the whole family in heaven and earth is named …
The model of Church governance has been debated continuously and we have numerous types from theocratic, hierarchical, congregational, democratic, and world dominating universal types (see HWA, Mystery of the Ages page 247). All these types of government are borrowed from the world. Some have copied different forms of man’s government and others have adapted a military type of organization. Our recent and past history has shown various church corporations establishing pyramid structures to govern the brethren. The problem is that the pyramid confers rank and power to those within the structure. The power increasing as you rise higher in the pyramid. The system was designed for ruling armies and nations and is not suitable for the Church. Rank confers power because those at the top are empowered to hand out authority, responsibility and money to those below. Those at the bottom of the structure receive their limited power from those above. In most cases the system chosen by various groups is selected to support the power base of the founders. In other cases, scriptures are ‘proof texted’ to justify and substantiate that the chosen style of governance is Biblically based. However, it seems that through the simplicity in Jesus Christ (2Cor 11:3) the method of governance should be clearly seen. The plain scriptures do show us the model that has always been before us.
We all know that the Church is a spiritual organism; it is one body, one spirit, and one faith (Eph 4). That body is composed of many members with Jesus Christ as the head of the Church. When we see various church organizations develop, in most cases they do not include Jesus Christ as the de facto head of the Church, but rather appoint men in these positions. They also have a system of anointing leaders to pass the mantle down to others thereby creating a hierarchical system of power sharing. They may acknowledge Christ in words or state that men and positions were selected via much prayer and fasting seeking Gods influence. Yet through their systems, they cement their power by conferring positions to those below and creating a power structure that serves their purpose but not necessarily Christ’s. In addition, these systems of governance leave out the lay members in participating in the functions and work of the Church. For Christ to be truly the head of the Church, the Church must rely solely on the Holy Spirit and the inspired Word of God for guidance and decision-making. These tasks are not to be left to mere men or groups of men.
In governments, there are essential components including a territory, a people, and law. These components must relate to each other in order to function. The law establishes the method for the management of relationships between people, people to the land, and people to people. The territory sets the boundaries in which the law governs these relationships. The law should exist to protect, defend, preserve, and develop the land and people so that harmony and peace abound. Laws that manage our natural resources, such as the air, water, soil, plants and animals, are necessary for the long-term harmony of both man and the environment. The land must be preserved in good health to provide for man’s physical needs. Laws that manage relationships between people are necessary for harmony and peace to abound, and so that man can develop spiritually. Church governance also has these three components and they must be understood and managed correctly for governance in the Church to succeed as designed by the Father and the Son.
When you look into God’s law, it is hinged on two great commandments that give us understanding on how governance is to occur within the Church. In Mark 12:29 it says, “Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” The commandments show governing law is based on love rather than position (the active voice herein is love). In Church governance, the focus is first directed vertically toward God and defines man’s relationship to Him as one of love. In the next verse Mark 12:31, it says “And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Here again, the focus is on a relationship based on love and it is secondarily directed horizontally toward our fellow brethren. The commandment is to love others to the same degree that we love ourselves. Love in God’s government is to be without partiality (James 2:1-4) in that we are not to show greater love to one group or individual and lesser love to others. The law is an essential ingredient of government and it instructs us to treat all members of the Church as brothers and sisters, even calling them all brethren.
Additionally, the scriptures tell us there is one lawgiver who is Jesus Christ (James 4:12, Isa 33:22). The lawgiver is the ruling authority in the governing body and He is given the authority and position to judge and govern. In James 4:11 it says, “He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” Therefore, in order to carry forth in Church governance, we need to fulfill the law of love by not assuming a position that is not ours. The position of judge or ruler belongs to Christ, the lawgiver. Governance requires law and it requires the obedience to that law for it clearly says in Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
The lawgiver, Jesus Christ, came to us in the form of flesh to spiritually expand on the law. He instructed in word and deed revealing the Father and this deeper understanding of the law. We see this in Christ’s very own words in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Here again, the second great commandment is emphasized and expanded to include the degree of love that Christ has for us. He is speaking of Godly love as opposed to the love of man. In this two-part commandment He is giving us the summary of the entire law.
