The New Testament Scripture is clear about those who have the responsibility of rule, oversight, and care of the local church. These men are called elders, pastors, and bishops (hereafter referred to as the Elders or The Presbytery). All three different titles are used to refer to the same spiritual office of leadership in the church and are interchangeable. We know that Christ is the head of the church and that He mediates His rule in the church through the shepherding of elders (pastors). As such, all the decision-making authority of the church is vested in the elders (pastors) who shepherd the church. The objective of any and all decisions made shall be to do the will of God regarding the matter at hand. In the traditional church structure, elders would be considered the “pastoral staff” of the church.
AHF is far from a traditional church. It (with the Lord’s help), will eventually be located on many continents and in numerous countries. As such, we must follow an organized, top-down Biblical model to ensure we remain a network of house churches with common leadership.
We believe Biblical eldership is the model the Bible uses for leading the Church. Some house churches may have a couple of (or several) elders in them, and some elders may be in charge of several fellowships separately because of a lack of available leadership. In areas (or countries) with numerous house churches, it will be common to have an Overseer (or Bishop – Greek-Episkopos), that will act as the first among equals among all the elders and pastors. His role will be that of a coordinator and trusted guide (see “District Elder below”).
All elders, especially those who labor in teaching and preaching – 1 Timothy 5:17, of AHF are eligible to receive honorariums from the AHF church body for their contributions to the church.
AHF will be led by an elder body or Presbytery Council. We see this in Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council), where only select church leaders were included in the decision-making processes of the early church, even though by this point there were numerous church elders everywhere. One can only imagine the chaos that would ensure if hundreds (or maybe thousands) of elders had a say in every church matter.
Following this example, the AHF Presbytery Council will be made up of Elders from all walks of life from all areas of the world. Believing that New Testament Scripture teaches that church government is to operate under a “plurality of elders” concept, AHF will develop and implement a Council of Elders (otherwise known as The Presbytery Council), who will act as overseers (“episkopos”) and shepherds (“poimenen”) of the flock (Acts 20:28).
The Presbytery Council will consist of permanent and “at large” members. Permanent members are permanent members of the council due to their positions of leadership within the church. At-large members of the council are elected by their peers. The number of permanent and at-large members of the council will change as the needs of the AHF network changes and will be determined by the Presbytery Council. Not all elders of AHF are on the Presbytery Council.
Elders who are not members of the Presbytery Council still serve a vital role at AHF. They will operate within their area of giftedness and serve as a valuable asset to the presbytery council and their local house churches. However, they are not part of the decision-making Presbytery Council. Any concerns or needs of theirs should be addressed to their district elders or overseers.
The workings of the Presbytery Council will be in such a way that the duties will overlap. Each elder will be given primary responsibility for a functional area and/or geographical region (Eldership Districts/Regions), as determined by the Presbytery Council. However, other elders (those not on the Presbytery Council at the house church level) will have input on matters concerning their area of ministry, but the ultimate decision regarding a matter or issue will be made by the Presbytery Council.
No one elder on the Presbytery Council will have the deciding vote. Operation in this manner serves four primary purposes:
1. It prevents any one elder from lording over God’s heritage (1 Peter 5:3).
2. It provides for accountability and additional insight so that the will of God is sought and followed.
3. It provides for a double-redundancy system so that in the absence of any particular elder, that functional area will not be affected and will operate efficiently.
4. It affords an opportunity for the church to appoint elders to positions that allow them to exercise their particular spiritual gifts and the combined efforts minister to the corporate needs of the congregation.
Various Positions of AHF Presbytery Council (Both Current and Future):
Apostolic Elder (Currently Nelson Lee): The primary job of the “Apostolic Elder” is overseeing the flock, teaching, preaching, and ensuring doctrinal soundness. He operates as the apostolic guide of AHF with the guidance and in oneness with the Presbytery Council. He serves as Chairman of the Presbytery Council. He is the first among equals. His decisions are made in unity with the Presbytery Council and he is one vote. He is a permanent member of the Presbytery Council.
Executive Elder(s): The primary job of “Executive Elder(s)” is to be the functional manager and overseer (“episkopos”) of church business. He (they) serves as Vice-Chairman of the Presbytery Council. The Executive Elder functions as a source of information and as an advisor to the Presbytery Council on the business and financial matters of the church. In summary, his primary responsibility is to coordinate the needs and ministries of the saints by uniting the efforts of the various districts and house churches. As an elder of AHF, he (they) may also share in additional responsibilities and are not limited to administration alone. There may be more than one executive elder. This position is a permanent member of the Presbytery Council. Executive elders will be “ordained” into ministry.
Teaching Elder(s): The primary job of “Teaching Elders” is to primarily concerned with the teaching ministries of the church (both in person, remotely through streaming technology and through the use of video). Duties include preaching, teaching, discipleship, spiritual development and prayer ministries. The teaching elder operates under the guidance and in oneness with the Presbytery Council. As an elder of AHF, they may also share in additional responsibilities and are not limited to teaching alone. There may be more than one teaching elder. This position is a permanent member of the Presbytery Council. Teaching elders will be “ordained” into ministry.
Elder(s) for Missions and Evangelism: This elder serves as a guide and overseer for the mission and evangelism efforts of the church, whether monetary or functional. They operate under the guidance and in oneness with the Presbytery Council. There may be more than one missions/evangelism elder. Missions/Evangelism elders will be “ordained” into ministry.
District Elder (Overseer / Bishop): A district elder is an elder given responsibility for a certain geographical area (Eldership District or Region), who will represent the particular needs of the AHF home churches and congregational members within a geographical district/region. This is not the setting of a “Bishop” over an area but is a strategy to ensure the needs of all areas are met and represented. The district elder is the representative to whom concerns or requests should be made to first and he addresses these concerns to the Presbytery Council. He is the elder who is responsible overall for the house church planting efforts within his district, the training and delegating of leadership and the appointing of elders. He is also the voice of the elders and house church shepherds within his district. Exact procedures and functionality of this will be determined by the Presbytery Council. A district elder may have the stand-alone duty of representing a district or he may have other responsibilities (such as being a “teaching elder”), as well as representing a district. District boundaries will be drawn by the Presbytery Council. District elders will be “ordained” into ministry.
Future Elder Positions: As AHF grows and expands, further elder positions will certainly be required.
References: Exodus 18; 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Acts 15 (The Jerusalem Council – The “First Presbytery Council”); Acts 20:17-18, 28-31; 1Peter 5:1-4