We at the Talmidei Yeshua Fellowship have dedicated a great deal of thought and study to ideas of fellowship governance. Throughout history, there have been innumerable fiascos in the structure of a group. As a friend of our Fellowship once said, “The Messianic faith started as a community; it spread to Rome and became a philosophy; it spread across Europe and became an institution; it spread to the United States and became a business; now it is coming full circle and people are yearning again for community.” We are intent on turning to Scriptures for the methods of fellowship governance.
Leadership – Proper leadership and governance has always been a significant issue since the dawn of time. For millennia, autocracy (the rule of a single individual) was the only model but this method of governance is unbiblical in a fellowship.
Nevertheless, human leadership in a fellowship is a Biblical reality. For this reason, we have returned to the New Testament to see the leadership and governance model outlined in the Word. A group of elders (synonymous with overseers) will be established and the individuals will be carefully chosen with the criteria presented by Shaul in his letter to Timothy. Each elder has an equal measure of authority in decision-making. Furthermore, these men will be responsible for most of the teaching and other duties of the fellowship and in particular pure governance issues.
Elders will be chosen, one of whom will serve as a moderator to facilitate the meeting or discussions. Decisions should never be made quickly but should be thought out after both reasoning and individual prayer. Lastly, even if a conclusion has been reached on a subject, discussion can be resumed at a later time if an important new Biblical insight is achieved by anyone in the fellowship. (See more about this process)
It is paramount that the decision-making process within a fellowship have a clear separation between finances and spiritual issues. The elders serving as teachers, preachers and spiritual leaders must not sit on the board of financial leaders that make the financial decisions. It is far too tempting and distracting for spiritual leaders to be involved in finances as these responsibilities can become conflicted.
Elders are subject to Biblical criteria even after they have been appointed. The biblical requirements to be considered for eldership are found in Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Timothy 3:1-7:
- Husband of one wife
- Rules his house well, and having his children in subjection
- Believing Children that cannot be accused of loose behaviour (see 1 Peter 4:3-4 for definition) or unruly
- Not self-pleasing
- Not wroth
- Not given to wine, sober
- Not a brawler
- Not a new convert
- A good reputation from people outside the assembly
- Not greedy for filthy gain or a lover of money
- Able to teach
- Kind to strangers and gentle
- A lover of what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled
- Clings to the trustworthy word, according to the teaching, in order to be able to encourage by sound teaching, and to convict those who oppose it
Fellowship governance is a very important topic and the elders appointed in this role is taking a very important set of responsibilities. Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double respect, especially those who labour in the word and teaching.” Appointment in this role requires careful consideration by both the individual and the community. In the event an elder has a material change in life circumstances that impacts one of the biblical requirements for eldership, it is important that elder take a temporary step down from the position until that situation is resolved.
We at Talmidei Yeshua Fellowship believe that the restoration of the board of elders as the leadership practice is biblically founded and supports clearly the model established within the New Testament. The men sitting on the board of elders have a very important role to Shepherd the flock as a group of leaders in harmony. It is important these men appointed to this capacity be respected as outlined in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, as indeed you do. But brothers, we beg you to know those who labour among you, and are over you in the Master and admonish you, and to hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” It is a great verse to keep in perspective when the board of elders makes an unpopular decision that the enemy can use to cause division and dissension.
Position of Deacon – The position of deacon (which is the same as the Greek word ‘diakonos’ meaning servant) is not explained in much detail in Scripture apart from the criteria for eligibility (see I Tim 3:8-13). Since the role of a deacon is an office in the congregation, females cannot be deacons. While Phoebe in Roman 16:1-2 is often pointed to as a ‘deaconess’, this cannot be the case given the “husband of one wife” requirement of a deacon. Instead, the word used to describe Phoebe is not that of the title or office ‘deaconess’ but rather simply praising description of her selfless servanthood (since both words are the same, the word “servant”, not “deaconess”, would be accurate).
Membership – We do not believe in fellowship membership because it is an institutional method that segregates the group. The idea of membership directly originated from clubs and businesses. Members are often required to participate in ministries, to give their services to the business while getting preferential treatment in return. This segregation of the Body is unnecessary and unbiblical. The very choice of members also becomes based on unbiblical policy which we believe should be avoided as with the entire business-concept of a congregation. The idea of membership has no biblical basis and crumbles upon a biblically-oriented examination. Fellowship governance within the bible has no reference to a membership system and it only alienates people.
Giving – Giving to the Talmidei Yeshua Fellowship is through the box that is placed at the back. People can give as they feel led and proceeds go to cover the cost of renting our facilities only. All effort is completely volunteered.
Financial Board – If/when our fellowship grows too large for the system used above, a financial governance entity must be created to support this. Shaul writes in I Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is the root of all evil”, referring to the strong corruptive nature of money. We are very aware of this and seek to create as much accountability as possible through third-party auditing and openness. Additionally, we wish to take monetary incentives entirely away from the fellowship’s leadership. Elders should not moderate their actions for monetary incentives. In traditional governance systems, for instance, they might be tempted to preach less strongly or make fewer unpopular but Biblical decisions in order to maintain their salaries. Any such conflict of interest is minimized by having a completely separate board dedicated to handling finances. Though Scriptures say nothing of this, we will chose to elect individuals who hold the office of servants (deacons).
Compensation – We do not wish to take salaries or make any kind of financial gain for the reasons of putting people in the position of temptation or even corruption. We prefer that money be given towards the needs of the body and ministries serving the orphans, widows, poor, fatherless and prisoners than spent on hirelings. The New Testament does quote instances where elders have received compensation so it is certainly not inherently wrong. Nevertheless we strive to be more like Paul where we do work on the side and use our financial resources to bless the community and the needs. If the board of elders requires and appoints an individual fully to the ministry, Scripture permits such a person to be compensated but the financial board must keep close watch to ensure proper payment and usage.
While we believe that our fellowship governance model has strong Scriptural support, we remain open to ideas and comments. Please feel free to submit governance ideas or comments to by email or at the end of our service if you join us!