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The Early Church and Church Government – Part 2

A Description of the Church ‘Government’ at Calvary Chapel of the Niagara Frontier – is it Biblical?

What is the Perfect Church Government Described in the Bible?

Actually, the only perfect government I’m aware of will be when Jesus is reigning as our King on the earth during the Millennial Time, and then throughout eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth.  It seems that because of men’s inherit weaknesses, every human government is destined to fall short.

The church government is unfortunately no different.  The leaders aren’t perfect (nor are the brothers and sisters who are part of the church family), and so there will never be the ‘perfect church’ while men are involved.  In heaven there will be one perfect church – Pastor Jesus will teach, lead, and guide us.  When someone has a question, there won’t be a need for councils of men to debate the issue and try to formulate a plan.  Pastor Jesus will simply answer the question with His truth.  Everybody will hear the same answer, and everybody will be on the same page.  I honestly can’t wait for that day.

Unfortunately, today we have imperfect churches being led by imperfect leaders, which are attended by imperfect people.  These imperfect people have disagreements, and sometimes they get upset and join other imperfect church families which look better (at least at the time).  These disagreements are the part about being an imperfect pastor that I hate the most.  But, what’s the alternative?  I think that having a church family is vital for us to grow as we must, and to touch the world as we are commanded.  So, until perfect Jesus raptures us home, we need to keep marching forward, learning from our mistakes, and remembering that someday in Heaven EVERY disagreement among those who love Jesus will be forgiven and forgotten.  Until then, we need to do our best, because believe it our not, the world needs us to reach them.  As scary as it is – WE are the examples of Jesus’ love to a lost world.  OUR lives display the alternative to what they are doing – living for a meaningless, dark world.

Whose Church Is It?

Well, duh, you already know that it’s Jesus’ church.  But it’s just good to state that up front.  It’s His church, and we meet to worship Him and bring Him glory.  The more we can take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on Jesus, the better off we will be.

Matthew 16:18-19:  “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Although there’s a lot more in this passage than I want to talk about right now, I think we can agree that:

(1)  It is Jesus’ church.(2)  The foundational Rock it’s built on is Christ.

(3)  Although the church will face many challenges, Hell (or Hades) will not prevail against it.

(4)  Jesus wants to use the church, and has given it great authority to represent Him.

Hebrews 10:24-25:  “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

This passage reminds us that:

(1)  We should be ‘outward’ rather than ‘inward’ focused (because the more we look in, the uglier it gets).  We need to be called to the church that we attend, and be fed there, but it’s bigger than that.  We must be servants there, whether or not we have official titles, reaching out in love, and encouraging (exhorting) our brothers and sisters in our church family.

(2)  As ‘the Day’ (i.e., the rapture) gets closer, we should be gathering more, not less.

Scriptural Requirements For Leaders

I wish that Jesus had just specified in His Bible the correct way to run a church service, and to establish a church ‘government’.  He did give us some principles to follow, but unfortunately they are not spelled out clearly enough to make it a simple ‘no brainer’.  A quick look at the various church governments, and the way church services are held today, will make that clear very quickly.  Jesus must have done this on purpose – He doesn’t make mistakes – perhaps because He knew that in the process of working together to try to make things right, our spiritual man would be strengthened, making us more mature, better disciples.  Working together can be frustrating, humbling, and sometimes even explosive – but the lessons we learn can be invaluable.  There is something about a brother or sister who is willing to go through those hard times with you that does something to your heart that you can’t get in any other way.  And when you see others being blessed or saved by Jesus in the church in which you’ve invested yourself, the reward you feel is beyond description.

Whatever church structure a group of people come up with, it must certainly agree with the Bible.  Following are the instructions that the Holy Spirit did leave for us – the Biblical qualifications concerning Elders, Bishops, and Deacons, and also my understanding of those Scriptures.  Please read through these passages in your Bible, and then consider the following thoughts…

Titus 1:5-9 Characteristics of Elders / Bishops

Verses 5-6

(1)  A man.
Many churches today have female leaders.  Actually, we do at CCNF also, but they do not carry the titles of Elder / Bishop / Pastor / Deacon.  This is not because we believe that the women are any less qualified than the men, but because we believe God’s Word is clear that He has called men to these positions.

