How Should Men Organize Themselves to Lead the Church in the Absence of Elders?

This article is part two of a four part series on how church leadership should function in congregations which don't have men qualified to serve as elders.
In the last article in this series, we established that in the absence of an eldership, congregations should look to another model for church leadership already at work in the church: the model of leadership by Christian men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; cf. Ephesians 5:25; 6:1). At the same time, we noted that God does not want the church to be governed by a pseudo-eldership, a democratic process, or a denominational pastoral model. Keeping this in mind, how can Christian men organize themselves to lead a local church without appointing a body of leaders from amongst themselves, without voting, and without providing undue attention to any individual in their midst? In short, I’m going to suggest that Christian men should establish clear lines of communication amongst themselves and with the rest of the church they lead, punctuated by in-person, decision making meetings governed by the principle of consensus. That’s a mouthful, so let me explain.

Communication is the lifeblood of the human body, which itself serves as a model for the church (1 Corinthians 12:12). The human body works towards a unified purpose as directed by its head and controlled by its nervous system. That purpose yields at times to the input received from the various members of the body. Christian men cannot replace the Head of the church, Jesus (Ephesians 1:22-23), but they can function as a nervous system in His church body, 1) establishing clear communication pathways amongst themselves; 2) relaying a clear direction for the congregation from Jesus that all can see; 3) establishing some means so that those being led can offer feedback and input.

That second point demands further inspection. While some of the directions Jesus gives us are not open to discussion or debate, He has left some things for Christians and local churches to decide for themselves. The Bible uses terms like “liberty” to categorize these things and encourages Christians to choose a path with them that is both helpful and edifying (1 Corinthians 10:23). Normally, elders would make decisions for the local church in these areas. Without elders, how can Christian men do so?

The meeting in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15 provides some insight into how first-century Christian men dealt with issues that required a decision to be made. First, they met in person and discussed issues using Biblical principles as their guide. Second, they reached a Biblical decision through consensus. Third, they conveyed what they had decided to the church at large. While the situation underlying Acts 15 was unique in many ways, it stands to reason that these same basic principles would work for Christian men today. In fact, the men of many congregations without elders determine to have at least monthly in-person meetings to make decisions for the local church with ad hoc meetings as needs arise.

Within these meetings, how are decisions made without resorting to a democratic process? Reflecting once again on Acts 15, the brethren there in Jerusalem did not call the matter of their discussion to a vote. Instead, they worked to create unity and consensus through discussion. This wasn’t easy; in fact, the Bible says that the meeting in Jerusalem began with “much dispute” (Acts 15:7). They didn’t give up though. They realized what we should: given that Christ prayed for and pleaded for unity among Christians (John 17:20-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10), it is only reasonable that Christians should do whatever they can to achieve it. Christian men should strive to make decisions for the local church based on consensus.

The Bible offers further guidance to help Christian men both to achieve consensus and to make good decisions. We’ll discuss this in our next installment in this series.
-Patrick Swayne






