Introduction and Objectives

I am currently on a writing hiatus, but the circumstances necessitating my hiatus have actually prompted this writing. I hope that this will be the first of several posts that I will make on the very broad subject ‘theology of church leadership.’ Of course I don’t mean in any way to suggest that I will be writing a comprehensive theological treatise on the church or church leadership, but that the things I do write will necessarily be a theological position in the tradition of ‘working it out in public.’

These posts will be written against the backdrop of my own denominational history. I am, and have been since the Methodist church rejected me because I wanted to wear blue jeans to worship, an active member (and preacher) in the so-called Restoration churches, and in particular, the not-a Capella Church of Christ. I fully recognize that there are other traditions within the greater scope of the church and I am not arguing that one is preferable to another. I also fully recognize that other traditions do things (having interpreted Scripture in a different way) differently. My objectives here are modest, to be sure, and do not include the uplifting of one tradition at the expense of others.

The major goal in this series of posts is to be a student. I want to learn from those of you who may have gone through similar situations that I am going through and grow in my understanding of what Biblical leadership looks like and how it acts. My current congregation has been without elders for around 6 years (in my opinion, this is a dangerous and unbiblical position). I have not been without accountability tools, but this has been a very trying time for me personally, and I think it has also been detrimental to the congregation as a whole. I am currently studying and preparing some sermons that are designed to explore the biblical pattern of church leadership in the anticipation that such leadership will be soon implemented. The minor goal is to encourage conversation that will hopefully cause all of us to see the local church and local church leadership as necessary and vital and, to a certain degree, all that is necessary to govern (shepherd, guard, raise, feed) the church.

In this installment, I will explore the risk of local church autonomy and extrapolate the idea to demonstrate the absolute meaninglessness of online discernment.

The Apostles and Elders: Perpetuated Leadership

Alexander Strauch wrote in his book Biblical Eldership,

“Church elders hear and judge doctrinal issues. They help resolve conflict. They protect the church from false teachers. They bear responsibility for the doctrines taught by the members of their flock. Elders, therefore, must be men who know God’s Word. In a hostile world filled with satanic lies and false teachings, churches desperately need shepherd elders who are sound in judgment and possess the knowledge of the truth” (130).

This is profoundly true—perhaps more than we can imagine.

I considered the book of Acts, chapter 15, where we learn that there was a great controversy in the church over the matter of circumcision. It seems that some folks from Jerusalem had gone to Antioch and were teaching ‘unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ This caused a fight in the church. So what did Paul and Barnabas do? They went to Jerusalem to see, catch this, ‘the apostles and elders about this question.’ I struck me as rather odd that with apostles still on the earth (that is, those who fit the Acts 1:21-22 standard) and with Paul himself alive (and involved!) that they had to go up and talk with the apostles and elders. What more could these elders add to the equation, to the conversation, that the apostles could not provide on their own? If nothing else, this elevates the importance of elders in the church.

What is interesting also is that as the apostles died, the elders would remain. In most traditions of the church (I don’t think that is too broad a statement), apostolic succession is non-existent and Scripture seems to make no provision for it because no one meets that Acts 1:21-22 standard. On the other hand, the Scripture makes plenty of provisions for the gift of elders to be perpetuated (see Titus and Timothy among others). Thus it falls to the local church elders to be the guardians of truth for each local church. The manual for this guardianship is the Scripture. I grant that this is a rather quick leap, and might need further explanation later, but as I see it in Scripture, no other provisions have been made as no one else is given such specific lists of qualifications and responsibilities in Scripture as are elders and deacons.

The Ephesian Elders: Guard the Flock

This is, to be sure, a dangerous proposition. This necessarily means that there might be, and folks might see, different traditions found from church to church, from town to town (or congregation to congregation within the same community) even while concluding that each local congregation is still very much a congregation within the church. It was wisdom, it seems to me, that took the authority of interpretation out of Rome and put it back into the hands of the local pastorate (by this I mean, eldership which is necessarily plural). The apostles (and I think Jesus Christ too) entrusted the flock to the local shepherds and no one else. I think this is significant and risky (for reasons I’ll not later.)

When Paul was on his way to Jerusalem (for the last time?), he called for the elders of the church in Ephesus. He met with them on a beach, gave them instructions, prayed with them, and wept. Among the teachings he entrusted to them are these words, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit is has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from among your own number some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (20:28-30).

