Tuesday, January 25, 2011

House Church - Non-Hierarchical Leadership

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.


Tim A said...

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow..."

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. "

It truly is sad and grievous when saints use bogus translations to completely nullify what Jesus said very plainly and teach that human ruling and authority in the church is necessary and godly and that these falsehoods perpetuate for generations.

Eric said...


I, like many, have heard the verses you mentioned taught incorrectly. It's so sad that the church has slipped into man's idea of what leadership should be. We can only be servants and hope that others will eventually see the truth on this issue. Frankly, I need to work on being a better servant.

Aussie John said...


"Leadership is servant-hood, not authority and decision making."

I agree!

The problem is that most fellows I know who hold pastoral positions would adamantly agree, whilst at the same time defining servant-hood as "being in charge and having authority".

The only example worth following is the servant-hood of Jesus Christ, whilst respecting those we recognize as elders among us.

In the society in which we live the term "servant-leader is an oxymoron, or, at least paradoxical.

Eric said...


"The only example worth following is the servant-hood of Jesus Christ, whilst respecting those we recognize as elders among us."

Right on target. I see this so clearly now. At the same time I feel for many of my pastor friends who are stuck in a system that expects them to function like CEOs.

Caison said...

I'm new to this idea so forgive me if I bring things up that you've covered before. Also, I am a layman so I'm not a pastor with an ax to grind here.

I agree with the premise that biblical leadership is serving the body of Christ. However, it seems as though in your mind the idea of serving and leading, i.e. making decisions, are mutually exclusive, meaning that if you're serving then you can't be making decisions for the body. This doesn't make sense to me. Could one be serving the body of Christ through leadership by making biblical decisions in the direction a local body of believers takes?
It doesn't seem as though this is a desirable thing in your mind, but I'm not sure how it's avoidable. Decisions have to be made and a group of people have to make them and this seems to be one of the biblical functions of elders. I'm also not sure how it works that when elders make decisions it somehow results in a hierarchy that supplants Jesus as the sole Head of the Church, but if an entire body of believers make a decision that is avoided? It seems to me that any decision made within the Church recognizes and affirms Jesus as it's sole Head inasmuch as it is obedience to His testimony, i.e. the Scriptures, regardless of whether it's made by elders or an entire congregation.
Also, if there's no distinction of function within the body of Christ between elders and others within the body of Christ then why the distinction in the Scriptures? Why bother with a list of qualifications? Why say they are watching over souls? Why talk about exercising oversight or shepherding?

I thank you for your post and your blog and I sincerely desire to be conformed to the Scriptures so if I'm mired in my traditions then I desire reformation and hope you or others will correct me. I don't think I disagree with you, but I'm just not convinced that the conclusions you're drawing necessarily follow from your premises or that the Scriptures you use support your conclusions. It's also possible that I'm not understanding your premises properly and so my questions are pointless.

I hope my questions haven't come across in a manner other than which I intend. I share your desire to be conformed to God's Word and to be sanctified into the image of Christ. I look forward to learning from you and others who undoubtedly peruse your blog.

Steve Scott said...

Eric, I once blogged about the Matthew 20 parallel passage to the Mark 10 one, and a pastor called me out on writing such things on my blog. He said something like, "hey, that's what I do at this church." I was quite puzzled that he could be offended by Jesus' teaching about overlording, but later after telling me in no few words that I had no business blogging, I understood why.

Eric said...


Thank you your comment and your humble spirit. I'll do my best to answer your questions and concerns. I've got some questions for you as well.

I do not think that serving and leading are mutually exclusive. Rather, I believe the bible teaches that leaders lead by serving. They also help others serve. The Mark 10 passage I mentioned makes this very clear.

As for elders, I don't see anywhere in scripture that one of their functions is decision making. Rather, the entire church made decisions by consensus. I just recently wrote a post on this. Rather, I believe elders had the duty of being godly examples of servanthood to the rest of the body.

If elders begin making decisions for the body, this necessarily gives them some authority over the body. I simply do not see this in the bible.

The reason for the distinction in scripture is that the elders were the spiritually mature men in the church. They were expected to be godly men who came alongside other believers and helped them grow in Christ. In doing this, they shepherded, watched over souls, etc.

If we look at the passages in the bible that focus on elders, what do we see? Do we see decision making? I don't think so. Do we see service? Yes. That service is helping others in the body mature in Christ.

I admit that I don't have everything figured out. I'm still learning too. I appreciate the interaction.

Eric said...


Wow. I'm saddened whenever I hear storied like yours. I'm not sure what else to say.

Missiorganic said...

