Paul's Passing Thoughts

Home Fellowships: Are Elders Optional?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 24, 2015

HF Potters House (2)

Some time ago during our Tuesday night Bible study in Acts, teacher Andy Young suggested an alternative interpretation of 1Timothy 3:1.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.

Most English translations use words in this verse that indicate an individual’s desire to become an elder, but Andy pointed out, and as far as I can tell from word study, such a conclusion is not definitive. In fact, while many translations render this “if a man,” the ESV and other translations are more accurate by rendering it, “if anyone.” Whether the text refers to the aspirations of a group or individual is difficult to ascertain.

In addition, “the office of” is clearly added with no merit to do so whatsoever. This should be a red flag. We must also interject into the discussion that first-century home fellowships, at least for a while, had no elders.

Titus 1:5 – This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

So, at least for a time, Crete obviously had no elders; yet, it didn’t prevent the gathering of the saints. Throughout the New Testament, we see the forming of fellowships with no mention of elders. In the least case, elders were not efficacious to having a fellowship for any designated period of time. Clearly, it was a secondary priority. Meeting together is the first priority. Putting things in order is a lower priority.

We must remember that home fellowships are a powerful combination of informality and order. Doing things in an orderly and organized way does not prevent growth, but later facilitates growth. Once home fellowships reemerge from the Protestant Dark Age, deacons and elders will accelerate the Lord’s work and general mandates. Granted, a world outreach and impact from homes is an idea that we need to get used to, but building materials do not empower God’s people—this should be evident. Nor does authority passing judgment on the gifts of others empower. Even when elders and deacons emerge by necessity in the home fellowship movement, disciples will not be waiting for permission to practice their gifts.

Let’s also consider the context of 1Timothy 3:1. Let me suggest from the prior verses that there was a problem with a loosey-goosey approach to the freedom of home fellowships. No institution with its strangulating authority equals NO organization; that’s a huge miscalculation. Also, see Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.

However, while we are on that subject, is it not interesting that elders are not spoken of in the Corinthian letters? Am I missing something? If they are mentioned it is barely more than a mention that I cannot find. Nevertheless, I leave room for correction. But at any rate, the vast majority of instruction in the New Testament addresses the assemblies in general and NOT leadership in particular. That is very telling. Leaders are to facilitate gifts, and are not called to grant permission.

This ministry is beginning to get a lot of feedback that looks like this: “We have left the institutional church; what now?” And this ministry will be addressing that question in the near future.

But be sure of this: in the beginning of your journey, you only need the head—Jesus Christ. Follow Him, and whatever you do—don’t look back.