Questions About Church Government

Question: “Can a church exist Scripturally without elders?”

Answer: Yes, Paul and Barnabas established churches on their first missionary journey (Acts 13 & 14). However, they did not appoint elders in them until they visited them again some months or years later. It was then they appointed elders (Acts 14:23). It takes time for men to grow and develop to the point they meet he Scriptural qualifications for being elders.

Question: “How could the early church appoint elders so quickly when it often takes years nowadays to find qualified men to appoint?”

Answer: Paul and other early missionaries always went first to the Jewish synagogue to preach the Gospel when they came into a place. Why did they do this? It was because they knew the Jews who worshipped at the synagogue believed in the one true God, respected and studied the Old Testament Scriptures which foretold the coming of Christ, lived better lives morally than the heathens, and were awaiting the coming of Jesus Christ. Men from this background who were converted had only to be shown from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When they believed and were baptized, they were added by the Lord to the church. They already had Bible knowledge and were leading good lives, so it would not take them long to become mature Christians and to qualify as elders.

Question: “Is it scriptural for a church to appoint a few men to be ‘leaders’ when there are no men who meet the scriptural qualification?”

Answer: No! Appointing such men is setting up another form of church government which is not authorized by the Word of God. In addition to this, these “leaders” who are not elders will function as elders and do the work of elders without being qualified. Many problems can come from this. God has given men the leadership role in both the home and the church (I Timothy 2:1-15; Ephesians 5:23-30). The men of the church can meet together and plan the work and worship of the church without setting up an unauthorized form of church government.

Question: “How can a congregation develop elders?”

Answer: Elders should develop naturally. Christians are commanded to grow (I Peter 2:2; II Peter 3:18). If Christian men grow and mature as they should, they will develop most of the qualifications of elders. In fact, except for the requirement that an elder must be the husband of one wife, have believing children, and not be a novice, all the other qualifications should be developed by every Christian (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Question: “What if a congregation has men who are qualified to be elders, but does not want to appoint them?”

Answer: Such a congregation is in rebellion against God and His plan for the government of the church. They need to repent of their sin and appoint the qualified men as elders.