Who is in charge, the preacher or the elders?


Hi Jeff,

I'm forced to ask this question: between the ministers and the elders, who is in charge of a local congregation? Where that I am, there is a serious power tussle between the two. The ministers say, since they teach the men to become elders and also ordain them as elders, they are in charge. Please explain the term "ordain." Even in his prayers, a minister said that he has a double-portion of (permit me to use the word) "anointing" in trying to dismiss James 5:14. Please help if you can because it breaks my heart to hear this.



The one in charge is Jesus. "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23). Problems arise when men forget that they serve at the King's behest.

When men start arguing about who is in charge, they are ignoring Jesus' teachings. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28). The leadership in each church exists to serve Christ and to serve the brethren.

It is the elder's duty to watch over members of a congregation, to make sure that they are well-fed on God's Word (I Peter 5:1), to protect the congregation from false teachers (Titus 1:9), and to encourage growth (Ephesians 4:11-16). Because of their service, the members are told to submit to the elders and not make their lives difficult (I Peter 5:5; Hebrews 13:17). Because there is always a plurality of elders, there is never one person in charge. The elders work together for the good of the congregation.

The preacher's duty is focused on teaching both to those within a congregation and to those outside of the congregation (I Timothy 4:1-5; Ephesians 4:11-16). There are aspects of preaching that overlap or supplement the duties of elders. However, while a preacher is working in a locale, he is a member of the congregation. As a member, the elders watch over the preacher as well as the other members of the congregation. This is not to say that elders manage the preacher but they should be concerned that the preacher is growing and remaining faithful to the teachings of Christ.

Deacons have oversight of the work the church is carrying out. For example, there were men who were selected to make sure the widows in the church was responsible for were cared for (Acts 6:1-6).

A congregation selects men to be deacons (Acts 6:3). It is generally assumed that this also applies to elders. Preachers are told to appoint the qualified men to be elders (Titus 1:5). See Who appoints elders? and Who selects elders? for details. Preachers also have the duty to rebuke elders who are sinning (I Timothy 5:19-20). Preachers also have the authority to encourage and to reprove in regards to the teaching (Titus 1:15). These duties don't put preachers over elders; instead, the duties limit cronyism among the elders.

At the same time, a preacher works with a congregation in the teaching of the gospel but he isn't an employee of the congregation. Congregations, guided by the elders, decide who they will support (I Corinthians 9:11,14; Philippians 4:15). Thus, if a preacher is not doing his duty, the congregation has a right to decide to no longer support him. If a preacher is not teaching the truth, it is the elders' duty to refute him (Titus 1:9). Typically it is the elders who invite preachers to come and work in their area.

The organization of the church is focused on who is tasked with various duties and not on who is in charge. In some ways, it reminds me of the children's game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. There is no ultimate head beyond Christ.

Your preacher seems confused in regard to the concept of anointing. Priests, prophets, and kings were anointed when they entered their duties (Exodus 28:41; I Samuel 10:1; 15:1; I Kings 19:16). It indicated that the person was set apart in service to God. But in the New Testament, all Christians are royal priests (I Peter 2:9-10); therefore, it is appropriate to say that all Christians were anointed to the service of God. "Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge" (II Corinthians 1:21-22). There is no concept of a "double anointing" in the Scriptures.

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