What Does The New Testament Say About Church Leadership?

By Inspiration of God

Jesus Christ, through His apostles and by the Holy Spirit, has given us the perfect pattern in the New Testament for the structure of the church leadership. (John 14:25 and 26, II Timothy 3:16 and 17, and Galatians 1:11 and 12)

The church is not a democracy; it is a kingdom with Christ as the Head of the body, whose leaders serve by the will of the Holy Spirit. (Colossians 1:13 and 18, and Acts 20:28)

Each congregation has its own separate leadership, and except for the apostles of the first century and those they appointed, no one else has any earthly authority over the local church. (Acts 16:4, Philippians 1:1, and I Timothy 1:1 through 4)

Jesus serves as the foremost example for church leaders, the primary virtue being that of humility, because the leader is the servant of the flock and not their master. (I Peter 2:21, Matthew 20:26 through 28, and John 13:12 through 17)

Those chosen as leaders should be selected with the input and the consensus of the congregation, and they should enjoy widespread support and respect, both inside and outside the church. (Acts 6:3 through 6, and I Timothy 3:7 and 5:17)

Each one of us has been given different graces in this temporal world, so we each must serve Christ according to our various gifts; however, women may not exercise any authority over men. (Romans 12:4 through 8, and I Timothy 2:12)

Four of the offices prescribed in the New Testament for the body of Christ are: elder, deacon, evangelist, and teacher. (Ephesians 4:11 and 12, and I Timothy 3:1 and 8)


The title of “elders” is given to the church leaders who have the overall earthly responsibility for the congregation; they are also called “overseers,” which may be rendered as “bishops,” and they are called “pastors,” from the same Greek word that describes their work, which is to “shepherd” the church. (Philippians 1:1, Ephesians 4:11, and Acts 20:28)

The equivalency of these terms in identifying the same group of men can be seen in several New Testament passages, with each congregation always having a plurality of elders, that is, more than one. (Acts 20:17 and 28, I Peter 5:1 and 2, and Acts 14:23)

An elder must be the husband of one wife and rule his own house well, having believing children in submission and reverence, who are not accused of being wild or unruly, because the conduct of the members of a man's household indicates his ability to guide the members of the church. (I Timothy 3:2, 4, and 5, and Titus 1:6)


The man must desire the work, and he must be blameless, self-controlled, sensible, modest, hospitable, gentle, a lover of good, just, and holy, but he must not be given to wine, or be violent, greedy of ill gain, quick-tempered, covetous, or self-willed, and he must not be a novice. (I Timothy 3:1 through 6, and Titus 1:6 through 8)

Elders must be able to teach, to encourage others by sound doctrine, and to refute those who contradict, so that they may shepherd (or “pastor”) the church and be examples to the flock. (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9, and I Peter 5:2 and 3)

The first job of elders is to take heed to themselves, and to watch out for those who would speak perverse things and draw disciples astray, because the elders watch over the souls of those for whom they must give account. (Acts 20:28 through 31, and Hebrews 13:17)

And an important duty of the elders is to pray over the sick so they may be saved and raised up, and to pray for those confessing their trespasses so they may be healed and have their sins forgiven. (James 5:14 through 16)


The Greek word “diakonos” has been translated into English from the plural form as “deacons,” as “ministers,” and as “servants,” depending upon which version of the Bible is consulted. (I Timothy 3:12, and II Corinthians 3:6 and 6:4)

It is clear that any disciple of Christ, either a man or a woman, is also His “minister” or “servant” ('diakonos'), but there are two passages in the New Testament that refer to “deacons” as a specific church office. (John 12:26, Romans 16:1, Philippians 1:1, and I Timothy 3:8)

Similar to elders, deacons must be reverent, holding the mystery of the faith with a clean conscience, be blameless after being tested, and be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their households well, but they must not be double-tongued, be given to much wine, or be greedy of ill gain. (I Timothy 3:8 through 12)

If the appointment of “the seven” is an indication of their qualifications, then deacons must also be men of good reputation, and full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and faith, and as the name implies, their duty is to “minister” or to “serve” the church. (Acts 6:3 and 5, and I Timothy 3:10 and 13)

In addition, deacons' wives must also be reverent, temperate, and faithful in all things, but not slanderers. (I Timothy 3:11)


The Greek word for “evangelist” refers to a “preacher of the good message,” and the two men in the New Testament who are identified with this term are Philip and Timothy. (Ephesians 4:11, Acts 21:8, and II Timothy 4:5)

Philip the evangelist, who was “one of the seven,” went down to Samaria and “preached” the gospel about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, resulting in men, women, Simon, and the Ethiopian all being baptized. (Acts 21:8, 6:5, and 8:12, 13, 35, and 38)

So, the primary reason to “preach the gospel” is to convince those who hear the message that they must be baptized, as were Lydia and her household. (Mark 16:15 and 16, and Acts 16:10, 14, and 15)

In charging Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” Paul told him to be ready in season and out of season to preach the Word, to convince, warn, and encourage with patience and teaching, and to be watchful in all things, enduring hardship and fulfilling his ministry. (II Timothy 4:1, 2, and 5)

Evangelism, or “preaching the gospel” of peace and of good things, is accomplished by those who are “preaching,” who have been sent out to “preach” by the Holy Spirit, and who may derive their living from this work. (Romans 10:14 and 15, I Peter 1:12, and I Corinthians 9:14)

Paul said that he had not failed to declare the “whole counsel of God,” and that if anyone, including himself or an angel from heaven, should “preach a gospel” different from what he had already “preached,” that person is to be accursed. (Acts 20:27 and Galatians 1:8 and 9)


Jesus told His apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and “teaching” them to observe all things He had commanded, which they did. (Matthew 28:16 through 20, and Acts 5:42 and 18:11)

God through Christ has given some in the church to be “teachers”, a work closely related to the work of evangelists and pastors, and if we have been given the gift of teaching, then we must use it to teach. (Ephesians 4:7 and 11 through 16, and Romans 12:6 and 7)

A servant of the Lord must mature to the point that he is able to teach the truth with patience and humility, and one way we teach each other is through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Hebrews 5:12, II Timothy 2:24 and 25, and Colossians 3:16)

Older women have a duty to teach and train the younger women in the good things of the Word of God. (Titus 2:3 through 5)

And finally, we are warned that there will be false teachers among us who will bring in destructive heresies, and that people will turn away from sound doctrine and the truth to listen to the myths that they want to hear. (II Peter 2:1 and II Timothy 4:3 and 4)