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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32


By Louis Rushmore

  Every fully organized congregation of the Lord's church is ruled by elders who are selected according to biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). However, by what means ought a congregation without elders to be governed? Should a preacher rule the church in the absence of elders? A committee? The trustees? The treasurer? The popular vote of all members, men and women? All faithful, adult male members? Scripturally, who ought to be responsible for directing the function of a local congregation that does not have elders?

  So-called "evangelistic oversight" is not the solution to church government in the absence of elders. God designed the eldership to be composed of a plurality of men, which suggests that no single individual regardless of his virtues and exemplary qualities is suited for such a task.

  A committee is a no more suitable alternative for church government instead of elders. The only group of men whose number is less than all the male members of a local church, permitted by Scripture to rule that congregation, are elders.

  Legal trustees are not a permissible option for church government in the absence of elders. Except that civil government often requires church to incorporate and generally obey the laws of the land, churches would not have trustees. Therefore, the function of trustees as such pertains to the physical realm and not to spiritual matters.

  Especially a treasurer must be cautious not to misuse his position (of service) whereby he attempts to rule the church. While an elder may be a treasurer, a treasurer is not equivalent to a plurality of men who serve as elders.

  A vote wherein women as well as men decide the affairs of the church violates the respective roles of men and women regarding spiritual matters (1 Tim. 2:12-14). Clearly, male, adult members have the responsibility for the direction, function and decisions regarding the church in the absence of elders. When fully organized, a select, qualified and appointed group of men (elders) have these responsibilities in each congregation.

  It is manifest in Scripture that congregations without elders existed in the first century (Titus 1:5). Equally obvious then, they also functioned without elders for a time. Later, these congregations matured to a point where elders were appointed.

  All adult, male members of a congregation without elders need to cooperate with each other regarding the function of the local church. Then, at the earliest opportunity, from among themselves, they are obligated to select biblically qualified men to serve as elders.

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email:
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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