HE GAVE GIFTS UNTO MEN
by Kenneth E. Hagin
Different Church Structures
Who is an Elder?
….. In my hometown when I was a boy, one of the churches split over the question, "Who is an elder?" and "What constitutes the office of an elder?" One group left the church and built another church, and they chose businessmen to be elders to run the church. They thought that was correct church government.
They started out with a congregation of more than one hundred people, and after several years, five people were left in the congregation!
You see, businessmen don't have the anointing on them to stand in the pastoral office.
An ordained minister — a man who was called to the pastoral office — pastored the other church in town. That church kept growing until they outgrew their facilities and had to build a new church building. That kind of growth says something about correct church government!
When Paul addresses elders or pastors in Acts 20:28, he is talking about people who are called to the pastoral office. Preachers and teachers of the Word are spiritually equipped to feed the flock of God the Word. These elders were not businessmen who were put in charge of the church.
It is unscriptural to put businessmen who are neither called or anointed as spiritual overseers in a local body, or to have a board of elders made up of businessmen.
In terms of the local church, an elder is pastor — a preacher or teacher of the Word— not a businessman who has been appointed to be an elder in the church.
Businessmen can be helpers or deacons, and very often their financial and business expertise can be a great assistance to the pastor. But businessmen have no anointing on them to stand in the pastoral office. They have no anointing on them to spiritually oversee the church of God, nor do they have an anointing to feed the flock of God with the Word.
Only someone who is equipped by the Holy Spirit to stand in a ministry office — the pastoral office — can be an elder (in the spiritual sense of the term), an overseer, or a bishop. A businessman doesn't have the anointing or the spiritual equipment to stand in a ministry office.
You see, scripturally speaking, every pastor is an elder. Actually, every ordained minister is an elder, whether he is an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher. Eldership is not a separate office from the fivefold ministry.
That's the reason the Bible teaches that we are not to take a novice and put him in an office of authority or in a ministry office. We are to wait until he proves his ministry and gains some spiritual maturity and experience before he is ordained to full eldership in the Body of Christ.
It's important that ministers should reach a certain age, maturity, and experience in ministry before they are ordained, because ordination is the act of officially recognizing that a minister has attained to full eldership in the Body of Christ.
Eldership is not for those just starting out in ministry or for spiritual novices.
Of course, people can buy ordinations from fly-by-night organizations. Many do that and call themselves "ministers." But that doesn't make them ordained ministers of the gospel! They are just spiritual babies playing church.
No, ministers and ministries must first be proved. And ministers need to study to show themselves approved (1 Tim. 3:10; 2 Tim. 2:15). Also, the Bible gives certain qualifications for ministers (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9).
[AND GOING TO SOME “THEOLOGY COLLEGE” AND TAKING 4 YEARS OF THEOLOGY AT AGE 18 TO 22, DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ELDER OR PASTOR; IT TAKES MUCH LONGER THAN THAT, TO FULFIL ALL THE REQUIREMENT PAUL PUT DOWN TO TIMOTHY AND TITUS FOR THE ELDERSHIP MINISTRY. THEY SHOULD FIND THEMSELVES A CHURCH WHERE THEY ARE JUST MEMBERS, FIND SECULAR WORK, MARRY, HAVE CHILDREN, PROVE THEMSELVES AND THEN BE RECOGNIZED BY OTHER ELDERS AS CHOSEN BY GOD FOR THE ELDERSHIP MINISTRY - Keith Hunt]
So the apostle, prophet, teacher, and evangelist are all elders in the Body of Christ because they are ordained to the full-time ministry. And a pastor is most certainly an elder in the Body of Christ because he shepherds the local flock.
Plurality of Elders
People have fought small wars on the subject of eldership and church government. Some teach that a plurality of elders — a board of elders — must govern the church in order for it to be a true New Testament church.
But nowhere in the scriptures do you find a structure where a board of elders dominates the local church, and tells the pastor and the congregation what to do.
That kind of structure is not in the Scriptures?
[TRUE, YOU CANNOT FIND A “BOARD OF ELDERS” SEPARATE FROM THE ELDER/S OVER THE LOCAL CHURCH, THAT HAVE AUTHORITY OVER THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH. SUCH A STRUCTURE IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT - Keith Hunt]
Some people ask the question, Is a plurality of elders scripturally correct?
It depends on what they mean by that. If by a plurality of elders they mean that several ministers of equal authority should run a church, the answer is NO.
[HERE THE AUTHOR IS WAY OUT IN LEFT FIELD, VERY WRONG! WE SEE CLEARLY FROM ACTS 20: 17, PAUL CALLED FOR THE ELDER S…. WITH AN “S”— MORE THAN ONE ELDER IN EPHESUS.
