Many of the great revivals occurred when various church leaders in a town co-operated together. They put aside their own egos and allowed God to move with no individual leader of the revival. Believers were free to meet spontaneously without the need for the main leaders to always take charge. Without knowing it these revivals have reverted to the original church model, where a group leads the believers in an area. The modern tendency to have a pastor leading a congregation isn’t the way it was done in the early church and isn’t the way it was done in many of the great revivals.
Some relevant examples of such revivals are Azusa Street in 1906 in California, the Welsh revival in 1904, and the Bario revival in Malaysia in the 1970s.
ELDERS: Soon after Jesus was crucified the apostles established a leadership structure over the church in Jerusalem. They established groups of elders who had authority over all the believers in a town. The modern church often has a leader/congregation model instead of a group of elders. Elders used to have a far stronger role than the pastors of today, being in leadership over believers in an entire town. Surely we would be even more blessed if we go back to that original model?
In Titus 1:5 appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. Acts 20:17 Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
The word for pastor means “shepherd” and the elders were the shepherds of the believers in a town. The elders of the town of Ephesus were also referred to as overseers and shepherds (pastors): Acts 20:28
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the
church of God.
The position of elder/overseer is a highly responsible position, therefore the requirements are so strict: 1 Timothy 3
the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to
teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as of the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
APOSTLE: There is only one position in the church even higher than an elder, that is an apostle. Apostles are chosen by other apostles to join them to establish and encourage churches. If signs and wonders follow them, then this
confirms the calling of the apostle. Apostles encourage the believers from town to town and establish new churches and appoint elders in those towns. Biblical examples show these apostles acting in groups. Paul often travelled with
Barnabas, Timothy or Aristarchus.
This strong responsibility of apostle should be accompanied by the signs of an apostle; signs, wonders and miracles:
Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
Acts 5:12 the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.
2 Cor 12:12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and
DEACONS: The elders in a town can become overworked, they are free to appoint deacons to assist them. Deacons
assist the elders, and there are definite guidelines before appointing a deacon: 1Timothy 3: deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
Summary: There are other significant roles in the church for example teacher, evangelist, the prophet. But regarding
leadership, the leadership structure over believers is simply:
APOSTLE – ELDER – DEACON