Our Leadership Structure
Crossway has two offices that provides leadership for the church. This practice comes from the New Testament itself where only two offices – pastor and deacon – existed. In the New Testament, both are presented as being necessary for a healthy church and have specific qualifications for who can and cannot serve in these positions.
In the New Testament, this office of pastor is called many things – pastor (or shepherd), elder, and overseer. All of these titles refer to the same office of leadership in a local church.* Those that fill this position of leadership are to be men who are qualified spiritually and practically to lead the church into spiritual maturity. Under the lordship of Christ, they do this by loving, serving, teaching, correcting, leading, protecting, and encouraging the members of the church (Acts 20:17-35; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Heb 13:17). The New Testament summarizes what they do as the ministries of prayer and the Word of God. Despite all that they do to lead and teach the congregation, the pastors are not the final authority in the church – the congregation as a whole is.** Nevertheless, the congregation should recognize the authority of the elders and joyfully follow their leadership. You can find out more about Crossway’s pastor’s here.
Deacons provide leadership in serving the practical needs of the church. They are to assist the pastors by carrying out the details of church’s ministries, ensuring the members’ needs are met (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13). Deacons are not responsible for the teaching and preaching of the congregation, or for exercising spiritual oversight. However, they are to be an example of godliness that supports the leadership of the pastors and helps build up the whole church in maturity in Christ. You can learn more about Crossway’s deacons by clicking here.
* D. A. Carson has a helpful explanation: “I should perhaps begin by saying that in New Testament times, there were only two distinctive offices. On the one hand, there were elders, also called pastors, also called overseers (“bishops” in older English); on the other, there were deacons. The reason for thinking that “pastor” and “elder” and “overseer” refer to the same person or office springs primarily from the way the three are linked in such passages as Titus 1:5-7 and 1 Peter 5:1-2. The point has long been recognized. That illustrious Anglican scholar, J. B. Lightfoot, undertook a lengthy demonstration of this point in his commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. It was not until the second century that “bishops” (i.e. “overseers”) were split off to constitute a third office. The word “pastor” comes from a Latin root that means “shepherd,” which in Jewish metaphorical usage carried overtones of authority, looking after the sheep, directing them, nurturing them, protecting them, ruling them. The “elder” terminology springs from both the synagogue and the village, and suggests maturity and (one hopes!) wisdom. The word “overseer” recognizes the legitimate place of governance. All the words are necessary because the task is complex and integrated.”
**Paul Alexander provides a helpful summary: “To explain briefly, the New Testament gives the gathered, local congregation final authority in matters of dispute, discipline, doctrine, and membership. Personal disputes are to be handled according to Matt 18:16-18, where the church gathered is the final court of appeal. Disciplining the unrepentant sinner in Corinth fell under the jurisdiction of the gathered congregation according to Paul in 1Cor 5:1-13, a passage in which elders are not even mentioned. Paul held the whole congregation in Galatia responsible for the doctrinal purity of the gospel preached in their pulpit in Galatians 1:6-9, and tacitly implicates those who want their ears tickled for “gathering to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires’ in 2Tim 4:3-4. And the re-admission of the disciplined brother in 2Cor 2:5-8 is urged upon the whole Corinthian congregation, not just the elders. The final authority of the congregation in these four areas of church life, even within the context of a properly functioning biblical eldership.”