1 Timothy 2:12-14:  “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

A lot of people say, ‘well, that was for those times – we’ve advanced a lot since then’.  I agree that women would probably make better church leaders than men in many ways (they probably couldn’t do any worse) – but the key thing about this Scripture are the second and third sentences.  By stating Adam and Eve as the basis for his decision, Paul and the Holy Spirit actually transcend every time and culture.  In other words, men are to be the leaders because of Adam and Eve.  It’s not because they’re smarter or more compassionate or better teachers.  The reasoning goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, and so the reasoning for male leaders transcends time and culture.

Is that to say that God can’t use female Elders / Bishops / Pastors / Deacons in the church?  I’d have to say that He can and does.  But I think its God’s best plan for men to hold those positions.  If the men aren’t willing to step up to the plate, then it’s probably better for the women to run things than for there to be no leaders.  But it’s obviously always best to obey the Bible fully, even if we don’t fully understand everything in it.  I believe that God’s heart is for the men to be the spiritual leaders, and thus the best scenario is for men to hold these positions, and for women to exert their leadership in the ways that the Bible teaches.  (See Titus 2:3-5.)  There are many ways for women to be leaders in their church without carrying the title of Pastor, etc.  In order to have a healthy church, we need lots of spirit-filled women who are plugged in, and using their spiritual gifts to bless God and edify others.

(2)  Blameless.
‘Blameless’ is a very tough word to define, because no man is perfect this side of heaven.  I’m not sure that anybody who’s ever lived on this planet except for Jesus Himself was truly ‘blameless’ if we define that word very strictly.  So, I would consider a man who is sincerely ‘walking the talk’ day after day, fully in love with Jesus, deeply committed to live as Jesus says, and exhibiting no major character flaws or patterns of failure that would endanger the sheep or discredit our Lord, to be ‘blameless’.  A solid ‘track record’ of this lifestyle would be evident.

(3)  The husband of one wife.
Not a ‘womanizer’ – a man who can be trusted to treat women properly. I believe that a man who has been divorced previously can serve, as long as he has fully repented, realizes that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and is committed to never being divorced again.  He has placed his previous mistakes under Christ’s atoning blood.  Obviously if he is not mature enough to have a proper relationship with women, or has a track record of broken marriages, then he should not be serving as an Elder / Bishop / Pastor / Deacon in the church.

(4)  Faithful children who are not wild or disobedient.
There are doubtlessly strong correlations between the behavior of our children and our parenting skills.  Unfortunately, we are imperfect (as are they), and we live in a fallen world; thus our kids can get very messed up despite our efforts to teach them of Jesus.  Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  So, I would say that a man who raised his family in the faith, after he himself was saved, would be a good candidate for church leadership.  I unfortunately know pastors who have had to ask their older sons or daughters to move out of their homes because of the lifestyles they had chosen.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 is the goal for parents:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I would consider asking a man who has an adult ‘prodigal son or daughter’ to serve as an Elder, as long as I knew that he raised his children in a home where Christian values were taught and lived.  It breaks a parent’s heart when their children go astray – but as parents we can’t control the decisions they make once they reach adulthood.  We can only control what we taught and lived before them when they were in our home, and how we continue to point them toward Jesus when we spend time with them now.

Of course, if the man has children still at home who are struggling in their faith, we’d want him to focus his time and energy on them first, rather than on filling a church office.  Down the road he can become more active in the church, but first he needs to minister to his children.

One final thought – this is as hard a requirement to interpret (for me) as ‘blameless’ is.  We must always always always pray for our kids, because they need it.  Job was a great dad…

Job 1:4-5:  “And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.  So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all.  For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’  Thus Job did regularly.”

Verse 7
Because of this quick transition, it appears that either the titles of ‘Bishop’ and ‘Elder’ are interchangeable, or at least their requirements are.