Also, it is through this fulfillment of the law of love that we will be recognized as those who truly follow God and Christ. As it says in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is by this that we will be recognized as members of the Church of God. Citizens of nations are recognized by their traditions, dress, mannerisms, speech, and habits. We will be recognized by our tradition of love to one another as we fulfill the law of Christ.
We are also to petition for God’s will to be done in governance as shown in the model prayer found in Matt 6:10 “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In daily prayer, we are to acknowledge God as the governing authority in the Church today just as He will be the authority in the kingdom to come.
The essence of governance is the management of relations between people. The people of the Church are called the brethren and children of God. Even Christ refers to himself as one of the brethren for in Hebrews 2:11 it says, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren”. The word for brethren is Strongs G80 “adelphos”, and it’s meaning is simply “one that is kindred”. It is also commonly translated as “brother”. The root word is “delphus” which means “from the womb,” the connotation being that brethren or brothers are kinsman bonded by family bloodlines. However, Christ turns this familial common meaning to one that is spiritually based. Christ shows that family members are not determined by heritage, but rather by a common bond of belief and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord and Savior is very clear in describing the family members of the Church, the body of Christ, when he said “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48 -50).
We are the children of God by the mighty graciousness, love, and mercy of the Father (I John 3:1). The Father is the one that draws us into or calls us into the Church (John 6:44) and then we become God’s children by adoption through this process of being called, baptized, and then receiving of the Holy Spirit. We are God’s children because we allow His Spirit to lead us in our lives. The Spirit is to govern all we do, which makes us God’s children. The gift of the Holy Spirit brings us together into the family of God unifying us with the Father and the Son. We find in John 14:16 Christ’s promise of this gift when He said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Emphasis here is on Christ’s word that He would not leave the apostles as orphans, meaning without a father or family. He promises them a family relationship with God the Father and the Son through the gift of the Holy Spirit while the apostles continue to abide on the earth. Christ repeats this commitment by stating in John 14:23, “We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Therefore, it is the receiving of the Holy Spirit that puts us in the Church and we are bound together by that same Spirit in governance. For in Romans 8:14 it says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” We find that those who allow the Spirit to govern their lives are bound by a great love for the Father for it says they cry out “Abba” (we would say in the English language “Daddy”) for we are now His very own children by this wondrous adoption process.
We were then given to Christ, chosen for a special purpose for the work of completing the family of God. The Father gave all authority (John 17:2) to Jesus Christ and also gave to Christ the apostles to accomplish the work. In John 17:6 it says, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” Later, we find Christ is the One that put us in the body of the Church where it pleases Him, for in John 15:16 he says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you”. The apostles were appointed to a special position in the Church. They were the ones that became the eye-witnesses to Jesus Christ and all his teachings and they were the ones sent forth to the entire world (Matt 28:19-20). We are also called and then chosen for His purpose, and as it pleases Christ He appoints us a place within His body (1Cor 12:18).
The scripture clearly teaches that the Church is one and a unified spiritual body. In Ephesians 4:4 it states, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” It is through Christ, when He reconciled with men by His sacrifice, that we are a unified entity joined together with Christ as head (1Cor 11:3). It is by this connection with Christ, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that we become brethren that belong to Christ. It says in Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” The people of the Church are those members that have the Spirit of God indwelling; they belong to Christ and Christ belongs to the Father (1Co 3:23, 11:3), therefore we all belong unified together as a whole through the power of the Spirit.
In our analysis, the territory, just like the law and the people, is spiritual and is well known as the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven. We are pilgrims today, living in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16), and waiting for the return of Jesus Christ and His coming Kingdom. The book of 1 Peter best summarizes what we are discussing here, showing that the people (the brethren) are also called a nation, but not just any nation, but a holy people dedicated to God for His purpose.
1Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
Though our nationality is spiritually determined, our challenge today is the physical struggle of treading out our time here on this earth as foreigners, sojourners, or pilgrims without our country. We are to obey the commandments of our God, perform good works, and do all that is required of us by our King, Jesus the Christ while on this earth.
1Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Our country and territory is the heavenly and spiritual realm for it is nothing less than the Kingdom of God. We are now living in the physical, awaiting our transformation into the express image of Jesus Christ that we may return to our home country to be with our Father and the Son.
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Given that we are not in our home country and we are foreigners living in the world, it is important that our conduct shine forth as evidence of our nationality. It says in 2Corinthians 5:20 that “we are ambassadors for Christ” and should therefore express the mannerisms, customs, language, and religion of our home country. We should always remember that the Kingdom of God is located where Christ, the head of the Church, dwells. In Luke 17:21 Christ says, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ for indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you” (NKJV) or “standing in the midst of you” (Coulter). The brethren desire to always be with the Lord of Lord, and King of Kings in the heavenly Kingdom (Rev 17:14, 14:4).
The Family Model
The model for Church governance is the family structure where there is a Father, a Son, a wife (bride), and children. The Kingdom of God is modeled in the familiar parable in Matthew 22, beginning in verse 2 with “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son”. It’s important to pay attention to the parables that begin with the statement “The Kingdom of Heaven is like” for it gives us clues to God’s governing structure. The Father called many from out of the world, both bad and good, to the wedding (Matt 22:9). He then placed these members in the Church to form the bride of Christ for it says in 1Cor 12:18, “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” The parable summarizes the work of God the Father in finding and developing a bride, a bride that will marry His Son. Therefore, we find that it is God the Father who developed the model of Church governance described herein.
The Church is first hierarchical in that all members are subject to Christ as head. Christ is subject to God the Father (1Cor 3:23: “And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”). The members are described as the body of Christ and have direct connection to Him through the Holy Spirit. The Church structure is vertical through Christ and the Father and then horizontal throughout the brethren (the children of God). For all the brethren are equal in God’s sight but differ only in gifts, talents, and ability. In fact, we are admonished to give greater honor to the weaker members (1Cor 12:23).
The governance of the Church is illustrated by the relationship of the husband (Christ) and the wife (the Church or Bride). The relationship between the two is clearly described in the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:22 it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
The Church as a whole is described as the bride of Christ, the chaste virgin, or the wife that has made herself ready. She is presented to Christ as the whole, the living entity to be the chaste bride of Christ. For it says in 2Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” And in Revelation 19:7, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” We find that the husband-wife relationship and the Christ-Church relationship are parallel and establish a governing structure we find familiar.
As we know, the Church is composed of many members. In a family those members are known as the children. We are the children of God, those that are led by the Holy Spirit, and are members of His family, for in Romans 8:16, it says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. The children are all subject to the husband and the wife in whom is the governance in the Church. The Church is analogous to a mother that nourishes and protects her children. Paul writes in 1Thess 2:7, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” Also, the apostle John in his letters refers to the brethren as “little children” in numerous passages. The Church as a whole is to be a type of mother that provides instruction, in love, peace, and harmony for the children.
God bestowed gifts unto the members and he expects us to use those gifts or abilities in service to the Church. It is by the power of the Spirit that gifts are given and they are made evident, or manifested, when they are utilized so that the family of God benefits. For in 1Cor 12:7 it says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all”. The Spirit and accompanying grace is measured to us in the form of different gifts or talents (Eph 4:7) and that Christ would establish positions in the Church that would labor to edify, unify, and perfect the children of God.
Eph 4:11 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Every member in the body has a gift from God and therefore a useful function, some are more glorious than others but although different they still compose the one body of the Church. The positions described include more than ministering but also describes those that help, administrate, exhort, give, and extend mercy. All these functions need to occur in the body and are not limited to the teachers and ministers. We find support for this in Romans 12:4, “ For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
The greatest positions require the greatest service. Today the Church leadership is comprised mostly of teachers and ministers since the apostles and prophets are no longer among us. Those that minister and teach must not only instruct in word but by example lead the brethren. We find that the apostle Paul in 1Corinthians 12 says we must earnestly desire – that is be zealous – for these gifts. A zealous pursuit must be done in a spirit of love and labor and not seeking a gain in this life but seeking to ready the Church for the marriage to Jesus Christ.
1Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
The “more excellent way” described by Paul leads us to 1Corinthians 13, also known as the Love Chapter. Therein Paul explains that all our talents and gifts must be exercised in a spirit of Godly love. That love comes forth from the Holy Spirit that dwells within the heart of the true Christian to perform profitable works in service to the Church which is also profitable in developing the individual that exercises the gift. This love does not seek its own, but rather seeks to benefit others in selfless acts of kindness and generous labor fulfilling the law of Christ that governs the Church.
Responsibility and Authority
Debate and the focus of governance in the Church usually centers on the rule and authority over the children of God (Matt 20:20-28). Brethren will not argue that God and Christ are in charge but it is quite common to see them argue amongst themselves over who has the rule and authority. Rule and authority is given by God’s grace, not by edicts of men or the passing of a mantle, but for the benefit, growth, and protection of the body. The elders in the church are revealed and made evident by their gifts, talents, wisdom and the presence of the Holy Spirit. These elders are synonymous with the oldest children in the family. In large and healthy families, these family members are older in age, greater in maturity, stronger physically, and are normally requested by the parents to watch after the younger. It is quite normal for younger children in a family to desire to emulate their older siblings in this process of learning. The entire chapter of 1 Timothy 5 is dedicated to the treatment of relationships in the Church. The chapter speaks to Timothy, though relatively young in age, as to how he must effectively manage the brethren as a family. The opening verse says, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity (I Tim 5:1)”. The opening here speaks to each type of family member – fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters – showing that each are to be treated like close blood relatives with love and respect by those in authority. Likewise, the brethren are taught to respect, esteem, be submissive, and obey those in the position of spiritual elder (Heb 13:7, 17, 24).
1Thess 5:11 “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
The love and respect that an elder sends to the brethren is likewise returned unto him by each member of a loving and respectful Church, so that there is peace in the family of God. This treatment is a fulfillment of the law of Christ that is found in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
In healthy families, there is a system of governance whereby decisions are reached in a loving respectful process. The children in families vary in ages and maturity, gifts and talents, and they serve individually according to these gifts and abilities. With the husband and wife working together, decisions are reached with open communication and valuable input from each member. All decisions are based on the authority and final decision of the husband and father of the family. In the Church, this position is synonymous with God the Father and Jesus Christ as they lead the Church’s decision making by the influence of the Holy Spirit. In a family, the eldest child will lead due to maturity and wisdom but all participate lending their various talents in service and input to family decisions. In the Church, the ministers and elders are to lend their God given talents in guiding the decision making process to bring consensus, unity, and an abundance of peace.
The parable of the talents gives another clue to governance in the church for it again begins with “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man traveling to a far country,” (Matt 25:14). In this familiar parable the Lord delivers all his goods, which is synonymous with the giving of gifts, to the servants in different amounts. Some of the servants receive five talents, others receive two, and another one talent each to his own ability to manage. Upon receiving the talents, the servants become stewards with responsibilities and authority for what they have been entrusted. In a similar parable in Mark 13:34, it says ”It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.” Jesus Christ is giving us an important principle showing that with responsibility one is also given commensurate authority to carry out that responsibility. We need to recognize that some have greater responsibility and commensurate greater level of authority as displayed in 1Cor 12:28 where it states, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…”. As earlier explained all the members received gifts of varying degrees (Romans 12:3, 6) measured out to them by Christ himself. With each gift there is a responsibility and a level of authority to exercise it for the benefit of the Church. We should notice that the order is first receiving a gift by the grace of God measured to each of his servants, this generates a responsibility to exercise that gift for the building up of the body of Christ, and lastly rule and authority is given to carry out the duties. Paul makes the case in 2Cor 13:10, where he says, “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.” We should clearly see that responsibility and authority work together, and those receiving the greater gifts are to humbly serve the brethren by taking the lowest position and bearing the greater load for the growth of the Church.
