Biblical Method of Church Leadership
Introduction ………………………………………………………………...................................... 2
Analysis of Book of Acts …………………………………………………………………………. 3
Jerusalem …………………………………………………………………...................................... 3
Antioch ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 3
Pisidia Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe………………………………………………………….. 4
Is Pastoral Ministry a Collective Leadership? ................................................................................. 5
Supporting Biblically-Based Principle of Church Leadership ……………………………………...7
Collegiality ………………………………………………………………….................................... 8
Timothy and Titus, missioners or church leaders? …….................................................................. 10
Today there are several questions about how and how many people should lead the church
which need to be answered. It is not infrequent that church leaders assert that the New Testament
does not provide a clear answer to these questions and believe that every church (community) must
decide it for itself.1 Some reference Timothy and Titus as examples of one-man leadership while
others opt for a collective leadership. This question is the object of investigation of this work.
At the moment we have quite a lot sources to study the situation in late 1st – 2nd centuries.
We can use works by Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, The Didache, etc. However
the situation in regard to church management changed considerably by early 2nd century because
many Apostles had passed away and it was very difficult to suppress spreading heresy. In order to
reinforce traditional theology and oppose heresies, church leaders were trying to put their advocates
in the bishop positions. One faithful bishop with a sensible teaching could guarantee of a „proper
teaching‟ for an entire city or even a region. These facts had a considerable impact on the question
raised in the article. The goal of this article is to investigate the structure of the New Testament
church (which dates back to the middle of the 1st century) and targeted at people who use „the New
Testament model‟ when it comes to church management. Thus, our investigation will be based on
the New Testament only.
Church management has been the object of investigation for almost two thousand years.
Thus, there is not much room for new discoveries here. Every leader has a lot of materials at their
disposal provided by eminent scholars. Some excerpts of such works are presented in this article.
We intentionally look for direct quotation to avoid distortion of ideas of competent authors. For
convenience an author‟s name is specified in the beginning of a paragraph. Such a structure appears
to be more convenient to read this material.
See the book by James D. Danna „Unity and Diversity in the New Testament‟ (1997), M.: BBI
Analysis of Book of Acts
In Acts 2 (approximately year 30 AD) we can see that at the very beginning it was 12
apostles who managed the Church in Jerusalem. Later 7 elders joined them (Acts 6:1-6) and by
years 43-45 – prophets and presbyters (49-50). Close study of this chapter gives understanding of
relations between church leaders. We can see no hierarchy when it comes to church managing, all
the participants of the discussion are equal. There is no one who would be superior over others.
Is it possible to tell who of the two, Peter or Jacob, had the right for final decision? They both had
the same authority, did not they? They both led the church together with presbyters and other
apostles. They supplemented each other. Acts 11:1-2 is also of some interest. Assuming that Paul
was not just a Leader of Jerusalem Church but a superior with incontestable authority, how would
his brother dare to reproach him for his missionary work for which he had been called for by God?
By year 57 all the apostles had left Jerusalem except Jacob who continued to be a Church leader
together with presbyters (Acts 21:18). Here is what Andrew Fleming wrote about Jerusalem Church
Although it is difficult to determine when the first elders were appointed (the only
fact we know is that it had been not more than 13 years since the time of Christ‟s
ascension), it is obvious that from the very beginning elders were working closely
with Apostles and finally assumed leadership over the entire Jerusalem church.
When speculating on church governing Antioch church often becomes an object of
consideration. Chapter 11 of the book of Acts describes how Antioch church came to be. Chapter 13
makes clear that the church had already prophets and teachers. Barnabas and Paul were not the
superiors of the church. On the contrary, after fasting and praying local church leaders sent them to
Jerusalem with offerings which was followed by missionary trip (end of Chapter 11). In Acts 15:23
Jerusalem church does not write a message to a definite leaser, but to all brotherhood! It may mean
that governing body in Antioch included quite a big group of brothers. This group came to be
within several months or years at most. Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch for a year (Acts 11:26)
and then went to Jerusalem (Chapter 12) and returned (Chapter 13). This Chapter (13) also tells us
on prophets and teachers.
