Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1953

"Church Leaders"

Pat Broaddus, Fresno, California

Recent issues of the Gospel Guardian have carried interesting and enlightening articles dealing with the essential qualifications of elders. I believe it is well that we pause at regular intervals to re-evaluate the strength of our positions along this and all other lines.

The growing practice of selecting certain men from the congregation who admittedly lack one or more of the qualifications for elders, creating an office for "leaders," and placing those men in the office which the congregation has provided for them, is another unscriptural arrangement which threatens to have its day in the church. When we take into consideration the fact that these men are usually invested with all, and sometimes even more authority than the New Testament bestows upon elders, the evil becomes at once apparent.

When we dare to inquire as to what passage of scripture intimates that such a practice would be acceptable to God, we are usually told that someone must have the authority to act in the business and spiritual affairs of the congregation. From that premise they reason to the conclusion that, inasmuch as the church has failed to provide a program which would develop men for the eldership, and since the church cannot function without someone in authority, it becomes needful that we adopt the practice of appointing leaders for the congregation.

Of course, the advocates of this theory are probably unaware of the fact that two wrongs never make a right. The fact that the church may have failed to perform its duty in preparing men for the eldership does not endow us with the right to concoct a human method for the government of the church.

Elders should, of course, be appointed from among the members of the congregation as soon as men are qualified for that office. This is God's way, and as far as I am concerned His way is the only way. However, there is no provision made in the Bible for leaders to substitute for elders until men can be developed for that office.

One man was heard to contend that in the absence of elders it would be impossible to scripturally discipline an erring member without employing some such arrangement.

It seems strange that a person with such evident disregard for Bible teaching should be greatly concerned about doing anything in a scriptural manner. Of course, it is not true that a church must have officers of any kind before it can withdraw fellowship from an erring member. The right of a church to withdraw from one of its members does not depend upon whether or not the church is organized, but upon the conduct of the member. I have never read that Paul, or any other apostle, ever instructed a congregation to withdraw from them that walk disorderly only in the event that they had either leaders or elders. This was to be done whether the congregation was organized or not. Actually there is no work the church is to do that it cannot do as an unorganized body, but it can never hope to function as well in this manner. It can pray, sing, commune, give, teach, visit the sick and even discipline those in error, but it reaches the highest point of efficiency when this work is carried out under the oversight of informed and godly elders.

The brother to whom we have already referred also declared in the same speech that where there are no elders in a congregation, appointed leaders can do much to prevent the local evangelist from exercising unlawful control over the congregation.

While I have never believed that the preachers should have the oversight of the churches, I am ready to contend that they are as much entitled to that authority as "leaders," especially in view of the fact that the New Testament does have something to say about evangelists. Surely, if it is right to appoint leaders over the congregation, someone can offer a better reason for it than this.

Let us fact the facts. The New Testament does not mention the office of a leader. It does not mention his qualifications. It does not outline the limits of his authority. To create the office, find a man to fit it and give to him authority to which he is not entitled, is to adopt an unworthy substitute for the divine plan. It can only result in our becoming content with an inferior arrangement, for if this practice is acceptable to God, then why attempt to develop men for the eldership?