by Joel Comiskey
It’s interesting how Jesus sent his disciples out in teams of two to plant house churches that would eventually reach the entire village (Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-11). We’ve talked about team ministry before on this blog, but I don’t think we can talk about it enough.
The early church followed Christ’s example when starting house churches. The house church planting team of Aquila and Priscilla planted house churches in various parts of the Roman empire (Acts 18:26; Rom 16:3;1 Cor 16:19;2 Tim 4:19). Paul the apostle also depended on a team in his missionary endeavors (Acts 12:25; 13:1; 15:39). In fact, the norm in the early church was to have a team of leaders over the house churches. Paul, for example, told the leaders of the Ephesian church that the Holy Spirit had made them “overseers” of the flock (Acts 20:28)
When writing to the church at Philippi, Paul greeted the congregation and, separately, the “overseers” (Phil. 1:1). When he wrote to Titus, Paul directed him to appoint elders, whom he also identified with the functions of “overseer” (Titus 1:5–7). Michael Green writing about early church leadership says,
Leadership was always plural: the word `presbyter’ from which we derive `priest’ is regularly used in the plural when describing Christian ministry in the New Testament. They were a leadership team, supporting and encouraging one another, and doubtless making up for each other’s deficiencies. This team leadership is very evident in the missionary journeys of the New Testament, and Acts 13:lff. is particularly interesting. It indicates not only a plural leadership in Antioch, consisting of five members, but diverse types of leadership: some were `prophets’ relying on charismatic gifts, while others were `teachers’ relying on study of the Scriptures (Evangelism in the Early Church, p. 25, Kindle Edition).
I find it much more liberating to tell future leaders that they will not be leading the group individually but will function in a team. Potential leaders feel more secure when knowing they won’t have to do everything themselves. New groups are also much healthier when led by a leadership team.