SO ALSO PAUL TOLD TITUS TO ORDAIN ELDER S…. PLURAL IN EVERY CITY (TITUS 1:5) - Keith Hunt]
Anything with two or more heads is a freak. You couldn’t have five elders or pastors with equal authority running one church! It would be impossible.
[NOT A FREAK AT ALL, THIS IS JUST MAN’S SURMISING, MAN’S IDEA, NO SCRIPTURE BACKS UP SUCH A TEACHING. WE FIND PETER INSPIRED TO SAY TO ELDERS, THAT THEY SHOULD ALL SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER, TO BE HUMBLE, FOR GOD RESISTS THE PROUD (1 PETER 5:1-5). WHAT MAY SEEM IMPOSSIBLE TO MEN, EVEN A FREAK, TO GOD, AS IT IS WRITTEN, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM; THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT ALL ELDERS CAN SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER. WHEN SPIRITUAL ELDERS OR PASTORS ARE CALLED OF GOD, THEY ARE ON THE SAME LEVEL PLAYING-FIELD. ALL ORDAINED TO THE MINISTRY BY GOD ARE EQUAL WITH EACH OTHER. PAUL IS AN EXAMPLE THAT PROVES THIS. HE WAS NOT ONE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES, HE WAS CALLED LATER, AFTER THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH GOT STARTED. NOW BY READING GALATIANS CHAPTER ONE AND TWO, IT IS VERY EVIDENT, VERY CLEAR, PAUL COUNTED HIMSELF NOT ONE WIT OR BIT, BELOW ANY ELDER IN THE CHURCH OF GOD. SO IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE AS TO “TIME” WHEN A MAN IS CALLED BY GOD TO BE AN ELDER, HE IS NOT ONE STEP LOWER THAN ANY OTHER ELDER THAT WAS AN ELDER BEFORE HIM - Keith Hunt]
But if by plurality of elders, people mean that the senior pastors is the overseer of the church, and he has assistant pastors helping him, the answer is YES, that is scriptural.
[THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT NO SCRIPTURE IS PRESENTED TO BACK UP THE AUTHOR’S CLAIM. AND FURTHER, YOU CANNOT FIND ONE VERSE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT THAT USES “SENIOR ELDER”—— THERE IS NO EXAMPLE WHERE A “SENIOR” IN LONGER FUNCTION, IS TO BE ASSISTED BY ELDERS WITH LESS TIME IN THE ORDAINED MINISTRY, HENCE CALLED BY MEN, ASSISTANT PASTOR—— SUCH CHURCH GOVERNMENT CANNOT BE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT - Keith Hunt]
That is not a leadership having two heads, but it is a plurality of eldership. The associate pastors have their input, but the senior pastor make the final decision. Someone has to be the main shepherd of the local church.
[AGAIN MAN’S IDEA OF TWO OR MORE HEADS OF SOME FREAK, CANNOT WORK—— NONSENSE TO SUCH AN IDEA! SOMEONE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THE MAIN SHEPHERD OF THE CHURCH AT ALL! THEY WORK AS A TEAM WITH HUMILITY AND SUBMITTING TO EACH OTHER, AS PETER DIRECTED. THE DECISIONS OF THE LOCAL CHURCH DO NOT HAVE TO BE MADE BY ONE MAN. IN FACT THE BOOK OF PROVERBS SAY A THREE OR MORE STAND CORD IS STRONGER THAT ONE STAND. AND THERE ARE ALSO COUNTER-BALANCE WITH MORE CHECKS-AND-BALANCES IN PLACE. SADLY NOT ENOUGH CHURCHES HAVE ENOUGH QUALIFIED ELDERS TO HAVE PLURALITY OF THEM IN ALL OF JESUS’ CHURCHES ON EARTH TODAY - Keith Hunt]
If a pastor has a small congregation, he can usually retake care of the people, and he doesn't really need any more elders or associates to help hi. But the pastor ought to have enough sense to know when he needs associates to help him.
[EVEN IN SMALL CHURCHES IF POSSIBLE, THERE STILL NEEDS TO BE MORE THAN ONE ELDER GUIDING THE FLOCK OF CHRIST - Keith Hunt]
Some churches call their associate pastors elders. Others call them pastors, shepherds, or bishops. We have Scripture for all those terms. God may even raise up someone from a pastor's own congregation to help him, who is called to the fivefold ministry and is a faithful worker in the church. However, he cannot be a novice in spiritual things.
