Facilitating Healthy Church Leadership

This guide presents the church planter with an easy way to help a new church organize the leadership according to the scriptures for long-term health and maturity.

The Church has One Head

Christ is the Head of the Church Ephesians 1:22­-23 says: 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything in the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Christ is the head of the church.  God has ordained only one “chief shepherd”.  Each member of the body of Christ is responsible to Christ above all else. This also means we each have access to the head and carry responsibility among his body for promotion of right practice. 

The Church has Two Authorities

The Word of God

2 Timothy 3:16-­17 says:

All scripture is God­-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God will be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

To guide the church, God ensured that his instructions and plans were written down for everyone to read. It is without error and is the primary tool for discerning all matters of faith and practice. The word of God speaks to all matters concerning the church and must be central in the decision­-making process of the body of Christ. 

The Spirit of God

In John 14:26 Jesus says:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

God has provided each believer his Spirit as a counselor. The Holy Spirit comes into us as we have faith in Christ and guides us with right thoughts and actions. When we sin, the Spirit convicts us, leading us toward repentance and confession before God. His voice must be discerned as it guides the believer into God’s will.

Together, the Spirit of God and the Word of God guide the church. God’s Spirit uses the Word as a tool to instruct and, at times, to rebuke the believer. The Word is the Spirit’s tool for shaping and directing the church. Together these two provide all that is needed for the church to move forward in God’s will.

The Spirit and the Word will never contradict each other. They parallel each other similar to railway tracks. They will never cross nor part. Emphasis only on the Word will likely lead the church towards legalism. In the same way, emphasis only on the Spirit may result in emotionalism.

Any revelation or interpretation should be tested by these two authorities. When one claims to have a message from the Spirit, it must be tested with the Word. When an interpretation of the Word is shared, the Spirit confirms its truth in the heart of the believer. This process keeps the church from error. 

The Church has Two Types of Leaders


In 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter says:

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, 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.

We see, therefore, that the elder is the first type of leader within the church.  What are the functions of the elder within the church?

Read the following passages about elders in the church:

  1. Acts 15:1-29
  2. James 5:14
  3. 1 Peter 5:1-4
  4. Hebrews 13:17
  5. Acts 6:2-4

Activity:  Create a list of the roles of an elder based on these passages.

As a group, create a list of the roles of the elder and then click on this box to check your list with the list that we have created

According to what we have read, these are the roles of the elder:

  1. Acts 15:1-29, Hebrews 3:17:  The elders guide the church, settling disputes and making decisions about the spiritual direction of the church.
  2. James 5:14:  The elders pray for those who are sick.
  3. 1 Peter 5:1-4:  Watch over the flock, serving the people of the church.
  4. Acts 6:2-4:  Pray, teach the word of God, and delegate responsibilities within the church.  

Read:  There are two sections of scripture that speak to the qualifications to become an elder.

Titus 1:6-9 says:

An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

In addition, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 says this:

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Activity:  Create a list of the qualifications of an elder:

As a group, create a list of the qualifications of the elder and then click on this box to check your list with the list that we have created

Between these two passages, we can see these following qualifications for an elder:

  • Faithful husband to one wife
  • Believing children who are obedient and self-controlled, showing that he manages his family well
  • Not a recent convert
  • Not overbearing, nor quick-tempered, but self-controlled
  • Not given to drunkenness nor violence or quarreling, nor pursuing dishonest gain
  • Respectable, hospitable, and loves what is good
  • Upright, holy, and disciplined
  • Has a good reputation, also with people outside of the church
  • Holds firmly to the word of God and can teach those who need instruction.


Read Acts 6:1-6:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

Question:  What can we learn about the role of the deacon within the church?

Discuss this question together as a group and then click on this box and read the answer below.

Deacons are servants within the church, completing various tasks needed to serve, encourage, and build up the church.  In this example, we see that the deacons will distribute food to the widows, but there could, of course, be other situations where the deacons could be called upon to serve the church in other similar types of tasks.