What is profound about this is that the apostle gave these instructions to the elders of the local church. He didn’t call in the other apostles, the general congregation, popes, bishops (in the modern sense), cardinals, archbishops, or, interestingly enough, members of other congregations. He told the Ephesian elders to guard the Ephesian flock. He called in the elders of the local church he was concerned about and he entrusted the local church to their care and protection. He told the Ephesian elders to guard their own flock. He didn’t tell them to go around and guard other flocks or to pry into their business. Isn’t it enough to be concerned for one flock? “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and given you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

Jesus among the Church: The Chief Shepherd

In one of the letters that Peter the apostle wrote he noted, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them…And when the Chief Shepherd appears…” (1 Peter 5:2, 4). Peter seems to be saying that Jesus, too, is a Shepherd who guards his flock and he is, then, the model shepherd for those under-shepherds who are responsible for each local congregation. I think John gives us another picture of this in the book of the Revelation when he writes, “And when I turned I saw the seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man…” (1:12-13).

So, Jesus is among the local churches and he is among them as a Shepherd—so again we see the position of elder elevated. If he has entrusted mere humans with the responsibility for guarding the truth, do we think he is any less capable of doing so himself? Do we think that Jesus, who is among the churches, doesn’t also protect his people in truth and guard the flock from evil? Isn’t that what the good Shepherd prayed in John 17? “Protect them from the evil one” is more than just ‘protect them from physical harm’ or ‘protect them from disaster.’ It must also include, “sanctify them by the truth;” “protect them from lies.” This is not to say that lies and false prophets will not find their way in; they will. And we are not so naive as to think differently.

This is where local church elders come in to the picture. Strauch again writes,

“History amply demonstrates that the truth in Paul’s message [in Acts 20] cannot be overstated or repeated too often. The appalling centuries-long failure to stop false teachers from invading churches can be traced directly to disobedience to or ignorance of Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders. Every new generation of elders must grasp afresh the prophetic message to the Ephesian elders: Guard the church—wolves are coming” (140).

This is a responsibility that Jesus has entrusted to local church elders and no one else. Guarding against heresy falls under the purview of local leadership. I might go so far as to say that it is limited to local leadership.

It is not scholars or theologians or preachers or radio commentators or anyone else who has such jurisdiction over the local church for any reason. Jesus stands among the under-shepherds as the Chief Shepherd and guides them to guard the flock. He sets the primary example by noting in John 10 that ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ I could be wrong, but I don’t think that responsibility is given to any other ‘office’ in the church. It is only the shepherds (elders) who are given the charge to guard the flock at the expense of their own lives (by analogy). That is, if they are shepherds, they follow their Chief.

Extrapolation: Local Churches, Elders, and Online Discernment

What I am concerned about here is local church autonomy. Yes, yes. We all belong to the greater idea of THE Church, but there are also many churches or congregations if you will. There are no two alike. We have different orders of worship, even if we include similar elements in the worship. We have different holidays that we emphasize more than others. Some of us like fellowship dinners more than others. Some take communion all the time, others do not. Some use instruments, so do not. Some support church camps, others do not. Some of us root for the right football teams on Sundays and most of us, sadly, do not. And so on. So what?

God took a great big risk entrusting such an important job to mere humans! I know. We ‘God is Sovereign’ types don’t like to think of it that way, but didn’t he really take a risk? In establishing local autonomy (under the Chief Shepherd), in establishing a body of elders to shepherd the flock and guard the truth, and in NOT establishing one supreme human authority to do so, God took a risk that our congregations would end up just the way they did: A different picture of Christ on every street corner. And so on any given Sunday there are million different congregations worshiping God in a million different ways, and yet all worshiping the same Jesus, and living under his Lordship. As Eugene Peterson noted, “Christ Plays in Ten-Thousand Places.” So he does. Interestingly enough, the only one set above the local elders, according to Scripture, is the Chief Shepherd who is Christ. He didn’t seem to think they needed oversight, just plurality and mutual accountability.

I think God took a risk. Why? I think it is because he dislikes the monotony of sameness. So he takes the risk that one million churches will practice Acts 2:42-47 in one million ways all the while keeping the central focus, always, on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I don’t think God is afraid that truth will be ‘lost in translation’ since he has promised us that His Spirit will lead us into truth and not error. Nor do I think God is afraid that the under-shepherds will always get it wrong and never get it right. Furthermore, it is to those very under-shepherds that God has entrusted this guardianship.