1 Corinthians 12 1 Corinthians 14:15 1 Corinthians 14 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 1 Corinthians 7 1 Peter 1:6-12 1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 3 1 Peter 5:6-7 1 Peter 1 Samuel 4 1 Thessalonians 5:18 1 Timothy 4:1-3 2 Corinthians 6 2 John 1:9 2 John 9 2 Kings 2 Peter 2 2 Peter 3 2 Peter 2 Samuel Abel Abraham Absalom Acts 17 Acts 19 Acts 2 Acts 8 Acts Alcohol Alleged Contradictions Apostles Ark of the Covenant Attitude Authority Autonomy Autumn Balance Baptismal Regeneration Baptism Barnabas Benevolence Bible Contradictions Bible Questions and Answers Bible Study Bible Biblical Interpretation Bishop Body of Christ Borrowing Broad Way Cain and Abel Cain Calvinism Catholicism Catholic Celibacy Challenges Children Christian Living Christmas Church Funds Church Leadership Church Membership Church of Christ Church Circumspection Citations Citizenship Colossians 3:16 Communication Communion Community Confidence Congregations Contend for the Faith Contentment Covetousness Creation Credit Current Events Dating David Debt Forgivness Deconstruction Degrees of Punishment Deity Deliverance Denominationalism Devil Difference Different Discipleship Divine Nature Doctrine Dragon Drinking Easter Ecclesiastes 7:10 Ecclesia Eldership Elders Elder Elijah Elisha Encouragement Enoch Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:18 Ephesians 5:19 Ephesians 5:5 Ephesians 5 Esther 4:14 Evangelism Ezekiel 36 Ezekiel 6 Faith Alone Faith Only Faithfulness Faith Fall False Teachers False Teaching Fathers Fear Feeding of the 5000 Fornication Free Will Fundamentals Galatians 4:9-10 Gender Roles Generosity Genesis 22 Genesis 4 Genesis Gift of Tongues Gifts Giving Godhead Godhood God Gospel Meeting Gospel Grace Gratitude Greater Sin Greed Grief Grieving Hallelujah Praise Jehovah Hallelujah Hebrews 13:4 Help Hermeneutics Holidays Holy Spirit's Deity Husbands Hymns Hypotheticals Idolatry Imperatives Influence Insomnia Instrumental Music Instruments in Worship Intertextuality Isaac Isaiah 2 Isaiah 6 James 1:19 James 1:27 James 1 James Jehovah Witnesses Jehovah Jerome Jesus Temptation Jesus' Deity Jesus\' Deity Jesus Job John 11 John 19:11 John 4:24 John Calvin John the Baptist Jude 1:11 Jude 3 Jude Judgement Judging Judgment Kindness Lamb of God Lamech Lazarus Leadership Leaven Lemuel Lending Levites Limited Atonement Living Sacrifice Local Church Lord's Supper Luke 1:28 Luke 5:1-11 Mariolatry Mark 1:12-13 Mark Marriage Martin Luther Mary Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 5:3-12 Matthew 5 Matthew 7:13-14 Matthew 7:1 Melchizedek Men's Business Meeting Men\'s Business Meeting Men\\\'s Business Meeting Men Metaphors Minor Prophets Miracles Miraculous Gifts Money Mormonism Mothers Mount of Olives Mountain of the Lord's House Mountains of Israel Mountains Murder Music Mutual Submission Narrow Gate Narrow Way No Elders Non-Denominational Olive Trees Olives Olivet Olive Once Saved Always Saved Parenting Pastor Patience Patriarchs Pattern Paul Peace Pentecostalism Persecution Perseverence Perspective Philippians 3:20 Philippians 4:6 Plagiarism Poetic Language Politics Prayer Praying to Saints Praying Pray Preacher Preaching Priesthood Priests Proverbs 31:6 Proverbs Providence Psalm 148 Quotations Reader Response Redeeming the Time Relationships Relationship Religion Religious Pluralism Religious Syncretism Remission of Sins Restoration Movement Restoration Revelation 12:9 Riches Roman Catholic Church Romans 12:1-8 Romans 12:10 Romans 12:15 Romans 12:1 Romans 12 Sacrifice Saints Only Salvation Satan Scarecrows Sermon on the Mount Serving Others Sexual Sin Silence of the Scriptures Singing Sin Sleep Sobriety Song Studies Sons Sovereignty of God Spending Spirit and Truth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Leadership Stephen Straight Gate Stress Student Debt Submission Suffering Temptations Thankfulness The Beatitudes The Problem of Pain and Suffering The Problem of Suffering The Way of Cain The Way Tongue Speaking Total Hereditary Depravity Tradition Trials Trinity Types and Antitypes Uncleanness Unconditional Election Understanding Unity Unknown Tongue Vulgate Wealth Wide Gate William Kirkpatrick Wives Women in the Church Women's Roles Word Study Work Worship Zechariah clergy death sickness