The above picture is a depiction of Simeon
holding the Lord Jesus as an infant in the temple. To me it captures
the essence of eldership and speaks of men who have matured beyond the
trappings and ambitions of religion, and hold within their bosom the
simplicity of Christ. Even though elders or bishops are clearly men; I
cannot look at this picture without thinking of Anna the prophetess who
coming in the very moment that Simeon was holding the Child also
"gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all
those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
Rather than making a
attempt that places women in an eldership role as well; we should recognize the over
abundance of textual evidence that clearly shows otherwise, and yet at the
same time we should also remember that the text in no way limits women from
five fold ministry roles having been given the support of their husband (if
married) and the presbytery of elders and bishops.
Where elders or bishops are concerned we find
that in a quick review of the last section having carefully examined this; the only
difference one can see between an ep-is'-kop-os (bishop) and a
to be details of their life circumstance.
are older men and yet bishops are married
with children, while an elder for the sake of the gospel may have been
called by the Lord
to remain single, or perhaps he was married and him and his wife remained
childless. The point of this is to simply say that there appears to be
no authoritative difference between a bishop and elder; rather the
difference appears to be experiential, or the circumstances of ones life .
to be in a governmental role of elder or bishop calls for some of the
qualifications applying to both as for example you would not want an elderly
man serving in a governmental role if he was a novice or new believer in the
faith. Just as obvious an elder or
must also be blameless; demonstrating that the old nature does
not dominate his life; as it would clearly be unacceptable to have an elder
taking part of the oversight of a church who was
Personal Responsibility in Leadership
Paul clearly spoke of working with his own
hands along side Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth as tentmakers. These
were times that he took care of His needs as well as the needs of others.
According to 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9 Paul
carefully walked this out: "Nor did we seek
glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made
demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a
nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for
you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but
also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember,
brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we
might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to
you the gospel of God."
There were other times when Paul accepted the support of others so that he
could minister in another location as 2 Corinthians 11:7 clearly reveals
"I robbed other
churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was
present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked
the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept
myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself."
How do we know when it is appropriate for a
minister to receive financial support for the ministry He is involved in?
First of all I think it is important to
establish the clear directive that five fold ministers called by the Lord
who have been separated by the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry and who
have been set forth through the laying on of hands of the presbytery should
have a certain expectation concerning finances as 1 Corinthians 9 clearly
One can never be certain of these things and
yet in my mind there appears to be some level of frustration directed
towards the Corinthian church in most of this chapter as Paul writes in
verses 11-14 what is clearly the obligation of this church towards him and
yet at the same time a lack of this support does not hinder his willingness
to minister to them or did he allow a hindrance to the gospel...
"If we have sown spiritual things for you, is
it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of
this right over you, are we not even more?
Nevertheless we have not used this right, but
endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of
Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of
the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the
altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that
those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."
We see in this next verse a proper balance as
I believe Paul made it abundantly clear that he wasn't in it for the money
as the passage shows his heart in mentioning these things is really to
lighten the burden for ministers after him.
"But I have used none of these things, nor have I
written these things that it should be done so to me;
for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my
Taking into account one other scripture and
coupling it with the responsibility given to deacons to oversee or
administer the financial resources of the ecclesia; I believe we can get a
broad brush picture that serves as a framework for finances in the church.
In 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Paul gives this directive for Timothy to use in
establishing this framework: "Let the
elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out
the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Paul in these verses when speaking of the
elders who labor in the word and doctrine
was obviously speaking of those
elders who have served and continue to serve in a dual role as five fold
Many reading this do not understand the price
these older five fold ministers gladly pay in order to serve the Lord.
Discounting the ones who draw a regular salary; there are many who go their
whole lives working with their own hands at any odd job they can in order to
meet their needs and be available for what the Lord has called them to do.
The ones I am speaking have never been part
of the religious system, or over the years as they became spiritually aware
of the false ecumenical system they were part of; these ones left with no
promise for provision except a peace in there heart that God would meet
Putting this discussion in the first century
context it was written in; Paul is simply saying --- 'When you have older
five fold ministers who are no longer physically able to work with their own
hands but have been given over to "laboring
in the word and doctrine"
then this is a laborer
(who) is worthy of his wages.
I believe this is a clear rendering
of this scripture, and these older ministers who have made no provision for
the flesh are certainly able to partake of the daily distribution that the
deacons of the local ecclesia oversee.
