Friday, January 29, 2016


There is no one, universal church polity in the Bible. Different churches operate in different ways. As long as churches do not violate Scripture, are effective, and meet congregational approval, I’m sure there is merit to them.

However, in recent times, elder rule has become the “new wave” among churches that, at one time, were more pastor-led and congregationally approved. I have heard lectures on the reasons for the change, and in my spirit, I have some sincere concerns—especially with the reasoning.

Let me say that I am not seeking more authority in my church. Our church is well structured, I believe, both scripturally and practically.

That said, here are five reasons why I cannot support elder rule.

1.  Elders being appointed lay volunteers is not in Scripture. The office of elder, bishop, and pastor is the same office in the New Testament. In Acts 20:28, Paul says, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [bishops], to shepherd [feed] the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The new role of lay elder seems very much like the old deacon role still found in some churches today.

2.  Lay people are not always equipped to deal with the myriad problems in the church. Even pastors trained and called to ministry sometimes succumb to pride and control. Once given power, it can be difficult to manage that power in the heart.

Historically, we find that like deacon rule, many would-be elders may seek the office in order to have a measure of power in the church. Some will be asked to serve based on their affluence or influence, rather than their walk with God.

3.  Lay people have their weekly jobs. It’s difficult to be up to speed with the daily challenges of a church if you do not live with it every day. This may result in the pastor having a great deal of influence over the elders, who then have influence over the church body. The pastor becomes the authoritarian through the elders. This centralizes the power to a few, and decentralization of power is often a reason given to have elders.

4.  The reason often given for adopting elder rule is that too much power in one person (the pastor) can lead to corruption or dictatorship. Using this reasoning every college should have two or three presidents, every business several CEOs, every family multiple dads. There is, after all, a chance of corruption in any position of leadership. The church, it seems, is unjustly targeted for the sins of a few, and is the only institution called upon to have multiple heads.

5.  Biblically, the pastor is the leader of the church. Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus, pastors of the New Testament. The seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation were written to “angels or messengers” – the pastors of the churches. Churches need to call a pastor trustworthy and continue to trust him as he leads.

Of course, there must be checks and balances in every church and the pastor should welcome them. However, the pastor will always be the one who must answer to God and the people for the health of the church. If he is going to have the weight of responsibility, he needs to be given the authority to carry out these responsibilities.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment