A. Local Church Administration
The offices are for managing the affairs in the house of God. There are only two offices: the eldership and the deaconhood. These two offices are only for a local church. There are apostles above these two offices.
Apostles—According to the Bible, the first office is the apostleship. Apostles are gifts (Eph. 4:11) as well as an office (Rom. 1:5). This office is not for one local church; it is for the entire church. The apostle establishes elders and deacons in every locality to manage each local church. Each individual local church only has the offices of elders and deacons. There are three offices in the church. They are the apostles, elders, and deacons. The apostles are for the entire church. The elders and deacons are for the individual local churches.
Elders—They are appointed by the apostles (Acts 14:23), or they are appointed by others at the apostles’ command (1 Tim. 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-6)….
The elders are the overseers. Acts 20:17 says that they are elders, and verse 28 says that they are overseers. Titus 1:5 says they are elders, and verse 7 says they are overseers.
The elders work together with the apostles (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4; 21:18; 1 Tim. 4:14; compare 2 Tim. 1:6). The apostles are responsible for building up the entire church; the elders are responsible for governing a local church.
The elders are responsible for doing the following in their localities:
(1) governing a local church as an overseer (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:1-2); the elders are stewards in the house of God (Titus 1:7). Acts 15 refers only to the elders in Jerusalem, not the deacons. This proves that the elders are responsible for governing a local church;
(2) administrating finances in a local church (Acts 11:29-30); therefore, an elder must not be “fond of money” (1 Tim. 3:3);
(3) anointing and praying for the sick (James 5:14-15).
The word elders is plural. God never uses just one individual to care for a church. The Bible always says “the elders” (Acts 11:30; 1 Tim. 4:14; Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Tim. 5:17; James 5:14); “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5); “appointed elders..in every church” (Acts 14:23); “the overseers” (Phil. 1:1).
See 1 Timothy 3:1-7 for the qualifications of the elders. The elders must be mature not only physically but also spiritually. They must have families and have never taken a concubine.
Deacons—They are chosen in each locality and established by the apostles (Acts 6:3-6; 21:8). It is not enough for the church to choose them; they must also be established by the apostles. The apostles only establish; they do not choose or decide. The local church chooses and decides on the people, and the apostle comes to establish them. However, the elders are not selected by the locality. The apostle or those whom the apostle appoints select and establish the elders.
The deacons are those in a local church who bear responsibility for practical matters. The elders are responsible for governing a local church; the deacons are responsible for taking care of the practical matters. The elders make decisions and appoint people. The deacons are appointed to do things. The elders manage the money. The deacons dispense the money.
See 1 Timothy 3:8-13 for the qualifications of a deacon. The deacons must also have families and have never had a concubine. However, the elders are older, and the deacons are younger. There are also many deacons: “the deacons” (Phil. 1:1); “deacons” (1 Tim. 3:8, 12).
There are also deaconesses (Rom. 16:1). The elders can only be men, but there can be female deacons. Because the man is the head (1 Cor. 11:3), only brothers can be the head to govern the local church as the elders; the sisters may not. However, both brothers and sisters can serve as deacons in the church.
According to the Bible, a local church only has elders and deacons. It does not have a third office. In the church in Jerusalem, there were only elders (Acts 15:2, 4) and deacons (6:3). In the church in Philippi, there were also only “the overseers” and “the deacons” (Phil. 1:1). The apostle only commanded Timothy to appoint elders and establish deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13). A pastor [a spiritual shepherd] governing a local church is something not found in the Bible. The pastorship is only a gift for the building up of the Body of Christ; it is not an office for governing a local church. Therefore, in the Bible, there are the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:17) and the deaconess of Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1), but in no place is there the pastor of Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch, or of any place. This is because a pastor is not for a local church but for the whole church. The Bible only mentions pastors once in Ephesians 4:11.
(Watchman Nee, Collected Works, Set 2, Vol. 22, 109-112)