[USUALLY OTHER ELDERS DO COME FROM WITHIN THE LOCAL CHURCH; THEY SHOULD NOT COME FROM SOME COLLEGE WITH ONLY 4 YEARS THEOLOGY, AND HAVE NEVER PROVED THEMSELVES OUT IN GENERAL SOCIETY, OR AS A MARRIED MAN WITH CHILDREN - Keith Hunt]
Some people teach that the Early Church had a plurality of elders as their church government. They cite the passage in Acts 20:17 where Paul addressed the elders at the church of Ephesus as an example of plurality of eldership.
But, you see, that church was the only church they had in Ephesus at that time. There could have been many members in the church by then, and it may have taken more than one person to oversee it. The same thing was true of the mother church in Jerusalem. When, you talk about plurality of elders running a church, you have to take into consideration that the church in Jerusalem was the only local body to begin with, and it was a large church.
[AH THE AUTHOR SEES ACTS 20:17 AND HAS A CLEVER WAY AROUND THE FACT OF ELDERS. THE JERUSALEM CHURCH WAS NO DOUBT A LARGE CONGREGATION; OF EPHESUS WE KNOW NOTHING AS TO HOW LARGE IT WAS; IT IS OBVIOUS THERE WERE ENOUGH SPIRITUALLY MATURE MEN TO HAVE ELDERS. TODAY GOD’S PEOPLE TEND TO BE SCATTERED, MANY ARE NOT LARGE, MAKING IT NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE ELDERS, SOME ARE SO SMALL THEY HAVE NO ELDER AT ALL, THEY MUST RELY ON HEARING MINISTERS ON CD - DVD - LIVE STREAMING; NOW AND AGAIN A SERMON FROM A VISITING ELDER - Keith Hunt]
It would certainly take more than one pastor to oversee all these people, wouldn’t it? They had to have a plurality of elders to adequately minister to all the people.
[THE AUTHOR IS STICKING WITH “LARGE” CONGREGATIONS FOR HIS ARGUMENT; SURE ENOUGH MORE THAN ONE ELDER WOULD AND SHOULD (IF JESUS CALLS OTHERS) BE IN A LARGE CONGREGATION. BUT PAUL TO TITUS DID NOT QUALIFY HIS STATEMENT TO TITUS TO ORDAIN ELDERS IN EVERY CITY. THE BOTTOM LINE OF TRUTH, IDEALY THERE SHOULD BE MORE THAN ONE ELDER GOVERNING A CONGREGATION - Keith Hunt]
We do the same thing today in our larger churches, although we do not necessarily call them “elders.” We call them assistants or associates.
[AND SO GETTING SO MUCH CORRECT IN HIS BOOK, THIS AUTHOR NOW GOES OFF TRACK. NOT ONE VERSE USES THE TERM “ASSISTANT” OR “ASSOCIATE” ELDER/PASTOR. IF YOU ARE AN ELDER YOU ARE PART OF CHRIST’S MINISTRY, AND SO ON EQUAL FOOTING WITH ALL OTHER ELDERS IN JESUS’ CHURCH. THE TRUE CHURCHES OF GOD AROUND THE WORLD WILL ALWAYS GIVE HONOR AND RESPECT, TO ALL OF JESUS’ MINISTERS, AND THEY (THE PEOPLE AND ELDERS) WILL KNOW THE ELDERS, ARE ON THE SAME LEVEL; THEY WILL KNOW THERE IS NO “AUTHORITY” STAIRCASE THAT ELDERS HAVE TO CLIMB - Keith Hunt]
But in a small church of a couple hundred people, a plurality of elders is not usually necessary.