I do think that that there are those with authority over other men and that it is biblical to exercise that authority by making decisions and telling them what to do.

Case in point: "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"

Paul decided that Titus should appoint elders in every city and exercised his authority (as I instructed you) by commanding him to do what he said.

Titus then takes that authority and exercises it further over others by making decisions based on a set of criteria.

Managing others, directing them, and making decisions on their behalf can all be done biblically so long as it is not done in the manner of Lording.

Scott said...

Acts 16:4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.

Hebrews 13:7 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1 Peter 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,

Thoughts on these, they seem to indicate there was decision making authority by the elders in the early church ?

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting on my blog.

The example you provide is of an apostle telling someone what to do. I have no doubt that the original apostles has specific authority in the church.

Apostolic authority is far different from the roles elders play.

Can you show examples of elders in churches, as you wrote, "Managing others, directing them, and making decisions on their behalf"?

Eric said...


Those are important verses that I don't want to discount. Thank you for asking about them. I'll tell you what I believe.

Regarding the Jerusalem Council, if you look to Acts 15:22 you'll see that the whole church was present in decision making. This directly influences how we read Acts 16:4.

In Hebrews 13:17, the word "obey" carries a wide semantic range. The word can just as easily mean "to be persuaded." So what then does the verse mean? I believe the writer is commanding the people to be persuaded toward lives of godliness and service by the leaders who come alongside them and help them in this. I don't see decision making here.

As for I Peter 5, to an extent all young people should be subject to all older people in the church. I don't think this verse is talking about a specific group of men appointed as elders. The younger should look to the godly examples set for them by those with more spiritual maturity in the church.

In I Thess. 5, what does "have charge over you" mean? Does it mean that some can tell others what to do and have authority over them? I don't think so. Rather, I see it as a matter of influence towards godliness by those who have been Christians longer.

Those answers may not be satisfying, but it is what I believe.

What do you think of the Mark 10 passage where Jesus contrasts worldly rulers with His expectations. Is this simply a matter of the heart, or is Jesus contrasting authority with servanthood?

Alan Knox said...

Eric (and Scott),

If you don't mind, I'd like to chime in on some of those passages.

Acts 16:4 - Eric did a good job of pointing out that this was a decision of all the believers who were meeting together in Jerusalem, which, by the way, included several people from Antioch.

Hebrews 13:17 - This is perhaps one of the worst translated passages in the NT. Check most commentaries and you'll see that "Obey" (and "rulers" which the KJV has) is a bad translation. The verb is from a form of "trust" but in the passive. As Eric said, "Be persuaded by" or even "entrust yourselves to" would be better. By the way, the same form of the verb is found in the very next verse. Can you find it?

1 Peter 5:5 - I agree that younger men should submit themselves to older men. Does this mean that older men should exercise authority over those younger men? I don't think so. The verb "submit" is not forced, but is given by the person. "Subservience" is forced; submission is not.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 - the phrase translated "who are over you" is actually the verbal form "who lead you." By the way, make sure to include 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when you are interpreting 5:12-13.


Scott said...

I certainly see the Mark 10 passage as a rejection and even rebuke of the disciples abusive understanding and sinful desire for position and prominence in the Kingdom. The rebuke was so strong that Jesus said you’re no different than the unbelievers (gentiles) in your thinking. He then explains, as he did at other times, precisely what true leadership looks like - those who lead by serving. Servant Leadership.

But in the decision making process (we both agree decisions must be made) I'm not sure that having "ruling" and gifted elders making decisions on behalf of others should automatically be construed at those who simply are seeking to use abusive authority.

You seem to go to great lengths to dismiss any early church examples of ruling elders exercising biblical decision making. I sometimes wonder if past experiences, and therefore rejection of such, makes your position more pragmatic than it is biblical.

Perhaps if you had ever experienced it employed and working in the proper manner, in a biblical way, you would not be so knee jerk about rejecting the concept of plurality of eldership leadership, which involves decision making on behalf of others. To our members it’s not so much a hierarchical issue as much as it is a spiritual gift issue. But if you have only been exposed to the “pastor” as leader (buck stops here) model then the rejection is well understood.

As you know I serve with a plurality of eldership in our local church (I believe it to be the most biblical model). Many decisions are made without direct consultation of the members of the body at large. For example I believe that all of our elders have at least the gifts of leadership, administration, and teaching. God has also blessed us with a great diversity of gifting among those elders and yet each one faithfully employs “servant leadership” as an example to the rest of our church body.

