Management structure of the church
The head of the church is Jesus Christ. He reveals to the church the will of the Father through the Holy Spirit. Through Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches and empowers the Church to serve the needs of the churches. The Worldwide Church of God seeks to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the care of its churches and in the appointment of elders, deacons and deacons. (Colossians 1,18, Ephesians 1,15-23, John 16,13-15, Ephesians 4,11-16)
Leadership in the church
Since it is true that every Christian has the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost teaches each of us, is there any guidance in the Church at all? Can not it be more Christian to view ourselves as a group of equals where everyone is capable of any role?
Various Bible verses, such as 1. John 2,27 seem to confirm this idea - but only if they are taken out of context. For example, when John wrote that Christians do not need anyone to teach them, did he mean that they would not be taught by him? Did he say, pay no attention to what I write because you do not need me or anyone else as a teacher? Of course he did not mean that.
John had written this letter because these people had to be taught. He warned his readers against Gnosticism, the attitude that salvation through secret doctrines was achievable. He said that the truths of Christianity were already known in the Church. The faithful would not need any secret knowledge besides what the Holy Spirit had already delivered to the church. John did not say that Christians could do without leaders and teachers.
Every Christian has personal responsibilities. Everyone must believe, make decisions about how he should live, decide what he believes. But the New Testament makes it clear that we are not just individuals. We are part of a community. The church is optional in the same sense as responsibility is optional. God lets us choose our actions. But that does not mean that every choice is equally helpful to us, or that everyone is equal to God's will.
Do Christians need teachers? The whole New Testament shows that we need it. The Church of Antioch had teachers as one of its leadership posts (Acts 13,1).
Teachers are one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the Church (1 Corinthians 12,28:4,11; Ephesians). Paul called himself a teacher (1 Timothy 2,7; Titus 1,11). Even after many years of faith, believers still need teachers (Hebrews 5,12). James warned that everyone was a teacher (James 3,1). His remarks indicate that the Church usually had people who taught.
Christians need healthy teaching in the truths of belief. God knows that we grow at different speeds and have our strengths in different areas. He knows because he is the one who gave us these strengths in the first place. He doesn't give everyone the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12). He distributes them much more so that we work together for the common good, helping each other instead of being isolated and pursuing our own affairs (1 Corinthians 12,7).
The one Christians are gifted with greater ability to show mercy, some for spiritual discernment, some for serving physically, some for exhorting, coordinating or teaching. All Christians have the same value, but equality does not mean being identical. We have different abilities, and although they are all important, not all are the same. As children of God, as heirs of redemption, we are equal. But we do not all have the same job in the church. God uses people and does not distribute his gifts as he wanted them, according to human expectations.
Thus, God uses teachers in the church, people who are able to help others learn. Yes, I admit that as an earthly organization, we do not always choose the most gifted and I also admit that teachers sometimes make mistakes. But this does not invalidate the clear testimony of the New Testament that God's Church actually has teachers, that this is a role that we can expect in a community of believers.
Although we do not have our own ministry called "teacher", we expect that there will be teachers in the church, we expect our pastors to know how to teach (1 Timothy 3,2: 2; 2,2 Tim). In Ephesians 4,11, Paul groups pastors and teachers together, naming them grammatically as if this role had two responsibilities: to pasture and to teach.
The New Testament does not prescribe a special leadership hierarchy for the Church. The Jerusalem church had apostles and elders. The church in Antioch had prophets and teachers (Acts 15,1:13,1;). Some passages in the New Testament call the leaders elders, others call them stewards or bishops, some call them deacons (Acts 14,23:1,6; Titus 7: 1,1-1; Philippians 3,2: 13,17; Timothy; Hebrews). These seem to be different words for the same task.
The New Testament does not describe a detailed hierarchy from apostles to prophets to evangelists to pastors to elders to deacons to lay members. The word “about” won't be the best anyway, because all of these are service functions created to help the Church. However, the New Testament requires people to obey Church leaders to work with their leaders (Hebrews 13,17). Neither blind obedience is appropriate, nor extreme skepticism or resistance.