Pisidia Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe
Andrew Fleming writes concisely on how leaders were appointed in these cities:
During their first missionary trip Paul and Barnabas visited Pisidia Antioch,
Iconium, Lystra and Derbe (Acts 13:1-14:25 – years 45-48). On their way back they
stopped by Lystra, Iconium and Antioch where they encouraged their disciples to
stay faithful to God. Probably these elders were converted to Christianity during
Paul and Barnabas‟s first visit to these cities and had been disciples for three years
only. (Fleming, 2003).
It is most likely that Philippi Church started in 51 when Lydia and her family came to Christ
(Acts 16:12-40). After that Paul visited Philippi several times (1Tim1:3, 2Corinthians 2:13, Acts
20:6). In his Epistle to Philippians (62) we read about bishops and deacons there. In Philippians 1:1
it is quite clear that the Church in that small Macedon town had several bishops and deacons
governing the church jointly.
The first time when Paul preached in this town was year 53 (Acts 18:18-21). He did not stay
there for long time. He made his next visit to Ephesus in 54 (Acts 19) and served there for three
years. Three years was enough to raise church leaders who, as Paul believed, could manage the
church. These events were described by Luke in 57 (Acts 20:28).
So, throughout the whole book of Acts we see that apostles, prophets, teachers and
evangelists worked closely together building new churches, raising and appointing
local bishops (elders) and deacons (Fleming, 2003).
Paul‟s Epistles to Corinthians, Romans, etc can also offer understanding of church
leadership in other towns. All the Epistles are addressed to all brothers rather than one. Although
we agreed to use Scripture texts only, to cite Steward D. Hall will be of some interest:
…Clement‟s way of writing and Hermas‟s witnessing “Shepherd” (the book was
written in the same time) make us think that Roman church reported to presbyter
council consisting of prophets and teachers. They all were named as bishops. (Hall,
Is Pastoral Ministry a Collective Leadership? (John F. Mac-Arthur).
All biblical data clearly indicate that pastoral ministry is a collective work. It
is quite notable that the word “presbyter” is always in plural except those cases
when John and Peter speak about themselves (2 John, 3 John, 1 Peter 5:1). It was
quite common for the New Testament church to have a group of presbyters carrying
out a church ministry. The New Testament says nothing about church with one
leader. Although we can assume that such churches existed but none of them is
mentioned in the New Testament. Paul‟s message to Philippians is worth attention:
„To all the saints …which are at Philippi with the bishops and deacons‟ (Phil. 1:1).
Should a church have a leader? Probably, but to be a leader does not mean to have
a spiritual pre-eminence. Jacob, evidently, is viewed as speaking on behalf of the
entire church (Acts 12:17, 15:13) although he was not an official leader over other
presbyters. Peter was a part of Jerusalem church as well. They had different roles
with Jacob, but none of the two was the leader over others. In the New Testament we
can note that all services were performed jointly. Despite that there were people with
leader‟s responsibilities, they all worked together. In a leader’s work there is no
place for a dictator like Diotrephus who loved preeminence (3 John 9). (MacArthur,
Phrases in bold, in my opinion, touch on the very core of one of the problems. To be a
leader does not mean to have a spiritual pre-eminence. Regrettably, today many churches
developed a tradition when a position of a leader assumes a spiritual pre-eminence over both
common church members and other leaders or members of the church counsel. It is not infrequent
that leaders themselves teach these principles referencing characters of the Old Testament like
David, for example. The answer to that is Anointing of the Holy Spirit. In the times of the Old
Testament God would select people who would serve Him and give them His Holy Spirit. They
would lead God‟s people on the way of monotheistic cult of Jahve both in religious and moral
aspects. Authors of the New Testament highlight the fact of being God‟s selections or special
anointing of Jews‟ spiritual leaders. In this respect Moses was a perfect leader. Therefore great
kings of Judah had a function of „seers‟.2 Gift of prophecy was bestowed on Saul when being
anointed to be a king (1 Samuel 10:9-12). David was also selected by anointment. Not only the
story related in Chapter 16 of 1 Samuel tells this but also David‟s gift of a Psalmist. Solomon
received a special ability of seeing God‟s justice. No wonder that their positions of leaders assumed
spiritual pre-eminence. But again, their positions were determined by anointing of the Holy Spirit,
Note that Jewish tradition does not call Joshua a captain of the host but a prophet.
not vice versa. Saul lost his status after losing God‟s favor. David after committing a sin with
Bathsheba had to go and learn wisdom from Nathan – a prophet.