Because the word Bishop’ means ‘overseer’, I generally consider a Bishop to be a man who has oversight of a number of other pastors and churches.  An Elder has oversight over one church.  Pastors are kind of like Elders, but I think they carry more responsibility before God.

(1)  Blameless.

(2)  A steward of God.
Stewards in the Bible were trusted servants who handled their master’s affairs.  He could trust them with his money, his family, and every responsibility.  The steward looked out for the interests of his master, not his personal interests.

(3)  Not self-willed.
One without a personal agenda, who is able to discern between the critical and non-critical issues, and has no problem ‘bending’ for non-critical issues.  The most important criteria for every decision is: ‘What is Jesus’ will in this matter?’

(4)  Not quick tempered.

(5)  Not given to wine.
In Biblical times, people drank water and wine regularly.  Some say that the wine of those times had a lower alcohol content than today, and I believe that is true.  Drinking wine was part of their accepted culture.  In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul told Timothy to “…drink a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.”  He also wrote that Elders should “…not [be] given to wine…” (1 Timothy 3:3), or in other words should not be addicted to it, because it does not set a good example for the flock.  In today’s world, I believe that Elders shouldn’t drink any alcohol at all, even if they don’t have a problem in that area, because there are so many people who struggle with alcoholism or drug abuse.  For someone in the midst of a struggle to see an Elder partaking in these things could cause them to stumble.

Also, one never knows when the Lord may call on him to serve.  If there’s an opportunity to share the Gospel or somebody calls you for godly counsel, you want to have your 100% full mental capabilities available.  Otherwise, you are doing Jesus a disservice.  Therefore, at CCNF, we take a very conservative approach, and do not want Pastors, Elders, or Deacons to drink any alcohol or take any non-prescribed drugs, period.  If we’re going to make a mistake in this area, it’s better for the flock that we err on the side of conservatism.

(6)  Not violent.

(7)  Not greedy for money.

Verse 8

(8)  Hospitable.
One can be friendly and welcoming without being naturally extroverted.  One of the miracles of Jesus is that when we take our eyes off or ourselves, put them on others, and determine to love them as Jesus does, many of our fears and inhibitions disappear.

(9)  A lover of good.
The word for ‘lover’ means ‘a friend of’ what is good.  The Bible describes those things that are good.  Unfortunately our culture today is considering more and more unbiblical things to be ‘good’.  A church leader needs to compassionately stand for God’s definition of good, and encourage all around him to live for and desire God’s best.

(10)  Sober minded.
A sober-minded man is not joyless or humorless.  He is just serious about important issues, and can be trusted to really pray for the correct path forward when facing critical challenges, rather than simply moving ahead rashly in some direction.

(11)  Just.
A person that is fair and honest.

(12)  Holy
We can’t be holy without Jesus, so obviously a church leader must be born again.  Then, Jesus’ sanctifying hand upon him should be evident.  Holiness is another characteristic that is hard for me to describe properly.  It would be someone who is reverent towards God, and whose life has God’s clear imprint on it.  It would be a sincere, ‘sold-out’ guy who would have walked with Jesus in His inner circle back in 30 AD if he could have done so.  When Jesus’ Words pierced his heart, he would have been humbled rather than infuriated.  He would have wanted to get better in order to please his Lord, not discredit the One setting the bar higher.  He would have had Jesus’ back at all times.

(13)  Self controlled.
A leader must be able to control his emotions.  He must be able to handle spiritual warfare in a spiritual manner (because the warfare will be there, always).  He does not need to prove himself right, unless by keeping silent Jesus’ Name is smeared.  He can forgive personal hurts, and not carry grudges.  He can resist temptations, and not fall under the control of sin.  He can say ‘I’m sorry’ when appropriate, even if the situation is not his fault, and always learn from his mistakes.

Verse 9

(1)  Holding fast the faithful Word.
One who has a real grasp and comprehension of God’s entire Word.

(2)  Exhorting / Convicting through Sound Doctrine
One with the ability to teach the entire Bible correctly, in the proper context, and to apply it to real life situations.

