Summary: A look at the three primary church government structures.

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- There are a number of ways that we could handle the passage this evening. We could talk about qualifications for pastors or for deacons (this would be especially helpful for a church entering into a pastor search process). We could talk about whether it’s necessary to be “called into ministry” to be a pastor (hint: it’s not, according to our passage).

- What I want to do instead is use this passage as a chance to talk about models of church government. This is something that I didn’t feel I knew enough about and I want to have a better understanding of the Biblical arguments that various denominations use. So I’m using this passage tonight as an opportunity to dig into that. I hope it’ll be helpful for you as well.

Opening Thoughts:

- There is not a single passage that lays out the divinely-ordained church structure, which is the main reason why we have multiple options before us this evening.

- In the Epistles, there is not a clear unitary structure that can be discerned that every church used.

- So the church pieces together ideas to try to discern what the best structure is.


NAME: Bishop (a.k.a. Episcopal).

BASIC STRUCTURE/IDEA: Authority resides in the bishop.

- The bishop has great authority to make decisions within the life of the church. The bishop is the key to the church government.

- The pastors are appointed by the bishop. A church (pretty much) has to take who they are sent by the bishop.

- The property is not owned by the local congregation, but by the larger group. (In Methodist circles, the “conference.”)

- Along with this, there are different levels of ordination. Being a local pastor would be the first level. Depending on how many levels there are, things could progress from there.

- Also important here is that the bishops are “chosen from above.” It’s the archbishop or a council of bishops that makes the choice, as opposed to “from below” with congregational or laity voting.

MAIN ARGUMENT: Christ put the apostles in charge.

- Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8.

- Christ is the founder of the church and He put the apostles in charge.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: The places in the Bible where it talks about church leaders being “appointed.”

- Acts 14:23.

- The fact that we have numerous places where elders or rulers are “appointed” indicates an authority to rule the church.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS: A. Lots of power with individuals. B. Little clear history of apostolic succession.

a. Lots of power with individuals.

- This structure obviously puts a lot of power in the hands of a few people. As in the case of a political government by a “wise, benevolent dictator” being one with good possibilities, so too here a “wise, benevolent bishop” could do great things. But the opportunity for abuse is rife in the structure and we have seen obvious examples of that happening down through the years.

b. Little clear history of apostolic succession.

- Matthew 16:18.

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