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    Biblical Studies Journal Volume 1, Number 10

    July 20, 1997

    Church Organization

    Organization, a Logical Requirement
    The Church, A Monarchy
    Churches Of Christ Are Autonomous
    Elders In Each Church
    What Are The Functions Of Elders?
    Qualifications Of Elders
    Congregational Responsibility
    Deacons In The Church
    Qualifications Of Deacons
    The Full Leadership

    Organization, a Logical Requirement

    To function properly, every group of persons, small or large, must be organized. Even the husband and wife "group" (just two persons) must be organized, if harmony is to prevail. It should come as no surprise that God should deem it appropriate to organize the Church of Christ.

    The Church of Christ, committed as it is to the restoration plea (which seeks to restore the God-given plan for the church), maintains the same organization as that which characterized the church in New Testament days.

    The determination to maintain that organization grows out of a realization that no man, nor group of men, has ever been granted authority to rule over the church, except in that manner described in the New Testament.
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    The Church, A Monarchy

    The Apostle Paul said, "He (Jesus) is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything" (Colossians 1:18). The Church of Christ has never had but one head---Jesus. Jesus is the King of the church.
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    Churches Of Christ Are Autonomous

    The word autonomous simply means that each local church, or congregation, is self-governed, that each is an independent organization, subject only to the headship of Christ and the word of God.

    In New Testament days there was no hierarchy, no governing body which cared for the needs of the various Churches of Christ. The various congregations all together constituted the "one body" (Ephesians 4:4), but each was independent in the directing of its own work.
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    Elders In Each Church

    Acts 14:23 informs us that "they had appointed... elders in every church." Again, in Titus 1:5, Paul says, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.
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    What Are The Functions Of Elders?

    There are some six words in the New Testament which all describe the same work. The Greek word Episcopos is translated as bishop and as overseer (Acts 20:28; Phillipians 1:1; I Timothy 3:1). The word Presbuteros is translated presbyter and elder (Acts 14:23; I Timothy 5:1, 17; Titus 1:5; I Timothy 4:14). The word Poimeen is translated pastor and shepherd (Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 2:25; I Peter 5:1,2).

    The very names so used indicate something of their work, their responsibilities, their character. They were to be older men (elders). They were to shepherd or pastor the flock (the church). They were to oversee or keep watch over the souls of Christians (Hebrews 13:17), and exercise oversight (I Peter 5:2).

    In the Church of Christ today we have elders who function in the same way that they functioned in New Testament days. We have no hierarchy of any kind, but rather we have elders who carry out the same work as did elders of the first century church.
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    Qualifications Of Elders

    The qualifications for elders are clearly laid out in I Timothy 3:1-7 and in Titus 1:6-9. All too frequently the work of an elder has been given to men who have not been qualified, and the church suffers when this happens. This work was intended by God to be given to older men, not newcomers to the faith, who by reason of age and experience have qualified themselves to be elders. They are married men who have reared their children in such a manner that the children have likewise become Christians. They are men of grave and sober thinking who have conducted their lives in such a manner as to be above reproach.
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    Congregational Responsibility

    The church is commanded to "...appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work" (I Thessalonians 5:12, 13). Again, the church is commanded to "Obey your leaders, and submit to them" (Hebrews 13:17).
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    Deacons In The Church

    In the first century church, deacons were not considered as co-elders, nor a part of what is erroneously called the church board. The word which is translated deacon is from a word which is also translated as minister or servant. Their work was that of helping or serving in the various works that had to be done in the church.

    While deacons were never given the responsibility of overseeing the work of the church (such was the responsibility of the elders), they were nevertheless given the work of carrying out tasks to which they were appointed. As churches grow in size, the various works of those churches grow. Good men can be placed in charge of the various activities of the church. It is in keeping with New Testament practice that Churches of Christ today appoint qualified men to care for these works.
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    Qualifications Of Deacons

    The qualifications for the men who are to be appointed as deacons are recorded in I Timothy 3:8-12. These men also are required to be men of dignity, family men who are capable of managing their families well. Because they are not appointed as overseers, there is no mandate for them to have reared their children to the point where they have become Christians, as is true of men who would be elders. Men with younger children could well qualify to be deacons, if indeed they are able to control their children. The scriptures demand that men who would be appointed as deacons shall be men of good reputation. Basically, the scriptures which deal with these qualifications are simply saying that they should be good men, men of integrity, men who have devoted themselves to the cause of Christ. To be other than that would cast a negative reflection upon the church of our Lord.
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    The Full Leadership

    In Ephesians 4:11, Paul gives the full leadership of the church---apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The works of the apostles and prophets were limited to the first century, but we have their works recorded for us in the New Testament. Evangelists (preachers of the gospel) do not govern the affairs of the church. They are subject to the elders, as are all members of the church. Their particular work is that of proclaiming the gospel. Pastors (elders) are given the responsibility of "ruling" the church. Teachers assist the elders in the educational work of the church.

    The Church of Christ has a simple organization, but this divine plan has no equal. Every attempt to improve upon it has resulted in apostasy.
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    (c) 1997 The Fishinger & Kenny Roads Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

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    Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION. Used by permission.