1 Timothy 3:1-10 … is going to introduce us to church governance in the New Testament church and the second of Paul’s “trustworthy sayings.” This will give qualifications for elders, overseers, or bishops, all translating the Greek word “episkopees,” which are those selected to oversee the local church. The qualifications are valuable guidelines in determining those responsible for carrying out the mission of the church, maintaining its sanctity, teaching and purpose. Verses 3:1-7 deal with elders in the church, who are the overseers, by whatever name they’re called. Beginning in verse 8 are the qualifications of deacons (those who serve the needs of the church permitting elders to focus on the ministry).
Given the clear direction given here regarding church organization, it’s amazing that we have so many denominations and forms of church governance in Christian churches today. You might wonder how this biblical model is expressed in current church governance. Basically, there are three forms of church governance today … all the rest are combinations of these three: First is the Episcopal model, where one man (or, there may be several) is in absolute charge at the top. Second, there is the Presbyterian or representative form of governance where the church elects elders and deacons and the governance of the church is in their hands. The third type is the congregational model where the congregation collectively holds absolute authority under their local control, voting on membership and virtually everything else. Baptist, Congregational, and some (not all) independent churches follow the congregational mold. The form of government says nothing about theological distinctives of the churches, which is even more important to consider as you compare churches.
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