Priest.

The Punishment of Korah
The Punishment of Korah

You know that the God of Israel has chosen you Levites from all Israel to serve him . . . What more do you want? The Lord has given you a special responsibility, and now, Korah, you think you should also BE HIS PRIEST. You and your followers have rebelled against the Lord. . . (Numbers 16:8 - 11, CEV).

As punishment God destroyed Korah and those who followed him (Jude 10 - 11).

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 (1Samuel 8:4 - 5). 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.

Does God want his church to be ruled "from the top-down?" No! When the first seven deacons of the New Testament were chosen the brethren chose converted men and took them to the apostles to be appointed. The apostles then reaffirmed what the brethren had already decided and laid hands on them (dedicated them publically to serve the church, see Acts 6).

Lording it over

The New Testament warns that those who serve as overseers of the church of God should not "lord it over the flock" (1Peter 5:3). In 2Corinthians 11 Paul corrects the Corinthians for them allowing someone to rule harshly (2Corinthians 11:20). The apostle Paul exercised rule by example.

Those who consider themselves 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. A chuch should be led by factors such as knowledge, overall conversion and the gift to inspire others. The goal of any fellowship should be to promote love and peace, not division and strife.

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