I meant to come back to the issue of biblical leadership structures last week but I got a last minute preaching assignment and my brother-in-law got married, so the blog had to go on hold. But I want to begin to provide an answer to the question: Is there a biblical mandate for church leadership structures?
In a previous post I said that I did not think there was a biblical mandate, but I should modify that. My understanding now, after studying and preaching on Ephesians 4:11-16, is that the church is most healthy when [at least] five people are operating as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, and a teacher. Each brings a unique and necessary perspective to the task of equipping the church to do the work of the ministry, and there is tremendous value in hearing five voices speaking harmoniously on the deep things of God.
These five people must be at least five people--they can't be just one person! In that instance, the church is bound to become either imbalanced (because the one person will inevitably emphasize one perspective) or idolatrous. The danger of the senior leader, pyramid structure of church leadership is that the congregation can, quite easily, make that man into an idol. This is, of course, a horrible perversion of the gospel and the calling of God on that man's life. I just don't see the biblical, New Testament church operating with this structure--and where it did, men like Paul and John seemed intent on correcting it.
I believe the biblical model of church leadership is best represented by the image of, not a pyramid, but, the human body. Christ is the head and we are the body, and every individual plays a significant role in the growth of the body. This means that the one at the top is Jesus and no one else is any more important than anybody else. This is the crucial point: Nobody is more important than anybody else. And these five people that we find in Eph. 4:11 are not the leaders of the church, they are its lowliest servants. They serve the servants of God.
The Church is not a meeting. The Church is not an organization. The Church is not an institution. The Church is a person. The Church is a person made up of people who make the person grow and become what Jesus always intended for her to become. That's the calling we all share, and the task for which our apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are supposed to equip us. We don't pass our responsibility off to paid professionals. This is our task. We are the body of Christ on earth and it's our responsibility to see it grow up to full maturity.