The Process of Appointing Officers

by Ron Halbrook
I. The Things Written on Church Government Are to be Followed as a Pattern.

  1. A. Whatever God said on a subject is the pattern. What Paul wrote about elders and deacons constituted a pattern for Timothy to teach to the churches. See 1 Timothy 3:14-15. Notice that Paul’s written instructions had the same authority as instructions given under his personal presence.


  2. B. Four passages deal with the process of appointing officers: Acts 6:1?7; 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 5:22?25. These passages constitute a pattern for appointing elders and deacons.


  3. C. The religions of men make little attempt to follow God’s pattern on church government and organization. A human hierarchy appoints officers not found in the Bible and omits those revealed, or local churches vote on some human form of organization.


  4. D. Two offices are revealed in the pattern for the New Testament church:


    1. 1. A plurality of elders lead each local church. They are called “elders” (or presbyters) for their spiritual maturity, “bishops” (or overseers) for their duty to manage all activities of the church, and “pastors” (or shepherds) for their work of leading the church as a shepherd leads a flock of sheep.
    2. 2. Deacons are appointed servants of the church who serve under the guidance of elders.

II. Acts 6:1?7 Teaches Us about the Process of Appointing Officers.

  1. A. We must distinguish what the Apostles did and what the other brethren did.


    1. 1. The Apostles guided the saints to select officers:


      1. a. Called brethren together
      2. b. Explained the problem and the need for special servants of the church
      3. c. Offered solution to select special servants
      4. d. Gave qualifications for these servants
      5. e. Prayed for and appointed the servants selected by the church


    2. 2. The local church selected its servants:

      1. a. Came together
      2. b. Listened respectfully to Apostles’ instruction


      3. c. Pleased with inspired solution (did not protest, argue, seek another solution, etc.)


      4. d. Looked for qualified men within the congregation


      5. e. Chose or selected qualified men


  2. B. We need to carefully distinguish the process of selecting men (in which the whole church participated) and of designating or appointing them to the work of their office (done by the Apostles who oversaw this process).


    1. 1. See the records of the selection and appointment of judges for Israel in Exodus 18:21 (“thou shalt provide…able men”) and vs. 25 (“Moses chose able men”) with Deuteronomy 1:9?18 (vs. 13, “Take you wise men…known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you”).


      1. a. “Instead of selecting the men himself…, Moses directed their nomination by the people, and only reserved to himself the investing them with their authority” (Exodus in Pulpit            Commentary, II:93). “In Exodus, Moses is said to have chosen these functionaries (18:25); but what many do under the direction of one may be said to be done by him” (Deuteronomy in Pulpit Commentary, p. 6).


      2. b. Moses chose judges or rulers by instructing the people to select men who fit the qualifications, and then appointed them to their duties.


  3. C. To lay hands upon someone was a customary means to designate someone for a certain work, office, or purpose. When the Apostles laid their hands on these seven men to appoint them to their new office or service, a miraculous gift also may have been given to aid these servants in their duties and to confirm God’s approval of this new arrangement. Such gifts were supplementary to the office and temporary to the apostolic age (see also Ja. 5:14-15).


III. Acts 14:23 Teaches Us about the Process of Appointing Officers.

  1. A. When the text says Paul ordained elders, the term “ordain” is cheirotoneo in Greek, literally to stretch forth the hand, which came to mean to simply appoint, choose, or ordain by any means. The Holy Spirit used a word which means to choose without regard to the details of method. This term tells us the final outcome but not the intermediate steps. See 2 Corinthians 8:19 where the same term is translated “chosen” in referring to messengers “chosen of the churches.” Acts 6:3 and Titus 1:5 use the synonym kathistemi, meaning to appoint a person to some position or service without regard to the means.


  2. B. This passage tells what the Apostles did in overseeing the process just as was done in Acts 6. The Apostles taught each church God’s pattern of organization including the offices and qualifications for service, then the church selected men who met the qualifications, who in the end were appointed to the office. Paul did not simply appoint men of his own choosing. The churches selected qualified men and Paul set them into the office.


  3. C. Fasting was a voluntary custom associated with deep sorrow or deep devotion to prayer (see 1 Cor. 7:5), just as washing feet was a customary way of extending hospitality. Such customs are natural to the cultures in which they exist but are not legislated by God. The process of teaching the church about the work and qualification of officers, of selecting men to serve, and of appointing them should include constant and fervent prayers for the guidance of God. The mention of fasting simply shows the fervent spirit of these early saints.