In the Church today, ministers and elders have specific functions for which they are accountable to God. They must bear responsibility in three main areas which are, preaching the gospel, protecting the brethren, and tending to their needs. The great commission (Matt 28:19) gives us Christ’s commands to make disciples, baptize, and teach to fulfill the first main area. Also, Paul charges Timothy to carry on the commission (1Tim 4:1-2) by saying, “Preach the word!” Christ gives additional instruction to the ministry emphasizing the areas of protection and care for the brethren by introducing the concept of shepherding (John 10). Ministers and elders are to give protection from those that would spiritually harm the flock (John 10:10, Acts 20:29), and those that would cause division (Titus 3:10, Rom 16:17), and those that deceive (Titus 1:10-11, 2John 7). In his final appearance to the disciples (John 21:15-17), Christ’s words to Peter drive home the importance of shepherding by relating the love of God (which is the Law) to the feeding and tending to the flock. For it says in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” In fulfilling these three areas of responsibility, feeding and tending as a shepherd embodies all that a minister is to be. They are to labor with no concern for themselves, or for power, or for money (Tit 1:7), or for prestige but taking the role of a shepherd (1Peter 5:1-4), one that serves the lambs of God.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard provides another clue to governance in the Church for it begins with familiar statement “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard (Matt 20:1).” The parable concerns brethren working together in the Church but showing some bearing a greater load than others. In the parable, some men work the entire day, bearing the greater load in the heat of the day. Yet, others only worked during the last hour in the cool of the evening (Matt 20:12). The workers that worked the full day will include those ministers and elders that take shepherding seriously and shoulder a greater burden of service to the Church. The landowner (picturing God the Father) chastises them for their complaining and desire for a greater reward. God is righteous in His chastisement for Christ said in Luke 17:10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”
Ideally, if humility ruled in the Greater Church, ministers and elders would work together with others ministers and elders regardless of membership in other Church corporations in an attitude of cooperative service. In the third chapter of 1Corinthians, Paul addresses a major problem in the Corinthian Church where people are picking sides and choosing their ‘man-in-charge’. This should not happen for all are viewed as workers together, side-by-side, in God’s vineyard for it says in 1Cor 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” The scripture says that God’s fellow workers “are one” in the body but serve in different ways. Ministers and elders today must drop their power struggles and unite their variety of gifts to focus on the struggle for our salvation. The world rules by “might makes right” but the Church rules by righteousness through the Holy Spirit, with each member, in humility, giving through service to one another that God may reap His harvest.
Humility must rule within Church organization and be present within all members so that there is no jostling for rank, title, or seeking of power. The one that takes the lowest position (Matt 20:27) will find his place by exercising the gifts he received from God. Performance is the sole determinate of position within the Church organization chart. Paul said in Ephesians 3:7, “of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” In humility, Paul considered himself the lowest of all saints, literally the servant to the brethren, and in accordance with Christ’s instructions (Matt 20:26-28) made himself a slave to all the brethren. The elder must have a shepherd’s heart in performing these duties. He is an overseer of Christ’s little lambs not for selfish gain or power but he must serve to bring them all to Christ by the word and by example.
1 Peter 5:1-3 “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”
Elders must teach humility by leading in humility, and all members must be humble and submit to one another. In the Church, humility needs to be the governing attitude in all decision-making and interpersonal relationships.
1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
I believe it is very possible for Church members to govern themselves in such a manner, where they are always connected to Jesus Christ as the head of the Church in spirit and in truth. Christ must be the “de facto” head of the Church as each member is guided by the Holy Spirit and led to the right decision. Even though Christ is not visible in the flesh, He must be real in spirit for the Church to be governed according to the family model. For it says in Ephesians 5:30 “we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” The entire membership, the children of God, must allow the Holy Spirit to rule within and amongst themselves that the law of Christ be fulfilled. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that any of this is possible and the closer we are to God and Jesus Christ the more of the Spirit we have available to govern in peace and unity.
© 2010 by Stuart W. Fricke – used by permission.