Leaders - introduction.

This page is fairly long compared to other pages. It was written compassionately as churches inadvertently get themselves in a bit of a mess on this topic. In essence post-modernism has a lot to answer for in blurring the boundaries and greying God’s word concerning the subject of leaders. As you will see from this page the word of God is actually sensible and level headed concerning the topic of leaders. The text gives plain qualifications for who can and cannot be a leader. We can be confident that by adhering to Bible guidelines we would overnight solve many of the issues churches have inherited from what is in essence a post-modern approach to a non-postmodern document.

Leaders - a term for eight services which cross over in practice.

New Testament leaders are not leaders in the hierarchical or dictatorial sense that we might find in a business, they are example setters and protectors of doctrine. Let’s look to see why. We’ll do this by looking at how leaders are born and the different areas in which they 'set example' and what authority they do and do not have. One area of consideration is that some kinds of leaders are chosen by God and others by the people and it is vital to know the difference. One interesting factor of our call as Christians is that we are called to be multifaceted and this also exists in various types of leadership.

Choosing of leaders

The choosing of leaders is a fascinating and sometimes neglected topic. In the New Testament period certain types of leaders are chosen by God through people who wait on God (properly), they are not chosen by people. There is a sense in which they are separate from the apostles and itinerant teachers. 

In the Old Testament leaders were naturally heads of clans, containing families who had heads of households. We have to be careful not to confuse the two different dispensations of Old and New Testament, because each had quite differing outpourings of the Holy Spirit. The reality stands that for both cases the choosing of leaders was not simply a business or cognitive process. Leaders had to be filled with holiness, fidelity, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and show evidence of spiritual fruit and commitment to God throughout the family including to their children.

One aesthetic consideration is that it is always Christ who builds the church, not holders of authority. Christ said he will build the church. Even in the Old Testament - God ordered the way things were to be, delivered through the prophet Moses. So it is vital that God chooses leaders.

Quick important mention of Church...

It would be error not to briefly cite the concept of church. because the idea of leadership fits into, and grows on top of what people understand to be ‘church’. If the paradigm for church is not correct nothing really makes proper sense anyway.

The correct Greek word for church is better understood as gathering (coming out of the home), it is not a hierarchical system behind weekly meetings in a civic building. NT gatherings are from the home, and this feeds into public meetings (which could be the regular Sunday morning arrangement) NOT the other way around. Then itinerant teachers and apostles visit these self governed (Holy Spirit) meetings. Please don't misunderstand this as a condemnation of the Sunday morning civic styled meeting: just be clear about what it is and is not. It is a public or temple type meeting it is not the heart of New Testament Church. In many respects what people see as church today actually represents a mixture of an Old Testament temple pattern and a Roman governmental structure from the Emperor Constantine: rather than the free flowing direction from the Holy Spirit found in the early apostolic period when churches came out of the home. In both of these errors there is a barrier between God and the people. This feeds into what theologians call ‘cycles of discipline’. Click here for more information on church.

Satan is clever and has deceived many to establish trendy new names that re-develop the roles we have from God, taught by Paul (as shown below). These re-worked roles / titles are fairly world-widely used today, they include the following: the cell, team, leadership, home group, house group, guardians, the overseers. Sadly, while the ‘holders' may not be aware of the deception (and many are not), these structures really amount to subtle counterfeit models like (a) dictatorship (in the case of some single pastor roles) or (b) oligopoly (in the team set-ups), these actually ‘feel’ relatively free. This is not meant to be offensive or an accusation. The simple fact is ‘deception' means people don't realise its happening. If anyone wants to be contentious on this matter, ask yourself this; where is the deception in your church? You can’t know, because if you did it wouldn't be deception, so our safety is only found both adhering to Bible guidelines and listening to God. Sadly, it is this false teaching pattern that builds many churches, rather than allowing Christ his rightful position of building the church, as played out in the New Testament gatherings - the God selection process. The fruit is that like the children of Israel in the desert, they never reach the promised land and instead just go round in circles following a stick, a cloud or a pillar of fire (essentially magical types of signs) instead of the intamate New Testament call to hear the Spirit of God. See more on church. 

