Church polity #1-plurality of elders

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Greektim, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. Greektim

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    Do you believe a church should have a plurality of elders (think pastor or overseer as interchangeable)? What is your view? THEN, state what your church practices.
     
  2. JesusFan

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    We do see the Elders as being essential in the sense of the church having an "independent" view regarding church policy and direction, as have seen some independent churches that basicall revovled around the "cult" of the pastor!
     
  3. 12strings

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    The 3 pastors at our church have all been here between 4-5 years.

    We believe that a church should have a plurality of elders/pastors that oversee spiritual matters in the church, but that those pastors are then subject to congregational rule.

    We have slowly been teaching and working to move in this direction. This has invovled:
    -Freeing the deacons from functioning as an aunofficial elderboard making spiritual decisions so they can function more biblically in the role of service.
    -Calling a "lay-pastor" from among the congregation to oversee small groups and counseling. (So we now have 3 staff pastors, and one Non-paid pastor. We have not switched over to using the term "elder" because we think it may cause unnecessary conflict...the terms pastor, elder, bishop, overseer we believe were interchangeable in the N.T.)

    that's were we are now. We would hope to call one or two more Non-staff "Pastors" as more men in the church show capability.
     
  4. Jerome

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    A Baptist church typically will add additional pastors as it grows large enough to need them. How is that different from this "plurality of elders" scheme?
     
  5. Ruiz

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    I believe in a plurality and parity of Elders. The criteria by which they are judged in the Scripture is the criteria needed for a man to be appointed. Thus, a small church can, if there are a large number of elders, appoint a higher number for the eldership. As well, a large church may have fewer elders if there lack qualified men.

    Pastors=Elders=Bishops=Overseers
     
  6. JesusFan

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    My experience being an Elder on a board,is that our most imortant function at times was to make sure that we had "indepedence" from the pastor, as though he was on the board as sen Elder, he was just i vote, and we were able to make sure the church did NOT being pastor driven and revovling around Him!
     
  7. Greektim

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    But this is confusing to me (will be my 2nd thread), as was alluded to above. What is this distinction between "the pastor" vs. elders? Why have paid pastors and unpaid pastors? Are their jobs different or less important as the paid staff? Doesn't the NT use the terms interchangeable? Where is this model coming from that there is 1 guy in charge (although he is often not really in charge in toto)?
     
  8. 12strings

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    well, for one, Timothy and Titus were apparently pastors who have some sort of oversight over their individual churches. And while Paul certainly had a unique apostolic role in his oversight, I don't think the same can be said about T & T.
    A plurality is definitly a good thing to have to prevent the pastor from functioning like a Ceo, but in reality in most cases, if you put 5 elders on an elder board, one of them is going to emerge as the leader. That's a good thing, since it is very helpful to have one person do the majority of the preaching, for example.

    In addition, regarding staff vs non-staff, it is simply a recognition that for those pastors/elders who are called to devote the time equating a full-time job, they should be compensated so they don't have to work 2 full-time jobs. "do not muzzle the ox..." There will be some men qualified to be elders, willing to serve, but who do not feel called to give up their secular employment to do so.
     
  9. Ruiz

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    In the successful elder situations I have seen, there are some who have more respect on a personal matter, but no more authority and respect in the pastoral role. For instance, I know one church that has 5 Elders, one founded the church. Yes, people in that church had more earned respect for that one Elder, but the Elders were equal and mutually submitted to one another in many matters.

    In that church, there was a man who had his PhD. in theology and was well respected around the world. In theological issues, they often respected his views more. Another person was very involved in missions and traveled around the world supporting missionaries. He was often given some deference among the elders in that area. Still another Elder had great counseling skills in helping individuals.

    The goal is that while they are equal, we do not discount their areas of strength. As well, let me note that the most successful Elders are not democratic. They sometimes defer to each other and even the minority. I have seen many Elderships where only one person objected and the rest of the Elders waited until that Elder was convinced. Sometimes, I have seen a majority oppose something but say, "our opposition is minor, and we will submit to the minority, respecting their leadership in this matter."

