The “One” Principle: God’s Plan for Church Leadership

We often hear about the “One” Principle in church or in conference but what really is the “One” Principle and how does it relate to church leadership?

We live in a democracy (really a republic) where majority rules – where voting is a privileged responsibility, and where the right to free speech must be safeguarded by mutual respect. I thank God I’m an American citizen. And yet, as both a student of the Bible and a church leader, I’ve discovered that democratic principles do not work well inside the Church of Jesus. While we may live in a democracy, the church was never meant to be democratically run. God’s plan was one recognized leader over each local church. He then required them to surround themselves with godly accountability. This is where disagreements develop. In spite of apparent setbacks, let me explain why I believe in the “One” Principle.  

The story of the ten spies, recorded in Numbers 13, supports the idea that God‘s purposes on earth are best initiated through individuals instead of committees. Moses sent out twelve spies to survey the military prowess of the Promised Land inhabitants. Ten of the spies returned with a negative report, asking, “Did you see the size of those giants?” Only Joshua and Caleb returned with a positive report, affirming, “Yes, we saw the size of the giants, but did you guys see the size of the grapes?” God’s plan was for the Israelites to infiltrate the Promised Land, but the mission was aborted after a ten to two vote. What was the overriding principle at work about the “One” Principle here? 

In both the Old and New Testaments, we learn that God overwhelmingly uses individuals to carry forth His plan on earth. Evidence supports God’s desire to touch the nations through individuals who are surrendered to His will and privy to His intentions. A quick overview of the Scriptures supports the idea that God typically uses one man or one woman to advance His righteous purposes. First, I will trace this pattern throughout the Old Testament.

God creates the first man, Adam, and places him in authority over the Garden of Eden.

Noah, a preacher of righteousness, builds an ark, as sin accelerates on the earth.

God calls Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and later declares that through him all nations of the earth will be blessed.

Jacob becomes the patriarch of Israel’s twelve tribes. 

God raises up Joseph to second in command in Egypt “to preserve many people alive.”

Moses is called to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

God gives the Decalogue – Ten Commandments – and the whole Law through Moses.

Joshua succeeds Moses, and through a series of military conquests leads the Israelites into their Promised Land.

Fourteen judges lead Israel. Men like Gideon and Samson, along with one woman, Deborah, watch as Israel cycles from victory to defeat.

Saul becomes Israel’s first king . His monarch begins with promise and ends in humiliation and defeat.

David follows with great military prowess; however, his personal failures and family issues negatively impact the kingdom.

Solomon builds the Temple and later on turns apostate, bringing about a divided kingdom.

The chronology of Israel and Judah sees both evil and righteous kings, culminating in God’s people being exiled into a foreign land.

Ezra rebuilds the Temple.

Nehemiah rebuilds the walls around Jerusalem. 

Esther wins a beauty pageant staged by a heathen king and ultimately saves the Jews from complete annihilation. 

Job demonstrates the sovereignty of God in the midst of suffering.

The minor and major prophets warn Israel, preach repentance, weep over her sins, announce the coming Messiah and the coming day of the Lord – always reminding the wayward nation that God is merciful.

In my next blog, I will explore the “One” Principle more, as relayed throughout the New Testament. 

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