Note: It is flawed thinking to assume that because blessing and fruit exists in a church that this is evidence of the right way (this fruit is merely because there are good, wonderful people there doing good things for the gospel). Furthermore, the Bible clearly teaches us that God is graceful and merciful, he moves and blesses anybody who calls on his name, wherever they are: in freedom or captivity - prince or prisoner. The real choice we have is this: do we choose the good or the best? Do we need to repent of our control, and our usurping of Christ’s building of the church?

Back to leadership…

Leadership in gatherings: Eight Titles with specific qualifications

(Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons).

We have to pay special attention to the Ephesians. 4:11 pattern, which discusses a wide range of leaders (example setters): apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons. These differing offices are God’s final orders before the Millennial reign of Christ at his second coming. This is God’s pattern, anything else is sin (sin is absence from God’s perfect plan).

What are Apostles?

An apostle is not a high ranking general, it means "one who has been sent” as an ambassador or representative. Jesus said that a "messenger" is not greater than the one who sends him (John 13:16). The NIV calls them "representatives" (2 Cor. 8:23) the general function of an apostle. (Phil. 2:25).

Jesus was an apostle (Heb. 3:1). The twelve disciples were also apostles (Mark 3:14...). While disciples do not have the same authority as Jesus, the same Greek word is used. Barnabas and Paul were sent out and called apostles (Acts 14:4, 14).

The twelve disciples and Paul used the same term apostolos as the name of their leadership type ‘office' in the church (Acts 15:23; Rom. 11:13; Gal. 1:1...). However, authority came with the sending — a messenger sent by Jesus Christ the head of the church.

Apostles or not?

James and Timothy may have been apostles too, though sometimes this is not clear in all cases. (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19), (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1), (1 Thess. 2:6) either-way this may have been in a general sense as messenger or representative. Rom. 16:7 is debated concerning Andronicus and Junias (or Junia) as either apostle or esteemed highly by the apostles.

False Apostles

Paul attacked false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2), calling them 'super-apostles' (2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11). Although Paul was the least of the apostles he was not inferior to self-proclaimed apostles (1 Cor. 15:9). In practice there may appear on the surface a fine line between the self appointed and passionate originators of revival: The fruit is in the fruit.

God Appointed

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 

1 Corinthians 12:28 (ESV)

As part of the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20; 3:5), it is vital that we see that God appointed / laid down / gave some to be apostles (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11) some to be… and others to be… and so on. Naturally the Apostolic role features prominently in this subject but not exclusively. While some ambiguity in the Greek could be read into the above texts, yet even after Christ ascended, the disciples still called to God so that new positions were chosen by Christ (Acts 1:21-25). "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show (Grk. Anadeiknumi) us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Contextually this is confirmed by the Old Testament model that God chooses, shown through the activities of prophets and Kings.

While talking about God appointment it is useful to point out the seriousness of God election, as for example ‘deacons' are chosen by people, only initially administrated by apostolic leadership. They laid hands on deacons whom the people had chosen (Acts 6:6) and they made decisions with the elders (Acts 15:22). Finally it is critical that all roles are met with Bible (not man’s) qualifications.

Apostle Qualifications 

The requirements to be regarded as an apostle is to intimately know the Lord and raise up gatherings. Also, converts are a "seal" of apostleship, evidence that at least to them is proof (v. 2). Characteristics that mark an apostle is signs, wonders and miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). Apostles preach the gospel as faithful messengers of the Lord as official representatives of Jesus Christ.

Prophets activity

God appoints prophets not leaders organising a prophetic team in a church (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Only some prophets make predictions (Acts 11:27; 21:10). We must understand that Biblical prophecy is set and already prophesied so a NT prophet has to be different from and OT one. NT prophets are thus more like inspired teachers, seers, warners, watchers, encouragers and those who strengthen; having wisdom and insight into situations and peoples hearts (Acts 15:32). In Antioch, prophets worked with teachers (Acts 13:1). Philip's four daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9). Paul mentions a prophetic message accompanying Timothy's ordination (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14).