The situation changed in the times of the New Testament. The event which happened in
Whitsunday changed the principle of electing a leader in the Kingdom of God. Prophecy about
every person being able to receive the Holy Ghost fulfilled. From that very moment every Christian
can be given the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). And this Spirit bestows gifts on everyone to edify the
church. In Chapter 12 of his first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul teaches that there are no more or
less important gifts. Christ‟s Body starts to live a full life only when its every member serves with
their gifts adding to the ministry of others. „From whom the whole body fitty joined together and
compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of
every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself into love‟ (Eph. 4:16). What kind
of gift does one possess that enables him to dare say that his gift is greater than gifts of other
members of the church counsel? Bible says nothing of such a gift. Is the gift of a leader more
important that that of a preacher or missioner? No! Can one have all the gifts in the full extent? The
answer is NO! Probably one can feel that he is more gifted than other brothers but it does not mean
that he can feel that he is more „spiritual‟. This kind of attitude will do no good. How many times
we have heard and seen gifted leaders falling into terrible sins! And it is not rare that these falls are
results of spiritual superiority – pride. Abundance of gifts tempts a person of feeling superior over
others, „less gifted‟, Christians. These people really need to learn working in a team and sometimes
even deliberately avoid a role of a leader to maintain their spiritual state. Besides, facts of their
spiritual falls show that the amount of gifts is not always equal to the amount of the Holy Spirit
present in a person. Apparently, temporal talents should be considered completely different from
the gift of the Holy Spirit. It becomes clear if we account for a fact that temporal world boasts of
and which is the following: there are more talented (they call them „gifted‟) people in the temporal
world than in the church. Paul expresses this idea in his Epistle to the Corinthians: „For ye see your
calling brethren, how that not many mighty, not many noble, are called‟ (Corinthians 1:26).
A gifted leader who leads the community alone faces other temptations like, for instance,
making authoritarian decisions and persuading other to agree on his opinion. Of course having one
person making all decisions makes everything go fast but this kind of leadership, firstly, deprives
others of an opportunity to grow in their ministry and, secondly, restricts their freedom in Christ of
those who does not want to accept leader‟s ideas. And finally it is not a BIBLICAL METHOD.
Probably, in the beginning it will make things go fast but in the end the result is much worse than
one which can be delivered if we use a method proposed by the Holy Scripture.
In a leader’s work there is no place for a dictator like Diotrephus who loved preeminence
– it is the second phrase I paid special attention to in the study by John F MacArthur. No doubt that
the decision of becoming a leader instead of working in a team on equal terms is motivated by a
desire to please God and bring Him fruits of work quickly. But as MacArthur states this takes one to
dictatorial methods which are far from being Godly method of doing Godly deeds.
Supporting Biblically-Based Principle of Church Leadership
It appears necessary to cite an excerpt from the book „Church Leadership' by A. Strok.
The New Testament texts clearly show that pastoral supervision in the first
churches was mainly provided by counsel consisting of presbyters. It is true in
relation to early Hebrew Christian churches in Jerusalem, Judea and neighboring
regions as well as many non- Hebrew churches:
- Barnabas and Saul gave presbyters offerings collected for the Judean poor
- Presbyters in Jerusalem got together with twelve apostles to discuss
doctrinal disagreements (Acts 15).
- As Bible recounts, presbyters executed their control over churches in Derbe,
Lystra, Iconium and Antioch (Acts 14:23), Ephesus (Acts 20:17, 1 Tim 5:17-25),
Philippi (Phil. 1:1), Crete churches (Tit. 1:5) and, as Peter tells, churches in Pontus,
Cappadocia, Galatia, Asia and Bethany (1 Peter 1:1, 5:1 ).
- Apostles Paul and Peter call presbyters to be overseers (execute pastoral
leadership) and look after local churches (Acts. 20:28, 1Peter 5:1-2).
