Unique Glimpse into Church Structure: Acts 13:1
“1) Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.” Acts‬ ‭13‬:‭1‬
This verse describing the leadership structure in the church at Antioch may take you by surprise. Absent is the notion of “senior pastor” or a “lead elder.” Instead there is a plurality of leaders and gifts. It is also multinational and multicultural. The church at Antioch was instead lead by a godly team.
I personally believe this is a reflection of Ephesians 4:11-12. Let me quote; “11) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”
There are five distinct ministry gifts mentioned in this context. Each of them add an important dimension to the church. Where there is a mature plurality of equals, Jesus is honored as head of the church and the leading of the Holy Spirit is earnestly sought. It seems that the church in Jerusalem had the same model. It was led by a team of godly men. Both churches had autonomy and self governance, yet held to a common confession of faith.
I fully understand there are other Scriptures like the seven churches in Revelation that seem to point to a senior pastor model. However, honestly do not see the New Testament being definitive about church structure apart from Jesus Christ being the head of His church. I have seen strengths and weaknesses with every system.
Seeking Jesus Christ, listening to the Holy Spirit and remaining true to Scripture are the three priorities of any church model. Where God is sincerely put first, then His presence, power and anointing follow.
A thread on structure that does flow through the New Testament could be defined as the Acts 6:4 focus; “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” The next two verses in Acts 13:2-3 underline this same priority. Seeking the Lord as church leaders through fasting and prayer was a priority. This is when and where the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to them about ministry direction.
The goal was to avoid personal agendas and power personalities that seek to control or manipulate the church. These are always yellow lights of carnality. Jesus shares His glory with no man or woman!
Many churches have fallen into the clutches of Diotrephes mentioned in 3 John 1:9-10. He wanted to be first among them and control everything. It was disastrous for the church. Many churches today are rendered ineffective from the same carnal and ungodly dominance.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global