On the Day of Pentecost, people spoke in tongues, Peter connected to a prophecy about men and women prophesying (Acts 2:17-18; cf. Acts 19:6).

Prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 11:5). A prophet/prophetic person is "spiritually gifted" (1 Cor. 14:37). Paul urged the Corinthians believers to desire this gift (vv. 1, 39). Interestingly by the manner in which Paul used his words, this focussed on prophecies which speak to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort, edifying the church" (1 Cor. 14:3-4). Also, prophecy is for instruction (v. 31), so God inspires prophetic messages to build and help the church. Clearly there are no groundbreaking prophecies that refer to the future as these have already been written. So any predictive prophecies are limited to people, their lives and the micro workings of gatherings (church). People who challenge prophetic people with the line that "a true prophet predicts future events" do not understand the role of meta and micro prophecy; meta prophecy is finished and written down in the Bible, to add to meta prophecy is blasphemy as cited at the end of Revelation. 

So, prophecy, although vital, has its limitations. "We know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 13:9). One day prophecies will cease (v. 8). So love is much more important (v. 2). Everyone should love, but not everyone has been given the gift of prophecy. "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us" (Rom. 12:6).

Paul gave instructions about how prophecy should be delivered decently and in order. (1 Cor. 11:4-5) and clearly social customs come into play here. People should take turns (1 Cor. 14:29-31). 

"Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."

In summary, God inspires prophets to help the church (today) through comforting, edifying, encouraging, instructing, strengthening and occasionally by predicting micro events that cannot contradict the meta prophesies of the Bible. Prophecy link.


In general, like all the eight callings evangelists are not an administrative rank or within a hierarchy, because there is a New Testament context that we must all do these things, in some capacity. It is error to think that Ephesians 4 is about church-government hierarchy (Esp. Eph. 4:11). Although the apostles had more authority this is shepherd authority, to do with example advice and warning authority. Paul is not prescribing a hierarchy, he is citing activities in unity of the body or Christ encouraging the perfection of saints, and the unity of faith with tender heartedness and ‘love’: the most perfect way.

Paul cites diversity of gifts (from God - we have nothing to boast) as context; a value is given in terms of 1 Cor. 12:28, mentioning the first three gifts: "first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” and so on… Interestingly the category of evangelist is not mentioned.

Paul's discussion on spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10), shows little concern about gift value because of the 1 Cor 13 (love) principle. Paul is in fact against attempts to rank the gifts, saying that one's gift doesn't make anyone more important than others, as every gift is from God and for the common good; to serve others.

So what is an evangelist, a word only occurring three times in the New Testament, suggesting that it is not a formal title? Philip was called an evangelist (Acts 21:8). That means he ‘did' evangelism; he preached the gospel (Acts 8:5-40), this is not evidence that he had any administrative authority. So, ‘the work of an evangelist’ was evangelism, preaching the gospel. Philip, a deacon could do the work of an evangelist; so too Paul an apostle or a pastor, like Timothy. Paul said "do the work of an evangelist" as a way of exhorting Timothy to do evangelism not as a special title.

We must remember God gives (Eph. 4:11) evangelists to the church. God gives people who can preach the gospel with special skill. People gifted in evangelism do not have to be ordained or given authority because they have the authority of Christ as all believers do. Evangelism is therefore like an 'essential subset/routine’ an expectation, with other gifts. Ordination and administration involves other gifts and the Bible gives clear guidelines there.  


The word pastor occurs once in the New Testament in a few translations (Eph. 4:11). However, the Greek word poimen (a herdsman, esp. a shepherd) is mainly translated ‘shepherd' as seen in the ESV version for example in Luke 2:8 which uses the word literally because of the context of shepherds looking after sheep. "There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.".

