Sun, Apr 29, 2018
Who Are the Officers of the Church?
by Aaron O'Kelley
Series: The Church in God's Plan

Who Are the Officers of the Church?

Part 7 of 8: The Church in God’s Plan


- Unappreciated Pastor tweet: “Just imagine what a difference we could make for the kingdom if we all committed to win one deacon to the Lord this year.”

- Illustration of a dysfunction in church government that is, sadly, common: deacons vs. pastors

- Pastor = CEO; Deacons = Board of Trustees to whom he must report

- This structure is not biblical, and it can create an unhealthy leadership culture.

- What does the Bible teach about church officers and how they should function?


I. The Office of Apostle

  1. Who were the apostles?

- The Twelve; why did Jesus choose twelve?

- Paul became an apostle

- James (Gal 1:19)

- Possibly Barnabas (Acts 14:14)

  1. What qualified these men to be apostles?

- Acts 1:15-26

- 1 Cor 15:3-9

- Being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, with a commission from him

  1. What was the role of the apostles?

- Power of the keys: Matt 16:18-19

- Proclamation of the gospel, planting, organization, leadership of the church (Eph 2:20)

- In that role, they are authoritative witnesses of Christ

- Their teachings preserved for us in Scripture.

  1. How can a church be apostolic today?

- Roman Catholic view: by submission to a bishop in apostolic succession

- Protestant view: by adherence to the teaching of the apostles (because the office has ended)

II. The Office of Elder

  1. Terminology

- “elder” = “overseer”: Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17-18

- “pastor” or “shepherd” is more rare, but refers to same office (Eph 4:11)

- All three concepts together: 1 Pet. 5:1-4

  1. Qualifications

- 1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9

- Bottom line: mature men who can teach and lead well

- Specifically men: 1 Tim 2:12-14

- Some able to give more time/energy to teaching, but not in a distinct office: 1 Tim 5:17

  1. Plurality

- Acts 14:23

- Why plural elders? Accountability, encouragement, mutual oversight

- The “celebrity pastor” problem of our culture; pastorate is over-professionalized


  1. Authority

- Elders do not exercise the keys of the kingdom on their own; see Matt 18:17-20

- Congregation has the authority of command

- Elders have authority of counsel, equipping church members to do their jobs (Eph 4:11-12)

- Submission to elders’ authority: receiving instruction/oversight to do your job well.

- A healthy church will have strong trust between elders and congregation.

III. The Office of Deacon

  1. The need for and role of deacons

- Acts 6:1-7; a potential divide in the church; could have hindered ministry of the Word

- Deacons appointed to care for physical needs of the church

- They are not a board that governs the church, to which the pastor reports.

- How are deacons different from all Christians? Authority over church’s resources

  1. Qualifications

- 1 Tim 3:8-13

- Similar to elder qualifications, but no requirement for teaching ability

- Female deacons? (v. 11) Arguments in favor:

(1) “likewise” in vv. 8 and 11 seem to introduce two (similar) offices

(2) no possessive noun or pronoun is used

(3) no mention of elders’ wives (which would presumably have similar requirements)

(4) the reference to Phoebe as a diakonos in Rom 16:1

- Deacons are not expected to teach or exercise authority over the congregation.

- However, if that is what deacons do in a church, it would be unwise to appoint women.

- Gregg Allison’s model of church governance: “a plural-elder-led, deacon and deaconess-served, congregational church with strong connections.”

- Importance of each element:

(1) Plural-elder-led: mature, gifted men who share the burden of leading

(2) Deacon and deaconess-served: physical needs cared for, unity protected, elders free for prayer and the ministry of the Word

(3) Congregational: exercising the authority Christ has delegated

(4) With strong connections: seeking to enhance mission and fellowship with other churches