Saturday, February 03, 2007

Biblical Church Leadership - Pt. 3

I was going to begin discussing the qualifications of elders, but I have decided to discuss the team aspect of the leadership structure first. I believe this is vitally important for two reasons; 1) the NT teaches a team approach of church eldership, rather than one man wielding all of the leadership authority over the church, and 2) our church is currently in the process of researching the model of church leadership since the resignation of our senior pastor this last December. Then the decision will be made as to whether we should search internally or externally for the right candidate. I believe that our church is at a critical turning point and there is a golden opportunity to implement a more biblical approach to the leadership team which will be critical if we are going to be able to refocus and establish a more biblical approach to the ministry of the church. It all hinges upon whether we are going to follow God’s leading which MUST begin with following the principles that God laid out in His Word.

This does not mean that the qualifications of the individual who is selected for eldership is less important. But what I have found is, that while many may understand what the qualifications may be, the concept of a team leadership approach is misunderstood and more importantly, not always practiced in the church. I also believe that the lack of a plurality of leadership is detrimental to the overall health of the church. There are undoubtedly challenges with this approach, but I believe that it is the model given to us by God in the New Testament as a benefit to providing a spiritually healthy leadership approach for the church.

Plurality of Leadership

The concept of shared leadership is indicated throughout the Bible. The concept was present in the Old Testament institution of the elders of Israel. It was also found in the appointing of the twelve apostles by Jesus. The Lord did not appoint one man to lead His church; instead He personally trained twelve men to carry out the mission. The concept of a plurality of leadership was given to the church by Jesus. The twelve apostles were the first council of leaders for the first community of Christians and provide a great example of servant leadership, brotherly love and a shared leadership structure. The concept of a plurality of leadership is even displayed in the choosing of the seven for ministering to the needs of the church’s widows in Acts chapter six. These were the early prototype of what would later be the deacons in the church. It was a collective leadership format, with no indication that there was one man dominating the entire group, making the rest of the group his servants. Given the evidence available, the deacons in the church, just like the elders, served under a plurality of leadership. [1]

The evidence is abundant in the New Testament that the church was governed by a plurality of leadership.

  • Acts 15 – Elders in Jerusalem united with the twelve disciples to form a collective council of leadership to judge doctrinal controversy.
  • James 5:14 – Instruction is given to “call for the elders of the church” on behalf of the sick individual. The term “elders” is plural and “church” is singular, indicating that there was a collective body of elders in a single church.
  • Acts 14:23 – Paul appoints a plurality of elders to each new church that was founded.
  • Acts 20:17,28 – Paul calls for the “elders” plural, not a singular “pastor” for a final meeting.
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 – This passages should indicate beyond any doubt that Ephesus was governed by a team of several elders. “Let the elders [plural] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”
  • Philippians 1:1 – Paul greeted the “overseers [plural] and deacons”.
  • Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5 – Paul appointed a plurality of elders to take care of the churches he established, as well as appointing others to do the same.
    In fact, Paul did not consider a church fully functional until it had a team of qualified elders. (Titus 1:5) [1]

Here are some other NT passages that provide evidence of the shared leadership principle:

1. Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, p. 35-38.


Anonymous said...

It's encouraging to see a fellow Central Ohioan that embraces reformed theology. I noticed below your comment on the discussion in the SBC regarding the rise of calvinism. I personally was calvinistic for many years existing in the SBC but didn't know the label. I think there are many younger SBC'ers probably in the same position so be encouraged. Further, I noticed your awareness of the 9Marks ministry. I just got back from one of their "Weekenders"--if you've never been I highly encourage it.

God Bless

AuthenticTruth said...

Thanks for your encouraging comment. It is certainly an encouragement to know that there are others who embrace solid theology. I will have to look into the "Weekenders".