1 Timothy 3:1-7   More Characteristics of Bishops / Elders Listed below are only those characteristics not already covered in Titus.

Verse 2

(1)  Good behavior.

(2)  Able to teach.
One who is anointed by God with the gift to teach others.  Ephesians 4:11 says that “…He Himself gave some to be…pastors and teachers”.

Teaching does not always have to occur in the traditional sense of a Pastor behind a pulpit.  There are good men who are not necessarily gifted in a pulpit, but excel in ‘one on one’ or ‘hands on’ settings.

Verse 3

(3)  Not quarrelsome.

Verses 4-5

(4)  Rules his house well
A man whose house is ‘in order’.  He is the spiritual leader in his home.  He loves his wife and children, and puts their welfare above his own.  His wife is like-minded spiritually.  The family attends church together.  God is the top priority in their home.

Verse 6

(5)  Not a novice
Receiving a ‘title’ will increase the spiritual warfare a man experiences.  Therefore, you want someone who has experience walking with Jesus, so he doesn’t get blown away.  Whenever Satan can cause a guy with a title to fall, it hurts the entire church.  It’s as if he’s saying to those watching: ‘See, I told you that the church was a fraud…Just look at the leaders!’

On the other hand, for those who are called, the warfare will just make them and their families stronger disciples of Jesus.  The personal sacrifices will be greater, but so will the spiritual blessings and eternal rewards of their inheritance.

Verse 7

(6)  Good reputation from others, not just church members
A good man, known for his honesty and clear thinking, both at his work place and in his community.

1 Timothy 3:8-13    Characteristics of Deacons

Verse 8

(1)  Reverent.
Respectful towards both God and man.

(2)  Not double-tongued
A man who speaks the truth.

(3)  Not given to much wine.
This implies to me that the standard for not drinking alcohol is not as strict as for an Elder (see 1 Tim 3:3).  However, to avoid confusion, I wouldn’t want our Deacons to be drinkers, for the reasons stated above pertaining to Elders and Pastors.

(4)  Not greedy for money

Verse 9

(5)  Holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience
I like the word ‘mystery’, because it implies to me the vastness of God’s Word.  Someone who thinks they know everything there is to know about God’s Word is someone I wouldn’t want to serve with, because to me it implies naivety as well as arrogance.  ‘Holding the mystery of the faith’ implies a fascination of God’s Word, and a deep reverence for it.  A ‘pure conscience’ would imply to me someone who is living the Word in all sincerity.  He battles against sin, but is not defeated by it, nor is he living under its control.

Verse 10

(6)  Tested first
A guy who is consistently willing to do the work that needs to be done behind the scenes without being praised is already performing the work of a Deacon.  He’s not doing the work with the hopes of ‘being noticed’, but rather as a form of worship to God.  He’s not just been faithful for a short period of time, but you can always count on him to be there.  He’s solid.

I am often (sadly) amazed at the number of ‘servants’ who start so strongly and promise so much, but then disappear without so much as saying goodbye.  The problem with a ‘leader’ like this is that it implies that the other church leaders are poor decision-makers, or so desperate that they’ll take anyone that’s breathing.  It just doesn’t set a good example for the flock.

(7)  Blameless
Please see the previous discussion of this characteristic.

Verse 11

(8)  A man (because it says ‘their wives’)
There are some who believe that Phoebe was a deaconess, and therefore women can serve with this title.

Romans 16:1  “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea”

They believe this because the word used for ‘servant’ in this passage is the same Greek word used for ‘deacon’ in 1 Timothy and elsewhere.  However, because 1 Tim 3:8 says “…their wives…” and 1 Tim 3:12 calls them “…husbands…” I believe that deacons should be men.  We are all called to serve – and Phoebe I’m sure was a great servant.  I thank God for all of the female servants at our church, and if we had the title ‘deaconess’, there’d be a lot of them recognized here.  (The same goes with Elders and Pastors.)  But, the bottom line is that the simple reading of Scripture does not permit this, and thus our blessed sisters will have to wait to be fully recognized in heaven.  That’s where any true servant’s reward lies anyway.