[ONCE MORE MAN’S IDEAS, MEN MAKING UP CHURCH GOVERNMENT; PAUL TOLD TITUS TO ORDAIN ELDERS IN EVERY CITY; HE DID NOT QUALIFY THE STATEMENT BY LAYING DOWN SOME QUANTITY OF “APPOINT ELDERS IN A CONGREGATION OF OVER 200 HUNDRED." HERE IS WHERE CLEVER DECEPTION CREEPS INTO A BOOK THAT HAS GIVEN FORTH TRUTH UP TO THIS POINT, BUT AS THE AUTHOR HIMSELF HAS SAID, MOST ERROR CONTAINS A LOT OF TRUTH, OTHERWISE IT COULD NOT DECEIVE. ARE YOU SEEING HOW THE AUTHOR HIMSELF HAS FALLEN INTO HIS OWN PIT OF DECEPTION. PEOPLE CAN READ SO MUCH TRUTH, AND THEN BEGIN TO BELIEVE EVERY WORD SAID, WITHOUT THINKING. I SAW IT HAPPEN WITH HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG—— SO MUCH TRUTH PEOPLE BEGAN TO AUTOMATICALLY BELIEVE EVERYTHING HE WROTE OR SPOKE; THEY DID NOT SEE THE ERRORS, MISTAKES, AND OUTRIGHT FALSENESS OF MANY THINGS HE TAUGHT IN HIS LATTER YEARS. SADLY MOST OF THE SPLITS FROM THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD, STILL HAVE NEVER COME TO ADMIT HWA ERRORS AND CULT TEACHINGS OF HIS LATTER MINISTRY - Keith Hunt]
Let me give you an example of the development of a plurality of elders in a local church. RHEMA Bible Church has been formally registered as a church since 1976. I taught there occasionally, as would others. But in 1985 we began the church with a full schedule of services, and my son, Kenneth Hagin Jr., became the official pastor.
[NOW WHO MADE HIM THE “OFFICIAL” PASTOR? I DO NOT SEE ANY SCRIPTURES THAT SHOWS PEOPLE BECOMING THE “OFFICIAL” PASTOR. SUCH “OFFICIALNESS” IS MAN MADE. IT OF COURSE IS VERY POSSIBLE AS JESUS RUNS HIS CHURCH, THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE ELDER TO SHEPHERD THAT LOCAL FLOCK, BECAUSE JESUS HAS NOT YET CALLED ANOTHER MAN/MEN, INTO ELDERSHIP IN THAT CONGREGATION - Keith Hunt]
As the pastor. Ken is the head of the church; I'm not. He is my pastor. Even though I stand in the offices of the prophet and teacher, I don't have a thing in the world to do with running RHEMA Bible Church; I'm not part of the pastoral staff, nor do I help govern the Church; I just sit on the pew with everyone else and enjoy the services.
[WOW….WOW…. MEN ORGANIZING A LOCAL CHURCH IN THE WAY THEY CHOOSE; PLAYING AT CHURCH! JESUS WOULD HAVE ELDERS PASTORING A LOCAL CHURCH - Keith Hunt]
When RHEMA Bible Church began, Ken had three associate pastors, a youth minister, and a minister of music. As the church grew and developed, Ken added “children's minister” to the church staff.) That is a true plurality of elders. But we don't call it that; we call them associate pastors. The church is continually growing in numbers so that associate pastors were and are necessary to adequately minister to all the people.
[NO THAT IS NOT TRUE PLURALITY OF ELDERS! THERE IS NO VERSE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT THAT USES “ASSOCIATE PASTORS”— THAT’S MAN MADE IDEAS! ELDERS ARE ELDERS ARE ELDERS IN CHRIST’S CHURCH; ONE IS NOT IN AUTHORITY OVER ANOTHER. YOUTH MINISTER - MINISTER OF MUSIC - CHILDREN’S MINISTER; AS THE WORD MINISTER IN OUR TODAY’S LANGUAGE IS USED IN RELIGION, THIS IS A VERY BAD TERM TO USE. IT GIVES AGAIN THE CONNOTATION THAT THAT PERSON IS A “MINISTER” OR “ELDER.” A BETTER WORD WOULD SIMPLY BE “LEADER” OF MUSIC, LEADER OF YOUTH, LEADER OF CHILDREN’S CLASSES. SUCH LEADERS MAY HAVE THE GIFT IN THAT AREA, BUT THEY ARE CERTAINLY NOT “ELDERS” OR “MINISTERS” OR “PASTORS” IN THE CHURCH. LOOK UP “MINISTER” IN THE DICTIONARY…… BAD DECISION TO USE SUCH A MODERN WORD FOR SOMEONE LEADING IN MUSIC, OR YOUTH, OR CHILDREN. IF A TRUE ELDER IS USED SAY IN YOUTH, THEN IT WOULD BE FINE TO CALL HIM A YOUTH MINISTER. HE IS AN ELDER WITH NATURAL ABILITY, OR A GIFT FROM GOD TO BE VERY EFFECTIVE WITH YOUTH - Keith Hunt]
On the other hand, when I pastored country churches, I really didn't need an associate. But when I did need help occasionally, I'd get someone else to help me. That didn't mean that person was supposed to come and run things; he was there to assist me.
