Ask Your Preacher
“Leading Order”Categories: THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
What are the jobs and differences between Bishops, Pastors, Elders, Deacons? What is the chain of command or should I say the order between these positions? Where in the Bible does it talk about each of these positions, or are they manmade?
Rank And File
Dear Rank And File,
Elders are the superintendents of a local congregation, and they are always men. The word elder is one title to describe the leaders of a local church. Other titles include ‘overseer/bishop’ (depending on translation – 1 Tim 3:1) and ‘pastor’ (Eph 4:11). The title of the job explains their role. They have the oversight of God’s people. That oversight only extends to one congregation (1 Pet 5:2), the local congregation that they are among. Each congregation has elders appointed in it (Acts 14:23).
Elders must meet strict requirements before they are appointed. Those qualifications can be found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Elders are always referred to by the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ – thus making them men. Also, one of the qualifications is that they be ‘a husband of one wife’ (Titus 1:6) which makes it pretty clear we are talking about men. Elders also never serve alone. All the churches in the Bible had multiple elders. Elders serve an important role of protecting, leading, and guiding the direction of a congregation. They will give an account for every christian in their congregation (Heb 13:17). A congregation should never take lightly the responsibility of appointing only completely qualified elders.
Deacons are servants of the church. The word ‘deacon’ comes from the Greek word ‘diakonos’ which literally means ‘servant’. The Bible doesn’t give a detailed account of their job because there are so many ways that servants can serve. Deacons in the church are men that meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:8-13.
These deacons are a specific type of servant in the church – they serve the eldership (Php 1:1). Deacons are given authority by the elders to oversee various responsibilities within the church. These responsibilities might be building maintenance, the treasury, benevolence, etc. – whatever tasks the elders need help getting done are the tasks deacons are to fulfill. A good example of how this would work can be found in Acts 6:1-4 when the apostles needed help making sure the christian widows received their daily bread. The apostles had too many responsibilities already, so they delegated that task to seven capable men (Acts 6:5-6).
In short, the local church is led by elders (also known as pastors or bishops) and those elders have qualified deacons that help them fulfill their responsibilities.