Cosmetology in the Church

Cosmetology in the Church

Fraternal clubs like the Lions and the I.O.O.F. support our community with societal development and personal interaction. These organizations are about people helping people and working for a common goal. Each has its own organizational structures, charters, and guidelines to avoid becoming inconsequential through chaos and anarchy.

Was God’s church designed without similar organizational structure? God told the church to save the world, build up Christians, and care for the impoverished and oppressed. Nothing in history has more riding on its success—salvation, edification, and benevolence—than the church. Would He who ordered the universe and structured nations leave the organization of the church to chance?

Cosmetic refers to beauty or outward appearance, but the root word is cosmos, which we usually identify with the universe. It actually refers to the order of the universe. God beautifully ordered the physical universe, and He ordered His spiritual house too. There is beauty in the church’s organization.

Jesus is the head of the church universally and locally (Eph. 1:22-23). Nobody on earth shares His authority.

Under Christ’s headship, each congregation is self-governing. There is no council, synod, board, or hierarchy between Christ and the local church. The Jerusalem church had no authority over the Ephesian church. Corinth had no authority over Rome. Each congregation was responsible to Christ for keeping its duty. This separation helps protect the church from apostasy. If one congregation goes astray, other congregations can be spared from its heresy (Rev. 2:5).

God authorized every church to establish an eldership—a group of men to direct the spiritual affairs of the church. Paul charged Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). The Island of Crete had several towns, and Paul established churches in many of them when he preached there (Acts 13:4- 12). As those congregations matured, they needed permanent oversight. Thus, Paul told Titus to appoint elders over every church. It wasn’t an eldership over the whole island or area, but each town received its own elders.

Paul continued to clarify the command he gave Titus by giving qualifications for the office of elder (Titus 1:6-9; cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7). Some of the qualities were having only one wife, having Christian children, not being quick-tempered or arrogant, and being hospitable. Christian men with these qualities could serve as elders.

The New Testament uses the terms elders, bishops, overseers, shepherds, and pastors interchangeably. They refer to different aspects of the same office (cf. Titus 1:5-7). The terms bishop and overseer translate the Greek word referring to the office’s obligation to watch over the spiritual welfare of the congregation. Elder denotes his age and experience. Shepherd and pastor come from a word meaning to feed, protect, and care for a flock. Taken as a whole, elders must demonstrate experience and wisdom, and watch over the congregation making sure they are fed a healthy spiritual diet and protected from predators (Acts 20:28-32).

Elderships always consist of a plurality of men (Titus 1:5; Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7, 17). A single man with the authority of a shepherd might be tempted to lead the church astray for his personal gain. By putting that authority into the hands of several men, God helped protect the church.

Each congregation must submit to its eldership, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17; cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-3).

Within each church, elders appoint men to serve as deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-12). Deacons are ministers chosen for specific duties within the church. In Acts 6, a group of men were chosen to see to the needs of some widows (Acts 6:1-7). Other duties may include directing Bible classes, working with youth groups, or maintaining the church’s facilities.

Some may say, “God is more concerned about people than organization.” This is a false dichotomy. It does not have to be people or organization. It can be, as God designed it, about people and organization. For centuries the church has flourished under this autonomous organizational structure. It has succeeded in its evangelistic and benevolent efforts.

Ordered beauty accomplishes more than vague chaos, and God knew it all along.

-Sam Dilbeck


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