Jesus is the chief Shepherd of his Church. He is not a hired hand, but a Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. Unlike a hired hand, Jesus oversees all of his flock and leaves the ninety-nine to pursue the one that wanders. He nourishes, exhorts, protects, reproves, and consoles this flock by his word. Therefore, any leadership in the Church must submit to and reflect Jesus’s own leadership.
Immanuel Community Church’s leadership and governance function under the great truth that Jesus lived, died, descended to the grave, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father from where he will come to judge the living and the dead. Until his return, we believe that Jesus rules and reigns through the local church (Ephesians 1:19–22). We believe Jesus does this through the oversight of elders, the leading care of deacons, and the regular ministry of the saints.
Immanuel is led by a plurality of elders, who are elected by the congregation in accordance with the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These elders lead primarily by careful oversight of the church, regular intercession for the church, and faithfully teaching God’s word with the goal that the church may be conformed to the image of Christ.
Elders at Immanuel do not rule over the church. Immanuel is elder-led but congregationally-ruled. This means that the congregation exercises authority in affirming and disciplining members (Matthew 18:15–20), affirming and disciplining pastors (1 Timothy 5:17–22), and approving an annual budget. The pastors will lead in formulating a budget, but final approval is left with the church so that the church will be prepared to contribute cheerfully and not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:1–7).
Though we believe the congregation has been entrusted with the aforementioned authority, we believe that congregants should submit to and follow the leadership of their elders as the elders submit to and follow Jesus. The Scriptures are clear: congregants should obey godly leaders because their submission will be a mutual blessing, and they should also submit because Jesus, the chief Shepherd, will one day hold all elders accountable for how they cared for his flock (Hebrews 13:17).
At Immanuel, deacons function as lead servants who serve alongside pastors to make sure there is not a needy one among us. With regard to qualifications, deacons are elected by the congregation in accordance with 1 Timothy 3. Our deacons serve to make sure pastors are freed up to give great attention to the ministry of the Scriptures and prayer (Acts 6:1–7). Though their wisdom and counsel are valued by the elders, our deacons do not function as an executive board. Rather, they busy themselves with designated tasks to serve the physical needs of our church and—as we have the opportunity—the physical needs of our city (Galatian 6:10).
Ultimately, Jesus is the risen King and Ruler of his Church. We receive his wisdom for governing his Church with all humility, trusting that he will finish the good work that he has begun in his saints, and that he will one day hold us all accountable for the way we lead and submit within the local church.