- In the beginning as well as in the end of his ministry Paul appointed
presbyters who looked after churches founded by him (Acts 14:23, Tit. 1:5).
According to Epistle to Titus (1:5), Paul considered church to be established to the
full extent only when it was ked by knowledgeable experience.
- Peter warns presbyters to keep from dictatorship rule (1Peter 5:3).
- Paul asserts that presbyters are overseers (Phil. 1:1) and they are stewards
of a local church. (Titus 1:7).
So, to the New Testament, presbyters are not just members of a church
counsel with whom pastor consults with cautious and circumspection. On the
contrary, they protect the church from false teachers, edify saints by sound
teaching, visit the confined and pray as well as discuss doctrinal issues. In other
words, they lead, edify and take care of their church. (Strok, 2004).
Some comments on the excerpt stated above (marked by bold type). If we build a church
based on the New Testament only, the Church must be led by the counsel of presbyters who have
different gifts and equal voting rights. This is unity in diversity. This group must protect the church
from false teachers, dictators, etc. And on the contrary, if there is only one leader who protect the
church from heresy and sometimes from presbyters themselves by using methods and ways he
considers best, such kind of leadership can have any sources but scriptural. Here lies the difference
between when a church is led by a leader selected by counsel of presbyters and a one-leader church.
When a church is at its first stage of nascency, it is quite natural to have a leader asking for a piece
of advice from its other members. A missioner must be more mature spiritually than those he leads
to God. But as the church becomes more mature and there are brothers capable of leading it, mono
episcopate ceases to be a Biblical principle to say the least. But this will become a subject of our
Let us note once again a common strive for collegiality by the New Testament churches. Here is
what Alexander Strok states about it:
In Philippi the church was managed by a counsel of presbyters. The word
„presbyters‟ used in its plural form has a deep latent meaning. Only by its plural
form this word dismantles false conceptions of church organization which appeared
later. How could several bishops manage one local church? (Phil 4:15, 16 gives
clear evidence that Philippi had no but one church). Philippi church was managed
by a counsel of presbyters rather than one presbyter. This fact also supports the
doctrine of church collective management…We can see the principle of collective
management being used over the entire period of the New Testament. Twelve
Apostles who were leading and edifying the first Christian church can serve as a
good example. What an amazing example of unity, humble cooperation and
brotherly love! Service of seven men that disciples elected to help Apostles can also
be considered as an example of collective management (Acts 6:3-6). The Scripture
does not say anything of one of these seven men having primacy over the others.
They worked together for the good of the entire church. In addition to that, The New
Testament gives other examples of collective leadership (Acts 13:1, 15:35).
James M. Boys writes: “There had never been one man in charge of the
church but several. Moreover, the New Testament does not mention one person being
placed in a position of presbyter or deacon. I admit that we, humans, would rather
have one leader, but God‟s wisdom is greater then ours. Having several people
leading the church under God‟s lordship allowed them to support each other and
Jin Getz writes: “… Collective leadership is the New Testament principle.
One leader principle violates this important postulate. Scripture often emphasizes the
idea of „concelebration‟. The New Testament does not give an example of a man
who would manage and lead the church. Collective leadership executed through
elders is considered to be the norm.”
John Zens: “Considering modern tendency of having one leader in chard of a
church, it is important to note that to the New Testament brothers were always to
obey a group of overseers …You will never find in the New Testament a command
like „obey the one who governs you‟… For brothers of the early church it was
absolutely natural to have a counsel of presbyters who managed them under God‟s
lordship. I would like to state again that because of todays abnormal situation we
find strange a completely normal principle of church leadership.”
After his study of the Bible Brus Stubbert comes to the following conclusion:
“Based of the excerpts which mention management of the church we can conclude
that The New Testament presents a solid, integral teaching which establishes a
principle of collective church leadership. We can draw this conclusion after studying
seven excerpts telling about a counsel of presbyters functioning in different churches.