Shepherd is commonly used as a figure of speech concerning spiritual leadership. For example Jesus considered himself a shepherd (John 10:11-14). For example, in compassion he said that the people were "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36). Jesus treated his own disciples as sheep of a flock (Matt. 26:31; Luke 12:32). Interestingly Jesus had other sheep, too (John 10:16). This passage has philosophical, existential and geographically cosmic questions that we may never know the fullness on. However, the Bible presents Jesus as the great shepherd, and we are his sheep of this earthy pasture (Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25).

Jesus, using the verb for shepherding (poimaino), told Peter 'to feed, to tend to the flock, keep the sheep' (John 21:16). Also, Paul told the elders (Ephesians) expressely that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers (Episkopos) of a flock. Paul strongly encouraged the elders to shepherd by feeding the ekklesia / church (Acts 20:28). interestingly (regarding leadership) Peter told the elders to shepherd the flock, through oversight - not by control (anagkastos: by force or constrain). (1 Pet. 5:2).

So how should pastors ‘shepherd' their flocks? 

The verb can mean to rule with great power, as only Christ will upon his return (Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). The dialogue being that Christ 'will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats' (Matt. 25:32). Sending some to distruction and others to eternal life.

Conversely, Jesus Christ will also be a shepherd of great gentleness: "The Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Peter admonishes that gathering (church) shepherds (pastors) must imitate Jesus’ the servant (shepherd - not end of the age judge) and serve willingly. To not be greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:2-3). We can safely conclude, that we are to be good peaceful example setting shepherds. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). "Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all" (Matt. 20:27; Mark 10:44).

The practical role of shepherd is 'a watcher’ is one who watches for enemies trying to attack the flock, and to defend the sheep from attackers (wolves and lions), to be in the line of fire and to heal and rescue wounded and sick sheep, and to seek out and save lost or trapped sheep. In essence to love individuals and in the flock and earn their trust, a micro and macro focus, so that they can serve more.

Useful words and meanings:

Overseer: Episkopos 

  1. a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian or superintendent
  2. the superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian church

Shepherd and Pastor: Poimen

  1. a herdsman, esp. a shepherd
    1. in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow
  2. metaph.
    1. the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church
      1. of the overseers of the Christian assemblies
      2. of kings and princes


Jesus was called ‘teacher' by his followers. As the centre of creation and as creator he is the perfect example of all types of leader: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, elder, servant and teacher. He presented himself teacher to his disciples, who in turn called him teacher, again the community  crowds and even his enemies called him teacher as Rabbi (Greek for scholarly teacher) John 1:38; 20:16.

Jesus spent a huge amount of his time teaching his disciples, the crowds, and from within the temple, and the synagogues. He also taught in public spaces; in the towns, villages on mounts and by lakes. "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus said. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple" (John 18:20).

Paying it forward Jesus commanded his disciples to also teach (Matt. 28:20). "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42). Paul taught in Ephesus "publicly and from house to house" (Acts 20:20). He called himself a teacher, and he told Timothy to teach (1 Tim. 2:7; 4:11-13; 2 Tim. 1:11; 4:2).

Paul encouraged the Colossians to teach one another (Col. 3:16). Interestingly longstanding persons should be able to teach. In Hebrews we find a curious scripture that intimates that after a time people should teach; "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Heb. 5:12). 

The Rom. 12:7 didasko - didaskalia dynamic

Didasko is the Greek word here it means didactic (moral instruction with an ulterior motive) discourses. So this is not simply a 'professional educator’ like an english teacher, it is someone who actually connects with in the case of scripture doctrine - the motive. 

Didaskalia the next word in this scripture is to do with doctrine.

Paul’s letter to the Roman’s encourages the gift of teaching, (Rom. 12:7). Although not everyone may teach, i.e not everyone has the position of  'teacher' (1 Cor. 12:29). The writer James warns us severely that;  "Not many of you should presume to be teachers... because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly" (Jam. 3:1).