I’m not sure were always in complete agreement about everything we discuss, but we rarely move forward on decisions without consensus among of us. Interestingly enough it has always been this way with this church and the members of this body do not feel slighted or marginalized when these decisions are made by the people they respect and trust to make them.

I have been witness to both of the extreme errors in church polity in terms of leadership structure. There is certainly nothing biblical at all about the – the pastor only authority model. But I have also seen the very unbiblical model (and quite messy if I might add) process of everyone involved in decision making which they are not gifted or mature enough in Christ to make. The greatest abuse of this is the voting model – which you have confirmed as being completely unbiblical.

I realize we are an imperfect people - building and imperfect church - yet I do believe the plurality of elders model of church polity is much more biblical than much of what I witness.

Sorry about the lengthy reply – but as I have said I’m preaching/teaching through Ephesians 4:1-16 right now – so this is where I am currently living.

In Christ, Brother Scott ><>

Eric said...


I'm not really sure how to answer the biblical passages you brought up any differently than I already have. Alan further explained them in his comment as well.

I suppose we are all impacted by our experiences. We all (unfortunately some of the time) bring those to the text when we read it.

We clearly see this issue differently. I'm not sure what else to say.

As for church size, consensus works very well in the house church. Thirty people can discuss an issue and come to consensus about it. I believe that to be the biblical model. Once a church gets to 50-100 or more people, then I don't know how consensus can be found on a regular basis. At that point, the next best model is probably elder-led decision making.

Alan Knox said...


I've had very good church experiences - both in single pastor led church and in plural elder led churches. But, my experiences (either positive or negative) are not as important as the example that we find in Scripture.

After deciding that Scripture only shows consensus, not some (even very godly people) making decisions for others, I've had the joy of experiencing consensus decision making. But, even if my experience with consensus was bad, it would not change what Scripture shows us.

In Scripture, I cannot find one example of an elder or group of elders making decisions for other believers.


Alan Knox said...

By the way, in Mark 10, Matthew 22, and Luke 22, Jesus tells his followers not to exercise authority. He does not condemn excessive or abusive uses of authority; he condemns authority.

Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 5:2-3 - "Shepherd god's flock by watching carefully... not by exercising authority over God's portion, but by being examples to the flock."


Sol Stallings said...

Elders = Consensus builders?

Scott said...


You said that you have decided, “…that Scripture only shows consensus, not some (even very godly people) making decisions for others…”

Not so much on the topic of exercising authority, on various models of ecclesiology, or even on this issue of biblical eldership, but just of the topic of decision making, it appears you are being intellectually dishonest at best, and exercising unsubstantiated biblical bias at worst. Are you seriously suggesting there is no biblical basis for decision making by a smaller group of people representing the general interest of a wider group? Certainly Acts 6 would at least give some support to this form of delegated decision making.

For further consideration. In Acts 6:1-7 a problem (real or perceived) arises in the early church, as it is stated, the daily distribution of food is not being handled fairly. Then it states that “the twelve” summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

Some would say, that since these twelve summoned the congregation, there you have it, consensus decision making. But further analyzed, what you see is a decision making body of twelve leaders consulting the larger group of disciples and delegating to them the task of selecting among themselves seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, to represent the larger group. Some suggest that the seven men comes directly from the practice of Jewish tradition where communities selected seven respected men who managed the public business in an official council. Whether that be the case or not, this congregation selects these seven men to perform the task of exercising oversight over this problem as them employ decision making.

In verse 5, we learn that the statement found approval with the whole multitude (don’t know if this was consensus – but at least acceptance) but this does not negate the fact that the congregation did choose seven men to represent them, in the form of making decisions concerning this issue that was negatively affecting the church.

Additionally I would suggest that taking a strong stand on this consensus only position is dangerously close to standing in opposition to the scriptures understanding of how God gifts various members of the body in order to bring about unity and growth. Members of the body employ a diversity of distributed gifts in order to edify the body. Some of these gifts (leadership/administration)lend themselves more to the process of decision making. I know in our local church many are indeed thankful they do not have to make decisions or weigh in on certain issues which they do not feel as though God has gifted them to make. Rather they trust gifted men whom that have been selected to represent them by making certain decisions according to their gifts.

Brother Scott ><>

Alan Knox said...


Even though we disagree, I would never suggest you are "intellectually dishonest." I believe that you honestly believe your interpretations.

As far as "unsubstantiated biblical bias," I would argue there is much more biblical evidence for decision making by consensus among the church than for any other type of decision making.