(9)  Their wife must be reverent, not a slanderer, temperate (not a drinker), and faithful in all things.
Ministry is really shared by married couples.  It’s a blessing when you have such a ministry team, because then wives can relate to and share more effectively with other women, and the men can work better with other men.  Wives have no more capability to be perfect than do husbands.  But, one who has consistent problems in the areas mentioned above will cause others to stumble that are looking to them as examples.

James 3:5  “…the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.  See how great a forest a little fire kindles!”

Any servant of God needs to know how to hold their tongue; discerning when to talk, and when to simply lift up quiet prayers.

Verse 12

(10)  The husband of one wife.
As mentioned above for Elders, a Deacon should not a ‘womanizer’.  He should be trustworthy to treat women properly.  I believe that a man who has been divorced previously can serve, as long as he has fully repented, realizes that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and is committed to never becoming divorced again.  He has placed his previous mistakes under Christ’s atoning blood, and he’s moving forward in Jesus.

(11)  Ruling children and family well.
A man who is a godly father and husband, and who makes good, Spirit-led decisions for his family, is the type of guy you’d like leading your church.

What’s the Difference between Bishops, Elders, and Deacons?

The Bible draws lines between these callings, but it’s not super-rigid in my opinion.  All are leadership positions.  All require men who are mature in the Lord, and are fully committed to Him and love Him.  All represent Jesus before the Sheep, and the church they serve before the community.  Biblically, it seems that Bishops have the most responsibility, and with Elders are involved more in leading through ‘decision making’ and ‘teaching’ roles; where Deacons lead more through ‘service’ and ‘action’ roles.  Acts 6 shows the deacons waiting on tables, so the Apostles had more time to pray and teach.  And, Acts 7 shows the deacon Stephen giving a sermon that any Pastor would be proud to call his own.  Actually, Stephen probably preached too well, because his audience got so convicted that they killed him.  (Maybe he should have just given a sermon on how to make more money, or be a happier person.)  Exodus 18 and Numbers 11:16-17 show Moses and the Elders working together to lead the people, and to resolve tough issues brought before them.

In a sense, Jesus called Himself a ‘deacon’ in Matthew 20:28.

Matthew 20:27-28  “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Jesus says that He came to ‘serve’, which is the same word that is translated ‘deacon’ elsewhere.  Any Bishop, Elder, Deacon, (or Pastor) who’s not willing to pick up a mop or snow shovel when there’s a need is not called to that title.  If God gave you a title, then you are a servant.

I see the Elders as the guys God has called to primarily fill the decision making and teaching roles; while the Deacons are primarily called to fill the service roles, as the needs arise.  A Bishop would be an overseer for multiple churches, and a Pastor would be the lead ‘shepherd’ (under Jesus of course) for a specific church.

Revelation 2:1   “To the angel of the church of Ephesus…”

Revelation 2:8   “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna…”

Revelation 2:12  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos…”

Revelation 2:18  “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira…”

Revelation 3:1   “And to the angel of the church in Sardis…”

Revelation 3:7   “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia…”

Revelation 3:14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans…”

A lot of people believe that ‘the angels’ of the seven churches referred to in Revelation refer to each churches Pastor.  I believe that also.  However, I have two comments:

(1)  If they’re calling the Pastor an ‘angel’, they must not know him too well.

(2)  If the Holy Spirit had just led John to record ‘Pastor’ instead of ‘angel’, it would have made the interpretation a whole lot easier.

In our church, the Elders along with the Pastors make up the Elders Board; we meet once a month to go through all of the sensitive issues facing the church, and make decisions.  The Deacons are normally not a part of these meetings. The Deacons will be informed of major issues the church is facing, and asked for their input.  Also, the Elders are generally going to be more involved in teaching adult Bible studies or classes at church (although anybody led by God, regardless of their ‘title’, can obviously have a home study, or teach in the Children’s Church, etc.).  If I’m not teaching at a service, then Pastor Gary will be, and if he can’t then one of the Elders will be asked to teach.  If none of the Elders are available, then we will ask one of the Deacons.

