- Biblical Overview
Structure of the Lord's Church
There is only one universal church (Ephesians 4:4, 1:22-23) which is made up of all those who have put their faith in Christ to save them from their sin (Romans 3:21-22), who have confessed Jesus as their Lord (Romans 10:9-10), who have repented of their sins (Acts 2:38), and have been baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). These individuals make up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14), which is the church of Christ. Jesus is the head of this body (Colossians 1:18) and has all authority over it (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:20-23). Individuals that are members of the one universal church who assemble and are in fellowship with other members of the one universal church make up the local congregation. The Bible has given instruction as to how the local congregation should be structured to expedite the work of Christ.
Individuals that are members of the one universal church who assemble and are in fellowship with other members of the one universal church make up the local congregation. The Bible has given instruction as to how the local congregation should be structured to expedite the work of Christ.
Click for a diagram of church structure.
Elders, also known as shepherds or overseers, are appointed to oversee the congregation and care for their safety as a shepherd would look over his sheep. The Bible teaches that there should be a plurality of elders overseeing and shepherding a congregation (Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2, 4, 6; Titus 1:5). It also teaches the extent of the elders’ outreach is their own flock (Acts 20:17, 28) or their local congregation. Their work consists of watching over the souls of the local church (Hebrews 13:17), maturing the local congregation (Ephesians 4:11-16), disciplining the congregation (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15), shepherding the local congregation (1 Peter 5:1-3; Acts 20:28), and praying for the sick (James 5:13-18) The local congregation’s responsibility to their elders is to esteem them highly in love (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) and be subject to them (Hebrews 13:17) The office of an elder has specific qualification for those men who aspire to do the work of an elder. (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)
Deacons, translated from the Greek word diakonos means servant. Though all Christians are servants, these men are set apart in regard to their work as a “servant” which Philippians 1:1 illustrates for us when they are specifically referred to as “deacons” just as the elders of church at Philippi are specifically referred to as “overseers”. These men are appointed to take care of some business to be accomplished (Acts 6:3). Just like the office of elder which has specific qualifications so does a deacon (Acts 6:3; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).
Evangelist, translated from the Greek word euangelistes means a bringer of good tidings. The same root word is also translated gospel, which means good tidings or good news. The word evangelist was used at the onset of the church for those who preached the gospel of Jesus that were not apostles. The work of an evangelist is to be a personal worker, teaching individuals about the salvation that is found in Jesus; though this is an assignment for every Christian an evangelist is fully devoted to these efforts. An evangelist also edifies or builds up the local church (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:1-5) through preaching and teaching of God’s Word. They are to defend the faith (1 Timothy 1:3; Titus 1:10-13). Train other men to preach and teach God’s word (2 Timothy 2:2). Evangelists or preachers are not pastors unless they also serve as one of the elders of the local church. In fact the word pastor (Ephesians 4:11) should have been translated shepherd as the Greek word poimen in every other place in the New Testament is rendered shepherd, which would refer to the office of elder.