Excepting that God appoints teachers in the church (1 Cor. 12:28); God (not man’s decision) supplies teachers to equip the saints (Eph. 4:11). Fundamentally we must remember that it is ONLY GOD who can select teachers as it is not an administrative office - and also it comes with special judgement). So we have a situation here that a person who knows God and doctrine should teach. The best person (as John Calvin indicates) would be a person who has had firstly a revival life experience with Christ through the Holy Spirit and have this underpinned by an academic learning as a scholar of the Bible, to convey proper doctrine. Pause for thought: In many churches the word theology is a shunned concept, but John Calvin presented that theology must not be studied if the recipient has not had a personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. Thirdly though less important someone who may have actually been a professional teacher in some capacity, though we must remember that God selects, not a leader or a leadership team.

An important consideration is that it is the Holy Spirit that teaches (Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:13; 1 John 2:27). Furthermore, that the Bible itself teaches (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). This feeds into the notion that it is God who is building the church through Christ and that His layer of guidance and teaching is primary and man’s is secondary. On the subject of 'overseers’ scripture states that they must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Timothy for example, was warned by Paul to understand his doctrine, which was obviously connected to his teaching. "Watch your life and doctrine closely" (1 Tim. 4:16). Evidently we see that false doctrine coming from  false teachers occurred and would occur as history progressed because Paul is speaking to Timothy for now and the future. 

We are frequently warned about false teachers and false teachings. Jesus warned about the teachings of the Pharisees; later, some of them taught that gentiles had to be circumcised (Acts 15:1). John warned about idolatrous and immoral teachings (Rev. 2:14-15; 2:20-24). Keep away from false teachers, Paul warned (Rom. 16:17). "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him" (2 John 10).

Concerning the words ‘teacher' and 'teaching’ Paul warned about numerous winds of doctrine, human ideas, commands and teaching invariably things taught by demons. (Eph. 4:14; Col. 2:22; 1 Tim. 4:1). Also, Paul writing to Timothy said that men will not put up with correct teaching, but instead suiting their own desires gather around them teachers to say what their ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3). Writing to the Hebrews he says; "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings" (Heb. 13:9).

What should be taught?

So what should be taught? First, Christ and Christ crucified, simply because it is the single most important teaching from Genesis to Revelation in reference to the sacrificial Lamb principle. Old Testament references to Messiah are numerous including for example 'the one who will crush the serpents head' (Satan), the sacrificial servant, man of sorrows, and the Lord and my redeemer. 

The Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 13:12; 18:25; 28:31). 

The good news (2 Tim. 1:11). "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (Tit. 2:1).

Vital Doctrines (Heb. 6:2). 

The faith (1 Tim. 2:7). and its truths (1 Tim. 4:6). 

The way of God (Matt. 22:16). 

Obedience to Jesus (Matt. 28:20). 

The word of God (Acts 18:11). 

Life in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 4:17). 

The teachings given by Paul (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 2:2). 

Elementary truths of God's word (Heb. 5:12). 

To conclude on teachers while Teachers (with a capital 'T’) are only chosen by God, there is a sense that we must all teach. In essence good teaching is to pass on something better than the recipient, audience or congregation knew before - it is therefore Good News. Importantly professional teachers, or experts in their field(s) of study play a vital role in enriching communities, (and the church). Warning! A delineation should be made between someone’s ‘wisdom’ from their testimony (their gospel and thus a kind of teaching) and someone who is an expert in Biblical studies, conversely someone who properly understands sound doctrine from excellent hermeneutical principles. These are clearly two different kinds of teaching. One criticism of modern church movements is that they blur these boundaries to a point at which everyone can have a go… This is bad for the church and bad for the 'have a go teacher’ because God’s judgement on teachers is severe indeed, because teachers shape the path of peoples lives.


