Looking for examples of changes to elder-led structure

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by ichthys, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. ichthys

    ichthys
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    Our pastor resigned from our church a few months ago. It was a good move for him.

    I was a pastor, have an M.Div. and all that, so I've been helping out wherever I can. In that interim, well, since right after the pastor announced his resignation, a couple of us have come to the conclusion that our church would be a lot better off with more elders, instead of just expecting one pastor to fulfill many many many roles. Knowing what we know about our church, and about the idea of plurality of elders, it seems like a more Biblical, better long-term solution that would help us cover more bases than a short-term solution of hiring "that one man" (which we'd only have to repeat again in a few years after burnout, move-on, whatever).

    So...I am looking for examples of churches that have changed from single-pastor focus to elder-led/multiple pastors structure, to show where it's worked. We're a Southern Baptist church in central NC, about 120 members who I've seen in the past year, been single-pastor since its founding in the 50s, and has been slowly dying for years because one man can't be all things to all people, no matter how hard he tries.

    Has anybody on this forum had or seen any success with a church moving from single-pastor to elder-led (not elder-rule really, just more like multiple pastors)? I'm trying to gather up as much information, and even some examples, before I propose this idea to the deacons/pastor search committee, etc.
     
  2. Ruiz

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    First, I would not move too quickly. This is a long process and from those who have done it, it can take years to lay the proper groundwork.

    Some examples of people I know who enacted Elders include:

    Mark Dever- I would not recommend you use him as a study on how to enact Elders. Mark can be a little bit of a bull in a China Shop and, as many Pastor friends of mine often say, what Mark can do and get away with, no other Pastor can do and get away with.

    Fred Malone- He is probably a better example of a man who humbly and wisely prepares a church and Godly men to have Elders.

    A friend in VA also enacted Elders at his church. His approach was extremely wise.

    The formation of Elders can take years. There has to be ground work laid, training done, education of the people, and shepherding throughout the process. Many People have successfully reached the goal of having Elders at the sacrifice of many sheep in the congregation. A wise Pastor can both shepherd and lead the congregation into Biblical Eldership. The most important task for you is to find a new Pastor who will preach faithfully the Word of God... it is that Word that will prepare and help the church to accept Biblical Eldership and the church will grow in obedience as a result.
     
  3. Jerome

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    Horrible experience here with this "plurality of elders" nonsense.
    Pastor refused adding a youth pastor, etc.; was insistent on installing some "elders" scheme. Ended up in a church split; saints who left, fed up with the steamrolling, lies, etc., were called "dead wood" that God was pruning from the church.:tear:
     
  4. exscentric

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    There is a great need to involve the congregation with full disclosure - they are the church and should, in my mind, make the switch because they feel it is Biblical.
     
  5. ichthys

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    What's "nonsense" about it?
    The idea altogether, or the application?
     
  6. ichthys

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    As for involving the members, and doing it over time, with a great deal of teaching involved, those are also good points.
    It's going to take the members' changing the way that they view the pastoral responsibilities, as well as their own responsibilities, as well as the structure of the church, and everything else, none of which will happen overnight, nor should it really.
    But if the idea is never broached, then it will never happen. This is the stage we are at right now: someone needs to broach the idea.
    Thanks for the examples so far.
     
  7. Jerome

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    Multiple pastors are fine, particularly for larger congregations.
    The "plurality of elders" oligarchy scheme adapted from Presbyterianism is something quite different.
     
  8. ichthys

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    Ours isn't "large" but right now, one person can't reach all the people in all the age groups [nor can they reach all the people who have become irregular the past couple years], so we really should think about more.

    That's part of the problem with broaching it and getting people to agree to it: nobody knows what to call it, exactly. :tear:
    Everybody's heard of a church where "elder-led" turned into "elder rule with an iron fist," and everybody's heard of churches where "single-pastor" turned into "single-overlord." So it's like everybody figures "why bother to try and change? If it's going to end up messed up anyway, at least it will end up messed up in the traditional (my) way."

