Partnership at The Gathering
Session 3: Our Structure
How is The Gathering Governed?
Jesus Christ is the head of the church and God has the ultimate and final authority over all matters in his church. Under this authority, the church is led and cared for by elders, pastors, staff, and church partners serving together in love, unity, and peace. The following describes how this leadership is structured and the spirit in which it is carried out.
On a human level, there are a few groups of people who direct the ministries of The Gathering.
The Directors are the formal, legal directors of our corporation called The Gathering Windsor Incorporated. They oversee the legal matters and relate officially to the Canada Revenue Agency and other governing bodies.
The staff leads the day-to-day affairs of the various ministries of the church. They are paid so they can devote their best hours of their day to building ministries or helping us to administer them.
The Elders and Deacons
The Bible teaches that two church offices exist: Elders and Deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-16 and Titus 1:5-9). Although there are three terms used for the offices of the church, i.e. bishop, elder and deacon, it appears that the Greek words for bishop and elder or overseer may be used interchangeably.
•Able to teach
•Husband to one wife
•Free from the love of money
•Not addicted to wine
•Manages own household well
•Not a new convert
The Scriptures show that the Elders “serve by leading” and that their responsibility involves the spiritual oversight of the congregation. The council of elders is responsible for the primary leadership and oversight of the church. All Elders are equal in authority but not necessarily equal in influence.
The Elder’s Primary Responsibilities
Elders at The Gathering will function primarily as shepherd-elders who feed the flock (preach and teach the Word of God), protect the flock (ensure that the doctrine of the church is biblical; all doctrinal issues in the church will be settled by the Council of Elders), lead the flock with humility (ensure that the direction of the church is consistent with the statement of purpose and our core values), and care for the practical needs of the flock, not as board members who write policy, manage money, raise funds, or direct staff.
The Elders will also be responsible for church discipline: administering in love, humility, and authentic transparency the process of church discipline with a view to restoring the offender as outlined in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1-4; Titus 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:17-25; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 and Romans 16:17).
The Elder’s Accountability
Elders are the spiritual leaders and innovators in our church. We expect elders to set an example for all the believers (Philippians 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3) in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity, and in giving generously to the work of the local church (2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15). The elders are accountable to God, to one another, and to the flock under their care (1 Peter 5:2) for good stewardship of their time, talents, and treasures, bringing “the full tithe” into the storehouse, which is the local church (Malachi 3:6-10). Elders are expected to set the pace by giving a minimum of 10% to The Gathering.
Plurality of Elders
The Scriptures teach that a plurality of elders governed individual New Testament churches (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5; Philippians 1:1). The Scripture does not mention any congregations featuring a stand-alone pastor and leader. A plurality of godly elders, exercising their individual giftedness, squares with the Scripture’s teaching that wisdom is found in a multitude of godly counselors (Proverbs 11:4; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:20; Proverbs 24:6). This truth does not eliminate the possibility and likelihood that some elders will have more public ministries than others nor does it disregard the probability that some elders will be more gifted in their roles.
The terms for elder and pastor (as well as overseer) are used interchangeably in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 20:17, 28). So the elders are “pastors” and the pastor is an “elder.” That said, the New Testament does hint toward a distinction between elders that seems to make room for what we know as a senior pastor. Specifically, in 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” The Greek word for “honor” Paul uses clearly indicates that he has financial compensation in mind, and he singles out for that compensation certain elders who particularly labor in preaching and teaching. So there were likely some elders who were supported full-time by the flock, and others who worked at another job.
The biblical evidence suggests that the church has the liberty to designate one man as their primary teacher, pay him accordingly, and expect that he will accrue a greater measure of authority as a leader of leaders because of his role as the church’s primary teacher. Such a “senior pastor,” or "lead pastor" will serve as a “leader of leaders,” or “first among equals,” but should still be regarded fundamentally as one of the elders even though he may have a distinct role among them and the congregation.
The Bible teaches that Deacons “lead by serving” (Acts 6). The qualifications for Elders and Deacons are the same regarding an individual’s character, but they differ in aptitude. The elders are to be “able to teach” while the deacons are to be “able and proved as servants.”