Hierarchical churches appoint a bishop to each county for example to administer authority over the pastors, vicars and leaders in the city of that region. A bishop in most denominations is a person who directs to some extent the churches in their region. In practice this happens from their congregation which is normally the largest in a city.

Interestingly the New Testament doesn’t display this structure above, no surprise there! For example, we have more than one bishop listed as overseer (NIV) in Ephesus, and again more than one in Philippi (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1). Paul sent for the elders, called them all bishops (episkopos), requesting they be ‘pastoring' (by the use of the word flock) of the gathering [ekklesia] (Acts 20:28). So in the Greek we are assured that Bishop means bishop or overseer, one who also pastors in practice. Being literal with the Greek meaning of the word ‘episkopos' it means an overseer. One charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done correctly, a curator, guardian or superintendent, elder, or overseer of a Christian gathering.

Paul writing to Timothy, listed qualifications for a bishop (1 Tim. 3:2) but not for an elder, despite Ephesus having elders (1 Tim. 5:17). On Crete Paul commissioned Titus to ordain elders (Tit. 1:5). These qualifications for elders are as follows: blameless person, with one wife and children with faith (Pistos) (Tit. 1:6) these standards feed into the qualifications for bishops (vs. 7-9) where he adds a person not being ‘authades’ Grk. (self pleasing  self willed and arrogant), nor greedy for money, given to wine, or easy to anger. Friendly and hospitable and here is the key thing, and we really need to understand the main thing here: sound doctrine in v 9. One who hold fast to the true word, as he has been taught (doctrine educated). Why? So that he may be able to deliver sound doctrine, Biblical truth to encourage and defend the 'gainsayers’. So the difference between an elder and bishop is thus: A bishop must include the qualifications of an elder and be evermore conscious of their morality but moreover be educated in true doctrine, for the reason to exhort or convince anyone when needed.

While titles overlap in Paul’s writing it is prudent to remind ourselves that a bishop is in essence a loving and educated (concerning the scriptures and doctrine), overseer, and a supervisor. A person who watches over others (Acts 20:28). The way in which the bishop's authority is manifest seems to be to do with exhorting and convincing of doctrine and as a defender. The obvious example being that a shepherd watches over the sheep. Jesus Christ is both "Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Pet. 2:25). Later in Peter’s letter he told elders to be shepherds, "serving as overseers" (1 Pet. 5:1-2).

What do bishops/overseers do? We see from the Biblical qualifications, that they set example, inside the church (1 Pet. 5:2-3) and toward broader society (1 Tim. 3:7). They must be educated in sound doctrine and able to teach (v. 2), as teaching is one of their functions in the body. In the same way that they manage their own human family they must serve the church (1 Tim. 3:4-5). We get a picture that if there is a happy Godly family, happy marriage and children who follow the Lord these elements prove that the foundations for influencing the broader body are fitting and in place for a person to be a bishop. Who cannot be a bishop? If we take scripture literally is must be not be someone with a broken marriage, or a family having children who are not believers, or an immoral person, or a person who does not understand scripture in either milk doctrine or meat doctrine levels. While to be a bishop is a noble task the Bible highlights some very challenging guidelines as qualification.


The word 'elder' is the main translation from the Greek word presbuteros, meaning 'older one’, a person who teaches good things. One example of the general use of this word is the prodigal son's older brother cited as presbuteros (Luke 15:25). Patriarchs and prophets are ‘presbuteros' in both age and rank (Heb. 11:2). The twenty four heavenly elders have this same word use (Rev. 4:4). The word is used in the Pauline context too (Acts 11:30; 15:2). Finally, Peter and John called themselves 'fellow elders’ with the word sumpresbuteros (1 Pet. 5:1), (2 John 1; 3 John 1) ‘presbuteros’. As an aside, it is worth pointing out that In classical Roman in around AD30 life expectancy was between 45-47 years of age… Middle aged by todays standards... 

Presbuteros can also refer to a range of ages too since 1 Tim. 5:1-2 deals with younger men, older and younger women. Tit. 2:2-3 is specific to older ambassador types with the use of the word presbutes (meaning old aged man), and Presbutis (meaning an aged woman).