    The difference between elders and deacons would come into play.
    The difference between elder or deacon-rule and elder or deacon-led would come into play.
    What's a plurality? How would it best be applied in this case?
    That's why it won't happen overnight.

    Realistically, so far, we're stuck on "plurality of elders" because it's more than one person acting as one unit, and the NT seems to call them "elders" most often. "Multiple pastors" isn't that bad a term, so maybe "multiple elders with shared responsibilities" would work, but that's kind of cumbersome. :tongue3:
     
  9. Jerome

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    Many, many Baptist churches have welcomed the addition of youth pastors, associate pastors, etc; why do you think that would be controversial?

    The Bible also uses the term "bishop". Bible churches had "bishop(s) and deacons", often collectively referred to as "elders". Nowhere is a Bible church mentioned as having "elders and deacons".

    Unfortunately the episcopal and presbyterian schemes have tainted our understanding and use of the terms "bishop" and "elder". Neither a "one-man rule" Bishop (or monarchical pastor!) nor an oligarchical "plurality of elders" is biblical.
     
  10. TomVols

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    This isn't a debate forum. However, I must point out that you do not see a church in the NT without multiple elders. That said, I wouldn't say there is a prescribed form of govt either. Baptists historically had multiple elders. Only in fairly recent modern times have we gone to a single-elder form of model

    Now there is a huge difference between multiple elders in the church, a co-pastorate (seems to be what one or two have referenced), and having multiple staff.

    And remember, Baptists already have elder rule....but we call them deacons :)
    _____________

    As Moderator, let me remind us all, this is not a debate forum. if you want to debate the theology of ecclesial structures, do it in the Theology forum please.
     
    #10 TomVols, Jan 9, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2011
  11. Ruiz

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    Yes, I agree that at some point talking about it is needed. However, I think that is best done through faithful exposition of the Word of God. The men I have known who have transitioned from a single Pastor to something else, transitioned it first by expository preaching. When the congregation hears the Word of God preached through expository means, they find it harder to argue against God's Word. It is easier to argue against an idea that you don't see in the Bible, but it is harder to argue against an idea as it is faithfully exegeted from the Bible.

    Thus, I would focus on finding a great man of God who is faithful in the exposition of Scripture. I have seen well intentioned people who try to rush things actually poison people against things like Elders because they rushed ahead of the exposition of Scripture. Take your time and let whoever comes in to do it through the teaching of the Bible. I think you will get more support and while there may still be some knee jerk reactions, there will be fewer when the focus has been on the text of the Bible.
     
    #11 Ruiz, Jan 9, 2011
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  12. annsni

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    Our church started out with one pastor back in '68 and grew to now a staff of 45+ and 11 pastors. We have a congregation of about 800 and three campuses (well, almost three campuses) and it seems to work well. Our senior pastor does have the final say in many things but he does listen to and respects the other pastors and uses their input as well. It's worked well - not always smoothly but that's to be expected, IMO.
     
  13. ichthys

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    I didn't mean to debate, I was only looking for directions to where it has worked, and explaining what description I thought would work best in our particular church and situation. No harm intended. :)
     
  14. ichthys

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    Wouldn't it be better to discuss it earlier on, though? To plant the seeds of the idea in the people's minds, at least? Couldn't we exegete the scriptures as part of the discussion, instead of saving it for sermons and notes in the newsletters?

    I'm not trying to "rush" things, I'm just thinking about seeding some things. :praying:

    That's also part of the problem.
    I don't know if our church has many years left to work this idea out, preach it through [people have to hear something, what, 10 times before they think it's a good idea?] then institute it. I'm pretty sure if we wait 8 or 10 years for it to work out, if the church is still here, a lot of the members will be gone. Realistically, not that I wish that or anything.
     
  15. ichthys

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    Should I presume that each pastor has their own responsibilities to some extent? That seems like it would work out a lot better in our situation, too, because the different groups (mostly based on age, time there, and such) seem to have different expectations for a pastor that no one man can carry off on his own. He's always going to be making someone feel mad and left out, or doing things that are not in his "wheelhouse" or that he just might not like anyway. I think we're better off with several men of God doing God's work than just waiting for "one great man of God" (perhaps I have heard that phrase too much lately for my own good :tongue3: ) to send in a resume and impress the PSC and get "hired" (because that's what the whole pastoral search situation seems to be like a professionalized dog-and-pony show :tear: ).

    But your pastors also share, because it seems like I remember you posted where the pastor preaching one day had an emergency, so another pastor stepped in for the service. We could use a deal like that, especially during cold/flu season. :)
     
  16. Ruiz

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    I do not know how many times you have worked through organizational change or tried to change things in a church as a Pastor. It is a very tricky thing to do. Having done it in non-profit areas, church, and the business world, the hardest by far (imho) is within a church. The good news, time is on your side. You may think 10 or 15 years the church may die... but the good news is that you don't know. But I will address that later.

    One wise man once told me (and I wished I had listened the first time he said it) that the most important part of change is not getting there, but how you get there. I found his words both wise and Biblical. The goal should not be to get Elders, but the goal should be to do this in the most shepherding and loving way possible.

    When Mark Dever started change at Capitol Hill, he started simply by recommending books. If I were not the Pastor of a Church and I wanted to encourage change, that is what I would do. I would simply hand out books to people and say, "You may want to read this, I would be interested in what you think." Mark did this on several issues and I believe this may have been his greatest single work towards change. BTW (back to the dying church issue), when he arrived at Capitol Hill, it was a dying church... smaller than your church and with many obstacles. Yet, time was on his side and he waited almost 10 years to see Elders.

    You see, the churches I have been around (except for the last couple, which have been very refreshing) often reject anything once they feel like they are being driven to a certain point. If they feel someone is pushing them towards a certain direction, they immediately push back, even if it is a good idea. This is probably mere human nature.

    I would start by handing out books more than just on Elders but on a myriad of topics. Hand out a book on the Church, which may also happen to have a section on Elders. I would include books on Biblical Counseling that also deals with Church Discipline. I would pass out works on the purpose of the church that deals with expository preaching (you can also get good preaching tapes).

    If you believe this is the time to open up dialog, I would start by merely talking and getting solid literature in people's hands... then just listening to their thoughts. Then find other good resources and pass more out and listen some more. Then do it again.

    Mixed with solid expository preaching on the topic, you may see a church willing to embrace (and sometimes pushing to embrace) Elders. Yet, putting this forward too soon and making people feel like they are being pushed could delay the process 10-15 years or never. Your intention may not be to "push" them, but new ideas are often scary ideas and may make them feel uneasy and pressured. Let them come to the realization this is good... then it becomes an easier change.

    This won't happen overnight, and it just might happen without you even trying to push it... it just might happen as people listen and hear God's words taught. THen, you would merely be one voting for the change not the one leading change.
     
  17. ichthys

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    Lots to consider, definitely.
    We have been thinking about a Book Table to help us get the church focused beyond what we've been doing to try and help us figure out where we should be headed. Not just with the elders thing, but with all other concerns there are.
     
  18. webdog

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    Not sure I'm understanding the difference between multiple pastors and multiple elders? Where does Scripture show a difference? :confused:
     
  19. Deacon

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    We're a small elder lead church. There are at least two other nearby baptistic sister churches we associate with that are elder lead as well,
    Gracepoint Newtown and Langhorne Terrace Ministries.

    The transformation takes time and work.

    Inevitably there will be a Leader Elder, a full time paid elder, probably the preacher.

    His task will be to communicate to the congregation that he is a part of a team, one of many.

    There are a couple books, particularly some by Strauch that are good resources.

    Rob
     
  20. TomVols

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    You weren't. But there are some on this board that will debate your birthday if they get half the chance. :tongue3:
     

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