I have a question concerning the proper order of evangelists and elders. It seems to me that in the Bible the evangelist appoints elders who in turn govern the affairs of the church. Elders seem to have more authority than evangelists but in a way evangelists have more authority than elders. Could you please clarify this for me? -- Chad (Los Angeles)

While the basic leadership positions of the New Testament are easy enough to study the specifics of appointment and exact responsibilities elude even the most careful Bible scholar. There is a built-in latitude, and we may come to different conclusions in our studies. So let me tell you my opinion. (It is opinion.)

Titus 1 shows Paul instructing Titus to appoint elders in the towns of Crete. (Acts 14 contains a similar passage.) So you are right: we do see apostles/evangelists appointing elders. But then we see these same evangelists moving on. They do not stay! You could say that the evangelist recognizes that in the local church the elder has the authority.

The elders oversee the local church. In the early stages of a congregation, of course, the evangelist "shepherds" the flock since he "planted" the congregation. Quite naturally, it looks to him for guidance and authority. Yet as the church matures, in time leadership by the older men, "a group," replaces the one-man leadership of the evangelist. He may remain, but the elders have the final say. His job is to preach the Word, especially to the lost, while the elders' is to ensure the flock are fed and that the wolf does not do his predatory work.

To sum up, in a church where there are elders they are the overseers, not the evangelist. Many churches are somewhere in the middle, not exactly fledgling churches but not yet mature enough to have an eldership. In this twilight of ecclesial adolescence, hybrid leadership arrangements will spring up. They should not be scorned; they are a necessary step connecting the church planting to the elder-led congregation the NT points us all towards as the goal.

For more, see my audio series New Testament Leadership.

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