Oversight in Churches Without Elders

Regarding the oversight of the church, there is no more important subject to be found in the scriptures.

The NT points out very clearly that each congregation was to have a plurality of elders, who are also called bishops, to oversee the work and members of that particular congregation. By the beginning of the 2nd century many of the congregations had already departed from this teaching and had made one of the elders a bishop and the others were called presbyters. Paul foretold that this would happen, (Acts 20:28-31, 2 Tim 4:1-4).

For a congregation to begin, there must be someone who has leadership ability, and able to teach the gospel even though they may not have all the qualifications to serve as an overseer. There is then a period of time in which a congregation exists before they can have elders. Whem Paul and Barnabas went through the Galatian area on their first missionary journey they converted people, thereby constituting a church or congregation, but they did not appoint elders until on their return trip, (Acts 14:23). We know of course that they had the abiblty to give men the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, (Acts 19:6)

Titus 1:5 Paul tells Titus to ordain elders in every city, there had to be congregations there before he could appoint elders, therefore someone had to be exercising leadership before Titus came. That would no doubt be older, more mature men who had the respect and some ability to teach and lead.

The same must of necessity be so today, a congregation must exist for a period of time before it can have elders. Today some of the churches try to get around this problem by having the elders of another congregation oversee two congregations, this is wrong and is one of the first mistakes the early church made. Whoever is responsible for a congregations beginning it seems to me would have to lead by their example and teaching, until such time as they can appoint elders The church cannot be run by voting because that would make the church a democracy, and that is against all that the scriptures teach.

There is no other alternative to a plurality of elders given in the scriptures, however we know a congregation at times must exist before it can have elders. Therefore it must of necessity be lead by those that have the knowledge, respect and confidence of the rest of the congregation.

Darrel Collins

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