In Acts 6, I see the church (or at least those with concerns over a problem) coming to the apostles. The apostles then specifically tell that group to handle the situation themselves by selecting people to provide meals for the widows. The apostles did not pick the seven; the group did. (Notice Acts 6:3 - "Brothers and sisters, choose seven men...") Yes, the apostles approved of those selected, but so did the church. The apostles did not make the decision of who to choose.

I agree that the church (arising from Jews primarily) borrowed from their Jewish background. There were also big differences between the church and the synagogue. For example, each synagogue specifically had a "ruler of the synagogue" along with elders. Do you not find it interesting that this person/role is specifically missing from the church? I did at first, until I realized that Jesus himself (as the head) served as the only "ruler of the church" through his real, actual, living presence.


Scott said...

My apologies for any mischaracterization of your intentions. Please understand the term “intellectual dishonesty” was a characterization of your first statement, “After deciding that Scripture ONLY shows consensus, NOT some… making decisions for others,” you were making a very exclusive and I think untenable statement.

However you have now said, “I would argue there is MUCH MORE biblical evidence for decision making by consensus among the church than for any other type of decision making.”

At first I could only conclude that you were failing to consider (intentionally or unintentionally) or account for the instances in scripture where we certainly do find other forms of decision making.

By the way I very much enjoy the open and honest debate and discussion on these matters that I often find on Brother Eric’s and your blog… unfortunately many believers are not willing spend time asking hard questions about how we exist as the body of Christ.

Thank you both for keeping the conversations going and speaking the truth in love, causing the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Brother Scott ><>

Alan Knox said...


Concerning my comment about Scripture only showing consensus, it was meant to be really with the sentence that followed:

In Scripture, I cannot find one example of an elder or group of elders making decisions for other believers.

I would add to that that I don't see any instructions in Scripture for an elder or group of elders to make decisions for other believers.


Scott said...


When I read in 1 Timothy 5:17 where it states the elders “rule well” it further develops in my mind the concept of oversight that includes making decisions. That word “rule” means, to be in charge, engage in, and to manage well. It is a word that is directly related to the spiritual gift of leadership/administration that is mentioned in Romans 12:8.

Additionally when we read about elder/deacon qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:4–5 and again in 1 Tim. 3:12 it is referring to an elder’s oversight and his ability to properly lead in his own home. It suggest that possessing the ability to be a good “manager” of one’s children, is needed to be a good “manager” in God’s church. Remember children are further charged to be in proper submission to that leadership.

As the husband/father of my household, some decisions are made by seeking consensus with my wife and children, others are made with my wife only and then communicated to the children. Still at other times, decisions are made solely by me and then communicated to my wife and children. They do not suspect that I am somehow lording over them my authority, but that I am simply being responsible for exercising my God given role of male headship in the home. I would suggest that a basic misunderstanding of this very simple biblical principal makes for a chaotic household or church.

On this matter I suppose we shall agree to disagree. I find as much evidence for elders making decisions in these passage as you find when you read “it pleased the whole group” or “it seemed good”. Saying it pleased them or even that they were consulted, does not conclusively state that they were all involved in making the decision, only that they were in agreement with the decision.

I am well aware that there are many abuses in our churches concerning the intended biblical church model of plurality of elders employing servant leadership. But I continue to believe that first and foremost Christ is Lord over the church, and secondly that he gives his church gifted persons to exercise oversight of it.

By the way it is also important to understand that consensus decision making can be easily abused and misguided also by such things as groupthink, the Abilene paradox, pluralistic ignorance, democratic decision making, and group polarization.

Again thanks for the dialogue.

Brother Scott ><>

Alan Knox said...


The verb translated "rule" in some English versions of 1 Timothy 5:17 carries a range of meanings from "lead" to "rule." Since "ruling" has already be set aside as improper by Jesus, I would suggest that "lead" is a better translation. Thus, Paul is telling the church in Ephesus (through Timothy) to doubly honor those elders who lead them well. Does "lead" include the idea of making decisions. While some say it does, I would say that it doesn't. Again, I would point back to 1 Peter 5:3 to see the difference: not exercising authority but being examples.

If you check 1 Timothy 5, you'll find that (again) neither the word "rule" nor the word "manage" in used in conjunction with the relationship between elders and the church. Instead, Paul asks, "How can he (an elder) take care of God's church?" The verb translated "take care of" above does not include the ideas of ruling or managing in its range of meanings. Instead, it means exactly how it's translated above: "care for". Interestingly, the verb translated "manage" in reference to an elder and his family can also mean "care for." In parallel with the other verb meaning "care for," both verbs should probably be translated like this.

