Many people are surprised to discover that the Church of Christ has no earthly “hierarchical” organization, that every church, or congregation, is completely autonomous. As with worship, this is not a choice of the members. It is a conviction born of our desire to do God’s will, and not the will of man. We want “to do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names.” This lessens our freedom to have things as we wish they were, but it is God that we serve.

Autonomy:  There is no indication to be found anywhere in the New Testament that any congregation had any authority over any other congregation. Even when men went from Antioch to Jerusalem for guidance (Acts 15) it was because the inspired apostles resided in Jerusalem, not because that church was “special.”

Elders: But all churches were under the authority of God, and it was the plan of God that elders provide the guidance for each congregation (Acts 20:17,28). Elders are also referred to as “pastors,” “presbyters,” and “bishops.” Their qualifications are given in I Timothy 3, and Titus 1.

Deacons: The only other “office” mentioned in the New Testament is that of deacon, i.e. “servant.” We are first introduced to deacons in Acts 6. They serve “under” the elders, and we find the qualifications for deacons also in I Timothy 3.