Management structure of the church

126 leadership 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 proves that we need it. The Church of Antioch possessed Teachers as one of her leadership posts (Act 13,1).

Teachers are one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the Church (1Kor 12,28, Eph 4,11). Paul called himself a teacher (1T in 2,7, tit 1,11). Even after many years of faith, believers need teachers (Hebr 5,12). James warned everyone that he was a teacher (Jak 3,1). His comments suggest that the church usually had people who taught.

Christians need sound teaching in the truths of the faith. God knows that we grow at different rates and that we have our strengths in different areas. He knows it, because in the first place he is the one who gave us those strengths. He does not give everyone the same gifts (1Kor 12). He distributes them much more so that we work together for the common good, helping each other instead of segregating and persecuting their own affairs (1Kor 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 run our own office called the "teacher", we expect teachers to be teachers in the church, we expect our pastors to teach (1T in 3,2, 2 Tim 2,2). In Ephesians 4,11, Paul summarizes pastors and teachers into a group by grammatically referring to them as having this role dual responsibilities: to feed and teach.

A hierarchy?

The New Testament does not require the Church to have a special hierarchy of leadership. The Jerusalem church had apostles and elders. The church in Antioch had prophets and teachers (Act 15,1, 13,1). Some New Testament passages call the leaders elders, others call them stewards or bishops, some call them deacons (Act 14,23, Tit 1,6-7, Phil 1,1, 1T in 3,2, Heb 13,17). These seem different words for the same task.

The New Testament does not describe a detailed hierarchy of apostles through prophets, evangelists, pastors, elders, deacons, and lay members. The word "over" will not be the best anyway, because these are all service functions created to help the church. However, the New Testament encourages people to obey the church leaders to work with their leaders (Hebr 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 find, we use a model that can be called an "episcopal" governance model (the episcopal word comes from the Greek word for overseer Episkopos, sometimes translated as a bishop). We believe this is the best way for our communities to have sound teaching and stability. Our episcopal governance model has its problems as well as other models, because even the people on whom they all rely are fallible. We believe that under our historical and geographical circumstances, our organizational style can serve our members better than a congential or presbyterian governance 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 is not one of equality but of cooperation for a common God and for a common purpose. Different members have different strengths and we should use them for the benefit of all (1Kor 12,7).

Ordinarily, the Worldwide Church of God appoints male and female elders to serve as pastoral leaders. It also appoints male and female leaders (who may also be called deacons and deaconesses) by proxy.

What is the difference between "ordination" and "empowerment"? In general, an ordination is public and permanent. A power of attorney can be private as well as public and can be easily revoked. Authorizations are less formal and are not automatically renewable or transferable. Even an ordination can be revoked, but this happens only in exceptional cases.

In the Worldwide Church of God, we have no standardized exhaustive description of any church leadership. Elders often serve as pastors in churches (chief pastor or assistant). Most preach and teach, but not all. Some specialize in administration. Everyone serves under the supervision of the chief pastor (the overseer or episkopos of the church) according to his abilities.

Leaders of church ministries reflect even greater diversity, with everyone (we hope) depending on his ability to serve the needs of the community. The main pastor may authorize these leaders for temporary or indefinite terms.

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 if a member thinks that a pastor is incompetent or is he misleading the sheep? This is where our episcopal governance comes into play. Teaching or leadership issues should first be discussed with the pastor, then with a pastoral leader (the pastor or Episkopos of the pastor 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.

Joseph Tkach

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