In my estimation, this makes the entire practice of ‘online discernment’ absolutely meaningless. They are not guardians of truth in the local church because that responsibility has not been entrusted to anyone but the local church elders. I submit that certain ADM’s are more closely aligned with Rome than they are with Scripture precisely because they do not believe in local church autonomy and precisely because they feel they need to do what Scripture has not authorized them to do, viz, play the role of a shepherd in a church not theirs. (No where in Scripture is one elder given permission to govern a congregation other than his own.) I might also say that they don’t trust Christ to govern his own body—the body of which he is Head!—very well either. In my estimation, the only people to whom ADM’s are vital are those people who have not submitted themselves to local church leadership. In fact, I wonder how much of the teaching that goes on in the ADM world gets carried back into the local church and is there used to usurp the authority of the local elders? And is that biblical? I think not: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must given an account” (Hebrews 13:17; see also 13:7-8).

Jack Cottrell notes,

“A key concept for congregational polity is local autonomy, or ‘self-rule.’ As applied to the church this term means ‘that a local congregation is independent and self-governing. There is no external power that can dictate courses of action to the local church’ (Erickson, Theology, 1089). No denominational board or representative tells the congregation what to do. The local church owns its own property, elects its own leaders, chooses its own ministers, and in general makes its own decisions” (The Faith Once for All, 422).

Isn’t there a strange sense that some so-called ministries actually usurp local church autonomy by their actions (I’ll go so far as to say that even in their asking for money to operate their ‘ministry’ they are violating Scriptural guidelines for church polity.) Isn’t there a significant evidence to suggest that God is willing to take the risk that we might get it wrong and that the only ones who have the biblical authority to make the necessary corrections are, locally, the elders of the church? Shouldn’t we submit ourselves and entrust ourselves to our local church elders instead of the ungoverned, unsanctioned, unbiblical online discernment web-sites?

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23 Comments(+Add)

1   Dave Marriott    http://seeingclearly.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Jerry,

As a Baptist, I hold the primacy of the local church in the highest regard, as well as the autonomy of those churches.

When a pastor enters a sphere of interaction within the Church universal through publishing books via Zondervan or making his weekly sermons available via podcast on I-tunes, by his own actions, he has opened a forum (a conversation, if you will), one that is open to participation by any.

This is true of anyone who publishes books, especially in the academic world. If you publish a book through Zondervan, Eerdmans, Crossway, etc., then you can just about bet your bottom dollar that someone will review it. Perhaps they will agree and endorse it. Perhaps the writing will reveal dangerous heresy and then they will warn the rest of the Church universal concerning the false teacher.

American churches violate autonomy all the time; I believe that many of the denominations are set-up in such a way that violations of autonomy are mandated. But that’s another story — online book reviews, sermon reviews, etc. — this is a far cry from an autonomy violation.

2   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Dave,

I would agree to an extent, but book reviews and sermon reviews are not, in my estimation, the finer point of this post. I put my sermons online and invite peer response and review. However, I don’t think those responses and reviews have anything to do with the governing of the local church by local elders. It is more of a personal edification type of thing. Nevertheless, I invite those responses.

I don’t think uninvited snooping, ‘reporting,’ analysis, or mounting charges of ‘heresy’ or anything of that sort is equivalent to book or sermon reviews. Honest book reviews are one thing, blanket GBA and charges of heresy are something else entirely.

jerry

3   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 4th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Jerry,
I think you make a very good and convincing point. I think another I would add is that it’s been rare that I actually see elders who think of themselves in a protective role. It seems that a lot of times, the decision of who is an elder becomes a sort of popularity contest. It’s one reason I kind of have problems with democratic election in churches, but that’s another discussion.

I would also say that protection can mean more than just always taking a defensive stance like the ADMs do. Often times, good positive teaching is more helpful than pointing out who’s wrong.

The final thing I would say is that when you look at the context of the local church and who was participating in it, it makes perfect sense that Paul told the elders to keep tight reigns on the congregation. Many of the members were from the lowest parts if society – slaves, servants, etc. A lot probably didn’t even know how to read. So it’s easy to see how someone could lead a new convert astray.