These verses can help understand other eight excerpts which do not indicate clearly
if one person or several people lead the church. It is the case when unambiguous
verses reveal the meaning of a less clear text. Thus, out of eighteen excerpts relating
about church management fifteen tell of a church lead by several brothers. Seven of
out of these fifteen tell of a specific local church. And none of them tell of a church
governed by one leader.” (Strok, 2004).
Timothy and Titus: missioners or church leaders?
To begin with it is necessary to understand time and circumstances under which Epistles to
Timothy and Titus were written. There exist several versions on the date of these Epistles, but we
will consider the most tenable one. Paul was on Crete (Tit. 1:5) and planned to stay in Nicopolis to
winter (Tit. 3:2). The Book of Acts which ends telling about Apostle being arrested (Acts 28:30, 31
- 61-62), does not provide any evidence of this Paul‟s missionary work. There is an assumption that
Paul was released and went on his fourth missionary trip which did not last for long time. By year
67 he was imprisoned again and executed shortly after. This opinion is confirmed by several facts.
First of all, while staying in prison (year 62) Paul writes to Philippians: „But I trust in the Lost that I
also myself shall come shortly (to you)‟ (Phil. 2:24). At the same time he writes to Philemon: „But
withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that though your prayers I shall be given unto you‟.
(Phil. 22). He understood he would be released soon. And also:
… Before he headed to Jerusalem where he was arrested, Paul wrote to
Roman church about his willingness to visit Spain. „Whensoever I take my journey
into Spain, - wrote Paul, - I will come to you. For I trust to see you in my journey‟
(Rom. 15:24.28). (Barkley‟s comments to the New Testament).
… In fact, „two years‟ is a legal term used to denote a time period required
for an accusation to loose its force if the case is delayed due to lack of plaintiff. It is
quite possible that accusations brought against Paul have lost their force (and Paul
was released – Author‟s commentary). (Santala, 1997).
These facts are important to determine time when the Epistles were written and establishing
how long Timothy and Titus had stayed in the cities of their missionary work by the time they
received the Epistles.
Paul was likely to make his first Epistle to Timothy while being in his fourth
missionary trip between years 62 and 64 A.D. („The Geneva Bible‟).
Apparently Timothy had not stayed in Ephesus for long time. Paul wrote his Epistle to
Philippians while being imprisoned (Phil 1:7) and Timothy stayed with him at that time (Phil 1:1).
This was approximately in 62 (Acts 28). His second Epistle to Timothy Paul wrote right before his
death during his second imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:6-8) which was in 67-68. (These dates are taken
from the book „How to learn Bible‟ by James Mettenbrink). Paul asks Timothy to come to him
quickly (2Tim. 4:9). Thus, Timothy was in Ephesus for approximately 4-6 years. Bible does not tell
us if Timothy‟s missionary in Ephesus finished with that. However, it is clear that Paul does not
expect him to lead this church for his entire life. Timothy is assigned a definite task like every
evangelist and missioner. He is not a church leader or a pastor who is a senior over others. Having
completed his 3 year missionary in Ephesus Paul left there a governing body consisting of
presbyters. Paul warned them that after he was gone „grievous wolves‟ would enter among them
(Acts. 20:29). Apparently, he was right. It is possible that the church split. And several presbyters
became involved into it. Paul sent Timothy there to resolve the situation at hand. It appears that the
church suffered a need in elders. Probably it was due to increase of congregation or some of
presbyters abandoning their mission. On one way or another Ephesus church lacked elders, and Paul
taught Timothy on how he shall select them. It is difficult to assume that Timothy selected
candidates based on his own opinion only. It is more likely that all presbyters took part in selection,
otherwise it would contradict those principles we mentioned earlier. Lets us remember a wise way
used by Apostles to select assistants for Jerusalem church: „Wherefore, brethren, look ye among you
seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this
business. (Acts. 6:3)‟. It is difficult to imagine Timothy to be a leader undertaking the authority to
determine who can be a presbyter.
Apparently, Timothy had what Paul named „spirit of fear‟ (2Tim. 1, 7).
