Acts 14:21-23—And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
After being stoned and left for dead, Paul got up and went to Derbe. A large number of disciples were won there. What does it mean to win? There is a battle raging over the souls of men. Paul and Barnabas were instruments to win them to the Lord. After the successful time in Derbe, they went back through the cities they had preached in. They did so to strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith. We need leaders that will do that in our churches. They reminded them that the Christian life is not easy. If we are going to truly change from worldly ways to those of heaven, the Lord will take us through many situations that will stretch our faith. Paul never preached that the Christian life was a bed of roses. What do you expect? Are you determined by faith to endure what will inevitably come your way? As they went through the towns where they had started churches, they appointed elders for each church. Notice the wording is more than one elder in every church. There is no single leader, but a group of men that are recognized to meet the qualifications of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. That sounds like the group in Acts 13 that sent Paul and Barnabas out. These men pray together and seek God’s will for leading the local church. There was no hierarchy to which they were to submit. That would not be introduced until well into the second century. With prayer and fasting, they were committed to the head of the body, Jesus. That is where the trust of Paul and Barnabas and these new elders was placed. They would trust the Lord to speak to the elders so that they could feed and lead these new churches. We have come so far from the simple structure of the early church.