4   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Jerry,

The book you reference is an excellent book. We are using it in our own church plant for training of elders. I highly recommend it.

Part of the autonomy of this local church is that we do see value in not only telling the truth but also, in doing so, exposing the lies. Many in our congregation are young believers, and we must protect them from the wolves (I will not name them here) and the false and damaging teaching that they bring. This is not necessarily to bring down other churches, but to protect those who are in our care as elders.

I agree with Phil, and that is why much of what we do is involved in teaching the truth from the scripture (positive teaching) and allowing it to expose the lie. However, there are those times when the crafty heretics make it sound so much like the truth that we must expose them and their teachings.

Again I applaud you for a valuable article.

5   Chris P.    
December 4th, 2008 at 1:57 pm

1. The Chuch of Christ is generally cultish whether they are acapella or not. The Disciples of Christ, and United Churches of Christ are generally ultra-liberal. My daughter was just given the left foot 0f fellowship by the Church of Christ college Bible study where she lives because she dared to confront them on baptismal regeneration. They operate in the same kind of mode as JW’s and LDS in their efforts to assimilate the unsuspecting. Please I am not over-generalizing. I am speaking from many experiences with the Restoration types. She is now participating in a Reformed study which, surprise, surprise, teaches the Word.

2. Acts 1:21-22 is addressing the original 12.
This passage in no way suggests that apostles are now done away with. The church has forsaken it’s apostolic and prophetic calling which is the real issue behind the Roman Catholic notion of popes,cardinals etc. All roman/papist dogma is trash.
Now that being said, all the hyper-charismatic wolves who call themselves apostles and prophets these days, are neither. This does not mean that there are none who carry on the apostolic and prophetic call of the Body of Christ.
Your doing away with the minstry of Eph 4 along with cessationist teachings, are in error.
This leads to your main point; if the gifts and callings of the Holy Spirit are no longer in operation, then you arrive at your false conclusion that no one can speak to the error and heresy that is taking place.
This is no less true today than it was in the 1st century.
There are no “odm/adm” bloggers I know of,
who support anything close to roman catholicism. In fact the restorationists(baptismal regeneration and tracing the lineage of their “movement” back to the original apostles), and the purveyors of post-modern hogwash are closer to Rome than anyone else.
I support no hierarchal structure such as exists today. I do however advocate scripturally based understanding of apostles, prophets, evangelists,pastors,teachers, elders, deacons etc.

BTW you wrote that the Holy Spirit leads us into all Truth. Better be careful or the blog administrator will accuse you of being a “modern gnostic”.

6   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

In my estimation, this makes the entire practice of ‘online discernment’ absolutely meaningless. They are not guardians of truth in the local church because that responsibility has not been entrusted to anyone but the local church elders. I submit that certain ADM’s are more closely aligned with Rome than they are with Scripture precisely because they do not believe in local church autonomy and precisely because they feel they need to do what Scripture has not authorized them to do, viz, play the role of a shepherd in a church not theirs. (No where in Scripture is one elder given permission to govern a congregation other than his own.) I might also say that they don’t trust Christ to govern his own body—the body of which he is Head!—very well either. In my estimation, the only people to whom ADM’s are vital are those people who have not submitted themselves to local church leadership.

I use ADM’s so called because I, as a local church tent making pastor have little time to do the research I need to do about everything. For example, I let Tim Challies do some reading of books like the Shack so I can read his review and decide if this is something I need to spend more time on researching or even reading for myself. Ken Silva and Chris Rosebrough are great at sniffing out stuff that is going on so that I can read through and again see if I need to do more research on specific items that people in my church are asking about. So their help is invaluable to a busy guy like me.

In fact, I wonder how much of the teaching that goes on in the ADM world gets carried back into the local church and is there used to usurp the authority of the local elders? And is that biblical? I think not: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must given an account” (Hebrews 13:17; see also 13:7-8).

This has happened in some local churches especially regarding the Purpose Driven Movement. I will not go into detail, but the some of the churches were attacked un-rightly so for being purpose driven. In this case, it was wrong, and it was handled very well by a strong group of local elders in the local church. In another situation, I observed a group of elders improperly being overruled by a Pastor and some other leaders who wanted to bring it in. It strikes both ways in this regard. Either way, it is good to have solid, biblical research so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel time after time in regard to topics like this. That is the difference between the time of the apostles and now; we have a lot more information (sometimes to our detriment) and we have the ability to get it faster and to research it more.

