Class servants in the ecclesia today should have characteristics shared by our Old and New Testament examples. The church of the living God is being developed to promote God’s word.
In Exodus 18, we read that Moses needed help in managing the affairs of Israel. He chose capable, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hated dishonesty. These assistants helped teach God’s decrees and laws and lead the Israelites on the proper way of living. Those seventy elders served as judges and brought the most difficult cases to Moses.
When the Hebrews occupied the “promised land”, judges were appointed, but the people did not heed their judges. They wanted a king to rule over them like other nations. King Saul was selected by God. He was promised the Spirit of the Lord with power. It was Saul’s duty to govern the people to maintain their covenant with God. He and many succeeding kings failed to uphold the law and the covenant (1 Samuel 8, 9, 10). The kings who earnestly sought God’s guidance were blessed, as was the entire nation, when they observed God’s commandments.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, God himself selected the twelve disciples. The disciples learned of Him and followed the Master. Jesus set the new standard for leaders in the Christian church when He declared, “Whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant”. (Matthew 20:27)
After Jesus’ death, the believers were sharing all of their possessions in common. There arose concerns about the needy in the congregation being overlooked in the daily distribution. The apostles and disciples attempted to correct the problem. They considered that the Elder’s (Apostle’s) talents were better utilized in spreading the gospel and leading the congregation. So they appointed deacons to minister to the physical needs of the church. The seven men chosen were “full of the spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) and the apostles laid their hands on them to symbolize their commission. The Greek word deacon comes from the verb “wait on” and signifies a minister or servant of the church. These servants had no ambition for personal glory or gain, but humility and a spirit of service. Stephen was a stunning example of one possessing these beautiful attributes.
Paul’s epistle to Timothy gives a comprehensive outline for the ecclesia arrangement. He cautioned against the teaching of false doctrines, myths and controversy, stressing that God’s work is accomplished by faith, love and a pure conscience (1 Timothy 1). He also urged that prayers be offered for those in authority with the goal of deliverance, healing and protection for the entire church, that ALL may come to a knowledge of the truth.
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul states that anyone who seeks the responsibility of an overseer (Elder) desires a noble task. However, he MUST BE above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable and able to teach. The candidate for the office must also be gentle, not quarrelsome or a lover of money (or material things). He must be able to manage his own family and be respected by his children. Paul warns that the candidate should not be a recent convert, lest he become conceited, and must have a good reputation. In Titus 1, he adds that a candidate for eldership must be “blameless”, not over-bearing, quick tempered or violent; upright, holy and disciplined. The Elders are further responsible to “teach by example”, living upright and godly lives. All of these character traits are vital to assure that the household of faith is in capable hands. Deacons also must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. ALL class servants must be tested!! If a qualified or proper leader cannot be found, chairmen can be appointed and rotated to perform the duties of class servants.
Perhaps it is impossible today for classes to find candidates to measure up to all of the Apostle’s standards. A simple majority vote by ecclesia members might suggest agreement for a particular candidate. However, we believe that a 75% majority would represent total agreement for a given candidate. Every voting member should be reminded of the ideals before raising their hands to vote. The power to elect or dismiss is in the hands of the ecclesia. A thoughtful ecclesia member can evaluate a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and vote accordingly.
The injunction in Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” emphasizes the seriousness of the office. Further, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:2-5).
All class matters must be held to the Lord’s standards of wisdom, justice and love with prayerful consideration.