I've thought about this particular post for quite some time. There is so much that could be said. I'll try to keep this to a semi-reasonable length.
Let's begin with two examples from Jesus' ministry:
In Mark 10:42-45 we read, "And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"
John 13:12-17 tells us, "When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, 'Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'"
In the above passage from Mark, Jesus makes a distinction between worldly rulers and those who would be great in His kingdom. While the Gentile rulers "lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them," Jesus' example and instruction is that servanthood equals true greatness.
In the upper room in John 13, Jesus teaches that since He is the Master and acts as a servant, those who follow Him should do the same.
In light of these passages and others, what should leadership within the church look like? Whatever the answer is to this question, this is what leadership with the house church should look like because the desire is to follow the biblical model.
I've listed below several different aspects of biblical leadership within the church (I welcome your comments because I'm sure this list is not exhaustive).
1. Jesus Christ is recognized as the sole Head of His church.
"And he (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." Col. 1:18
All Christians that I have ever met give at least lip-service to this truth. However, in practice sometimes church leadership begins to blur the lines when an individual or small groups begin to make decisions for the group and exercise authority over the group.
Within the house church, a goal is to live out the truth that Jesus is the only Head of the church. He is the only authority.
2. Human leadership within the church is non-hierarchical.
Scripture tells us that there are human leaders within the church:
Hebrews 13:7, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith."
Leadership is servanthood (more on this in a minute).
Leadership within the church is not a hierarchy. No one is above anyone else. There is no clergy-laity divide. No one has special duties that they alone can perform. Rather, everyone within the body is the same in terms of authority, importance, and decision making.
I Peter 5:1-3, "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock."
We see in this passage that elders (who are likely leaders) are to shepherd the flock, but they are not to do this in a domineering manner. They are to be examples.
3. Leadership is servanthood, not authority and decision making.
The above passages from Mark 10 and John 13 make this clear.
Therefore, the oversight we read in I Peter 5 must refer to service in caring for the spiritual well-being of the body. This does not occur through making decisions for the church, but rather in encouraging and exhorting the body through acts of servant-leadership.
This is a concept that has been largely lost in the Western church today. Leaders in churches often view their decision making and authority as service to the body. They are simply wrong. Jesus shows us that within his church servanthood is drastically different from authoritative decision making.
4. Leaders come alongside others and help as they together grow closer to Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Pastor-teachers are given as a gift to the church for the maturity of the church. Gifts serve. Therefore, pastor-teachers (who likely take some sort of leadership within the church) are to serve the church family through equipping for servanthood. The goals are maturity in Christ and unity in Christ.
We must avoid thinking of this as someone teaching from a podium, telling everyone else what to do. Rather, we should picture the church family serving together to meet the needs of the church and community. All within the body will naturally take turns in leadership roles as they exercise their spiritual gifts for edification. All, then, are built up together, helping one another.
5. All members are fully recognized as needed by the church.
Again, this is something that most Christians say they believe. However, if the "clergy" in a church do most of the decision making, are most active in the "worship services," and are looked to in order to solve most of the problems, then this gives the unintended message to the rest of the church that they aren't as needed as others.
Within the house church no hierarchy exists. Therefore, every person is not only needed in theory but in reality. Every person is encouraged to use his/her spiritual gifts for the building up of the body. No one person is elevated in any way above anyone else.
6. Elders and deacons play a role in leadership in the church
I've already mentioned this above, but there are a few things I'll add here. There is no question that both elders and deacons play some sort of leadership role within the body. This does not, however, mean that they are always the leaders. There may be times when many others take roles of leadership as the church gets together.
Those who are elders and deacons should be well known by the body and exhibit godliness of character. Additionally, elders must be able to teach. Since our house fellowship has not been together for too long, we have not made any decisions about who the elders are. I think eventually we will be able to recognize who the Spirit has chosen.
What do elders and deacons do? They lead through being examples of servants.
Interestingly, when a man is recognized as an elder or deacon within the church body he should basically just keep on doing what he has already been doing. In other words, elders and deacons have already been performing acts of service prior to recognition.
7. Biblical leadership falls within the broader context of house church / simple church / organic church.
When a church functions according to the biblical model it will by definition be simple in structure. There are no buildings to maintain, no programs to keep running, no worship services to plan, no staff to pay, no committees to fill, no budget to meet, etc.
Because of the simple nature of the house church, leaders can focus on servanthood. In fact, everyone can focus on servanthood. No one has to be consumed with decision making as it relates to the above institutional structures. Instead, whoever happens to be taking a leadership role at a certain time can place his/her energy squarely upon serving others. This, in turn, leads to many examples of servanthood within the body. The end is much maturation of the church family.
There is more I could say, but I'll sum up with this: Biblical leadership is servanthood.