    Thus, Elders may have some more respect in certain areas, but in reality Elders must mutually submit and care for each other in that way.
     
  10. JesusFan

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    We need to realise that the Bible was adressing how they function/operated in the setting of those times, and believe that though we might have a different "model" today, same biblcal guidelines/principles would apply!
     
  11. Dr. Walter

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    A church composed of only "two or three" members (Mt. 18:20) would seem rediculous if it required plural "elders"??? Hence, it would seem that "need" is the criteria not a "number" of elders for today.

    There is no biblical command that I am aware of that a church cannot exist with out elders much less must have plural elders. It would seem the very apostolic command to Titus to appoint elders in the plural churches demonstrates they were churches before they had elders.

    I think the plurality of elders in the New Testament period is not properly viewed correctly. There was no written scriptures for New Testament chuch polity during the early years. Revelatory gifts were essential for leadership roles and thus Paul would lay his hands upon men revealed to him by the Holy Spirit (Acts 14:22-23) to equip them with revelatory gifts (2 Tim.)


    1Ti 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

    and a pluality was required to confirm any truth revealed to one person by two or three witnesses equally endowed with revelatory ability (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 14:26-30).

    However, later after sufficient written scriptures were supplied to the churches and sufficient time for Christian growth to develop among the membership, the Apostle Paul directed Timothy and Titus that the ordination of a singular "Bishop" (1 Tim. 3:1) and "deacons" be appointed by qualifications developed by time and maturity (1 Tim. 3:1-13).

    Hence, I believe the "plurality" of elders where essential for leadership and confirmation of truth because no New Testament Scriptures were available to confirm New Testament policy, doctrine and practice. This was conveyed through gifted men and a plurality was necessary to confirm truth in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

    Now, plurality of elders is only necessary due to SIZE of the congregation.
     
  12. Ruiz

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    Like what functions/operations do you believe are no longer applicable? What is it about culture has changed that would demand a change? Where do you get an idea that those issues were not foundational to the office, but transient in nature?
     
  13. Dr. Walter

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    A church composed of only "two or three" members (Mt. 18:20) would seem rediculous if it required plural "elders"??? Hence, it would seem that "need" is the criteria not a "number" of elders for today.

    There is no biblical command that I am aware of that a church cannot exist with out elders much less must have plural elders. It would seem the very apostolic command to Titus to appoint elders in the plural churches demonstrates they were churches before they had elders.

    I think the plurality of elders in the New Testament period is not properly viewed correctly. There was no written scriptures for New Testament chuch polity during the early years. Revelatory gifts were essential for leadership roles and thus Paul would lay his hands upon men revealed to him by the Holy Spirit (Acts 14:22-23) to equip them with revelatory gifts (2 Tim.)


    1Ti 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

    and a pluality was required to confirm any truth revealed to one person by two or three witnesses equally endowed with revelatory ability (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 14:26-30).

    However, later after sufficient written scriptures were supplied to the churches and sufficient time for Christian growth to develop among the membership, the Apostle Paul directed Timothy and Titus that the ordination of a singular "Bishop" (1 Tim. 3:1) and "deacons" be appointed by qualifications developed by time and maturity (1 Tim. 3:1-13).

    Hence, I believe the "plurality" of elders where essential for leadership and confirmation of truth because no New Testament Scriptures were available to confirm New Testament policy, doctrine and practice. This was conveyed through gifted men and a plurality was necessary to confirm truth in the mouth of two or three witnesses.

    Now, plurality of elders is only necessary due to SIZE of the congregation.
     
  14. Ruiz

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    Size of a church will definitely limit the number of people you can appoint, but the criteria is still qualified men. Elders are never said to be appointed by numbers in relation to the congregation, but by qualifications. Thus a congregations of 30 people and only 10 men, can only have a maximum of 10 Elders, the criterion is if they are qualified. Size is nowhere listed in Scripture as a criteria for appointing more elders.
     
  15. Dr. Walter

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    Jesus speaks about a church consisting of only "two or three" (Mt. 18:20). Since it is a church, must it have plural "elders"? If so, by what command?

