Elder or Elders

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by qwerty, May 4, 2002.

  1. qwerty

    qwerty
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2001
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    0
    I realize that the majority of churches, Baptist and others, utilize the government model of a one-man rule. That is, one spiritual leader over a group, whether large or small. One pastor (one elder).

    I have studied church government in the New Testament writings, and find that there is not much, if any, support for this one-man rule. Elders are plural when mentioned.

    It also seems that if there were multiple spiritual leaders in a group, it would take away the tendency of some to want to lord over.

    But, the main question is:
    What support do you find in the New Testament writings for one-man rule in the local church?
     
  2. Molly

    Molly
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2000
    Messages:
    2,303
    Likes Received:
    0
    From what we have studied there were usually a plurality of elders. Paul told Timothy to appoint elders in every city...they were to keep the doctrine pure and uphold the sound teachings. They were to protect the churches from false teacher. They were to lead and teach. I think it is a biblical thing to have elders. some churches just have staff as elders,some have lay men and pastors as elders.
     
  3. Molly

    Molly
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2000
    Messages:
    2,303
    Likes Received:
    0
    The important thing is not how many,but that the right men are in that position who do meet the qualifications.
     
  4. pinoybaptist

    pinoybaptist
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Messages:
    8,123
    Likes Received:
    1
    None. Period. But don't tell that to some Baptists, especially in my country.
    They'll come down at you like a thousand Everests.
    There is a pastor, yes, and some elders who assist
    him.
    But all are servants, not lords. Only Jesus is Lord.
     
  5. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2001
    Messages:
    5,140
    Likes Received:
    25
    qwerty, this Church Polity thread may interest you, since it also gets into the discussion of plurality of elders.
     
  6. TomVols

    TomVols
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2000
    Messages:
    11,170
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am very busy, and don't have a lot of time to write exhaustively, but I'll throw in my two cents and check back later on when I can.
    I see nothing prescriptive about multiple elders being the NT norm. You will find descriptions of churches having multiple elders. But these were often churches in the NT where there was one church for one city. Each house church within the city possibly had its own elder. Some argue that the angels in Rev 2-3 were the leading elder in the church. Others argue that Timothy, Titus, etc. held this kind of position.
    Few argue for a plurality of deacons, yet deacons are typically mentioned in the plural form. Few would claim that two elders in every church would suffice, yet two is plural. Some say you must have plural elders because single elders can prove to be a negative circumstance due to power, etc. But the same is true for multiple elders. Power plays among the eldership, inconsistency of vision and purpose, and lack of uniformity in leadership can all surface.
    I am not opposed to a plurality of elders. But I am opposed to saying this is a scriptural requirement when it appears that Scripture does not command thus.
    In a sense, this question is not formed correctly because the eldership is not a position of governance but leadership. The church is led by the elder(s), served by its deacons, and goverened by itself.

    [ May 06, 2002, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: TomVols ]
     
  7. Chris Temple

    Chris Temple
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2000
    Messages:
    2,841
    Likes Received:
    0
    Excellent answer Tom. As one who formerly held to the 'necessity" of a plurality of elders within the local body, I find the evidence lacking.
     
  8. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2001
    Messages:
    5,140
    Likes Received:
    25
    Tom, you make an excellent point that needs to be emphasized - neither the elders nor deacons govern the church, the church governs itself! I would wonder though, on the other point, have you seen those who argue FOR the plurality of elders argue AGAINST the plurality of deacons? Just curious, I haven't run across this in my experience

    Chris, best I remember, you are still a very young man. [​IMG] Who knows, maybe one day you'll be back on our side. ;) But, mainly I want to comment that there is a subtle difference between arguing that a plurality of elders (in a local church) is scriptural and normative, and arguing that it is absolutely necessary. While there may be a few that make it a necessity, I think most of us take the former position. I do not believe a church must have a plurality of elders. What I have said before, and will repeat for this forum, is that a church is wrong to choose to have only one elder when they could have more. Some churches may providentially have only one. Some may have none. This is sometimes of necessity. But I would no more suggest that a church stick to their tradition of only one elder when God has providentially placed more than one in their church, than I would suggest that a church stay without a pastor when God has providentially provided them an opportunity to have one. This is different from saying they must have many elders. I have seen churches that have qualified men in their body that they will not use, but rather continue placing the whole burden on one man's shoulders (unfortunately, sometimes that one man loves to have it so).
     
  9. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2001
    Messages:
    5,140
    Likes Received:
    25
    Plurality of Elders - the Evidence

    Acts 14:23 - Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every church.
    Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23 - the church at Jerusalem had a plurality of elders (cf. Acts 16:4, 21:17,18).
    Acts 20:17 - the church at Ephesus had a plurality of elders.
    Phil. 1:1 - the church at Philippi had a plurality of bishops (elders) and deacons.
    I Thess. 5:12,13 - those "over" the church at Thessalonica were plural in number.
    I Tim. 5:17-20 - those who "rule well" are plural in number.
    Titus 1:5 - Titus ordained elders in every city.
    Heb. 13:7,17,24 - those who speak the word and watch the flock are plural in number.
    James 5:14 - James assumes a plurality of elders in the churches.
    Acts 13:1 - there was a plurality of prophets and teachers in the Antioch church.

