The One Quality Christian Leaders Need to Survive and Thrive Without Elders

This article is part three 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 first two articles of this series, we established 1) that in the absence of elders, congregations ought to be led by the other God-approved leaders in the church, namely, Christian men and 2) that Christian men ought to lead by making decisions mutually through consensus. But how can people achieve consensus? The answer to this question is not just important within men’s business meetings but within all aspects of a congregation’s work and life.

The night before Jesus was crucified, He “rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself… and began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13:4-5). His action was one typically reserved for women and servants; His aim in doing it was to give an example (13:15). Yet what example was He setting? He asked His disciples after washing them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (13:12). What He did would be obvious if all He intended to do was wash their feet. Instead, He called attention to the fact that as “Lord and Teacher” (13:13-14), He had served them by submitting to their needs.

Submission is an absolutely vital quality in Christianity. Rather than describing the position an inferior person takes, Christian submission describes a choice made by an equal or, as in the case of Jesus, a superior. All Christians are on equal standing before Jesus and God (Galatians 3:28). They are called to submit “to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). No one is exempted: “all of you be submissive to one another” (1 Peter 5:5). Christian men leading a congregation in the absence of elders must submit themselves first to the needs of the congregation and second to each other, “in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Further principles help to define and refine submission both in leaders and in all Christians. First, Christians must all submit themselves to God while resisting the devil (James 4:7). As a course of action is considered, Christians ask: 1) Does it bring me/us closer to God and further from the devil? 2) Does it honor God’s desires as expressed in His Word and bring Him glory? Some things are never even considered in men’s business meetings or elsewhere in the Christian life because they fail to show God the respect He is due.

Married couples have probably experienced the “What do you want to eat? / I don’t know, what do you want to eat?” conversation. It illustrates that someone must eventually show leadership and decide, even when people are trying to show consideration and practice submission. Three calls to submission, two explicit and one implicit, help Christians to know whose voices should be given first consideration before making a decision:

  • Christians should submit to those who are older: “you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders” (1 Peter 5:5). Placing this command in its Biblical context, one realizes that consideration should be given both to physical age and maturity in Christ in determining who is “elder.”
  • Christians should submit to those who are active (1 Corinthians 16:15-16). The household of Stephanus had devoted themselves to ministry; on this basis, Paul told Corinth, a church that does not seem to have had elders, to “submit to such” as them. Proven servants of the Lord ought to be given a louder voice than armchair quarterbacks.
  • Christians should submit to the gifted (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). Christians should honor the different roles people hold within the body of Christ and allow those gifted in certain aspects of church work to exercise leadership in those aspects.

Consensus achieved through Biblical submission and its surrounding principles brings great glory to God. We’ll explore submission further next time.
-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