    The Presbyterian doctrine of a plurality of elders and eldership rule is not a Biblical doctrine but a failure to consider and rightly divide the Biblical evidences.

    1. It is a failure to understand the absence of written revelation dealing with church polity and doctrine and practical instruction in the early stages in connection with the following things.

    2. It is a failure to understand that early congregations were constituted with all new Christians and that apostolic appointment of new believers to leadership was by direct Holy Spirit appointment and equipped with revelatory gifts through laying on of hands in lieu of the abssence of written revelation for direction (Acts 14:22-23). Only later did more comprehensive qualifications that required prolonged growth and track record were implemented (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1).

    3. It is a failure to understand the nature of revelatory gifts must be confirmed by two or three (1 Cor. 14:26-29) and thus plural leaders were essential prior to a written revelation for authorized directions (Acts 13:1-3).

    4. It is a failure to recognize that final authority for exercise of the "keys" is determined by the "church" body with the leadership rather than to a selective body within the church - Mt. 18:17-18 with 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 2:7 "the many"). The churches in Revelation 2-3 are held accountable as a complete body for confirmation to Christ's commands rather than the ordained leadership.

    5. Nothing but the necessity to confirm revelation through revelatory gifts by at least two or three (Acts 13:1-2; 1 Cor. 14:26-29) necessitated more than one Pastor in the early congregations other than SIZE (Mt. 18:20).
     
    #15 Dr. Walter, Oct 24, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 24, 2011
  16. Ruiz

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    Couple of notations:

    1. Plurality of Elders is not a Presbyterian doctrine. Baptists until the 1800's held to a plurality as did many other traditions. I pastored a very old Baptist Church that arose before the 1800's, and they began with a plurality of Elders.

    2. I never said a church "must", but a church should have a plurality and the goal is always a plurality. There are times only a single Pastor can exist (again, qualifications are the key, not numbers).

    3. Your #2 is in reverse, it is in Titus 1 we get the statement of appointing a plurality of elders. Thus, it was within the written revelation itself do we see a plurality given when the qualifications are expounded. I also disagree with you that there was a complete absence of understanding of Elders, this was an Old Testament office brought into the New Testament (Strauch, Biblical Eldership). The culture understood Elders at that time and while it is not a 1:1 equation, it was not a "from scratch" scenario.

    4. Your #4 assumes too much. I merely said that there should be Elders (plural) appointed. YOu are now assuming what role I give to the Elders in your argument. You may be correct in your assumption of what I think the role of Elders are (you also may be wrong), but that is no argument against plural elders. Secondly, Matthew 16 does not say the keys were given to the church. THis is emphasized in the text itself. "I will give you (singular) the keys." If he was referring to the churches it would have been plural. If he was referring to the Universal Church, he would use "You" but this does not fit. The word "you" must refer to a previous nominative case word, and ekklesia is in the accusative case. Therefore, it cannot be ekklesia because of basic Greek grammar. I believe this refers to Peter, which is in the nominative case. I know you may want to accuse me of embracing Roman Catholic doctrine, but that is not the case and many Greek scholars who reject the Catholic doctrine of Peter still agree with this conclusion. I, though, do not think this can grammatically refer to the ekklesia without violating greek grammar. If you can show me how the "you" can refer to an accusative case word, we can have a discussion, but it must refer to a nominative case word.

    5. Your #5 is your presupposition, but no evidence is provided. Again, Titus was told to appoint Elders, a plural, within each church (it mentions city, but there were only one church per city). Revelation itself demands a plural eldership. You seem to point to reasons why we do not need it, but the explicit command is for plural elders.

    6. It is refreshing that you seem to concede that the early church practice was a plurality of Elders, but that throughout your statements you give reason for the change in emphasis. Thus, this is real progress in this discussion. I contend there is little which have changed to necessitate a change from a normative plural elders to a normative single Elder and no indication in the Scripture itself of this change. The only place that an argument can be made in Scripture where a single Elder exists is with Diotrophese in III John, but that would be a horrible example for a single Eldership position.
     