    Related verses - Matthew 20:25-28; Acts 11:30; Eph. 4:11; I Tim. 4:14; I Peter 5:1; III John 9

    I would not argue that every single verse listed above in itself proves the doctrine of a plurality of elders. But some are very strong, and it takes a little gymnastics to make them mean something else. Take, for example, Acts 20. Pastors are not officers of the church universal, they are officers of the church local. Paul, speaking to elders (church officers), told them (plural) to feed the flock of God (singular) over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers. This charge is not regarding the church universal, for it would have no overseers. Thus it is either regarding the church (local) at Ephesus, or a territorial church of Ephesus made up of the total number of the saved in Ephesus or the total number of local churches in Ephesus. Either of these last two would require the office of pastor (overseer) to be an office broader than a local church office. Also, it is more natural and consistent to take the scriptures that are less detailed as meaning the same thing as the clear scriptures rather than meaning something different. Though every scripture given is not conclusive in itself, there is a strong thread of plurality of elders running throughout the New Testament. The same cannot be said for the one church/one pastor model. In fact, I would be interested in seeing a positive argument as to why we should follow the one church/one pastor model, rather than just being told why we should not follow the plurality model. Tom started this a little in his last post:
    But the "house church" argument(and Tom recognizes this is only a possibility) first requires denying the house church was really a church, rather, making it something like a cell within a (city-wide) church. The second (Rev. 2-3) mostly rests on the assumption that there is one pastor per church, and therefore requires first the proof of that which it is supposed to prove. The third - I will wait to see what the argument is here, for I'm not sure how Tom is using it.
     
  10. qwerty

    qwerty
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2001
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    0
  11. qwerty

    qwerty
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2001
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    0
    I will make a statement here that you probably have not heard before:
    If you do not understand the Bride, you will not understand church government.

    If you understand the Bride, then you will understand the preparation of the Bride. The book of Esther tells us about the preparation of the Bride. The preparation of the Bride is done by eunuchs.
    Eunuchs have no sexual desire for the Bride.
    They don’t lord over the Bride, because they serve the King. They understand that the King is the sole authority, and their job is to prepare the Bride for the King.
    And eunuchs don’t try to take anything from the Bride in a financial way.
    The issues for leaders in the church today are money, sex, and power. Many church leaders have fallen in these areas, because they do not understand that it is a Bride they are preparing. Most get kicked out of the church for adultery, which is touching the Bride in an inappropriate manner. Others fall in the areas of wrong use of money, and wrong use of power. Unfortunately, usually it is only when a man falls in the area of sex that he gets kicked out.

    This is why the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit gave a model for church leadership. It does involve multiple elders in leadership. It is difficult for multiple elders to lord over. Not impossible, but definitely more difficult.

    No one man can fully represent Jesus to the Bride. A one-man rule will tend to focus the sight of the Bride on the one human man, and not on Jesus.

    What do you want; one human man, or One Man, the Man Christ Jesus.

    Jesus said there was to be no lording over, so:
    NO LORDING OVER! PERIOD!

    One-man rule tends to lord over.
    I can just hear a pastor say,
    "I don’t rightly know what this lording over thing is, but I can tell you this; I ain't doin' it. 'Cause Jesus said not to. So whatever it is I am doing, it’s not lording over."

    Jesus is the Head of the Church. He is the Bridegroom. He is the One the Bride is being prepared for. Read Psalm 45 to see a picture of the Bridegroom and Bride in the Old Testament. (Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that Psalm 45 is about Jesus.)

    There is a place where one man does have the authority. It is in the home. The home is the smallest unit of the church. The husband is the head of the home. According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:22-32, both the husband and the wife are to focus on Jesus. But even in the home, the husband is not to lord over. He is to represent Jesus to his wife. The wife is to represent the Bride to her husband. The focus of both is on Jesus.

    A single male leader over a group of believers doesn’t work. It goes against the teaching of the Lord Jesus, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. And it does not get the results that Jesus wants.

    One man rule in the church will not restrict numerical growth.
    It will restrict spiritual growth.
     
  12. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2001
    Messages:
    5,140
    Likes Received:
    25
    qwerty, thanks for linking the Wallace article. I found it interesting & informative (though I disagree with what I perceive as his teaching elder government instead of congregational government).

    Here is another article related to the subject - The Urgent Need for Reformation in Pastoral Ministry by Darryl M. Erkel. I don't agree with all of Erkel's positions, but he does bring some interesting discussion to the table (which shouldn't be dismissed with prayer and meditation). Other good articles may be found at Church in Focus.

    [ May 08, 2002, 10:42 PM: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     

Share This Page

Loading...