THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

The church is a kingdom over which Christ rules as king (1 Timothy 6:15; John 18:37; John 19:19). Christians are citizens in this kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 1:9). The world is the territory of this kingdom (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). The new birth is the way we enter this kingdom (John 3:5). 
 

ONE HEAD, ONE KING—CHRIST

The church is the body of Christ and Christ is its only head (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). He has all authority (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1:18). He has never given this authority to anyone else. Because Christ is the head, we take our instructions from Him. Because He is king, we must obey Him (Ephesians 5:24).

The church has no earthly headquarters. The headquarters of Christ’s church is in Heaven. Each congregation of the Lord’s body is independent and self-ruling. There is no pope, council, conference, or group of people controlling all the congregations of the Lord’s body.
 

ELDERS

 Elders are to be appointed in every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). In the New Testament, elders are also called presbyters (1 Timothy 4:14); bishops (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-2); overseers (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2); pastors (Ephesians 4:11,12); and shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4). The word “pastor” is simply another word for “shepherd.” Preachers are never called pastors in the New Testament. The elders of the local congregation are the pastors (shepherds) of each local church (1 Peter 5:1-4).

 Qualifications for elders are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-13. In addition to being a faithful Christian, an elder must be a man with a wife and faithful children. He cannot be a new member and be qualified. Also, there must be more than one elder serving in the local congregation. The Bible says “elders” (plural) (Acts 14:23; 20:17-18, 28). These elders are to guide, guard, feed, and rule the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17).
 

 DEACONS

Deacons are to be appointed in every church (Philippians 1:1). Their qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The work of deacons would include what was done as recorded in Acts 6:1-6. Again, deacons can only be men.  Women are not qualified to be deacons because they cannot be a “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12).
 

 MINISTERS

Ministers (preachers) have the responsibility to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-5). As with elders and deacons, preachers are males (1 Timothy 2:8-15). They are evangelists, ministers of the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:5). In the New Testament, preachers are never called by titles such as “Pastor,” “Reverend,” “Doctor,” or “Father” (Matthew 23:8-12).

HEAVENLY HEADQUARTERS

Instead of an earthly head or a select group of men heading the church, the Lord's church is headed by Jesus Christ alone. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18, ASV). Further, the Lord is the head of the body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus Christ has not surrendered His throne, but is ruling now (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). Not on earth, but from a heavenly headquarters, Jesus exercises his headship over the church (Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 2:9-11; 20-23; Hebrews 8:1; Acts 7:55). The degree of and place from which Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority is concisely noted in Ephesians 1:20-23.
"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

A PLURALITY OF ELDERS IN EACH CHURCH 

Two or more elders were appointed over each fully organized church in New Testament times (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Scripture always refers to a plurality of elders serving a single congregation and only the church over which they were appointed. Appointment of elders was not regarded lightly, but men were carefully chosen to oversee a church only after the congregation ensured those candidates complied with divinely mandated qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11). Noting Christ is the head of the church and the qualifications for elders enumerated in Holy Writ, elders may not legislate doctrine, only see that the New Testament is faithfully practiced in their congregation. In matters not addressed by Scripture, elders and the church may exercise liberty. Inspiration also calls these men "bishops" (1 Timothy 3:1), "the presbytery" (1 Timothy 4:14), "pastors" (Ephesians 4:11), "overseers" (Acts 20:28), and shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).

DEACONS: SPECIAL SERVANTS OF THE CHURCH 

Though every member of the church may and should minister to the needs of brethren and non-members alike, deacons are special servants of the church. Unlike the elders, their degree of responsibility is departmental and lies in service areas. For instance, different deacons may direct benevolence, the treasury, maintenance of facilities, evangelism, the Bible school or some other area of concern requiring special attention. Deacons also are chosen after determination they meet divinely given qualifications (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13).

PREACHERS AND TEACHERS EDIFY THE CHURCH 

Gospel preachers (Romans 10:14-15), also called evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:5) and ministers (1 Corinthians 3:5), are charged to "Preach the word; be instant ["urgent," ASV] in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching is a serious undertaking because a preacher affects not only his own soul, but the souls of his auditors as well. Therefore, the Bible urges preachers and teachers to be cautious (James 3:1) and also prescribes a remedy to remove impenitent false teachers from their sphere of influence (Romans 16:17-18).

The infant church of the first century was armed with an array of miraculously inspired religious instructors (Ephesians 4:11-12).

"And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

The apostles no longer walk the face of the earth. The temporary, miraculous, but partial knowledge has been replaced with written revelation (1 Corinthians 13:8-13; James 1:25), and inspired prophets are also extinct today. However, pastors (elders), preachers and teachers equipped with the Bible are still charged with ". . . the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

The differences in organization between the church about which one can read in the Bible and contemporary churches is striking. Yet, few souls seem aware of these vivid contrasts. Divine name, divine origin and divine organization are each crucial, identifying marks of the blood bought divine church (Acts 20:28). Divine worship and divine doctrine are two more key fingerprints of the church Jesus built. The churches of Christ today practice first century Christianity in the present century by imitating the divine characteristics of the early church.