In short, elder-led church structure offers a Biblical pattern of shared leadership has the benefits of balancing people's weaknesses, lightening the workload, and providing accountability. In addition, a brief or extensive, study will reveal that smaller groups are more effective at building disciples and planting new churches. The longer answer is provided below. While this is certainly not the only way we as believers assemble and live out our worship, we believe that it is the most effective way of making disciples. We also believe smaller fellowships provides practical means for us to fulfill Biblical mandates and expressions of our faith such as discipleship, the Lord’s Super, participatory worship, church planting, community building and protection against false doctrines (wolves among the sheep).
Describes a typical house-based/small group church patterned after the First-Century Church.
http://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com/?s=house+churches -Audio Posdcast
The Long Answer for Elder-led Church
Elder-led also known as a plurality of elders, final authority for all decisions and doctrinal determinations are vested in a plurality of elders acting in committee. This structure is very similar to the "elder board" approach to the democratic congregational structure, often differing only in the method used to select the elders and/or in the term of service of each elder. In some congregations, elders are appointed by someone or some entity respected by the congregation and allows this authority. This structure can, but does not always, include the use of "deacons" or other leaders subordinate to the authority of the elders.
The Biblical pattern:
There is no distinction between "elders" and "bishops" (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17, 28); these represent the same office and order.
Each congregation and center of leadership is to have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1), not one-man rule.
These elders have oversight of the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2-3) and are thus responsible to rule the congregation (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17; 1 Thes. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24). They judge among the brothers (cf. 1 Cor. 6:5) and, in contrast to all the members, they do the rebuking (1 Tim. 5:20). Christ calls them to use the “keys of the kingdom” to bind and loose (Matt.16: 19; 18: 18; John 20: 23)—these keys being the preaching of the gospel (I John I :3), administering of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11: 23ff.), and the exercise of discipline (Matt. 18:17; I Cor. 5:1-5).
The elders are assisted in their ministry by "deacons" who give attention to the ministry of mercy (Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:1-6; cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-13).
The office-bearers in the church are nominated and elected by the members of the congregation (e.g. Acts 6:5-6), but must also be examined, confirmed and ordained by the present board of elders (Acts 6:6; 13: 1-3; 1 Tim. 4: 14).
Members of the church have the right to appeal disputed matters in the congregation to their elders for resolution, and if the dispute is with those local elders, to appeal to the regional governing body (the presbytery) or, beyond that, to the whole general assembly (Acts 15). The decisions of the wider governing bodies are authoritative in all the local congregations (Acts 15:22-23, 28, 30; 16:1-5).
All New Testament Churches had Elders
Elders in All the Churches that Paul Founded -Acts 14:23
"When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."
Elders in the Church at Jerusalem - Acts 15:2
"And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue."
Elders in Ephesus - Acts 20:17
"From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church."
Elders in All the Churches of Crete - Titus 1:5
"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you."
Elders in All the Churches of the Dispersion of the Roman Empire - James 1:1; 5:14
"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. . . . Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
Elders in All the Churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia - 1 Peter 1:1; 5:1
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen. . . . Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God."
What is a Bishop /Overseer
The English term "bishop" means overseer and is sometimes used to translate the Greek word "episcopos" which means "one who over (epi) sees (scopos)".
There are at least four reasons to consider this term (bishop/overseer) as equivalent to "elder" in the New Testament church.
Reason One: Titus 1:5 compared to 1:7
"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain."
Compare Titus 1:5 with 1:7, where "bishop/overseer" and "elder" are apparently interchangeable terms. Paul begins by saying that Titus should appoint elders (presbuterous) in every town (verse 5). Then he gives some qualifications that they must meet (verse 6), and continues without a break in verse 7 by saying, "For a bishop (episkopon), as God's steward must be blameless." Virtually all commentators agree that the same office is in view in these two terms: "elder" describing the man with reference to his dignity and standing (older); "bishop" describing the man with reference to his function and duty (oversight).
Reason Two: Acts 20:17 compared to 20:28
Acts 20:17, 28
"From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. . . . Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
In Acts 20:17, Paul calls the "elders" to come down from Ephesus. Then he says to them in verse 28 that God has made them "guardians" (="overseers/bishops"; episkopous) among the flock. So the "elders" are the "bishops/overseers" in Ephesus.
Reason Three: 1 Timothy 3:1ff compared to 5:17
1 Timothy 3:1
"If anyone aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task."
1 Timothy 5:17
"The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching."
In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul says, "If anyone aspires to the office of bishop/overseer, he desires a noble task." Then he gives the qualifications for the overseer/bishop in verses 2-7. Unlike the deacons, the overseer must be "able to teach" (verse 2), and in verse 5, he is said to be one whose management of his own household fits him to care for God's church. These two functions are ascribed to elders in the fifth chapter of this same book (1 Timothy 5:17) -teaching and governing. So it is very likely that in Paul's mind the bishops/overseers of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 are the same as the elders of 5:17.
Reason Four: Philippians 1:1 compared to 1 Timothy 3:1ff and Acts 14:23
In Philippians 1:1 Paul writes, "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." These, then, seem to be the two offices of the church just as in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 the qualifications are given only for these two. But Paul appointed "elders" in all the churches (Acts 14:23), and so it is very likely that the elders of the church at Philippi were the bishops/overseers referred to in Philippians 1:1.
We conclude that the office of bishop/overseer is the same as the office of elder in the New Testament. It is listed beside the office of deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13) in such a way as to show that these two were the main offices by which the ongoing life of the church was to be managed.
What is a Pastor
The term "pastor" (poimen) occurs in the New Testament only once (Ephesians 4:11 "He gave some . . . as pastors and teachers"). But there is a verb (poimainein "to shepherd, or feed") closely related to the noun "pastor" which helps us discover how the role of pastor was related to the role of elder and bishop.
Ephesians 4:11 treats pastors and teachers as one group and thus suggests that the chief role of the pastor is feeding the flock through teaching, a role clearly assigned to bishops/overseers in 1 Timothy 3:2 ("An elder must be . . . apt to teach") and to elders in Titus 1:9 ("He will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict"). This suggests that "pastor" is another name for "elder" and "overseer."
In Acts 20:28, the "elders" of Ephesus are encouraged in their "pastoral" duties, thus showing that Paul saw the elders as the shepherds or pastors. (Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.")
In 1 Peter 5:1-2, the "elders" are told to "tend the flock of God" that is in their charge. In other words, Peter saw the elders as, essentially, pastors or shepherds. (1 Peter 5:1-2, "I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you.")
The New Testament only refers to the office of pastor one time (Ephesians 4:11). It is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the care and feeding of the church as God's flock, just as "bishop/overseer" is a functional description of the role of elder stressing the governing or oversight of the church. We may conclude therefore that "pastor" and "elder" and "bishop/overseer" refer in the New Testament to the same office. This office stands alongside "deacon" in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 in such a way as to show that the two abiding officers instituted by the New Testament are elder and deacon.