The government of the average denominational or independent church differs greatly from that of NTCC. In most independent, traditional and/or local churches of major denominations, direction is set and decisions are made by a group of responsible adults who have proven themselves to be dedicated servants of the church. Sometimes they form a generic committee temporarily convened for the dispensation of a particular order of business. Sometimes they are permanent members of a standing board of directors (not in the corporate sense) referred to as elders, presbyters, or sometimes the oft-misapplied deacons. Business meetings are conducted monthly in which all members are invited to be present to vote on important (or non-important) resolutions and motions that come before the entire assembly. These meetings are usually conducted according to commonly accepted rules that govern parliamentary procedure. The “committee”, or what ever name is given to the body of elders, usually has great influence over these decisions, but the final choice is made by the entire group. Generally speaking, the pastor will only interfere in matters in which he feels very strongly, in which case his opinion is taken seriously.
In this manner, wise and well-balanced decisions are made, and the church finances are open to all who care to be informed as to their disposal. In cases where a church is able to support a full-time professional pastor, the man who occupies the office is paid according to a group decision based upon his needs. Overall, a great deal of deference is rendered to the older and wiser generation, a circumstance for which most churches can be grateful. This approach, common among evangelical churches today, is reflected in the following verse:
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
NTCC twists every part of this verse in order to ratify their authoritarian methods.
Believing strongly in the need for pastoral authority (God, they say, “is not a democracy”), NTCC loves to make fun of churches that conduct themselves in a democratic fashion. They mock the idea that a group of elders (intelligent, wise, adult men) should presume to make important decisions on behalf of the entire church. Their opinion is that “God put the pastor there to do that!”
New Testament Christian Church adopts a peculiar stance on this concept, assuming that the exhortation is directed at church members, with reference to their treatment of the pastor. The word ‘rule’ is taken as carte blanche for the pastor to act as dictator of all affairs in the church. Furthermore, the ‘honor’ to which Paul refers is assumed to be the equivalent of income, gifts and gratuities. The verse is read as: “The pastor is deserving of a comfortable means of living, so see to it that this happens.”
But clearly no such thing is meant by this passage. He is not referring members to the pastor but the pastor to the elders. In other words, this entire epistle is directed primarily to the pastor, or bishop (Timothy) who, as the primary recipient of the epistle, is therefore included in the number of those who are to render this “double honor” to the elders. Could the pastor also be one of the elders? Certainly so, and the exhortation indeed applies to all the members of the local church, yet the main point to be made here is that the elders mentioned are plural, and everyone including the pastor is to render honor to them. The word translated ‘rule’ has to do with being a wise guide and setting a good example. The word translated ‘honor’ is a reminder of the traditional courtesy rendered to one of advanced age or experience. It typically consists in yielding the floor and giving attention to venerable persons when it is their proper time to contribute to a discussion. It includes genuine respect and affection. And as applied here, it also includes ‘honoraria’ or material support, for the following verse reads:
For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer [is] worthy of his reward.
Please note that the passsage does not say exclusively those who teach, etc. but especially those who teach the Word. And it does not say that the local church is to be squeezed for every coin it can produce in ministering to these teaching elders their “carnal things” in exchange for spiritual things.
In short, elder does not necessarily mean ‘pastor’,
rule does not mean ‘boss’,
honor does not necessarily mean ‘money’,
and especially does not mean ‘exclusively’.
This passage is certainly intended to mean that christians in local assemblies should give precedence to the collective wisdom that is available, and to be generous toward them, particularly to those whose work is in teaching. The pastor has limited authority. He ought to consider himself a servant of the congregation and co-laborer with the elders, and his teaching is to be obeyed only to the extend that he accurately and properly teaches the word of God. It is cynical and wrong to use this verse as an excuse to set up a prosperity scheme for the professional ministry, and to justify the pastor’s use of the pulpit to build an emperial domain over which to ‘rule’.