The church of Christ is not like those large religious denominations that are in the world today. In the church of Christ, there are no powerful religious leaders who rule over people as in most denominations, but each member of the church stands on an equal place with other members of the church. Jesus said to His disciples:

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only oneMaster and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:8-11)

As the local congregations – churches of Christ grew,their leaders were called elders or bishops (Acts 20:28). These bishops or elders did not rule over a number of local churches of Christ, but they are always in a group of more than one – had oversight of the local church where they are members. Their oversight did not extend to any other congregations. Paul the apostle, in the New Testament, tells us what kind of men these elders were, and are to be, as he writes to the preacher Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. He wrote similar instructions to the preacher Titus in Titus 1:5-9. These elders are not lords over the other people in the church, but they are mature men in the faith of Christ, who guide by their teaching and example, by the way they live and talk. Peter the apostle wrote:

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)

To assist the elders in their work, a group of men (more than one) called deacons were to be recognized in each congregation. The kind of men these deacons were, and are, is found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The word deacon means servant and deacons are to be the servants of the Lord in the church. The deacons work and serve, and like elders-bishops, they do not exercise power over the other members of the church of Christ.

The New Testament shows that there was more than one elder in each local church and that each local church took care of its own work and service. Nothing in the New Testament even hints that any congregation or any elder had any power or control over other local churches or elders. Each local church was complete in itself under the oversight of its own elders, and served by its own deacons.

In the church of Christ, the preachers were not the pastors of the churches; they did not rule the churches as lords either. Their work was to preach the Gospel and teach the people the Word of Christ, because that Word of Christ is the authority in all things in the church. Preachers – evangelists – guide and direct churches, along with elders and deacons, by preaching and teaching the Word of Christ, but preachers are not church lords. Paul wrote that preachers should “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

All authority belongs to Jesus Christ, because “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). Authority to rule and govern the church is in the Word of Christ, which is found in the New Testament of our Lord Jesus.

In the church of Christ, there are bishops, elders, pastors, and these are all words that refer to the same men. There are deacons, who are servants of the church. There are preachers, who preach the Word, but who do not rule over churches as lords. There are all the members in the church, who work and serve together to save other people and to glorify God our Father, following the example of Christ the chief Shepherd, and the example of Christ the chief Shepherd, and the example of the local church elders. In Christ’s church, there are no great, powerful church officials who bind their ways and set their rules over the Christians. In the New Testament there is no such thing as “chief” elders and “chief” preachers. In fact, the greatest ones in the church are those who serve the most; they are “servants.”

Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-26)

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