IV. Titus 1:5 Teaches Us about the Process of Appointing Officers.

  1. A. The evangelist did not have oversight of the church but could carry out what an Apostle instructed him to do. The job of the evangelist was to teach what God said on church government and urge people to obey it (Tit. 2:15).


  2. B. Here again we must distinguish between the selection process and the final appointment.


V. 1 Timothy 5:22?25 Teaches Us about the Process of Appointing Officers.


  1. A. Like Titus, Timothy could teach the church what God said to do, urge people to follow it, and designate the men selected by the church. No miraculous gifts were given because only the Apostles and not evangelists had the power to give such gifts (Acts 8:18).


  2. B. An evangelist must use due caution in designating men to the office, lest he share in sinful consequences resulting from the appointment of unqualified men. In vs. 22, “neither be partaker of other men’s sins,” follows the admonition, “Lay hands suddenly on no man.” This term “neither” (mede in Greek) “constantly introduces an extension or development of what has immediately preceded; it never begins a new topic” (Nicoll, Expositor’s Greek Testament, IV:137). The need for caution in selecting and appointing men is indicated also in 1 Timothy 3:10. Time is needed to teach, to reflect, and to investigate so that the end result will be proper.


VI. Concluding Observations:

  1. A. The particular means of selecting or looking for qualified men is not specified. That is a matter of expediency. Some format must be chosen for gathering the names of men to be considered, for setting those names before the congregation, and for assessing whether each man meets the qualifications.


    1. 1. Here is a suggested format for churches wishing to select officers:


      1. a. There should be thorough teaching about the work and qualifications of officers.
      2. b. A period of time may be set for members to submit the names of prospective officers (perhaps two weeks). The preacher or a couple of other men might be designated to receive the names.
      3. c. Each person whose name is submitted should be approached to know whether he believes he is qualified and whether he wishes to be considered.
      4. d. When the final list of prospective names is announced to the church, a time frame should be set for everyone to consider these men. If someone has a question or objection about a man’s qualification, that person should go to the man or seek the help of some mature brother in approaching him. Objections should be based on Scripture, not on personal whims, likes, and dislikes. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved by withdrawing the objection, or by the prospective officer withdrawing his name from consideration.
      5. e. Unresolved objections will need to be considered by the men, who will make the best decision they can based on Scripture and information available about the dispute. The parties to the dispute should yield to this decision, or remove themselves from the congregation. If either party to the dispute presses his objection to the disruption of the church, after appropriate admonitions the church should withdraw from this factional person rather than being held hostage to him. Then, the matter should be laid to rest and the process should go forward.

        f. When the period of consideration is finished, a day should be set for the formal announcement or appointment of officers. This may include a final lesson by the evangelist about the relationship between the church and its officers, and the newly appointed officers may wish to express publicly their commitment to serve in keeping with Bible principles.

  2. B. If a church already has elders and wishes to appoint more, the present eldership would take the lead in this process as in all other matters. This does not mean the elders will singlehandedly select and appoint men without involving the whole church in the process (see Acts 6).
  3. C. The work of the preacher is to proclaim God’s will, but he cannot singlehandedly select men to serve as officers, though he participates in the selection process with the whole church. His primary duty is to provide guidance through teaching (Tit. 2:15).
  4. D. Political devices, means, and methods contradict the nature of the kingdom of God. They can have no place in any part or stage of the process of appointing officers in the church.


    1. 1. The nature of a spiritual kingdom limits all of our work to moral persuasion.
    2. 2. There can be no politicking for office. See 2 Samuel 15:2?6 on Absalom’s ambitious but ungodly methods. There is no place for campaign promises, lining up groups for personal support, putting out rumors for or against someone, and yielding to chronic complainers and malcontents who will say and do almost anything to block the attempt to appoint officers. All such political tactics are carnal and frustrate God’s plan for scriptural church government.
    3. 3. No petition signing movements, balloting or voting, or any other attempts to use majority rule are scriptural. In the selection of names to be considered, names may be submitted in writing without treating the results as ballots. The focus must be on the qualifications not the popularity of men. A man’s lack of qualifications cannot be overridden by his popularity. If someone’s name is suggested only once when names are submitted for consideration, it indicates a lack of confidence in that man, and he cannot lead as a shepherd without the confidence of the flock. Recognizing this fact does not reduce the process to balloting.
    4. 4. The election methods, with stated terms of office and bids for re?election, used among many Christian Churches is further evidence of a spirit of apostasy and worldliness.
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Author: jfm

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