Church Structure

Series Five – Structure  
Theme = God’s way for family, church, and society
‘The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.’  Titus 1:5
It’s quite amusing to see two pastors meeting for the first time. “Hi, what church are you from?” “The church of glory and healing power on the holy mountain” (it’s an African Pentecostal church). “Oh great, and how many people do you have?” If the man gives a number of anything under a thousand then he is likely to get a fleeting sympathetic yet superior smile as his questioner moves on to find someone more influential. 
We pastors tend to be size sensitive and also rather proprietorial. We speak proudly of ‘my church’.  But of course local churches do not belong to pastors, although I know of a few where the pastor actually owns the property and everything in it. Churches belong to Jesus! He is the invisible yet real head of every church and church group. And because of this, the church should be structured in accordance with the pattern of the Holy Trinity.
In the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate together in headship and submission yet are equally divine and one in unity and essence. So in the church, three structural elements exist: The Lord Jesus Christ who is the head, the Elders, and the Members. The Elders are in submission to the Lord Jesus and the members are in submission to both the Lord and His Elders. This doesn’t make the Elders more important or of greater status than the members but it does mean that they have a particular functionality in the household of God. Ironically, Elders, who I believe are biblically mandated to be men only, take the role of ‘mother’ in the extended family of the church. In the family, the children are in submission to father and mother, and the father is the head. In the church, the members are in submission to Jesus and the Elders, and Jesus is the head.
In the New Testament, Elders are always presented as a group, not as individuals. My understanding is that a local church needs to be led at a human level by a group of at least three. Together they govern the church under the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. One of them, sometimes called Pastor or Lead Elder, establishes doctrine and vision and leads the group, but all major decisions are made by a genuine group consensus.
Churches, like families, are imperfect and experience disorder from time to time. However, the church splits, Pastor firings, and major church calamities that I have come across have all been in churches where one man rules. This is very common in charismatic circles. The Pastor is the boss and the members are his not so happy helpers. This is not the structure modelled in the Godhead and it is no wonder that ill health so often results.
What is your church structure? How closely do you think it matches the biblical pattern?
Christopher Peppler

Christopher Peppler



1 thought on “Church Structure”

  1. 2 comments:
    Firstly it has been noted how similar looking pastors in Christian magazines are to CEOs of companies in business magazines. Why is this? Are some churches a business headed up by an charasmatic CEO?
    Secondly – Having Jesus as the head is like having a loving kind dictator. Us and the church seem to have to do things exactly how he wants it – no discussion, input and debate. At the wedding Jesus said fill the water containers, to people go and wash yourself, present yourselves the elders, find a donkey …… It seems to me that we have to do things exactly the way Jesus wants and we need to learn how to determine what this is and to do it to the letter.

    My thoughts….

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.