Since this topic started with the concept of 'God or man' chosen leaders it is interesting to note that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in each of the gatherings (ekklesia) (Acts 14:23). Also, Paul told Titus to appoint elders in all the towns in Crete (Tit. 1:5). Apart from this being an example of elders being appointed by man, another vital dynamic emerges concerning the nature of ‘church’. We see an excellent example of the unification of one body in one town or city. This town/city culture includes many gatherings of which there are a number of elders in each gathering. So the town and city are one body, and here is the key thing ALL of the gatherings have their own elders. It is clear that many churches today have this model completely upside down. While it may be impossible to merge all denominations together we do have here another example that a degree of authority exists both from the apostle and also individually as elder types in town city gatherings: ekklesia.

Paul and Barnabas seek advice from apostles and elders: On the topic of authority, the elders in Jerusalem, held the function of examiners (Grk. eido) in conjunction with the apostles (Acts 15:6-7), One point about the word disputing in v 7. (Grk. suzetesis), it means; mutual questioning, disputation, discussion. So there is two way dialogue and the conveyance of doctrine. This conveyance of doctrine is approved again in Acts 16:4 where we see the Greek word dogma (which literally means doctrine, decree or ordinance). Interestingly, in verse 21 we see another semantically related word ethos (Grk.) meaning custom: its usage being perscribe by law, institute rite or prescription. 

Paul does refer to elders ruling in 1 Tim. 5:17. The word used here is proistemi (Grk.) and it means; to set or place before to set or be over, as in to superintend, preside over. To be a protector or guardian. To give aid, to care for and give attention to. Finally to profess honest occupations. The context of favour in Paul’s eyes is doctrine! But, here the greek word is didaskalia (not dogma) which instead means; teaching and instruction surrounding doctrine / learning. We find the same Greek word in 1 Tim. 3:4-5, 12 concerning the qualifications of a bishop (and decons in v.12). The home being a foundational proving ground before responsibility be given elsewhere. We must remember that mercy, dilligence and humility are the cloak of all leadership as described in Rom. 12:8

As a gathering we all are called to show confidence and highest regards for leaders and we are to submit to their authority (Biblically meaning delivery and example and protection concerning doctrine), because they keep watch over the gatherings and have to give an account to God for there work. (Heb. 13:17, 1 Thess. 5:12, 1 Tim. 5:17).

If you are dealing with elders for correction Paul told Timothy this, "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses" (1 Tim. 5:19). If the charge is true, it must be dealt with publicly: "Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning" (v. 20).

Breaches of authority occur when leaders use their authority for self-service, and Peter instructed them to serve as overseers — not because they had to, but because they were willing. God wants us never to be greedy for money, but eager to serve, never lording it over one another, but instead being active examples to the flock for healing, guarding and being accountable to God. (1 Pet. 5:2-3), (1 Tim. 3:5, Jam. 5:14, Heb. 13:17, NKJV).


The english word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos meaning: assistant: someone fairly vital to the work of other. In both the Greek word and the ekklesia context we find its use, denotes a specialised ‘office in the gathering’ examples can be found in Phil. 1:1 and 1 Tim. 3:8-13. So deacon means one who executes the commands of another.

The word diakonos and the verb diakoneo can be understood as manual labour. In 1 Pet. 4:11-12 we see a distinction between those who perform speaking duties and those who serve (diakoneo). Specifically, Romans 12:7 shows those who have been given a gift of manual service (diakonia). For example, the seven men of Acts 6:3 are understood as deacons as they served by waiting on tables (v. 2) (diakoneo). We can see therefore that deacon refers to 'physical service’ as its core duties.

The qualifications of a deacon are specific to the faith and doctrine, no doubt because some tasks are teaching. 1 Tim. 3:9 states that they must: "...keep hold of the deep truths of the faith”. This is unequivocally identified as having doctrinal accuracy. Furthermore like other leadership roles they must manage their children and households well as seen in verse 12. The qualification described here are the same for bishops excepting that bishops must also manage the church in some capacity.