If you ever want an interesting study, go back to historical documents about why English translations use words like "rule" and "bishop/overseer" and even "church." Why? Because the ecclesiastical authorities told the translators (who worked for the church) to keep that language in their translations.


Sjur Jansen said...

Some comments from a house church in Norway without hierarchy:

HEAD? Jesus is the head of the church and king of the church. The Greek word head means source or origin. King means boss. Do not say that Jesus is the boss because he is head. He is boss because he is king.

Why point out this difference? The case is that the woman has not the man as king or chief. The woman has the man as the source or origin in the creation. Man and woman are equal in marriage and church.

LEADERS? Hebrews 13:7, "Remember your leaders," In Greek the word is not leaders. It's hegeomai. They were missionaries, "they spoken word of God to you."

A better translation of hegeomai is “a guide”. In Norwegian Bibles from 1930 or older, the word guide is in use. Today, the word leader has become popular and accepted, and the translators put it in the Bible. Hegeomai in Greek = "go ahead, go before". It is possible to go ahead and show the way without rule over people.

OBEY? Obey and rule is wrong translations from Greek. "Be convinced" is a better translation. In Luke 4:31 is the same Greek word used (peitho), and Bible translators translate it to "hear". The word is also used in Acts 17:4, the people listening to Paul “were convinced”.

WATCHING SOULS? Why does the Bible say “They are watching over the souls”? I can not Greek, but if I'm going to make an translation after a quick check in an Greek bible, it can be like this: "Let those who have gone before you, convince you of the words of life, because they lie sleepless when it comes to your souls. "

This is not a perfect translation, but show what room translators sometimes operates in when they can choose among different meanings of each word.

CRETE? Elsewhere in the Bible we see that Apollo and Mark did not do as Paul asked for. I think the idea is “friends-in-team-mission”. The team can have a project-leader, but the leader cannot lead more than the friends have the right to refuse.

"To appoint elders" does not necessarily mean that Titus should point out elders in every city. It can mean that Titus should say to each flock of Christians that it is good to have regular gatherings and to do that they would need hosts take the responsibility to invite people home.

TO SUBJECT? Very short: "To subject" is wrong translation from Greek. It mean "to support".

DECISION-MAKING? What kind of decision-making are we talking about? Give examples of necessary decision-making. Do not pick examples from modern churches.

RULING? 1 Timothy 5:17 "... where it states the elders rule well"? If the "rule"-word really means rule in English, then Phoebe was Pauls boss! Check the Greek, the word proistemi means to be near or stand in front of somebody or to care for others. Paul says that Phoebe took care of him many times. Or if you like: “Phoebe has been my ruler many times…”

Eric said...


Thank you for adding to this discussion. How have you experienced leadership within the house church in Norway? I mean, what does it look like in action? I'd love to hear about it from another country.

Sjur Jansen said...

Leadership is a difficult word because it may contain two dimensions: 1) Initiative. 2) The right to cut through (to decide, to rule).

The two dimensions are mixed all the time in debates. I think ruling does not belong in church life. So I try not to use the word leadership.

To defend leadership, many start with today's churches that have many departments. I think we must start with the Bible.

I was leader of information at a Pentecostal church with about 2000 members. After some years I discovered that people were not seen, and many were involved in activities, and there was little development in each member's life. There was something wrong with the ground structure. I pondered long and I studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that house church without hierarchy is a better way.

I took the initiative to start a house church, but a initiative is not the same as a right to rule.

Now I have been in the house church in 4-5 years. We take all decisions jointly. It is not many decisions. It is about time and place next time to meet, and whether we should have a specific theme or not. The evening is like as follows:

We meet around a meal and talk about what has happened the past week. During the meal it can show up some issues we will pray over later that evening. Then we drink coffee and the conversation is turning over to something theologically or something that has happened in our lives or something similar. One or two has prepared a contribution in the gathering, this is entirely voluntary, and is short, and is not every evening.

Sometimes we follow the themes in a book and talks about it. Sometimes we do not have any plan, we just talk. Sometimes we read a verse in the Bible and tell what we think. We have no leader who decides theology or what to do. But three people have study the Bible well, and two of this three has been study theology at the university a couple of years.

By participating in the talks as equal Christians, we think the universal Christian priesthood are growing in us. None of us are evangelists. Yet we talk about our faith more often than before, because we are growing slowly inside.

We do not have any activities, each person decides when and where they want to help another person they know about. Each one also decides witch missionaries or charities they will support with money.

Eric said...
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Eric said...
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Eric said...


Thanks for explaining that. We are thinking very much the same about these issues. Christ is truly the head of his church. He doesn't need any of us trying to help Him. God bless you.