The basic idea of church government in the Scriptures is the Headship of Jesus Christ.
The church is not a democracy or a republic; it is not governed by the people as a whole or by representatives acting on their behalf. Christ is the Head of the church. Therefore, the basic function of church government is to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to rule over the body of His people.
The elders of Westbrooke Church are:
- John Dunkin
- Bob Bury
- Adrian Fitzmaurice
- Jim Smart
- Stan Rice
The Role of Elders
The scriptures also make it clear that the Lord chooses to give spiritual direction to each local assembly of believers through certain men whom He designates and equips for this task. These are called by various names in the Scriptures. They are named “elders” in some places, “overseers” or “bishops,” (the same Greek word) in others. In still another passages they are called “pastors” and “teachers.“
All these titles refer to the same office, but they designate different frameworks in which that office is administrated. The word “elder” looks at the quality of maturity, the ability to make mature judgments. As a result the passages referring to “elders” deal largely in the character of the men holding that position. The word “bishop” or “overseer” refers to the work the elder does. He has authority, superintendency over a group. He oversees the direction in which the church is going. The double word, pastor-teacher, refers to the duties of elders as shepherds to see that God’s flock is fed from His Word, and to meet the needs of the flock whatever they may be.
A Team Ministry
No church in the New Testament ever had only one elder. The term is always plural, referring to a team ministry. In fact, in III John, Diotrephes is severely condemned for lifting himself up above the others in the church as the one preeminent leader. In all the other churches there were always several elders in charge.
Appointed Not Elected
No church in the New Testament ever chose its own leaders. Elders were always appointed, at first by the apostles and then by apostolic representatives (See the position paper: A Framework for Recognizing Elders and Deacons Within the Local Assembly.) The appointments ran indefinitely until the elders’ fitness to serve was for some reason hampered. But no flock of God in the New Testament ever chose its own shepherds. This was exclusively the work of the Chief Shepherd Himself. (Acts 20:28)
Responsibilities In the same way, God’s appointed shepherds are not left to their own devices in order to run the church. They are carefully instructed as to their duties to “be on guard“, “to shepherd the flock” (Acts 20:28); to “feed the flock“, “exercise oversight” and “prove to be examples” (I Peter 5:2,3) and to “devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer“. (Acts 6:4)
The elders do not decide all matters within the local church. They are supported by deacons who account to the Lord for their own ministries, and by the congregation of the saints who quite rightfully express their own convictions, concerns and support of the church.
But the elders’ responsibility is to seek the mind of the Lord. They are not to determine their own will, or the will of the people, but the will of the Lord. We believe this is best accomplished by searching the Scriptures on any given issue, devoting that issue to the Lord in prayer and then seeking unanimous agreement as to what the Lord’s will is in that matter. Only when we are unanimous as to the leading of the Lord Jesus will we act.
Westbrooke Church is not ours. It is Christ’s church. It was bought with His blood. He cleansed and purified it by His Word. He has appointed Os ordinances. He is the One who has chosen men to guide in spiritual matters and equipped them with the necessary qualifications to do the work. He Himself is the Head of the church. He hasn’t left us on our own to decide things for ourselves. We can be sure that when He is in the midst of His church, direction will be given. And working through the leadership He appoints, Christ will lead His church into a fruitful ministry of His life, for His glory.
The church is ruled by Jesus Christ. He makes His will know through certain men whom He designates and equips for this task, men called “elders.” The elders in turn commit the carrying out of those divine directives in areas of service to men with servant hearts called “deacons.“
If your ministry has a need in a particular area, these are the people you should talk to.
- Finance – Larry Phillips, Michael Habiger, Steve Willhite
- Building – Gary White, Dave Todd
- Missions – Dave Todd
- Needs – Mark Henry
- Grounds – Rob Crandall
What are deacons?
Deacons are not “mini-elders” waiting to mature into areas of true leadership. In fact, a quick glance at the list of qualifications for deacons and elders shows that a deacon must be every bit as spiritually mature as an elder. The only difference is the elders’ ability to teach, which marks the key difference between his and the deacon’s ministries. Deacons must be proven faithful, with a capacity to lead the members of their congregation and to manage their own households well. As in the case of an elder, the focus here is primarily upon what a man is as a deacon, rather than what he does. A deacon is a servant.
Originally the Greek word for “deacon” seems to have meant “one who waits on tables.” It later came to mean “ministry” or “service” in general. The New Testament uses the terms in this word group interchangeably to refer to both “spiritual” service, (for example, prayer and teaching) and “physical service” (for example, serving a meal). (Compare Luke 22:27) Interestingly enough, the first deacons we see in the New Testament are doing exactly what the word originally meant; serving tables.
They are settling a dispute as to how the food is to be served to the Jerusalem church shortly after Pentecost, so that the apostles would be free to devote themselves to “prayer and the minis” of the Word. (Acts 6:4-8)
It is important to realize the extent of the problem facing the church at this time. A conservative estimate would put the size of the church in Acts 6 in excess of 20,000 people. The twelve men called apostles could hardly have handled so large a church on their own and were clearly quick to delegate responsibilities on this occasion. Not only would the food need to be distributed but the finances collected and safeguarded, the needy distinguished from the not-so-needy, the food purchased and dispensed properly.
That huge administrative work was given to seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” who were put in charge of the task of serving.” More importantly perhaps from our standpoint is the reason that stands behind their work: so that the apostles did not have to “neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables.“
An enabling ministry
Here then is the essence of a deacon’s ministry. He serves the daily needs of the people in a church in order to free the elders to pursue prayer and the ministry of the Word. Deacons do the vital work of administration, assisting the elders in carrying out the Lord’s will as he reveals it. Theirs is a ministry of support and enablement; not a “glory” ministry, not a work done “up front” or in a way that brings much recognition. Theirs is a role of service and commitment to the needs of others.
In a special sense the deacon’s task is the essence of spiritual greatness, for our Lord said, “it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26)