Because the Pastors and Elders at CCNF make the decisions with respect to finances and church policies, we require that those serving with these titles attend Monday night prayer.  My heart is that the whole church would attend – but I want to be sure that the guys who are making sensitive church decisions are also praying for the church together regularly.

Also, our ‘Bishop’ or overseer for this area would be whoever Calvary Chapel assigns that responsibility to.  We don’t email weekly reports or send any money his way; but we are in fellowship, and out of respect we work with him on any issues that he feels are necessary.

Other Thoughts…

I believe that a Bishop / Elder / Pastor / Deacon can be single.  Paul was clearly single (see 1 Corinthians 7:7), and Timothy probably was.  The Bible passages listed above that speak about family matters would in this case be the expectations, if and when the Lord provides them with a wife.

Leaders with titles have a ‘public’ ministry.  They are in a sense the ‘face’ of their church.  Their lives are going to be watched more closely by others.  The things that they do are either going to be a blessing and godly challenge to others, or (God forbid) the topic of stumbling or ridicule.  They are either going to point people to Jesus, or (God forbid) point them away from Him.  They are either going to strengthen our church, or (God forbid) weaken it.  Obviously, we believe that the former scenarios will occur, or we would never ask these men to serve in the first place.

How Should the Bishops / Elders / Pastors / Deacons Be Chosen?

Very carefully??

There is a lot of subjectivity to this, and again I don’t see a clear passage in the Bible that covers this in an exhaustive fashion.

In Acts 6:1-7, the apostles had the “multitude of the disciples” choose deacons; they confirmed the men by praying and laying hands on them.  In Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas together appointed elders in the new churches that sprang up as a result of their ministry.  In Titus 1:5 Paul asked Titus alone to appoint elders in Crete.

Numbers 11:16-17 is interesting: “So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them…”.  Moses was asked to select 70 Elders whom he knew were already serving the people, and were recognized by them.

In Exodus 32:26, before the Levites received any position of service to God, they proved their loyalty to Him through action.  Then, they were appointed by God to serve Him, primarily through the physical labor of assembling, disassembling, and transporting the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant through the desert (Numbers 1:47-54).  So again, in a sense they were already ‘doing the work’, before they received the ‘title’.

I see this as a criteria in our selection process.  We look for guys that are already doing the work.  If they are consistently doing the job, and the Holy Spirit is obviously working through them, then God has already ordained them, and it’s obvious.  We’re just confirming what God has already done.  We can ‘appoint’, but only God can ‘anoint’.

We are not a church where the congregation selects the leaders and votes on every decision.  There are strengths in that method, but also weaknesses, the worst of which (I believe) is that the Pastor in effect becomes a hireling rather than a shepherd.  (See John 10:11-18.)  I believe that the Pastor has been ordained by God to lead, and that the Elders have been ordained by God to stand with the Pastor to help him lead, and to provide checks and balances, so the Pastor doesn’t develop ‘tunnel vision’.  The Deacons likewise have been ordained by God to take care and protect the flock through physical service.  The Bishop provides oversight for multiple churches, and is there for counsel and wisdom when churches need additional godly input.  The Bishop also keeps an eye on the churches under his authority to guard against ungodliness creeping in.  It’s a blessing to have men of God around you.  The men that God has raised up to provide the Spiritual leadership for the church will hear God’s voice, and feel a responsibility and passion to honor Him and to guide His flock.  As we watch, we will see God’s hand on certain individuals whom He has chosen to stand with us as Pastors, Elders and Deacons.

Pastors, Elders and Deacons will never be selected based on a popular vote by the congregation at CCNF.  Businessmen will never have an advantage over the unemployed or under-employed.  The Pastors God has raised up will seek the Lord’s direction concerning whom to ask to fill these positions, and the Board of Elders will pray before the final selections are made.

