Principles of Local Church Governance

Lesson

The purpose of the local church is to function as the body of Christ to advance God's kingdom in the world by displaying God's glory, God's wisdom and the authority and power of Christ. All New Testament churches had elders. We can apply scriptural principles and practical considerations to train, choose and establish a framework for the ministry of elders so they can encourage and lead individuals and the church as whole to live out their faith in the community.

Outline

Principles of Local Church Governance

1. The Importance and Preciousness and Purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ in the World

The Bride of Christ

Ephesians 5:25-29

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.

The Body of Christ (Universal)

Colossians 1:18-24

He is also head of the body, the church. . . . Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.

The Body of Christ (Local)

1 Corinthians 12:21-27

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable. . . . But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The Household and Dwelling of God

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The Pillar and Support of the Truth

1 Timothy 3:15

[I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

To Display His Glory

1 Peter 2:9

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

To Display the Manifold Wisdom of God to the Spiritual Powers of Heaven

Ephesians 3:6-10

The Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. . . . To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

To Show the Authority and Power of Christ

Matthew 16:18

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

4. All New Testament Churches Had Elders Elders in All the Churches that Paul Founded

Acts 14:23

When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Elders in the Church at Jerusalem

Acts 15:2

And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.

Elders in Ephesus

Acts 20:17

From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.

Elders in All the Churches of Crete

Titus 1:5

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.

Elders in All the Churches of the Dispersion of the Roman Empire

James 1:1; 5:14

James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. . . . Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Elders in All the Churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

1 Peter 1:1; 5:1

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen. . . . Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God.

5. Eleven Biblical Principles of Local Church Governance

Principle One

The Local Church is governed by Christ (Matthew 16:18). This governance was mediated through the authority of the apostles and their close associates (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 7:17; 14:37-38; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Today Christ still rules through the words of his apostles as they are preserved for us in the inspired writings of the New Testament. Therefore, every effort will be made to conform the structure and procedures and spirit of church governance as closely as possible to New Testament guidelines, with a constant eye to promoting the glory of God and the advancement of faith (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 1:25).

Matthew 16:18

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Ephesians 2:19-20

So then you are . . . the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 7:17

Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

1 Corinthians 14:37-38

If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

2 Thessalonians 3:14

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Philippians 1:25

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith.

Principle Two

The ministry of the church is primarily the work of the members in the activity of worship toward God, nurture toward each other and witness toward the world. Internal structures for church governance are not the main ministry of the church, but are the necessary equipping and mobilizing of the saints for the work of ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-12

And [Christ] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.

Principle Three

Governance structures should be lean and efficient to this end, not aiming to include as many people as possible in office-holding, but to free and fit as many people as possible for ministry (implied in the preceding principle).

Principle Four

Christ is the head of the church and, spiritually, all his disciples are on a level ground before him, each having direct access to him and responsibility to intercede for the good of all as a community of priests.

Ephesians 4:15

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

Matthew 23:8-11

But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

1 Timothy 2:5

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Revelation 1:6

[Christ] has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father –to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Duration

1 hour 12 min

Sharing Links