    #16 Ruiz, Oct 24, 2011
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  17. Luke2427

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    I agree.

    The New Testament teaches a plurality of elders.

    I tend to think those who labor in the Word and Doctrine. i.e. the teaching or preaching elders are to have more authority deferred to them.
     
  18. Ruiz

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    My view has always been, even before I embrace a plurality of elders, that a seasoned and mature Christian should not have the same voting right as an immature 19 year old Christian who came to Christ within the last 2 weeks. Yet, I have been famous for opposing democracy in the church, as I believe this is a invention that has wreaked havoc in the church since the 19th Century.
     
  19. Luke2427

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    I agree wholeheartedly.

    Whatever kind of government you find in the NT Church- it is most certainly NOT democracy.
     
  20. Dr. Walter

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    That is not true. Some may but all did not. Bryan Station Baptist Church was constituted in the 1700's and did not and there are many others that did not.

    What precept or command do you base "should" on? I believe you base it upon PARTIAL evidence without considering the WHOLE evidence.

    Early congregations met in homes and the city of Rome had several house congregations (Rom. 16:5,10,11, etc.). ?Remember they had no church "buildings" or meeting places. Smaller congregations were almost a necessity especially in inclimate weather.



    You cannot isolate Matthew 16:18-19 from Matthew 18:17-18 and other scriptures where disciplinary authority is excercised as you do above in drawing conclusions. It is clear that Jesus gave the keys to Peter as REPRESENTATIVE of the congregation as an institution for several contextual reasons and as is obvious by Matthew 18:17-18.

    1. In both contexts the word "ekklesia" is singular accompanied by the definite article without any geographical location assigned to the "ekklesia" and yet none of these factors deny that Matthew 18:15-18 is dealing with the local congregation as an institution.

    2. The primary question is not directed to Peter but to all his disciples, Peter answers in behalf of all.

    3. Jesus first addresses Peter by his given name "Simon bar jona" in verse 17 in making his direct application to Peter's personal relationship to his answer but intentionally changes from "simon bar jona" to "Peter" when speaking of the relationship to the church institution.

    4. The intentional play upon words "Thou art Peter" BUT "upon this rock" and the intentional distinctions of gender, second person versus third person indicate Christ is intentionally using the masculine anarthous construct "Petros" to characterize him to be the kind of representative material used in building this institution. Note there is a builder identified "I". There is a building identified "church". There is a foundation for building it identified "upon this rock" but there is no description of the building materials used to construct this building upon this foundation by Christ apart from the name of "Petros." Peter, looking back upon this in regard to the building of the institutional congregation by God to be characterized of "lively stones" (1 Pet. 2:5) built upon Christ as the "petra" (1 Pet. 2:8). Jesus when using the metaphor of the keys the second time, did not say "tell it to Peter" but "tell it to the church" and did not use the second singular pronoun "you" but the second PLURAL pronoun "you" (Mt. 18:18) in reference to those using the keys.

    5. Your #5 is your presupposition, but no evidence is provided. Again, Titus was told to appoint Elders, a plural, within each church (it mentions city, but there were only one church per city). Revelation itself demands a plural eldership. You seem to point to reasons why we do not need it, but the explicit command is for plural elders.[/QUOTE]

    The evidence I provide is equal to the evidence you provide for the plurality of elders. However, your supposition does not take into consideration the evidence I provide but my position takes into consideration your evidences but joins it with the whole to conclude in a fuller and more practical position that deals with ALL the evidence.

    There is no question that there is limited authority that comes with the office and it can be abused by any strong personality. However, look at Acts 11:1-17 where an apostle was called in on the red carpet and made to defend his actions. Look at Revelation 2-3 where not one single Elder was addressed and told to take these actions but rather it is the congregations that are charged with ultimately taking such actions. If the position of elder rule had any validity whatsoever, Jesus would have said "Tell it to the elders" instead of "tell it to the church" (Mt. 18:17) as discipline is merely one aspect of making disciples.
     
    #20 Dr. Walter, Oct 24, 2011
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