To end, it is worth reiterating that they are many kinds of leaders with differing responsibilities and qualifications. It is fairly important not to read the Bible and see the church through a post-modern lens. The tendency in doing this is that it results in picking and pulling at what parts of the text feels right to do rather than simply hearing and obeying God’s word, resulting in missing what he has for His Church: that He is building.

Appendix: Women in leadership

As a theologian, follower of Jesus Christ and someone involved in national and academic debates regarding women in leadership. I have to say that I have academic friends and spirited colleagues who fall on either-side of this discussion: that is wether or not a woman can teach and or have authority over men in the church. So clearly there are different views on the matter till kingdom come. 

I will say is that while there is no male or female in the heavenly state. In the end game all are non-gender (in the non-neuter sense) brothers and co-heirs with Christ. However, it is also ignorance to assume that because of this 'on earth' that men and women have the same skill sets / God mandates. It is even unscientific to assume they have the same left or right brain dominance, or the same varitety of strengths and weakness across the sexes: notwithstanding mandate from God. Also, there exists different criteria for married and celibate individuals, which is oftern confused in the 1 Timothy 2 predicament.

1 Tim 2 Predicament.

In 1 Tim 2v12 the Greek word translated to woman means wife and man means husband so this context is only in relation to the home, the reference being childbirth. So, no man has authority over any woman. The word has two meanings woman or wife, but wife is the corect one for this passage because the passage is about Adam and Eve (a union) and about childbirth (marrage offspring). 

"I do not permit a woman (Gune - wife) to teach or to exercise authority over a man (husband); rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman (wife) was deceived and became a transgressor"

If one desires to explore this debate an orthodox methodology is the safest path for both sexes. 

1) Roles and gifting of men and women. With serious mindfulness consider how these differences pan out in the context of leadership, Bible teaching and prophecy. Looking at the Eden text we see that perhaps it was Eve’s gifting and powers of lateral thinking and imagination that inadvertently altered God’s command. Adam having a limp wristed moment failed to protect? Was it this that engendered the deception the apostle Paul describes? Conversly this very ability might make a woman more suited for being a prophet; Deborah being the obvious example. In fact the scriptures mention again and again women who were gifted in prophecy. 

2) What is church? This plays a fundamental factor because leadership is 'read and understood' through the 'context of Church'  as seen in the New Testament. Because, most churches don't function as a proper New Testament body anyhow, proper leadership cannot always function properly. So the debate can become mute and a waste of time because the foundations for which NT leadership occurs are not in place to begin with. Paul's views on women should be understood from the NT context of gatherings from the home, and how that authority originates. This is actually a very fruitful line of enquiry that is beyond this section on leadership in general. 

3) Inspired Word. Most importantly, we should consider to what extent we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. The reason is this, that whatever we believe should then be used across the whole text, rather than a pic-n-mix approach to Bible interpretation

From many discussions there is fairly heated retort that draws in a 'contemporary reading' of the scriptures that many of the same protagonists would never dare use for other key areas of the Bible. People sometimes have 'one rule for this' and 'another for that’. This of course is a post-modern Western condition. In honesty, we don't have the luxury of playing with the Bible like that. We can’t use an 'orthodox exegetical hermeneutic' for one Bible concept and then a 'post-modern' eisegetical methodology for another. Ultimately this an attempt to control God. I.e introducing non-orthodox prepositions for another. This is not to be confused with exegetical practice.

One thing to take away from this:

We must remember that leaders must fulfil strict Biblical qualifications and be chosen by God for certain roles and in other cases selected by the people for administrative tasks. This assumes that a gathering already really and honestly knows how to hear God in the first place. 

Overview from Eph. 4:11-16:

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers"

"To prepare God's people for works of service”

"So that the body of Christ may be built up”

"Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming”

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ”

"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work

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