Probably this is why Paul thought it necessary to ask Corinth church to welcome
Timothy the way he could feel at ease with them (1 Corinth. 16:10-11). In his
Pastoral Epistles Paul often had to call Timothy for not to let others despise his
youth (4,12) and not to be ashamed of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 1,8) („The Geneva
Timothy was evangelist whose task was to help local leadership overcome difficulties and
execute a definite commission given by the Apostle. In addition to Ephesus he represented Paul in
Thessalonica (1 Thes. 3:2,6), Corinth (1 Corinth. 4:17, 16:10), Philippi (Phil. 2:19).
Conclusion is simple: firstly, there are no reasons to believe that while being in Ephesus (as
well as other churches he was sent to by Paul) Timothy undertook the role of a church leader and
senior over presbyters.
Secondly, if we assume it being true, which is however difficult to believe, he had a special
role as Apostle‟s Vicar. Timothy was a missioner who would come to the church to help church
leaders resolve their issues and leave continuing his missionary work. Based of Timothy‟s example
a person cannot lead a church alone for a long time.
Paul wrote this Epistle during his fourth missionary trip. The Epistle can date
back to 62-64 A.D. Titus was a devoted and faithful man on whom Paul could count
in difficult situations similar to one which happened in Corinth (2 Corinth. 8:6, 16,
23. 12:18). Later Titus served as Paul‟s representative on Crete (Tit. 1:5) and
Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10) („Barkley‟s comments to the New Testament‟).
Paul left Titus on Crete during his fourth missionary trip in 62-63 and wrote the following in
one year time: „For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are
wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee‟ (Tit. 1:5).
… Paul starts his Epistle right from this point. It should be noted that Titus
was to appoint elders (plural form, Acts 14:23, 20:17,28; Phil. 1:1, Thes. 5:12). In
the New Testament church cannot have one leader. Divine plan did not provide this.
In the third Chapter of this Epistle Paul writes: „When I shall send Arthemas unto thee or Tychicus,
be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis for I have determined there to winter‟. Titus was in Crete
for a year. Paul started his missionary work together with Titus. It is possible that he had time to
appoint several elders and left Titus to finish this work which is to appoint a few elders more to
„staff‟ the leadership in order to enable it to lead churches independently as it was Paul‟s duty as a
missioner! It appears that Paul gives Titus not more than several months for this work as he waits
for him to come to Nicopolis by winter time.
It is more likely that it was in Nicopolis or later Rome (where the Apostle was
imprisoned and faced death of a martyr) where Paul sent Titus for his missionary
work in Dalmatia, Roman province which sat on the territory of today‟s Yugoslavia
(2 Tim 4:10). („Comprehensive Bible Dictionary‟).
Hence, per Paul‟s plans three years of his work with Titus on Crete were to leave leadership
capable of leading local communities. Time period of their work on Crete is very similar to one
when he worked in Ephesus.
The conclusion is simply that Titus was neither a pastor not a missioner like Timothy. On
the basis of information provided for us by Bible it is wrong to make the following statement:
„Church must be governed by one person and Titus serves as good example for this‟. Paul uses the
following verbage to describe his work of an evangelist: „I have planted, Apollos watered, but God
gave the increase; (1Cor. 3:6). According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise
masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let everyone take heed
how he buildeth thereupon‟. Paul believed that his role was to lay a foundation and it is others‟ role
to build upon it. Timothy and Titus were his disciples.
… Church leaders delegate responsibilities. Leaders are leaders. They do not
do other people‟s work. They show others how to get it done and help them execute
assigned tasks. They propose ideas, examples and „know how‟ based of knowledge
and experience they possess. (Fergusson, 2005).
In his book „Church Leadership‟ Alexander Strok notes that:
„Some scholars sought to prove the concept of one-leader church by using
examples from the New Testament like Timothy, Epaphras, Jacob and Angels of
Churches from the Book of Revelation. However they failed in their attempts.
Everyone agrees on that Timothy was Apostle‟s representative, Paul‟s coworker in
propagation of Gospel and strengthening of churches established by Paul. Epaphras,
probably, was an evangelist from Colossae church. Jacob served only Jews in
Jerusalem. And if Angels of the churches in Book of Revelation were people (which is
very doubtful), we do not know whom these Angels symbolize‟. (Alexander Strok,
First of all, it appears necessary to disprove the notion „Pastoral Epistles‟ which is often
used in relation to Epistles to Timothy and Titus. Despite the content being closely related to the
notion, they were not pastors.
