Leadership in the New Testament, by Witness Lee


The New Testament leadership comprises the elders in the church and those who take the lead in the ministry. It is not right to say that there is no leadership in the church. Even in the proper family life there is a leadership. When the parents are away from home, the oldest brother or sister is left as a leader for the other children. If both the parents and the older children are away, a baby-sitter is left with the remaining children to be a leader for them. In every situation there is the need for a leader. In the church life the elders take the lead diligently (Heb. 13:24; Rom. 12:8). All the elders are the leading ones in the church. Without leaders we could not have an orderly church life with so many arrangements. Rather, we would have confusion in the church life.

The leadership in the church life is carried out by the elders’ laboring in teaching the saints (1 Tim. 5:17; 3:2) and their shepherding the church as the flock of God, overseeing it according to God, and becoming patterns of the flock, not lording it over the flock (1 Pet. 5:2-3). The leaders in the church must take the lead in all things. They must be the leading sheep, the head sheep, in the flock. When the sheep at the head of the flock move, the rest of the sheep follow. However, when the sheep in the front do nothing, the whole flock stops. If the rest rooms in the meeting hall need to be cleaned, the elders should take the lead to clean them. The elders should also be the first ones to go out to visit people for the gospel by knocking on their doors. If the elders go out to preach the gospel, many in the church will follow them. If, on the other hand, the elders do not take the lead to go out, but simply exhort the other saints to do it, not many of the saints will go. The way to be an elder is not to command others but to take the lead. If the elders labor in teaching and if they shepherd, oversee, and are patterns of the flock, all the saints will respect and obey them as leaders.

The elders should be regarded, obeyed, and honored by the saints (1 Thes. 5:12-13; Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17). The honor given to the elders may include material supply. Some elders do not take a job for their living because they are too busy in the matters of the church. They do not have an income; they live by faith. The saints should honor them by giving them some material supply. This is the proper order with a proper, beautiful situation in the church life.


Peter Taking the Lead in the
New Testament Ministry among the Jews
and Paul Taking the Lead in the
New Testament Ministry among the Gentiles

The New Testament leadership also comprises the leadership in the ministry. Peter took the lead in the New Testament ministry among the Jews (Gal. 2:7b). We can see Peter’s lead in the ministry in the first twelve chapters of Acts. Paul took the lead in the New Testament ministry among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7a; Rom. 11:13) in the last sixteen chapters of Acts.

(Leadership in the New Testament, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)