Thursday, January 25, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership – Pt. 2

There are inevitably pitfalls to the use of any term used to refer to the leadership of the local church. Even using the term predominantly used in Scripture, “elder”, poses some issues. This is largely due to the fact that the term is so entrenched in the notion that elders are members of a church board or committee. As Strauch has noted in his book, it has become necessary to explain that the term is referring to “pastor elders”, “shepherd elders” or simply “pastors”. This is necessary in order to convey the biblical concept of elders as church leaders. There are very few churches that practice biblical church leadership and use the term in its true New Testament form, where the congregation understands that the elders are the spiritual leaders. In fact, many have needed to refer to their elders simply as “pastors” in their endeavor to implement biblical church leadership. [1] To illustrate the confusion and misunderstanding even when using the terms defined in Scripture, I myself have run across someone who thought that I was referring to deacons when I used the term elders! Deacons are a form of leadership in the church, but they function more in the role of servants to the church under the direction of the elders, the official leaders who are providing the overall direction for the church.

Another term that can be used that Strauch points out in his book is the term shepherd. The Bible also uses the term frequently to bring to mind the imagery of the role of a shepherd to describe the work of NT elders. (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 10:28) Shepherd seems to be devoid of much of the unbiblical associations that the terms pastor or elder have come to represent. However it is unfortunate that even the term shepherd can introduce problems as well. It is a word that has no religious association for people outside and even within the church. People may just associate the term with a literal shepherd who tends sheep and miss the association with the role of NT church leadership. [1]

As I wrote in my first post on this topic, the terminology used must closely mirror the terms and concepts described in Scripture. Unfortunately, many of the terms that have become traditionally used in the church are unbiblical and misleading. To quote Strauch, “words such as clergyman, layman, reverend, minister, priest, bishop, ordained, and ministerial convey ideas contrary to what Jesus Christ and His apostles taught." The adoption of such terminology is a severe hindrance to recapturing the biblical model of the church. [1]

In my next post, I will begin discussing the biblical qualifications of the local church leadership.

1. Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, p. 32-34

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