Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2)
Spiritual Leadership In The Church
Over the centuries, the wisdom of human pride has attempted to change the organizational structure of the Lord’s church. The apostles would be shocked at how churches of men have established spiritual leadership far from the pattern of the New Testament. Roman Catholicism began the march of apostasy by creating an incredible hierarchy of man-made organizations corrupted by the whims of carnality. The Protestant response has followed the same pattern of apostasy as men changed the leadership of the church to represent a false narrative of authority. There is a pattern given by the Holy Spirit showing the world the spiritual leadership of the local church that is divine in nature, simple in construction, and complete in the organization.
Jesus is the head of the church, and no man can take that role from Him or usurp a role of authority through Him. The church’s spiritual leadership is found in men called pastors, bishops, elders, overseers, and shepherds. They have the authority of Christ to exercise oversight of the local church alone. Each man (plural) chosen to serve as a pastor must be of a certain character, as Paul outlined to Timothy and Titus. These are spiritual men shepherding the flock and overseeing the local church. In the New Testament, there was always a plurality of men who led the church in the work of the Lord. As spiritual leaders, elders guide the affairs of the church by the authority of the word of God.
Deacons are spiritual leaders in the church as men who must have certain qualities (similar to those of an elder) that separate them as spiritual leaders. The work of deacons is found in the meaning of the word describing a servant’s heart. Elders have targeted characteristics that must be met before they serve as elders. Deacons have spiritual qualities that set them apart to serve in the spiritual leadership of the church. The local congregation comprises men who live spiritual lives doing spiritual work to further the kingdom of Christ.
Preachers must be spiritual leaders. Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to bear the characteristics of spiritual leadership in the quality of their life to lead by example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be kind to others, able to teach and learn patience with difficult people. There is much work for the evangelist to do in the work of the church and his spiritual leadership is key to church growth. The shepherds of the church working in tandem with the work of the deacons and the preacher will bring about growth to the flock of God.
In the early church, the apostles chose seven men to care for the widows of the Jerusalem church. These were spiritual leaders with a vital task of church growth. The seven needed to be men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and men willing to take on the work given to them by the apostles. The word of God spread, and many people were converted to Christ through the work of the First Century spiritual leaders working together to teach the lost, care for the needy, and build up the saints’ faith. This pattern must be followed today for the growth of the church.
Many others are spiritual leaders in the church when men take on the role of leading singing, offering public prayers, serving on the Lord’s table, and teaching Bible class. These roles cannot be filled with those who are not spiritual or devoted to the Lord. Women are spiritual leaders when they teach the young people in Bible classes and support their husbands, who serve as shepherds, deacons, preachers, and teachers. Paul illustrated the work of the church by what every part does its share. Spiritual leaders in the church have different roles and – for some – specific requirements that must be met. Everyone must strive to be a spiritual leader in their home and use their talents to be spiritual examples within the church’s work. The church will grow when everyone sees their potential for leadership in the spiritual work of the kingdom of Christ.