The next grouping of five fold ministers
while they are also laborers in the vineyard of Christ being worthy of wages;
they are also still able to work and provide for their needs. I believe
heart is right before the Lord; they will always be looking for avenues or
opportunities that allow them to work with their own hands or generate
income without continually relying on other believers.
However; I think we can easily perceive as we
read about the activities of Peter and Paul that there were time when the
demands of ministry consumed most if not all of their time. Peter and
Paul may have perished without deacons who were full of wisdom and the Holy
Spirit who were looking out for the needs of their co-laborers in Christ and
understood these five fold minister's responsibility to give themselves
continually to prayer, fasting and the ministry of the word.
What I believe we have been examining is a
framework of governance that allows for deacons to work with five fold
ministers in a role of advice and consent so that their needs as a minister
of the gospel are met in a way that glorifies God and makes room for other
ministers who may also be in a similar situation.
Since having multiple ministers is a forgone
conclusion in a local ecclesia where biblical governance is in place; I
believe Paul wrote the following to Timothy with that thought in mind...
"No one engaged in
warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may
please him who enlisted him as a soldier."
Speaking from experience; there are times
when it is absolutely necessary for the body of Christ to come alongside a
five fold minister who is engaged in the warfare surrounding the equipping
of the saints as it is absolutely essential for them to give themselves
continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.
However Paul also alluded to an atmosphere of
competition that can develop where multiple ministers are engaged in the
also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes
according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of
the crops. Consider what I say, and may the
Lord give you understanding in all things."
What has developed in the body of Christ
today is a vast array of ministries all doing their best to turn out a
"product" designed to somehow gain your interest enough for you to exchange
your "donation" in return for there 'gift to you.' This has cultivated
a competitiveness in the body of Christ that resists growth in biblical
leadership as the pool of those making donations continues to shrink.
It is a vicious cycle that
no one at
the inception of their ministry really intended to operate from, but if a
new ministry begins to draw financial support away from a well established
ministry; an atmosphere that fosters ill will can develop. In
this I believe satan has gained much ground against the gospel as he has
divided many five fold ministers striving over financial support as those
who are 'established' are pitted against younger ministers who may even be
seen as competition.
Paul in his praise of Timothy to the church
in Philippi said "For I have no one
like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For
all seek their own, not
the things which are of Christ Jesus."
I believe Paul was acknowledging the
vulnerability of every minister that in one way or another exists until we
all one day will put on incorruption.
A framework of biblical governance to address
these types of issues is absolutely essential as I believe these are times
when having deacons clearly hearing from the Lord brings a much needed
accountability to finances in the body of Christ. In this age we can
no longer allow the excesses of 'blessing' to fall on a few leaving
many less charismatic and yet equally deserving five fold ministers in
While it is exciting to have multiple
equipping ministries flourishing at the same time; deacons provide a needed
check and balance as no one wants to grieve the Holy Spirit in leaving
fellow ministers of the gospel in lack or even concentrating our
financially support on various equipping ministries while the needs of the
widows and orphans in the ecclesia are being neglected at the same time.
Many churches do not operate from this type
of framework; preferring instead to focus their monetary provisions on a singular minister and
various building programs while much more biblically justifiable needs are
With this in mind; allow me the liberty to
prioritize the financial structure according to the precepts we have
examined in the overall scope of this discussion on biblical governance.
I do this hopefully with the
understanding that I have no authority to dictate
details to any local
assembly and yet I offer this framework with the same encouragement offered
at the end of part 2 and at the end of the last scripture: "Consider what I say, and
may the Lord give you understanding in all things."
While the bulk of this part of the vision is discussed in the section
Mercy Ministries let me offer this
brief list of what I believe are biblically defined financial priorities.
Father's will in this is clear: "For I
desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt
offerings." (Hosea 6:6) The
needs of the people and the knowledge of a loving heavenly Father that
spreads as a result of
HIS resources being properly distributed
vastly outweigh the burnt offerings that were placed before Him... In
other words the needs of the people have an overreaching precedence over the
worship centers we construct in the name of God.
Keep in mind as well that
this brief overview of financial priorities within the ecclesia holds the viewpoint
that the finances within a local
area are cheerfully given by brothers and sisters as an act of worship...
not coerced from people who are threatened with being under a curse for
not tithing; as Galatians 3:10-14 affirms that we are no longer under this curse.
For more on this: see the "To Tithe or Not to Tithe" in the Articles section.
Here then is the short list for financial priorities in the
1. THE PEOPLE
(who labor in the word and doctrine)
d. younger five
The listing of a thru d should not be
seen as a prioritizing the daily distribution mentioned in Acts 6:1 as this
daily distribution [ Greek - distribution -
diakonia - Strong's #1248 attendance, aid, service of the deaconate,
relief ] should be available to any on the list .Instead it is a need based priority.
