Who’s In Charge? | 1 Timothy 3:1-7
This morning we will attempt to tackle a question that plagues many people, including the church, and that is this question “who’s in Charge.” If we were to ask the average person who is in charge of the church, no doubt we would get a plethora of different answers. Perhaps some would answer that the pastor is in charge, possibly due to our democratic government. People would impose that model on the church and think the church should run by a democratic governmental model. So the pastor is like the president, if they have elders or deacons, they are like members of Congress, and the members of the church are the voting public. So if the people that are running the church do a good job, they get to stay in office. However, if the voters are unhappy and do not like the performance, they can vote them out. Now we may find that comical or say that is not how the church is run but so often, that is exactly how a church is ran. This makes the God-appointed leaders forced to cower to the people to make them happy rather than allowing them to have their will bent to the will of God to glorify Him. Even the great pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards. was voted out as pastor of his church. After all, this is America, and that is just how we do it. But what if how we do it is not Biblical or God-honoring or God-glorifying are we willing to change to have our beliefs more lined up with God’s word?
Let me be clear there are different views among Christians regarding church polity or governance, and each has some biblical support. For example, the episcopal church model is a hierarchical one. So there is one leader at the top. If we were Roman Catholic, that man at the top would be the pope, and all popes are claimed to be in the line of direct succession from the apostles. In Orthodox Churches, the metropolitan is the head. In Anglican Churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the head. So under this main leader are other leaders like archbishops, bishops, cardinals, so on and so forth. All of these lesser leaders have charge over their specific regions and cities. So a Priest is in charge of the local congregation. This type of church government seems to have come on the scene in the middle of the second century.
There is also what is known as the Presbyterian form of church government; it is not as hierarchical as the episcopal. There are still tiers of authority. So the local church is governed by presbyters or elders; they are called the session, they are led by the pastor, the pastor is chosen and called by the congregation. The churches are all part of a synod of a presbytery; this is a regional group of elders that are all from different churches. Above the presbytery is the General Assembly which has more broad jurisdiction over the entire denomination.
Finally, you have what I am going to call congregational independent governance. This stresses the autonomy of the local church, and they are not subject to any outside authority. Now in Southern Baptist churches which is what we are, you will have a joining together in larger associations and conventions. We are asked to adhere to the doctrines and practices of the larger convention. If we refuse to hold to the doctrine, we could be disaffiliated.
Now I bring this up because some people think that having elders is not baptist, which just is not the case. Many congregational churches are elder-led Congregationalists. Numerous Baptist churches are elder-led, and some even elder-ruled. Some are congregationally ruled to the point that everything that happens, from the color of the carpet, etc., must be voted on. This is primarily because no one is in charge.
As I have stated, we are a Southern Baptist Church, or if you do not like that, you can call us a Great Commission Baptist Church as that was approved a few years back. This means our church is autonomous. There is no outside authority over us. So who is in charge of First Baptist Church well, if you figure it out, let me know. I know that may sound comical or even funny, but the word lead is used 8 times in our constitution, most of which are a reference to a paid “worship leader.” We do have a reference to church leadership, but that is not defined anywhere. Now some might say, well, the deacons are in charge but once again.
Here is what I have discovered in over 25 years in ministry
If no one is in charge, one of two things will happen. Someone who is not given authority will assume authority, or secondly, since no one is in charge, everyone is in charge, and if everyone is in charge, no one is really in charge. So let’s be concerned with what the scripture teaches us.
Here is the sermon in a sentence Christ implements headship over His church through church-recognized elders who shepherd the flock. I will prove this using three points.