Bible-based | Christ-centered | Family-focused | Mission-minded
God has given us a divine leadership model for guiding the church. It is not of man’s design, nor is it like any worldly format we might compare it to. Scripture mentions several “types” of members within the church. First Corinthians 12:28, 29 and Ephesians 4:11 mention “apostles, prophets, miracle workers, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.” Philippians 1:1 also mentions “deacons.” Here are some important points about each of these.
The term Apostles refers to the twelve men Jesus called to work alongside Him (Mark 3:14-19). They were the main leaders of the church during its infancy (Acts 2:42). But not just anyone could/can be an apostle. According to Acts 1:21-22, there are very specific requirements to be an apostle, which means it is impossible for anyone today to truthfully call themselves one of Jesus’ chosen apostles. Only two other men are mentioned in the Bible as having met those requirements. They were Matthias (Acts 1:26) and Paul (Galatians 1:1). Since all the named apostles have died, we no longer have apostles as leaders within the church.
Prophets and Miracle Workers. This refers to those early Christians, both men, and women, who received miraculous, spiritual gifts from the apostles (Acts 8:14-17). They could speak in tongues, heal people, and had other supernatural abilities. This was necessary because the New Testament had yet to be written. These gifts were God’s method for spreading and confirming His Word (Mark 16:20). But, once the Scriptures were complete, there was no longer a need for those gifts, so they ceased (1 Corinthians 13:10). In addition, all the apostles, who could impart such gifts, and those who received the gifts have all died, resulting in miraculous abilities having died with them. In addition, none of them were appointed as supreme leaders over the church.
Evangelists. This simply refers to a member who is capable of preaching the Gospel. Preachers are not the leader of the church. They are just workers in the kingdom who spread the Gospel to others.
Teachers. This refers to those brethren who can understand the Bible well and then communicate it to others in a way that can be understood. Some are capable of teaching before larger groups, while others are better suited for private settings. In either case, they are not designated as overseers of the church.
Deacons. These are men who have been placed in charge of a specific task within the church. The Biblical precedent is found in Acts 6:1-7. They also have specific qualifications required in order to assume the position (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8-13). While deacons may be considered a type of leader in the church, their real purpose and role is to serve, to be a servant – that’s what the word “deacon” truly means (1 Timothy 3:10).
Pastors. The Bible also described these men as “Overseers, Shepherds, Bishops, and Elders.” Each is a synonym for the same person serving in that position. They are the only members of the church designated in the Bible as leaders. They are the only ones to whom other members are instructed to submit (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Their leadership has a specific purpose – to guard and watch over the souls of the flock (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17). As a result, they must give an account to the Lord for their assigned duty. Notice also they are always referred to in the plural and never in the singular, which means no one elder is superior to the others. They, too, are subjected to very specific qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Being an elder is an enormous responsibility that deserves much respect from the brethren.
Take time to look up each of the Scriptures cited above. Read the context and observe how each “position” functions within the body of Christ, especially in 1 Peter 5:1, 2. The church’s organization was put in place by God through His inspired writers. Let us never forget that God’s way works!