Read 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12:

In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Activity:  Create a list of the qualifications of a deacon from what we have read above.

As a group, create a list of the qualifications of the deacon and then click on this box to check your list with the list that we have created
  • Faithful husband to one wife
  • Manages his family well
  • Worthy of respect, sincere, and not given to drunkenness
  • Hold to the truths of the faith with a clear conscience
  • Hold up under the scrutiny of a test and be without anything against them

5 Gifts to Equip the Church

Read:  Ephesians 4:11-16

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Question:  What are the five gifts from Jesus to the church?

Discuss this question together as a group and then click on this box and read the answer below.

Paul says that Jesus gave to the church:

  • Apostles
  • Prophets
  • Evangelists
  • Pastors
  • Teachers

Question:  What is the reason that Jesus gave these gifts to the church?

Discuss this question together as a group and then click on this box and read the answer below.

Paul uses the example of a body that is being built up, equipped by the work of the people with these gifts.  Therefore, while the people with these giftings will obviously exercise these gifts through their personal ministry work, the goal is for them to equip others within the body of Christ so that they also can complete works of service using these gifts.

Question:  What role do each of these gifts play in the life of the church?

Discuss this question together as a group and then click on this box and read the answer below.

This scripture doesn’t outline all of the details of each of the gifts, but here are some indications from author and scholar Alan Hirsch and Remedy Church to help us in our study of these gifts:


Key words: Visionary, pioneering, new initiatives, expansion

Description: In Greek, the term apostle literally means “sent one.” As the name itself suggests, it is the quintessentially missional (from missio, the Latin equivalent) ministry. Interestingly the French translation of the term apostle (envoy) picks up this sense of commission much better than the English transliteration—an apostle is an envoy.

It is very much a pioneering function of the church, the capacity to extend Christianity as a healthy, integrated, innovative, reproducing movement, ever-expanding into new cultures. It is also a custodial ministry—a guardianship. This ministry is therefore also profoundly interested in the ongoing integrity of the core ideas (DNA, organizational principles, or meta-ideas) that generate and maintain systemic health across the organization.

In short, apostles extend the gospel. They ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are always pushing into new territory, thinking about the future, bridging barriers, establishing the church in new contexts, developing leaders, networking trans-locally, and coming up with new and innovative means to do kingdom work.

Biblical examples: Peter, John, Paul, Priscilla & Aquilla

Other examples: Entrepreneurs, explorers, church planters

Core question apostles ask: Are we leading the people of God to accomplish his purpose?

Mature apostles enjoy: Dreaming, new and challenging tasks, starting new things, expanding the Kingdom

Pitfalls of immature apostles: They are unable to discern the constant flood of good and innovative ideas they have from the God-ideas that are being given to them. They try out something new every week, never really developing any of their ideas, and jumping from thing to thing to thing. After a while, people stop following them because they have a hard time staying focused on the task at hand, and people refuse to give their time and energy to something they know could change at any moment.

Also, if apostles focus solely on initiating new ideas and rapid expansion, they can leave people and organizations wounded or uncared for. Apostles typically welcome change and risk much more than most and can run too fast or too far ahead of the flock, leaving them behind or leaving a mess in their wake.

What they need from the other gifts: The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for and developed/discipled rather than used or drug along behind the boat. The prophet function is needed to ensure we are hearing from God and not acting in our own strength. The evangelist function is needed to apply the macro part of the mission to sharing the gospel with individual people and inviting them to respond. 


Key words: Truth, holiness, obedience, revelation

Description: This is the function tasked with maintaining an abiding loyalty and faithfulness to God above all. Essentially, prophets are guardians of the covenant relationship that God has with his people. The prophetic is also passionately concerned with living a life morally consistent with the covenant—a simple and authentic life of justice, holiness, and righteousness. The prophet proclaims God’s holiness and calls for a corresponding holiness in his covenanted people (1 Peter 1:16).

