Christ and His Church - Lesson 9
Christ: THe Chief Shephard of His Church
The Organization of the Church
Background Information for the Teacher
- The student can explain the role of Jesus as the Chief Shepherd of the church.
- The student can describe the work of elders in a local congregation.
- The student can describe the work of deacons in a local congregation.
- The student will commit to the unified work of his/her congregation.
- Each student needs a Bible
- Have a chalk board or marker board and/or use the PowerPoint.
- Have a songbook or song sheet so the class can sing "Heart of a Servant" and "Take My Life and Let it Be."
Christ is our Chief Shepherd and He has appointed those under Him to lead each congregation of His flock in the paths He wants them to go.
Lesson Plan for the Teacher
- Call the roll, introduce visitors, have a prayer.
- Tell the class that today's lesson will be about leadership which means that both leaders and followers in the church need to have a spirit of humility and service. Then sing "Heart of a Servant" and "Take My Life and Let It Be."
- Read 1 Peter 5:1-4. Q: What do we learn from this passage about the organization of the church? A: That Christ is the Chief Shepherd and serving under Him are the shepherds (elders) of each congregation. Q: What different words are used in this passage to describe the role of the leaders in a congregation and what does each suggest? A: Elder-older, more experienced, wisdom, able to give advice and counsel. Shepherd-one who leads, protects, and feeds the flock. Overseer (bishop)- one who manages an activity.
- Q: What is suggested by Christ's being the Chief Shepherd. A: The other shepherds serve under His leadership, follow His instructions, live by His example as a shepherd, love the sheep as He does, exercise humility.
- Let's look at each of the terms applied to these local leaders and think of what they actually do in filling such a role. While these terms are somewhat overlapping, let's think for our lesson today about what each term suggests about what these men do. Q: What does the term "elder" suggest that these men would do to help the members? A: Giving advice as a group or individually to members. Providing a good example of Christian living and service. Q: What is an example you can think of in which an elder might be doing this? A: Counseling a couple about their marriage or their children, advising someone who has to make a decision about honesty in his business, as a group of men to be making a decision about church discipline.
- Q: What are these men doing that would be fulfilling the role of an "overseer"or "bishop?" A: Making or delegating financial decisions about the use of the money of the church, deciding about whom to choose as ministers, making decisions about the building.
- Q: What are these men doing when they are being "shepherds?" A:Determining how they will feed the flock-what subjects need to be covered in class and the pulpit including doctrinal matters that need to be taught, watching over the members to note who seems to be straying and to bring them back, seeking to get each member involved in the work of the congregation for each member's growth, developing the unity of the church.
- Q: Describe the collective and individual work of the elders? A: Since the New Testament always speaks of a congregation's having a plurality of elders, single elder would not have authority on his own except as it may have been delegated to him by the group of elders. Individually, of course, elders may counsel and encourage. In decisions about the church, they must act collectively.
- Read Acts 20:17, 28-31. Q: What terms does Paul use in these verses to refer to the leaders of the church? A: Elders, overseers (bishops), and shepherds. The same as in 1 Peter 5. Q: What responsibility does he mention here that lies upon elders? A: Keep watch to protect the members from those who would lead them astray into doctrinal error.
- (Teacher: As you have time, you can do the following exercise.) Read 1 Timothy 3:2-7. Q: Look at each qualification and comment on how it relates to the work elders are to do. A: (1) "Above reproach" ("blameless")-if a man has obvious faults, he cannot be effective in rescuing others from their faults; (2) "the husband of one wife" and managing his own family suggest that he have family experience and have done it well so that he can help others with their families and that he has proved himself a leader in this way; (3) "temperate" and "self controlled" suggest that he be an example of moderation and that he not be one who loses his temper in a tough situation; (4) "respectable" indicates that his voice will carry weight because he has gained the respect of the members; (5)"hospitable" indicates that he has contact with people, knows them and associates with them at the initiative of himself and his wife; (6) "able to teach" suggests that He is well acquainted with Scripture and can share its thoughts with others, thus allowing him to correct those who are wrong and teach the proper doctrine to the congregation; (7) "not given to drunkenness"-certainly he would not have the respect of the congregation if we were one who got drunk and in most congregations he would not be considered "above reproach" if he drank alcohol at all; (8) "not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome"-a man who deals with people gently, does not stir up trouble, builds unity, and maintains calm in a difficult situation; (9) "not a recent convert "-a man of experience and one who can be humble in taking the role of elder; (10) "of good reputation with outsiders"-he is well thought of in the community so that he will bring the church respect and appreciation not harm.
- Clearly a man who becomes an elder is one who is of high standing in the church and must have the qualifications set forth for without these qualifications he will not be able to carry out the role well. When deciding upon elders, then, the congregation must ask whether a man meets the qualifications to the extent that he will be able to carry out the work he is called on to do. Some of the qualifications may be met to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, how well must one be "able to teach" to be an elder?" Well enough to do the work he is called on to do in teaching others. How much "above reproach" must he be? Not to a 100 percent for no one could reach that. He must be "above reproach" to the extent that he can do the work well that he is called on to do. The work a man must do as an elder, then, is a good guide to understanding the meaning of the qualifications.
- A second role in the church mentioned in 1 Timothy 3 (verses 8-13) is the role of deacon. Q: What does the word "deacon" mean?" A: Servant. Q: What special duties are assigned to deacons? A: None except that they are to be servants. Q:Do deacons have to be managers of a work in the church? A: No, the word does not suggest management but servant. Deacons may be asked to manage various elements of the work of the church as their service but they also may be given"behind the scenes" roles that require a faithful servant. A deacon might prepare the elements of the Lord's Supper, be treasurer, or visit new members. Or a deacon might be the person the elders put in charge of the education program,the missions program, or the building.
- Q: Are all Christians "deacons?" A: Yes, in the sense that all are servants. No,in the sense that some are set apart as specially qualified servants. Q: What is meant by Romans 16:1 that Phoebe is a "servant" (deaconess) of the church in Cenchrea? A: Since the qualifications of deacons suggest that men held these roles, it would appear that Phoebe was a "deaconess" in the sense that all of us are to be servants. Think of it like this-Are all older people elders? Yes- they are all elderly people but, no, they are not all set aside in the "elder" role. Similarly, everyone in the church is a servant (deacon) but not all are set in the office of "deacon."
- Q: What is my responsibility to the elders of the church? A: Hebrews 13:17.Obey and submit to their authority. This means to follow their lead. Be involved in those activities they suggest.
- Q: What is an example of someone appropriately submitting to the elders? A:Accepting their judgment about the use of funds, times to meet, etc.
- Q: How can I make the work of the elders more effective? A: Encouraging them, bringing them useful information, participating in those things they ask members to do.
- In the next class meeting, be prepared to answer a few questions about this lesson.
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