by Roger Thomas

This content is part of a series.

The Elders' and Deacons' Handbook (7 of 18)
Series: New Testament Sampler
Roger Thomas
Lessons on Leadership from Philippians

Introduction: Philippians is the only book in the Bible specifically addressed to elders and deacons. Verse 1, "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons."

Because of this, I am convinced that you can't understand Philippians unless you read it through the eyes of such leaders. While the words apply to everyone in the church, Paul has the elders and deacons in mind with everything he writes. The apostle organizes the letter around a series of two dozen or so imperatives or commands. The key imperatives boil down to ten vital lessons on leadership that make Philippians the Elders and Deacons Handbook.

Before we work our way through these lessons on leadership, we need to define our terms. "Overseer" is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3:2 for church leaders. "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task" (1 Tim. 3:1). Its counterpart in the original language carried the idea of looking after or caring for. We customarily use the title "elder," another biblical term for the same role. In Acts 20:28 scripture interchanges the terms. Paul tells a group of elders, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

The term rendered "deacon" refers to a second category of church leader. Scripture also uses this term along side "overseer" in 1 Timothy 3. Verse 8 says, "Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect . . ." Deacon simply meant servant. We know very little about the role of the deacon in the early church. Our use of the term comes close to what the New Testament meant by the word. Here a deacon assists the overseers in their ministry of spir ...

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