The plurality of Elders: Today’s Five Kingdom Leadership Dynamics
Kingdom leaders lead the kingdom culture from which the kingdom Ekklesia forms and functions. They lead the Ekklesia in that formation and function. They are elders with oversight assignments, alignments, agreement, authorization, and alliance with other regional and territorial kingdom leaders.
The Revolt Against the King’s Designs
Debate, discussion, and a deadly division continue from the earliest history of the kingdom in Rome until today about leadership in the kingdom. Leadership dysfunction is the most telling aspect of what we call “church history.”
Experts abound. Theories abound. Truth suffers.
King and His Kingdom is the proper form of government for the Ekklesia. Once Christians (we use the term in its historical sense) walked away from kingdom thinking and leadership, institutionalization enslaved the “Church” to Pharaohs with the politicization of position as the foundation of leadership. A Nicolatian tyranny ensued.
By the time of Luther’s revolt against dark ages of institutional malpractice and outright heresy, the disagreement was centered upon something other than the design of Christ. Luther did not offer a way forward based upon the new covenant revelation of kingdom leadership. His reactionary protest produced “protestants.”
Christians in protest of dark ages tyranny have disagreed about the proper leadership structure for 500 more years. We now have a spectrum from the tyrannical papacy to “no leadership is the best model” modern lawlessness. In between, we run the full gamut of political elections based upon spurious considerations of casting lots or electing our leaders. To this confusion, we add inch-deep movements of scattered mavericks who hate any form of leadership at all.
The Apostolic Restoration
Of course, when the five kingdom leadership dynamics were fully restored, this added a new punch in the face for the boxing match over “church leadership.”
When we start the discussion, we attempt to “go back” to “Early Church” practices. We hope to find some extra-Biblical sources to help us determine what to do about choosing a leadership model. After having decided to ignore the Bible’s model for leadership, we conclude we need a model. We misread these sources as authoritative. We suppose the wording means what we think it means. We base entire systems on off-hand remarks made in letters empty of Divine inspiration.
The kingdom government provided the earliest Christians with direct representation from Christ. Somehow this idea seems foreign to His kingdom citizens today. If we start there, we save a lot of time wasted in discussing historical distractions from the design of kingdom culture.
Instead, we invest enough energy to create a worldwide move of God in analyzing early Christian polity. We rage and range on and on as if we have discovered an apostolic mummy with an encyclopedia of government models strapped to its chest.
Many experts conclude that a single bishop reigned most churches as the only leadership model by the end of the second century. We call this “monepiscopacy.”
This seems to be the work of Ignatius. Since he uses John’s name, experts assume what he did reflects the decisions of Apostle John.
The massive leap into the dark–that an originating apostle set up a new leadership model–makes sense to those who already assume apostles and prophets ceased to be part of kingdom culture leadership.
The New Testament evidence suggests a plurality of oversight leaders just as Jesus bestowed upon the kingdom to form, lead, and mature the Ekklesia.
Paul certainly sees these model elders as the standard. The book of Acts tells us that the apostles established kingdom culture as the foundation for functional Ekklesiae’s full construction. The kingdom leaders were appointed “elders” (from the Greek term πρεσβυτέρος) with oversight assignments measured by a scope of leadership(Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2; 20:17). Titus is told to “appoint elders (through a kingdom culture process) in every city-state region.” (Titus 1:5).
As many experts agree, the words mean the same thing because they describe a function.
The Functional Leadership Offices
Bishop or overseer is used for the same functional office (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-7). Paul intertwines both functional offices while addressing the Ephesian “elders” (πρεσβυτέρους) for the last time as he was leaving for Jerusalem. Paul declares that “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers (ἐπισκόπους).” New covenant portions of the Bible assume elder/bishop to be the same functional leadership office.
One letter, known as 1 Clement (c.96), seems to address the Corinthian Ekklesia, the governing assembly, from Rome to urge them to correct a leadership dysfunction. It appears they dumped their leaders and needed to reinstate them to correct their insurrection.
Apostles had established other apostolic leadership everywhere they established kingdom and Ekklesia. These five types of leaders, Paul explains, were bestowed upon the kingdom. The citizens would accept their leadership as appointed. They would see that these leaders were authenticated “by other reputable men with the entire church giving its approval” (44.3).
This has nothing to do with electing leaders. It means that a leader could only lead when he was seen as a leader by the people through a commissioning process led by other leaders.
The new covenant portion of the Bible undeniably points to a plurality of elders bestowed upon the kingdom as the structure from the earliest days of kingdom culture. Through some “church father” error, the idea of a singular bishop came to dominate that structure. However, it is entirely possible that the meaning of “oversight” regarding “bishop” was narrowed. In direct contradiction to the Bible, something “other than” alters the entire spectrum of authentic kingdom leadership.
The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters.
But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected (thus affirmed) by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community. . .
Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord (Comm. Tit. 1.7).
Kingdom Leaders Lead the Kingdom Ekklesia
Human thinking replaced Divine thinking at the expense of the King’s design for kingdom leadership. Once we include the kingdom culture in the discussion, we offered a context for something Biblical. Church government is a misnomer. Kingdom government produces a functional Ekklesia.
Given oversight by design and definition of functional leadership, the five kingdom leadership dynamics is the only governmental model that answers to the King. Nothing brings the King’s involvement closer, deeper, and truer into the kingdom Ekklesia than the five aspects of the King’s leadership.