In other words a widow who has had a home
secured through the work of her husband over the length of their marriage
may need help with food, transportation, etc. A younger five
fold minister married with children who is engaged in the warfare
surrounding the equipping of the saints may require a greater amount of
finances; however his needs do not take
priority over the widow's or the
Again this is where the advice and consent of
the deaconate can be invaluable as they not only oversee the financial needs
within the ecclesia; they also (being full of wisdom as stewards within the
likely have a general understanding of where a day or two's wages may be
earned in the community and from time to time can help younger five fold
ministers find work in that awkward season when they are transitioning into
I believe there is give and take in this area
as Paul clearly set an example for every five fold minister after him to be
looking for avenues or opportunities that allow them to work with their own
hands or generate income without continually relying on other
believers. Yet he again also clearly taught
"the Lord has commanded that
those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel."
Much earlier I mentioned that even Jesus
waited on His ministry until He was thirty years of age. Acknowledging
the purposefulness of every word recorded in the bible; one should again
consider why the Word of God mentions Jesus' age at the time He began His
In the context of what was just shared a
young man or woman in their late teens and early twenties in my opinion
would better serve the cause of Christ by developing life skills that enable
them to earn a decent living so that as they mature in their calling as a
five fold minister; they will be able to apply those skills in a timely
manner that honors Christ and furthers the gospel.
Instead in my view a potential trap is set
for many five fold ministers; as they gain an education that gives them
little options except to look towards
what is overall increasingly flawed religious institutional systems; relying upon them for employment .
In part the trap is set when brothers and
sisters in Christ make the mistake of thinking that ministry should have
career benefits like other secular employment. This assumption itself
feeds the competitiveness mentioned earlier and is I believe why Paul chose
to work with his own hands so that he did not become entangled
"with the affairs of this life."
2. STRANGERS IN THE GATE
a. the homeless and destitute
Deuteronomy 14:29 speaks of the care of the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are
your gates... This phrase is used repeatedly throughout the old testament
and the intent is reinforced in the existence of the "daily distribution"
previously mentioned in Acts 6 and in the book of James among other places
"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the
Father is this: to visit orphans and
widows in their trouble, and to
keep oneself unspotted from the world."
As the phrase
"within your gates" concerns the realm
of responsibility and authority in a local ecclesia (Not
membership in a religious system) preferential treatment to those "within
is encouraged by Paul in Galatians 6:9-10 "And
let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if
we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to
all, especially to those who are of
the household of faith."
3. FACILITIES FOR THE PEOPLE*
a. Group homes for widows without family or who
do not own a home; as an alternative to nursing homes
b. Orphanages emphasizing
families as building blocks where children
can be cared for until adoption into a family in the
c. Facilities for homeless people to live until
transition back into a productive
role in the community
4. BUILDINGS FOR PUBLIC MEETING
This last year I saw a video produced by
Voice of the Martyrs about the church in China. The video documented
the history of the Chinese church over the last 100 years. One part of
this video dealt with the present day underground church which is
approximately 120 to 140 million strong not including the registered "Three
Self Church." The point I need to make here is that all
of the underground church in China
meets in homes. One part of the video
showed a particular house church with people (I estimate about 300 to 500)
jammed into all the rooms of the house including the basement. The
house was wired with close circuit T. V. so that everyone in the house could
watch whoever was teaching... Point is the facility was already paid for by
the one who owned the house; leaving the finances available for the needs of
JERUSALEM - JUDEA - SAMARIA - THE REST OF THE WORLD
We should also acknowledge the clear
directive of the Lord and the pattern for victory that he prescribed.
Not discounting or in any way minimizing the importance of Jerusalem in the
land of Israel; we
need to also recognize on every level the pure genius of this pattern that
Jesus put forth.
Spiritually if we are obedient to the call of our hometown... our
'Jerusalem' then the spiritual authority to be His witnesses in Judea begins
to take shape. As we are obedient to Christ's commission and accept the responsibilities concerning the care of the fatherless, widows,
etc., then one outcome of this is that the financial base for being
effective in our 'Judea' will be stronger; allowing us to establish a
foothold in our Samaria.
brief suggestion concerning each type of facility is again simply for the
purpose of prioritizing resources within the body of Christ. The
utilization of these resources is best determined by those called to these
specific ministries as they work with the deacons and fivefold ministers
within the ecclesia.