It is significant that nowhere in the New Testament do deacons have ruling authority over the church as the elders do, nor are deacons ever required to be able to teach Scripture or sound doctrine.
Deacon Qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-12)
•Individual of dignity
•Not double tongued
•Not fond of sordid gain
•First tested as servants
•Holding to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience
•Not addicted to wine
•Husband of one wife
•Spouses must be faithful
•Manages household well
Their role in our church is mainly to serve. The church needs deacons to provide logistical and material support so that the elders can focus on the Word of God and prayer. Such duties might include:
Facilities: The deacons could be responsible for managing the church property. This would include regular maintenance, repairs, parking assistance, and security for all public services.
Finances: While the elders should probably oversee the financial business of the church (Acts 11:30), it may be best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, keeping records, preparing the budget in consultation with the council of elders, and so on.
Benevolence: Similar to what took place in Acts 6:1–6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons may be involved in administrating funds or other assistance to the needy.
Ministry to Widows: Establish a widows’ list and review it regularly. Call and visit every widow in our church family.
Ministry to Shut-ins: Establish a list of all who are unable to attend services because of physical or emotional problems. Regular contact with shut-ins needs to be maintained. Through visits, calls, and special services held in their homes, they will know that they are not forgotten.
Logistics: Deacons should be available to help in variety of ways so that the elders are able to concentrate on teaching and shepherding the church.
Serving in Unity
What makes The Gathering work smoothly is the humble, servant-like spirit of these groups of people. Leaders at all levels do not see it as their role to “lord it over” those in their charge, but desire to serve the body with their gifts and to build the Kingdom rather than an “empire.” Partners of the church sense this servanthood in action and likewise esteem those in leadership. Whether as a leader or a follower, everyone in the church is submitted to Jesus Christ, and we all consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This spirit of cooperation and appreciation is one of God’s greatest blessings to our body. It is a fragile gift, however, and any person desiring to become a partner should value and protect it.
There is much about biblical eldership that challenges churchgoing people today, especially the high standards and enduring emphasis on qualified leadership. Yet nothing is more objectionable in the minds of many contemporary Christians than the biblical concept of an all-male eldership.
The most explicit Bible passages relating directly to the leadership of men in the church are 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-36; and 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.
The Bible clearly reveals that both men and women are created equal in the image of God. They stand equal in terms of human dignity, equal in sinfulness, and are equally in need of a Savior. Men and women alike can find forgiveness and redemption through the same gospel—the gospel of salvation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Furthermore, we believe that men and women who are born again are gifted for service in the church. They have equal access to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, the Bible also reveals a pattern of distinction between the roles of men and women. Men and women are equal before God, but they have different roles, or different functions, at home and in the church. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14). This pattern begins in the story of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 2, and continues throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Should that pattern continue? Or should male eldership be abolished? Is male leadership simply cultural, something that is now relegated to a bygone era?
We don’t think so. Here at The Gathering, we believe the Bible reveals that a pattern of male eldership in the church and male servant-leadership in the home is permanent, and not simply a cultural phenomenon.
Our church will continue to pursue women to be involved in ministry and to exercise their spiritual giftedness with passion in every area of our church. We will follow their spiritual growth with interest, and track with them as they experience the leading of the Holy Spirit, and work with them on finding their sweet spot of ministry in our church and in the community where they live.
Leadership positions in our church are open to women, with one exception.
We will invite women – no, we will pursue women – to serve as deaconesses, teach children, serve on the guest services team, help with hospitality, work with finances, serve as ushers, tellers, and prayer partners, cook meals for the care team, distribute benevolence, share their faith with friends and neighbours, minister to the sick, visit in the hospital, fight against abortion, fight pornography, write articles for publication, help with literacy and the disabled, aid the poor, visit the prisons, counsel and pray with other women, support missionaries, lead us in prayer, share a testimony, use artistic gifts to enhance worship, sing on the worship team, play an instrument, and so on.
There are so many things women can do, and only one they can’t! We will pursue women in this church to fill many different ministry positions, except for the office of elder and the public teaching of the Word of God when the church is gathered.