In the Bible, the concept of church leadership is dominated by the ideas of servanthood and shepherding. These two ideas had one thing in common in ancient times: they were not prestigious. Both servants and shepherds occupied the lower rungs of society. Neither of them commanded great followings. They weren’t the kind of people anyone thought of as leaders.
Even so, the idea that the leaders of God’s people are also to be their spiritual shepherds has deep roots in the Old Testament Scriptures (Numbers 27:16-17; 2 Samuel 5:1-2; Jeremiah 3:14-15). And to drive home the point that such shepherding is not for glory seekers, Jesus came and said, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43, ESV).
The images the Bible employs for leaders and leadership in Christ’s church, and the reality those images represent, are in key respects far removed from the world’s way of thinking. And since biblical leadership is to a great extent leadership-by-example (1 Peter 5:3), serving and shepherding are not reserved exclusively for church leaders. All Christians are expected to both serve and help their fellow-believers in their spiritual journey together, not simply leave those things up to the leadership.
While all biblical leaders are to lead the way in the practice of both shepherding and servanthood, God has assigned two specific church offices for the practical implementation of those duties in the local church. Elders carry the primary responsibility for shepherding the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:5), and deacons carry the primary responsibility for serving the practical needs of the congregation (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:13).
And since “ministry” really means “service,” it is not the exclusive domain of those ordained to church office. God wants all Christians to be involved in ministering to Christ’s church, and his Holy Spirit has given gifts and abilities to each member of Christ’s body for that purpose (1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Romans 12:4-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11). In recognition of this biblical teaching, EPC has established ministry teams composed of men and women who apply their spiritual gifts to one of the vital ministries of our local church.