Bible does not offer any examples supporting the idea of church hierarchy and a church with
one leader who leads it for several years. Besides, the New Testament does not say anything about a
leader undertaking responsibility to determine when the right time to seek others‟ advice is and
Jesus taught his disciples that none of them should have primacy over the others (Mathew
20:25). “But Jesus called them into him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise
dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But shall not be so
The first church in Jerusalem was led by apostles and elders together. Churches started by
Paul were established in a way which allowed local leaders undertake church leadership within few
several years since the moment of church foundation. In case of difficulties Paul‟s disciples,
Timothy, Titus, etc., provided help to church leader.
Today it is quite common for a church leader to manage their church the way they consider
best (often using Timothy or Titus as a reference) and often for a long period of time (this does not
find proof in Bible). What is worse is that this kind of leadership rarely delivers good results.
Also, Bible does not give us examples proving that church is led only by people who get
paid for their work. In the New Testament Church elders, teachers, prophets and apostles lead local
churches. They are all equal. Of course, they can give their blessing to a brother or sister of merit
for a certain mission and delegate him/her authority of making a decision in areas of their
responsibility; this is exactly what happened on appointment of the first seven deacons. But they do
not allow him/her to assume authority over them. If there were a possibility, some of vergers
received compensation for their labor. What is more, financial support of vergers was what the
church should strive for. However this fact did not entitle those who got paid to feel more spiritual
or privileged and differentiate themselves from other vergers who did not receive a financial
support from the church and manage them.
To conclude with I would like to appeal to those for whom this concept would seem
contradicting the one they learnt before and which they followed while being church leaders. I
wrote this article especially for you. If you decide on the future of your church, you should be as
objective as possible and ready to look openly at your beliefs, traditions and experience, everything
you have learnt before. In a prayer put them in front of you and look at them in the light of the Holy
Scripture. And be ready to keep only what is in Bible. Probably, it is a leap in the dark; probably,
your faith and understanding are not enough to put it into life. Did not men of faith face the same
challenges, those men we read about in Bible and consider as a role model?
If our goal is to restore the New Testament Church, Bible must become its foundation
rather than our own beliefs and traditions. We must be aware of how consistent we are in our
intention to restore the New Testament principle on church and leadership organization. If we dare
to assert that we are not guided by traditions, culture, but examples from the New Testament, there
would be no place to excuse slyness when it comes to search for „Bible justifications‟ of our own
ideas which have little if anything to do with the Holy Scripture. We should admit that the idea of
one-leader church does not root in the New Testament. Proponents of mono episcopate can either
confess in following traditions originated after the first century or abandon this practice. This
applies not only to leaders and teachers or scribes, but to every church member which is called for
by God himself to be ready to give account of their faith with humility.
God bless your desire to be His faithful vergers. Amen.
Dmitriy Novozhenov, 2008 year.
1. Andrew Fleming, 2003. Different Ministries and Responsibilities of Vergers in the New
Testament. Moscow: Uchenik.
2. John F. MacArthur. Pastorology. 2002. Saint Petersburg: „Bible for Everyone‟.
3. Alexander Strok, 2004.Church Leadership, Saint Petersburg: „Shandal‟.
4. Barclay‟s Comments to the New Testament. Computer program.
5. New Geneva Bible. Software program.
6. D. Petrillo. 2004. Comments to Timothy 1,2 and Titus. Kirov. AO „Dom Pechati – Vyatka‟.
7. Risto Santala, 1997. Apostle Paul. St. Petersburg: „Bible for Everyone‟.
8. Comprehensive Bible Dictionary, 2005. St. Petersburg: „Bible for Everyone‟.
9. Stewart D. Hall. 2000. Teaching and Life of the Early Church. Novosibirsk, “Posokh”.
10. James Mettenbrik, 1996. How to Learn Bible. Kirov, „Triada-S‟.
11. Everett Fergusson. 2005. Christ‟s Church. Bible Ecclesiology in Present Days. Saint
Petersburg: Vita International Fund.
Novozhenov D. V. 2008.