[COULD BE OFF TRACK HERE ALSO, DEPENDING ON THE AUTHOR’S MIND-SET. IF YOU CALL AN ELDER TO HELP YOU, THEN YOU ARE CALLING SOMEONE WHO HAS AS MUCH AUTHORITY AS YOU— ELDERS ARE ALL ON THE SAME LEVEL PLAYING FIELD IN CHRIST’S CHURCH. AS IS PROVED BY THE APOSTLE PAUL IN GALATIANS ONE AND TWO. PAUL TOOK NO BACK SEAT TO ANYONE, NOT EVEN TO THE FIRST APOSTLES OF CHRIST. IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE WHERE PAUL WAS, IN WHATEVER CONGREGATION ANYWHERE, PAUL WAS IN HIS MIND (AND HE DID HAVE THE MIND AND SPIRIT OF CHRIST) EQUAL TO ALL OTHER ELDERS OF EVERY FUNCTION IN THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT. NOW IF YOU CALL IN SOMEONE WHO IS NOT AN ELDER TO HELP YOU, THEY DO CERTAIN THINGS FOR YOU; THEY KNOW, YOU KNOW, THEY ARE NOT A “SPIRITUAL ELDER” —— THEY HELP YOU IN WHATEVER YOU NEED THEM TO HELP YOU WITH, EXCEPT SHEPHERDING THAT LOCAL FLOCK - Keith Hunt]
What I'm trying to point out is that in many local churches today that have a pastoral staff, a plurality of elders has been functioning all the time. We've not called them elders Evan though that is their function in the local church. We’ve just called them associate pastors.
[IF AN ELDER IS AN ELDER IS AN ELDER, THEY ARE ELDERS, NO OTHER NAME SHOULD BE ATTACHED TO THEM AS LIKE ASSOCIATE….. AN ELDER IN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS AN ELDER, SHEPHERD, PASTOR, TEACHER, AND HE IS ON EQUAL FOOTING AS ANY OTHER ELDER, ANYWHERE IN THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT ANYWHERE ON EARTH. GOD’S PEOPLE, ANY PART OF THEM, ARE NOT OWNED BY MEN, THEY ALL BELONG TO CHRIST, AND ALL THE ELDERS THAT JESUS HAS CALLED TO BE AN ELDER/PASTOR/SHEPHERD - Keith Hunt]
False Pastors and Ministers
Yes, there are false pastors and false ministers.
A false minister is someone who is trying to operate in an office when he is not called to that office. Anyone who is in the ministry for personal gain and doesn't have the people at heart is false. There are false pastors, just as there are false prophets and false apostles — or any other ministry gift for that matter.
False pastors are those in the pastoral ministry who are either not called to that office at all or who are putting themselves and their own interests before the needs of the sheep. A false pastor is also one who teaches things that hurt and divide his flock.
A good shepherd would rather die than see a church split or hurt in any way. But I have known some so-called pastors, especially years ago, who caused problems in every church they pastored. They put themselves before the people.
A person who does that doesn't have a shepherd's heart. A good shepherd puts the people before his own interests and desires, and he will sacrifice and give his life for the sheep, including protecting his congregation from false ministers and false teaching.
That's why a pastor needs to be careful about those whom he invites to preach in his pulpit. A pastor won't necessarily agree on everything of minor importance that other ministers preach. But there are extreme doctrines that tear up churches and hurt innocent people.
That's why a pastor should check up on ministers and find out what a fellow is preaching before inviting a minister to preach in his church. And he shouldn't just believe everything a traveling minister tells him about his accomplishments in the ministry either.
A pastor should see what effect traveling ministers have had on churches where they have preached — whether it has been positive or negative. Has a traveling minister been a blessing in churches where he has ministered? Or has he caused division and strife wherever he has preached? If ministers have torn up other churches doctrinally in the past, they are liable to leave a trail of churches in the same mess.
We need to remember that Paul exposed false ministers for the sake of the Body of Christ. He said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).
You see, we are not talking about exposing individual ministers just to hurt and damage their reputations. But a pastor has to be concerned with issues and sound biblical doctrine. He needs to protect his flock, and sometimes for the sake of his flock, he will have to expose error if it is dividing and hurting the local body……..
Usually ministers who cause trouble and divide churches are those who take the attitude, No one is going to tell me what to do! Or, No one is going to tell me what to preach about!
But if a minister can't be a blessing to a congregation, he doesn't have any business preaching.
THIS IS THE LARGEST SECTION OF THE AUTHOR’S BOOK THAT I HAVE TROUBLE WITH, AS I’VE OBVIOUSLY SHOWN IN MY COMMENTS. UP TO THIS POINT I HAVE HAD LITTLE TROUBLE IN AGREEING WITH THE AUTHOR, THAT HE IS ON THE BUTTON BY WHAT HE HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT.