Monday, October 15, 2007

Elders in Congregational Life

There is no question that there is a biblical pattern for leadership established in 1Timothy and that pattern is meant to include both elders (overseers, pastors) and deacons. The question, however, is that most Southern Baptist churches do not function in this way. As a matter of fact, historically, the departure from the model established by the Apostle Paul began as early as the 2nd century.

Most serious Christians want to be bibilical - both personally and corporately - in their expressions of their faith. But one has to wonder: (1) why the church departed from elder-led congregations; and (2) how would a church that has deviated from the mandate for most of its existence successfully transition back to this biblical form of church government and what would it cost (not necessarily financially, but in terms of church unity, structure, service, etc)?

This post begins to ask some good questions, which is a necessary starting point for the discussion. What would an elder-led church look like practically? How would it function? How would the standard pastor-led or deacon-led church have to change to make this biblical transition? The questions asked on this blog aren't exhaustive, but they are a start. What questions might you have?


At 9:03 PM , Blogger Glenn said...

I have another question...

What bearing does our ultimate understanding of Timothy's role in appointing elders dictate how we are to understand church government? I still have questions about the possibility of a more anglican/episcopal form of bishopric that I'm just not sure how to go about answering them.

The head-bishop-over-one-city was established within the second century of the early church. This doesn't mean it's biblical without a doubt, but I do have to ask why the direct descendants of the apostles practiced this. Unless, of course, this was the practice of the apostles... such as Timothy over the city of Ephesus?

Just some things I've been thinking about...

At 2:55 PM , Blogger Winnie Spann said...

would you clarify a little more about lay-leaders versus elders? I know that "lay leadership" isn't a biblical term but I am curious about what role say a "lay missions staff" person would look like compared to an elder whose primary responsibility was to oversee missions. Sorry my question isn't as studious as Glenn's :)

At 3:36 PM , Blogger Aaron said...


I think that lay leadership remains critically important in an elder-led, congregationally ruled church. Elders are responsible for the spiritual direction/leadership of the church. However, this leadership takes place in the context of serving alongside competent, gifted lay leaders.

Practically speaking I think this would function similarly to how our missions committee has been operating. The committee serves under the leadership of a pastor, but this doesn't neuter the leadership of the leaders on the committee. The pastor/elder is responsible for making sure that the committee is functioning in a way that reflect spiritual health and biblical integrity. The elder/pastor isn't a lone ranger looking for committee members to rubber-stamp his proposals. He is to serve alongside the other leaders, praying with them, listening to them, being open to correction, leading with an awareness of one's own short-sightedness, while at the same time seeking to make decisions that honor Jesus and serve His church well.


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