Topic outline

  • Mini-Course Overview

    Church Polity & Disciple Making

    Persuasion unto Consensus

    by Stephen Atkerson

    Enroll me

    Did you know Jesus said that church leaders have the same authority as children and slaves? Did you know that decisions in the New Testament were made not by pastoral command, but by a search for consensus among the brethren? 

    Consensus church government by pastoral persuasion gives many advantages: maturity for the saints, knowing the mind of Christ, church unity, and an edifying decision-making process. This scriptural form of church government will also enable church leaders to lead more like Jesus.

    Course Outcomes: 

    When you have completed this mini-course, you will be able to:

    1. Understand the true authority that a church leader possesses

    2. Be informed of scholarly and expert opinion on servant-leadership by persuasion unto consensus

    3. Understand from the Greek the true meaning of the word “rule”

    4. Understand from the Greek the true meaning of “obedience” to church leaders

    5. Understand from the Greek the true meaning of “submission” to church leaders

    6. Understand from the Greek the true meaning of the word “church”

    7. Be aware of the remarkably understated role the New Testament gives to church leaders

    8. Learn how you can be a biblically-informed servant leader who leads by persuasion in order to gain consensus


    Post in 3 Forums. You will get a completion check indicating you have posted reflections also read and engage with the comments of others. 


    After you complete viewing the materials and posting your reflections there is a feedback quiz. The quiz will help us evaluate the effectiveness of the mini-course.


    The content source for this mini-course is available in the following three formats:

    Video →

    Article →

    Audio →

    Content Provider

    This course is provided by NTRF - Small Churches, BIG Impact!

    "For over twenty-five years, we have provided church leaders in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania with resources and training in how the early church met together in community. The essential tenets of the faith to which we subscribe are identical to those found in the doctrinal statements of any sound evangelical institution. Our favorite statement of faith is the First London Baptist Confession of 1646. In short, we advocate historic, orthodox Christianity poured into the wineskin of New Testament church practice as seen on the pages of Scripture. Our goal is to be Christ honoring and thoroughly biblical in every area concerning our church life."

  • Section 1

    • Please watch this video from the beginning until the timestamp 10:47

    • Make forum posts: 1

      Reflection Questions: 

      1. How would you compare the authority of a parent to the authority of a church leader?

      2. How would you compare the authority of a government or educational official to the authority of a church leader?

      3. Have you ever experienced abusive church authority? Have you ever experienced servant leadership? Reflect upon either your experiences, or desires, or both.

      4. What do you believe are the essential components of servant leadership by persuasion, as practiced by the ancient church? 

  • Section 2

    • Please watch this video from 10:48 to 12:35.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. Have you ever been taught by church leaders that you are to be “ruled” by them? Did your leader quote Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) <<Obey your leaders and submit to them . . .>>? If so, how would you answer?

      2. Please reconcile these two Scriptures: (1) Luke 22:26 (HCSB) << whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving.>> and (2) Hebrews 13:17a (HCSB) << Obey your leaders and submit to them . . .>>

      3. Please give a definition of the Greek word προΐστημι (proḯstēmi), which is translated to English in 1 Timothy 5:17 as “rule.” Be sure to give all alternate definitions, and be sure to discuss nuances in the meaning of the word. 

  • Section 3

    • Please watch this video from 12:36 – 16:49.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. Please give a definition of the Greek word πείθω (peíthō), which is translated as “obey” in the English Standard Version translation of Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders.”  Give other examples of how πείθω is translated elsewhere in the ESV translation.

      2. Give examples of secular leaders who have felt that persuasion was a better method of leadership when compared with a command-and-control style of leadership. Do you agree with these leaders? Have you experienced being led by leaders with a command-and-control style (in church or elsewhere)? Have you experienced being led by leaders who lead by persuasion? In your opinion, what are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

  • Section 4

    • Please watch this video from 16:50 – 20:41.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. Hebrews 13:17a (ESV) says “Obey your leaders . . .” The Greek word for obey is a grammatical form of πείθω (peithó).  The word is in the middle voice. How does the translation of πείθω (peithó) in the middle voice support the idea that Christians do not owe the kind of obedience that comes from command-and-control leadership?

      2. Hebrews 13:17b (ESV) says “submit to you [leaders] . . .” The Greek word for submit is a grammatical form of ὑπείκω (hupeikó). Thayer’s Greek lexicon provides this definition for ὑπείκω (hupeikó): “to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (properly, of combatants).” What insights does this definition give us when we consider the relationship of a church member to his leader?

      3. Not used in Hebrews 13:17 is the Greek word ὑποτάσσω (hypotássō), which Paul could have used when he exhorted Christians to submit to their leaders. The Greek word ὑποτάσσω (hypotássō), is usually translated submit in other Scriptures. Why do you think that Paul used ὑπείκω (hupeikó) in Hebrews 13:17b rather than ὑποτάσσω (hypotássō) to ask for submission? Be sure to discuss the usual connotations of ὑποτάσσω (hypotássō), and discuss why that word is not suitable for leadership by example and persuasion.

  • Section 5

    • Please watch this video from 20:42 – 35:47.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. In an examination of the New Testament letters which were written to churches, how prominent were church leaders in the salutation of those letters? Please give examples of such letters which mentioned leaders and examples of such letters which do not mention leaders. In the letters which do not mention leaders, who does Paul address?

      2. In an examination of New Testament letters to entire churches, how prominent were church leaders in the text of the books? Discuss specifically the text (not the salutations) of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, 2 Thessalonians.  Discuss how the content of those seven letters would logically call forth mentions of church leaders, giving one example for each epistle. Did the issues raised in those seven letters impel Paul to mention church leaders?

      3. Discuss how Paul handles leaders in the book of Ephesians. What is the role of leaders in that book? Where in the book would it have been perfectly logical for Paul to exhort the church members to be submissive to their leaders, but Paul did not do that. 

      4. Discuss Hebrews 13:24a “Greet all your leaders . . .” What does this tell us about the relationship of the church members and their leaders?

      5. Where in 1 Peter 2 and 3 would it have been logical for Peter to command submission of church members to their leaders?

  • Section 6

    • Please watch this video from 35:48 – 40:56.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. Please reflect on the meaning of the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia), which is the Greek word translated as “church” in the English translations. Be sure to include various usages and nuances in the meaning.

      2. How does a proper understanding of the word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) impact your understanding of church leadership by persuasion to build consensus?

      3. Please describe the process of church discipline as described in Matthew 18, focusing on the role of the ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) in the process.

  • Section 7

    • Please watch this video from 40:57 – 46:59.

    • View Make forum posts: 1

      1. Please give as many Scriptures as you can referring to the Christian ideal of unity. After that relate some of your experiences in finding unity (or experiencing disunity) in your church life. Was the unity or disunity caused by command-and-control leadership, or by persuading the brethren to build consensus?

      2. List the three means of obtaining unity that are provided for the Christian in Scripture. Reflect upon your experience in your church life. Were any of these means used in order to obtain unity?

      3. Describe a servant-leader’s role in the decision-making process. Describe any experience you may have had with this type of leadership, either in your role of a church leader, or in your role of a church member who is not a leader.