Structure of the Church from the Baptist Faith and Message

Below is a portion of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Guide published by Lifeway. Purchase a copy here. Charles Kelley, Richard Land, and Albert Mohler served in providing commentary for the Baptist Faith and Message Study Guide.

Structure of the Church (Chapter 9, pages 90-91)

“The New Testament provides a blueprint for church structure. The scriptural officers of the church are pastors and deacons. Paul mentioned these officers in the greeting of his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 1:1, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons).

Pastor. The New Testament words that Baptists identify with the pastoral office include terms translated as bishop, elder, and pastor. Each term adds to our understanding of the pastoral office and the pastor’s responsibility. Bishop means overseer – someone who oversees the work of others. Jews used the word elder to designate someone who possessed dignity and wisdom. in the Christian church elder was used for someone who presided over assemblies and served as a counselor. The term pastor describes a shepherd who loves and cares for the believers who make up the congregation (Acts 20:28, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood).

Baptists do not believe that the New Testament establishes a role for a bishop over several churches. Instead, the Bible says every pastor is to serve as a bishop who exercises and fulfills the ministry of the Word on behalf of the congregation as the gathered people of God.

Central to the pastor’s role is the responsibility to preach and teach. Paul instructed Timothy, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and understanding” (2 Timothy 4:2). Above all else, the pastor must preach and teach the Word of God.

We also affirm that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. This assertion has become controversial only in recent years. Until recently, all Christians affirmed that the pastoral office is limited to men recognized as fully qualified by biblical definitions. The Bible clearly reveals a complementary relationship between men and women. Both are equally created in the image of God (i.e. Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28). Both are gifted for service in the church. But the New Testament defines a pastor as a man who is “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2) and a man who is gifted by God to fulfill the pastoral role. God’s instruction is for men to assume and fulfill the preaching ministry. Many other ministries and responsibilities are available in the church for both men and women. As Christ made abundantly clear, there is no shortage of work for His disciples to do.”

This section also addresses deacons, but I did not add that portion to this post.

Evan Knies is an elder of North Hills Church in West Monroe, LA. He is husband of Lauren and father to Maesyn. He is a graduate of Boyce College and Southern Seminary.

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