Paul describes a simple hierarchy when he tells Timothy to appoint elders in the churches. As an apostle, church founder, and mentor, Paul was above Timothy, and Timothy himself had the authority to decide who should be an elder or a deacon. But that is a description of Ephesus, not a prescription for all future church organizations. We see no endeavor to bind every church to Jerusalem or to Antioch or Rome. That would have been impractical anyway in the first century.
What can be said about the church today? We can say that God expects the church to have leaders, but he does not specify how those leaders should be called or how they should be structured. He left these details open to govern in the changing circumstances in which the Church is located. We should have leaders in the local communities. But it does not matter what they are called: Pastor Pierce, Elder Ed, Pastor Matson, or the church servant Sam may be equally acceptable.
In the Worldwide Church of God, because of the circumstances we encounter, we use a model that can be called the "episcopal" leadership model (The word episkopal comes from the Greek word for overseer Episkopos, which is sometimes translated as a bishop). We think this is the best way for our communities to have healthy teaching and stability. Our episcopal leadership model has its problems like other models, because the people on whom they all rely are fallible. We believe that under our historical and geographic circumstances, our style of organization can serve our members better than a congrationalist or Presbyterian leadership model.
(Consider that all models of church leadership, be they congruential, presbyterian, or episcopal, can take various forms.) Our form of episcopal governance differs drastically from that of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, or Roman Catholic Lutheran churches).
The head of the church is Jesus Christ and all leaders in the church should strive to seek their will in all things, in their personal lives as well as in the life of the churches. The leaders should be Christlike in their work, that is, they must strive to help others, not to favor themselves. The local church is not a working group that helps the pastor to do his job. Instead, the pastor acts as a promoter to help members in their work - the work of the gospel, the work they should do for Jesus' sake.
Elders and spiritual leaders
Paul compares the church to a body that has many different members. His unity does not consist in uniformity, but in working together for a common God and for a common purpose. Different members have different strengths and we should use them for the benefit of all (1 Corinthians 12,7).
The Worldwide Church of God ordains male and female elders to serve as pastoral leaders. It also appoints male and female leaders by proxy (who can also be called deacons).
What is the difference between "ordination" and "authorization"? Ordination is generally more public and permanent. Authorization can be given privately or publicly and can be easily revoked. Authorizations are less formal and are not automatically renewable or transferable. Ordination can also be revoked, but this only happens in exceptional cases.
In the Worldwide Church of God we have no standardized exhaustive description of every ecclesiastical leadership. Elders often serve as pastors in congregations (chief pastor or assistant). Most preach and teach, but not all. Some specialize in administration. Everyone serves under the supervision of the main pastor (the ward's overseer or episkopos) according to his abilities.
Church service leaders reflect even greater diversity, with everyone (we hope) according to its ability to serve the needs of the community. The pastor in charge can authorize these leaders for temporary tasks or for an indefinite period.
The pastors seem a bit like conductors of an orchestra. They can not force anyone to play the baton, but they can be instructive and coordinating. The group as a whole will do much better work as players pick up the characters they are given. In our faith community, members can not fire their pastor. The pastors are selected and dismissed at the regional level, which includes church administration in the US, in collaboration with local elders.
What happens if a member thinks that a pastor is incompetent or is misleading the sheep? This is where our episcopal leadership structure comes in. Teaching or leadership problems should be discussed with the pastor first, then with a pastoral leader (the pastor's overseer or episcopus in the district).
Just as the churches need local leaders and teachers, pastors also need leaders and teachers. Therefore, we believe that the Global Church of God's headquarters plays an important role in serving our communities. We strive to serve as a source of education, ideas, encouragement, supervision and coordination. Certainly we are not perfect, but we see in it the vocation given to us. It is exactly what we aim for.
Our eyes must be on Jesus. He has work for us and a lot of work is already done. Let us praise him for his patience, for his gifts and for the work that contributes to our growth.