Prophets know God’s will. They prioritize listening to God. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today and are zealous for the holiness of God. They question the status quo, bringing correction and challenging the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture, insisting the community obey what God has commanded.

Biblical examples: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Anna and Simeon in Luke 2, John the Baptist, Stephen in Acts 7

Other examples: Activists

Core question prophets ask: Are the people of God hearing his voice and responding appropriately?

Mature prophets enjoy: Being alone with God, waiting, listening, and calling people to obey

Pitfalls of immature prophets: An immature prophet may sense God saying something, but doesn’t release it to a community of people. As Paul said, the prophet should give their sense, but it’s up to the community to weigh and give an interpretation. The prophet’s job is to share what they have received and then see what other people make of it (1 Cor. 14.29; 1 Jn. 4.1). An immature prophet, having received some sort of revelation, wants to go straight to application.

Also, immature prophets assume they are always right. The problem is that oftentimes they are right, and this builds a false sense of confidence that they get it right 100% of the time. Because of this, they can become arrogant or unwilling to listen. In contrast, a mature prophet is actually quite humble because they know that any revelation they receive isn’t their own and they entrust it to the community. Without the other types of leaders in place, prophets can be perceived as complainers or belligerent activists or disengage from imperfect reality and become other-worldly.

What they need from the other gifts: The apostle and evangelist functions are needed to ensure the church does not become inward-focused or unable to move. The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure that truth is applied and people are compassionately led toward growth and obedience, rather than feeling barked at.


Key words: Non-Christians, recruiters, conversations about Jesus, response

Description: The evangelist role involves the proclamation of the good news that is at the core of the church’s message. Evangelism is therefore all about the core message and its reception in the hearts of people and cultures. As such, the evangelist is the storyteller, the all-important recruiter to the cause, the naturally infectious person who is able to enlist people into what God is doing in and through the church.

Evangelists recruit. These infectious communicators of the gospel message recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God’s redemption in Christ and also draw believers to engage the  wider mission, growing the church. They have insight into how to articulate and relate the gospel to unbelievers, and enjoy spending time with non-Christians, often reminding other Christians that there are nonChristians still out there in the world. They may be people-gatherers, and wherever they go they seem to draw others into discussion about Jesus. They are not timid about their faith and seem to easily share with others regularly.

Biblical examples: The 12 in Matthew 10, the 72 in Luke 10, the scattered in Acts 8.4, Philip in Acts 8

Other examples: Salesmen, politicians, public relations reps

Core question evangelists ask: Are new people entering into the Kingdom of God?

Mature evangelists enjoy: Discussions with non-Christians, sharing their point of view, inviting outsiders in

Pitfalls of immature evangelists: They may present a reductionist gospel that is all about getting people out of hell. While important, this doesn’t include Jesus’ invitation to discipleship and the availability of the Kingdom that Jesus’ central message was about. When they do this, they make faith and Christianity all about when they die and nothing to do with what happens here on earth. They may also have sort of a “love you and leave you” strategy. It’s like once you’ve “crossed the line” into becoming a Christian, they make the world’s fastest baton pass to the local church or a small group and are never heard from again. They move on to the next person. This can be a jarring experience for someone who is just entering a discipling relationship.  Evangelists can also be so focused on reaching those outside the church that maturing and strengthening those inside is neglected.

What they need from the other gifts: The shepherding and prophet functions are needed to ensure the church does not neglect the growth, maturity, and care for those inside the church. The teaching function is needed to help explain the gospel, helping people to understand, and to disciple new believers toward maturity. The apostle function is needed to see the big picture of the mission and help keep the church moving forward.

Pastors (Shepherds)

Key words: Care, counsel, empathy, encouragement

Description: This is the function and calling responsible for maintaining and developing healthy community and enriching relationships. This involves a commitment to form a saintly people, nurture spiritual maturity, maintain communal health, defend the community against breakdown, and engender loving community among the redeemed family of God.

Shepherds nurture and protect with a tender heart. Caregivers of the community, they focus on the protection and spiritual maturity of God’s flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually mature network of relationships, making and developing disciples. They tend to spend most of their time with other Christians and can easily empathize with others, often exhibiting lots of patience with those in need. They see needs, provide comfort, and encourage others. They get burdened by others’ problems and have a knack for speaking the truth in love. They are good listeners and are easy to talk to and share deep feelings with.

Biblical examples: Barnabas, James (the brother of Jesus), elders/overseers

Other examples: Counselors, social workers, and those in care-giving professions 

Core question shepherds ask: Are the people of God caring for and showing compassion for people?

Mature shepherds enjoy: One-on-one chats, showing hospitality, and helping others

Pitfalls of an immature shepherd: Shepherds like to be with people in the midst of their brokenness, pain and suffering. However, they can have a really difficult time in moving people from that stage to one where they are seeking healing, transformation, and redemption. Immature shepherds sometimes don’t have the confidence to challenge people to move forward for fear that the person will be angry with them. The mature shepherd can live in this tension while the immature shepherd stays a mile away from it and will let people sit in their brokenness far longer than they should. Immature shepherds may also value stability and the company of believers to the detriment of the mission.

What they need from the other gifts: The apostle and evangelist functions are necessary to keep the mission moving forward. The prophet function is needed to ensure that truth is being spoken and people are called to repentance, even when it is hard. The teaching function is needed to help explain and apply the truth of Scripture, giving a guide for growth and healing. 


Key words: Explainers, communicators, wisdom, Scripture

Description: This one is concerned with the mediation and appropriation of wisdom and understanding. This is the naturally philosophical type that brings a comprehensive understanding of the revelation bequeathed to the church. It is a guiding and discerning function. In the biblical tradition, emphasis falls on wisdom and not simply on speculative philosophy. Teaching, of course, also involves integrating the intellectual and spiritual treasure of the community and encoding it, in order to pass it on to others and to the next generations (paradosis, or tradition).

Teachers understand and explain. Communicators of God’s truth and wisdom, they help others remain biblically grounded to better discern God’s will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ’s word, and constructing a transferable doctrine. They are excited by the truth of God’s word, are skilled in explaining and applying it, and gladly hold it out for others.

Biblical examples: Apollos, Philip in Acts 8:30-35, Priscilla & Aquila in Acts 18:26

Other examples: Professors, trainers, teachers

Core question teachers ask: Are the people of God immersing themselves in scripture and incarnating it?

Mature teachers enjoy: Studying the Bible, explaining & helping others understand, applying it to life

Pitfalls of an immature teacher: Scripture can be the end rather than God. They tend to fall into dogmatism or dry intellectualism, forgetting that Scripture isn’t the point; God is. Scripture brings us to God. They can idolize scripture and put it over a relationship with the living and breathing God that we come to know by means of reading and incarnating Scripture. Immature teachers can also rely on their own intellect to “wow” people rather than the authority that is given from scripture and from the Holy Spirit.

What they need from the other gifts: The shepherding function is needed to be sure that the truth of Scripture is applied to people’s hearts and is used as a tool for growth and relationship, not just knowledge. The prophet function helps the community to hear from the Spirit through Scripture, rather than approaching it like a book of knowledge or history. The apostle and evangelist functions are needed to ensure that the gospel is going forward and people are being challenged to respond to Jesus and move forward on mission. 

Question:  What authority do the people with these gifts have in the church?

Discuss this question together as a group and then click on this box and read the answer below.

The giftings do not necessarily imply an authority.  These giftings and their use remain subject to each of the authorities listed above:

  1. Christ as the Head of the Church
  2. The Word of God
  3. The Holy Spirit
  4. The Elders of the local church

Because of this, each of these authorities are designed to lead, guide, and rebuke the people who have and are exercising each of the giftings.

Leave a comment