Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Defense of Single-Elder/Pastor with Subordinate Leaders

Note: What is represented below is an assignment I drew for an upcoming debate in my pastoral ministry class. My professor gave me the task of arguing for this position, and thus what you see here is my defense.

A Defense of Single-Elder/Pastor with Subordinate Leaders

The Bible does not specify the number of elders for a local church 
The New Testament is more concerned with the character and duties of pastors/elders rather than the number who serve  (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; I Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28-35).

In some churches only one man meets the qualifications 
This is not unusual in a church plant, especially in certain cultural contexts, or in a small church. Where only one is qualified, only one should serve as pastor/elder.  

Plurality of elders in the New Testament may refer to a plurality of churches 
The church in Jerusalem likely met in many locations (Acts 4:4; cf. Acts 2:46; 20:20). The same is possible in the church of Ephesus, Antioch, Corinth and so on. Perhaps there were elders (plural) in every city, but one elder (singular) for every congregation.

There is biblical evidence for single elder/pastor with subordinate leaders 
The distinct office of pastor-teacher, which may indicate a position of “first among equals,” is mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. James, an elder in the Jerusalem church, may have held such a position, for he clearly had authority above the other elders (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9; 12). Finally, the letters in Revelation sent to the seven churches are all addressed to the “Angel of the church,” a possible reference to the pastor of each church (Rev. 2-3).

There is a biblical pattern of a senior leader over a plurality of leaders 
Moses was the leader of the Israelites, though he was assisted by Aaron and the elders (Numbers 11). Joshua likewise led the “elders and heads” of Israel (Joshua 23:2; 24:1).In the book of Judges, God raised up one leader at a time to lead the nation. Among Jesus’ twelve disciples, Peter was above the others (Matt. 16:17-19; Acts 1:15).

Single-elder led congregations promote strong leadership 
Though many leaders can give insight, share wisdom, and perform certain duties, ultimately there must be one man taking charge and making critical decisions. These men have been charged with caring for God’s flock and must be allowed to lead. Scripture suggests that men who lead well are worth “double honor” (I Tim. 5:17).

Single-elder led congregations promote accountability 
A pastor-teacher is accountable to both God and the congregation, and should be accountable to other leaders in the church (James 3:1; Heb. 13:17; I Tim. 5:19-21). A single-elder led church will be defined by mutual submission and accountability among all parties.  

Additional Resources

Brand, Chad O., and R. Stanton Norman, eds. Perspectives On Church Government: 5 Views.                Nashville: B&H Academic, 2004.   
Cowen, Gerald P. Who Rules The Church? Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003.
Cowen, Steven B., and Paul E. Engle, eds. Who Runs The Church? 4 Views On Church Government. Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2004.
Hammett, John S. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2005.

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