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Principles of Church Leadership by John P. Lathrop

In the Old Testament the Israelites were told that they were not to live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3), Jesus affirmed this teaching in the New Testament  as well (Matt. 4:4). It is a truth for us; we are to live by the revelation of God, the teachings of Scripture. A sampling of other verses that indicate that we are called to live a scriptural life include: Luke 6:46; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2-4; 1 Timothy 4:13 and 1 Timothy 3:14-15.

In Luke 6:46 Jesus said “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?” In this verse Jesus indicated that if we acknowledge Him as Lord then we should do the things that He says. In other words, we are not just to listen to Jesus’ words, we are to obey Him. Our acknowledgement of His authority (Lord) requires the appropriate response in our life, the response of obedience. In the words of James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

The apostle Paul also affirms the authority of Scripture in our lives. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul tells us that Scripture finds its origin in God. He also tells us that it has a number of purposes, it is for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” In other words the Bible benefits us in that it sets forth a standard that we are to live by. The Bible directs us into the path of right living and church practice not just through condemning wrong or ungodly ways but also by providing positive instruction.

In 1 Timothy 4:2-4 Paul urges Timothy, and by extended application, all persons responsible for the care of a congregation to “Preach the word.” In this text too he cites both the “tearing down” and the “building up” aspects of the Word of God. He tells Timothy to “correct, rebuke, and encourage” (2 Tim. 4:2). The immediate context as well as some of the other content of the epistle indicates that Timothy is in a church that is plagued by false teaching. Paul’s counsel for dealing with this is to preach the truth, God’s Word.

The primacy of the Scriptures in leading the church is also seen in 1 Timothy 4:13. In this verse Paul tells Timothy to give himself to the public reading of Scripture and to preaching and teaching. Here again we see the high place that the Word of God is to hold in the church. People need to be exposed to the truth and have it explained to them. So Paul holds these things out to Timothy as things that he should give himself to. In fact he says that Timothy should devote himself to these things.

Lastly, in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 we find Paul stating that the things that he has written to Timothy are so that people will know how they are to conduct themselves in the house of God (the church). Some of the things that Paul wrote about earlier in the epistle include, the primacy of prayer, how men and women should conduct themselves in church, and the qualifications for church leadership. 1 Timothy 3:15 also says that the church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” The church should be lead by a strong and solid exposition of the Word. The leaders of the church should declare the Word and be submitted to it themselves. Leadership should be careful not to go “beyond what is written,” our only safe and sure authority is what God has revealed.

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Category: Ministry, Pneuma Review, Winter 2012

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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