Since we proclaim the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, it is to God’s Word that we turn to find principles of church leadership.
We reject the all-too-common notions of “pastor as CEO”, hierarchical business models, and American-made democracy in the church. But if those aren’t right, what is?
The Bible tells us that there are three offices in the church:
- Chief Shepherd, the Head of the Church – this position is held only by the Lord Jesus Christ
- Elders/overseers/pastors – men Christ has given to His church as under-shepherds
- Deacons – men Christ has given to His church as servants
According to the New Testament, there is to be a plurality of elders (also called pastors or overseers). The church is not to be ruled by one man, or ruled by popular vote, but by a plurality of under-shepherds who serve in humility. We don’t rank elders by giving additional titles – because the Bible doesn’t. Different elders will have different giftings, different callings, and different areas of service – but each is to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-5, Acts 20:28). Some may earn their living from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:3-14), and others may hold secular employment (Acts 18:3).
What are the qualifications to be an overseer/pastor/elder? Again, we turn to the Scriptures. First, we find that a degree from a certain type of school is nowhere required. The Apostles (with the exception of Paul) were all untrained and uneducated men (Acts 4:13). We’re not against seminary – not at all. A good seminary can be an invaluable tool to equip a man for ministry. It’s just that it isn’t a required route to ministry. A man can receive needed training outside of a seminary setting.
So what is required? All the qualifications for a pastor/elder are character issues – plus the ability to be able to teach sound doctrine. We find the specifics in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9. You can listen to John MacArthur’s 2-minute commentary on this subject here.
Likewise, deacons are not selected based on their ability to use a hammer, or on their business acumen, or on their financial contributions. Deacons must be men of character – true servants of Christ. 1 Timothy 3:8-13 gives the specifics.
Elders and deacons serve together. What is the difference? Pastors concentrate on the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4), that is, teaching (publically and privately), preaching, praying, and shepherding the flock of God. They have final human responsibility and authority in the church.
Deacons serve in whatever ways needed by the elders, including a wide variety of tasks. They may need to ensure people get food (Acts 6:1-3). They will often be entrusted with the handling of church funds. They may serve the saints by meeting both spiritual and physical needs. They usually take care of church property and meeting location issues. Their multi-faceted service to the body of Christ is invaluable.
Overseers and deacons both need to be men of integrity, approachable by the saints, and open and accountable to one another and to the church body.
Since the Bible never gives any hint of “term limits” for pastors and deacons, GBC has none. Once a man is appointed and installed into the office, he is put in place to serve for as long as the Lord wills.
Our founding pastor/elder is David J. Dunbar.
Dave was born and raised in South Dakota. During his sophomore year in college, he heard the preaching of the gospel of Christ, came under conviction of sin, and repented in saving faith. He loves the God-exalting doctrines of Scripture and how they affect the way we live. He has been married to Susanna since 1985, and they have been blessed with seven children (ages 22 to 4): Hannah, Sarah, Ruth, Elijah, Rebekah, Noah, and Isaiah. Each of them were or are homeschooled. They have lived in Collin County since 1988.
Dave served as a deacon at two churches in his younger days, and was ordained in 1997 as an elder/pastor/overseer at Grace Bible Fellowship Church in Melissa, serving there from 1997 to 2011. In June 2011, he asked his fellow elders at GBFC to be relieved of his responsibilities there in order to start Grace Bible Church of Allen. Dave is in the process of working toward NANC (biblical counseling) certification. His sermons (recent and older) can be found on Sermon Audio.
Being a new church plant, we don’t yet have in place other elders or any deacons. Developing men to fill these roles will be one of the priorities, and an interim men’s leadership council will serve to assist Dave until others are trained, tested, and ordained.
Shown below are some quotes by men of God on the subject of leadership:
Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility. – Augustine
Do not desire to be the principal man in the church. Be lowly. Be humble. The best man in the church is the man who is willing to be a doormat for all to wipe their boots on, the brother who does not mind what happens to him at all, so long as God is glorified. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Leadership training cannot be done on a mass scale. It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time. Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced only one by one, because someone has taken the pains to disciple, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train one that is younger. – Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 1967, p 150
True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. – Oswald Sanders
Ministers are simply God’s waiters at the feast. – Michael Horton
It is very rare for the spirituality of a group of Christians to exceed that of its leaders. – John Benton
According to [the Bible], a leader is first and foremost a servant. His concern is not for himself; his concern is not to give orders, to boss other people around, to have his own way. His concern is to meet the needs of others. – Wayne Mack
In many churches today the congregation rules the leaders. This sort of government is foreign to the New Testament. – John MacArthur
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth. – John Wesley