A Church With No Elders!


The Scriptures teach us that God desires elders in every congregation. When Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia they ‘appointed elders in every church,’ Acts 14:23.

In Crete we read that the church was unfinished and not complete until elders were in place, Titus 1:5. So we could say that at the moment, some churches are incomplete until they have elders in place.

We must note that any congregation without elders doesn’t mean the church is unscriptural. After all, this would mean that all the churches in the New Testament would have been unscriptural at some point until elders were appointed.

In New Testament times, a congregation without elders was the exception, not the rule. There is no record of the church in Antioch, Acts 13:1, Corinth or Rome having elders.

The Galatian churches had elders, Acts 14:23. The churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia had elders, 1 Peter 5:1. The church in Philippi had elders, Philippians 1:1. The church in Judea had elders, Acts 11:30. The church in Jerusalem had elders, Acts 15. The church in Ephesus had elders, Acts 21:18; and the church in Crete were to appoint elders, Titus 1:5.

I will say it again, in New Testament times, a congregation without elders was the exception, not the rule and we need to remember that.

Three Types Of Leadership

There are three types of leadership which are commonly used within congregations today.

1. Un-scripturally organised.

This means the church is governed by something other than elders and deacons, i.e., unqualified elders, 1 Timothy 3:1-6 / Titus 1:6-9; or deacons, 1 Timothy 3:8-12; one elder, Acts 11:30 / Acts 14:14 Acts 14:21-23 / Acts 15 / Acts 20:17-38 / James 5:14; female elders, 1 Timothy 3:12, etc.

2. Scripturally unorganised.

This means the church is governed by something that is expedient, useful or helps us. Many congregations have business meetings and men’s meetings, where they commit men to lead.

The problem with this is that the men aren’t qualified to do so, 1 Timothy 3:1-6 / Titus 1:6-9. You won’t read of business meetings and men’s meetings anywhere within the Scriptures.

3. Scripturally organised.

This means God governs His church and elders are what God wants in place to guide and lead His flock, Acts 14:21-23 / Acts 20:28-31 / 1 Timothy 3:1-6 / Titus 1:6-9 / 1 Peter 5:1-3.

We Have No Elders!

So, what do we do if we have no elders? In the absence of elders, I would suggest that congregational meetings are more Scriptural.

For example, if a new congregation is being established somewhere, there are some obvious decisions which need to be made by the church as a whole.

Where will the church meet? What time will the church meet? Who is going to edify the church with a sermon? What subjects will the church teach, and who will teach them? Who will prepare the communion? What will the church do with the offering money they collect? etc.

Surely, these decisions have to be made by the whole church during a congregational meeting.

Someone spiritually mature like the evangelist could lead these meetings and as the Scriptures guide him, he should guide the church in the direction the church needs to go, in other words, in line with the teachings of the Bible. However, this doesn’t mean that he has any kind of authority, or he is the decision-maker.


When you read Acts 15:1-22, the account of the council of Jerusalem meeting about whether the Gentiles should be circumcised or not, note the following:

Did the congregation in Jerusalem have some of the twelve apostles in its leadership? Yes.

Did the apostles dictate to the church what to do? No.

Did the congregation in Jerusalem have elders in its leadership? Yes.

Did the elders dictate to the church what they were to do? No.

Did the congregation participate in the decision about what action to take to inform non-Jewish congregations? Yes.

Notice the decision included the apostles, the elders, and the whole church, Acts 15:22 / Acts 15:25.

Every baptised member of the congregation has a role in making an extremely important decision in accordance with the Scriptures. The church as a whole, that is, congregational meetings is the way the church should conduct its business in the absence of elders, Matthew 18:15-20 / Acts 6:1-6 / Acts 15:1-27, until elders are appointed.


There are many reasons why a congregation may not have elders at the moment. For some, they don’t have any qualified men, for others, they are afraid they might appoint the wrong men.

Others still, don’t have any men who aspire to become elders, 1 Timothy 3:1, and some have become content without elders and are happy to carry on without elders.

However, we must remember that a congregation without elders was the exception in New Testament times, not the rule.

A congregation shouldn’t just go ahead and appoint men as elders just for the sake of having elders, but every congregation must strive to be complete, and finish what God has planned for them in appointing qualified men to serve as elders within the local congregation, Titus 1:5.

If you are a part of a congregation that has no elders, maybe you should ask yourself or the church, why is this?

Isn’t it time the congregation you’re a part of should at least study the topic of eldership with a view to appointing qualified men?