God loves the flock, but He has not ordained them to be the spiritual leaders of the church.  He has ordained the Pastors, Elders, and Deacons for that task.

Specific things we look for when choosing an Elder or Deacon:

(1)  Guys that are already being led by the Holy Spirit to do the work.

(2)  Spiritual maturity – men of the Word and prayer.

(3)  Guys that are consistently at church.  The offices of Elder and Deacon are church offices.  A guy that comes once a week is not called to hold a position here, because his primary ministry is obviously elsewhere.  They may be used greatly by the Lord outside the church, and be perfectly in the middle of His will – but the position of Elder / Deacon is primarily to serve the flock here at CCNF.

(4)  Guys that have been consistent here for a long time.  They are a part of this church, and believe in it.  Usually we like to wait at least one year before asking a man to serve.  It’s confusing to the flock if Elders and Deacons come and go a lot.

(5)  If the guy has a family, his wife and children worship together here.  Because of the responsibility he will face, we really want his wife standing with him, and his family taking part of the ministry.  His wife is a mature Christian, and is as committed to our church as he is.

(6)  There is agreement among the entire Board of Elders concerning the candidate.  We will discuss the candidates at our Elder’s meetings, then pray, and wait until we feel God has confirmed that our choice is correct before asking the candidate.

(7)  The need is there.  I could honestly feel good about ordaining every one of our current Elders to be Pastors.  However, at this point there’s really no need to do that.  As the church grows, I’m sure that will change.

(8)  There is no limit to how long a man can serve as an Elder or Deacon.  The Pastors will meet with the Elders and Deacons individually once a year, to see how things are going, and to determine if they are willing and called to serve for another year.

The Primary Functions of our Church Offices

Our ‘church government structure’ is set up as follows:

The Senior Pastor is responsible for providing vision for the flock, direction for the church, and teaching at our adult services.  He asks the Lord to give him wisdom and clear oversight of the church, and to help him lead as Jesus would.

The Assistant Pastor also watches over the church, and is responsible for oversight of specific areas (such as worship, teen ministry, etc).  He takes care of leading services when the senior pastor is away.  He has a pastor’s heart, and works with the Senior Pastor to help direct the church.

The Elders sit on the Board of Elders, and with the Pastors make decisions concerning church direction and policies, the expenditure of church funds, etc.  They may oversee specific ministries, under the oversight of the Pastors.  If the Pastors are away, one of the Elders will lead church services.

The Deacons are available to help with the physical needs that arise (snow shoveling, help with moving, etc).  They may make hospital visits, provide rides for people living in their area, etc.  We are blessed with good Deacons who are also capable of taking on teaching roles.

Pastors, Elders and Deacons are all capable of giving good godly counsel from the Bible.  For the more difficult issues, the pastors will normally become involved.

Who is Worthy to hold a Church Office?

No one.  But, see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

John 15:4-5  “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Every Christian is told by Jesus to abide or continue living for Him.  This is especially true for those called to be Pastors / Elders/ Deacons, because the ‘title’ makes them more visible to those who are watching.  When the leaders abide, then they bear spiritual fruit, and the churches they serve are blessed as a result.

In Conclusion

I hope this has helped to explain the roles of our church leaders, and the organization of our ‘church government’ here at CCNF.  As always, if you have any specific questions, or have Scriptural suggestions to offer, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

May God bless you!

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Service Times & Directions

: Weekend Services :

Sunday Morning: 10:00 am
Sunday Evening: 6:30 pm

: Weekday Service :

Wednesday Evening: 7:00 pm
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- Prayer Meeting

Monday Evening: 7:00 pm

- Youth Group

Wednesday Evening: 7:00 pm Friday Nights (bi-monthly)

- Men's Group

Saturday Morning: 8:00 - 10:00 am

- Ladies Bible Study

Saturday Morning: 10:30 - Noon
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- Prayer and Worship Night

First Friday of each Month: 6:30 pm
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2090 Bowen Road
Elma, NY 14059
(716) 684-9065

Calvary Chapel Niagara Frontier