the weblog of Alan Knox

Elders and Administration

Posted by on Aug 22, 2006 in elders, scripture | 6 comments

I had to write a short paper on biblical eldership for a class called Introduction to Research. I decided to research the question of pastoral responsibilities and administration related to the use of the επίσκοπος word group (“overseer”) in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2. In these two passages, the authors use the noun επίσκοπος (“overseer”) and the verb επισκοπέω (“oversee”) respectively to help define the functions and responsibilities of the πρεσβύτερος (elder). I concluded that these two terms do not indicate that elders function as “administrators,” but that they should care for and guard the people from false teachers.

Is this important, or is it semantic gymnastics? To me, it is very important. An organization or an institution requires an administrator. But, Scripture does not describe the church as an organization or institution. Instead, Scripture describes the church as a community of people. People do not need administrators. Instead, according to Luke and Peter, people need to be cared for and protected.

If this is correct, then God requires pastors to care for and protect HIS flock. God does not require pastors to handle administrative responsibilities. If a “church” asks a pastor to take on responsibility for managing the organization, that is outside the bounds of Scripture. If a pastor does not handle administrative responsibilities well, it is NOT because he is not fulfilling his responsibilities as a pastor. There may be other responsibilities (responsibilies expected by the “church” or taken on by himself) that he is not fulfilling, but these responsibilities are not related to his function as a pastor.

What do you think?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-22-2006


    I certainly agree with the spirit of what you have stated here but would like you to comment on the use of “administration” in 1 Cor. 12:28, and a form of the same Greek word being used in 1 Tim 5:17. The Greek work suggests a “piloting” or “directing” of the affairs of the church, “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (NIV) So although I agree that the administration of an organization is not an inherent part of being a elder, it certainly could be a gift held by an elder or teacher within the church body. Am I making any sense here?

  2. 8-22-2006

    Thank you for the comment. I understand your question from 1 Cor 12:28 where Paul uses the Greek word κυβέρνησις to describe a gift of the Spirit. Since this is the only use of the word in the NT, perhaps the LXX usage of “guidance” is helpful (Pro 1:5;11:14;24:6). However, even if we accept the translation “administration,” I still do not think it applies to pastoral administration of an organization for two reasons: 1) The gifts are not designated by position or function in the church, but based on the will of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:11). So, any believer could have this gift, not just pastors. 2) All of the other gifts of the Spirit have people as their object (recipient – 1 Cor 12:7) – not an organization. It would seem likely that the object or recipient of this gift (however we translate it) would also be people.

    You lost me on the connection with 1 Tim 5:17. I can’t find “a form of the same Greek word” (κυβέρνησις) in that verse. There is a similar Greek word (κυβερνήτης – “captain, steersman, pilot”) used elsewhere in the NT (Acts 27:11; Rev 18:17), but I don’t see its use in 1 Tim. Did I misunderstand your question?

    Thanks again!


  3. 8-22-2006

    Forgive me Alan, my referencing of Greek got ahead of my brain there for a second.

    The word I was trying to point to in Timothy is “proistemi,” and you are correct in saying that it is not connected to κυβέρνησις, but they do share a common context, that of offering guidance. The Timothy passage reveals that there are several contexts in which elders can give guidance, or practice administration. The Timothy passage suggests that teaching is only one possible actualization of guidance that elders might participate in. So that being said, can we agree that some elders might have gifts, and therefore obligations, other than teaching and preaching that might more closely resemble the “management” of peoples’ desires to actualize their gifts?

    If you have a different understanding of the Timothy passage I would love to hear it. I might be grasping at straws here.

    Sorry for the bad Greek reference. I was being lazy and thought I remembered something that wasn’t actually present in the text.

  4. 8-23-2006

    Thank you again for your comment. I think I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you. Elders could certainly be gifted by the Spirit to lead or guide people. The distinction that I am making here is not in the action or function of the elder, but in the object or recipient of that action. Does the elder lead/guide people, or does he lead/guide an organization? I believe that the term “administration” usually indicates guiding an organization, and we sometimes read it that way in Scripture. But, from my understanding, the object/recipient of all the gifts (including leading/guiding/administration) is people. Elders do not administer an organization; they lead or guide people. If this is true, then elders should not be held responsibile for organizational administration simply because they are elders. There may be other reasons to hold them responsible for organizational administration, but not because they are elders. I hope this makes sense.

  5. 8-23-2006

    I couldn’t have said it better. Although, I would suggest that our view of the word “administration” and “organization” have been greatly formed by our modern culture and thus we are reacting negatively to a specific interpretation of those words rather than the exact meaning of the word itself.

    Example: The true meaning of the word “organization” is “a group of persons organized for some end or work.” (Webster’s College Dict) The Body of Christ is a “group of persons organized” by God for the specific purpose of bringing glory to His name and extending His Kingdom. Such an understanding of the Kingdom of God, or the Body of Christ, is the reason that English translations of the Bible are able to use the word “administration” in reference to God’s work among us. I hope that I haven’t complicated the issue. I really do agree with your diagnosis, but I would suggest adding a statement concerning your disagreement with the cultural view of the word that fosters an unhealthy depersonalization of Body of Believers.

    I think I might be arguing over words now so I will stop.:)

  6. 8-23-2006

    I agree with you completely! I went back to read my post and realized that I did not define “organizational administration.” In the original paper, I was arguing against an understanding of eldership as describe by the following quote: “As pastor (bishop) he is the chief officer in the church. Overseeing implies that he has administrative responsibility for the entire operation of the church.” Unfortunately, I left that part out of my blog entry. Thank you again!
    – Alan