7   nc    
December 4th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Actually, while i agree with Chris P about Eph. 4–shocking, I know–I do think Jerry still has a point about the de facto “magisterium” of the ODM/ADM imams.

It’s clear that many of them get angrier than they already are because people won’t just lay down and change the way they’d want.

That’s about control…and an overestimation of their authority and importance.

8   nc    
December 4th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Yikes…

there’s a qualitative difference between Challies and “those ones”.

9   Pastorboy    http://crninfo.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

#8

And that is?

10   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
December 4th, 2008 at 2:42 pm

And that is?

Tim Challies actually seems to possess good reading comprehension skills.

I find myself disagreeing with him a lot, but at least he exhibits enough intellectual honesty to lay all his cards on the table. I’ve never seen him write the kind of hit pieces that regularly appear on SoL or CRN.

11   Bo Diaz    
December 4th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

The Chuch of Christ is generally cultish whether they are acapella or not. The Disciples of Christ, and United Churches of Christ are generally ultra-liberal.

The UCC has no shared heritage with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

These are your self-proclaimed “discerners” ladies and gents.

My daughter was just given the left foot 0f fellowship by the Church of Christ college Bible study where she lives because she dared to confront them on baptismal regeneration.

Perhaps you should follow their lead and confront your Lutheran ADM brethren on the issue. Or are you willing to overlook it as you are united in your hatred of the body of Christ with them?

They operate in the same kind of mode as JW’s and LDS in their efforts to assimilate the unsuspecting. Please I am not over-generalizing.

Considering the amount of discernment you’ve displayed just in this post you won’t mind if I take that with several blocks of salt.

12   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
December 4th, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I have not been without accountability tools, but this has been a very trying time for me personally, and I think it has also been detrimental to the congregation as a whole.

Jerry – can you give a couple of examples as to what you mean when you sense this has been detrimental to you as well as your congregation?

13   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Paul C.,

Well, for one, we have been stagnated for about that length of time. We are simply not growing because the work of preaching, praying, and shepherding have all fallen on my shoulders. I think this lack of growth, regardless of how faithful I have been in preaching, is directly attributable to a lack of elders.

Second, there is no ’shield about’ me. Elders can act as a shield for the preacher. Not that the preacher is always right, but certainly also not that he is always wrong. There is a huge difference between having a small group of men to pray with and dream with and to be accountable to and to be protected by and having, on the other hand, a congregation mostly filled with elderly women. Any complaints people have then, become gossip or grumbling.

Third, this means for the most part all of the teaching of adults–and to some extent the children–has fallen to me as well. I love teaching, but six plus years without any significant time away from it tends to leave one dry. I told my congregation this past Sunday that I am spent. A mere vacation does help either because the preacher still has to come back to it when the vacation is done. A supply preacher doesn’t do the local preacher’s work.

jerry

14   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
December 4th, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Bo,

Thanks for dealing with that. You handled it well.

jerry

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
December 4th, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Many bloggers act as elders, even when they are unordained, untested (young), and even women. They are all lone rangers who answer to no one, and they overlook serious doctrinal differences among themselves as long as their hatred is aimed at a common group of people.

The internet is another variable that makes prayer meetings and accountability impossible by the impersonal nature of the internet and the distance between bloggers. Any goofball with a computer can set up an “elder shop” and begin his or her “ministry”.

It is a phenomenon that is both entertaining and frustrating. For the most part I have been able to eradicate any personal frustration. The number of online elders and elderesses are increasing and their authority is in direct proportion to their faithful paying of their blog dues. :)

16   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
December 4th, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Jerry – thanks for sharing that info. I can definitely understand (having experienced the exact same scenario before with a new church we started).

Not being able to take a weekend off was difficult and taxing to be sure. We were able to grow because we were in an area where the gospel was new and we were out every day visiting and speaking to people, but it was a major challenge.

I wish I had something helpful to offer other than encouragement. A core of stable, faithful men is critical for the working of the local church.

Are there not any men who show promise in this area?

17   Sandman    
December 4th, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Are there not any men who show promise in this area?

Why? Jerry is supposed to do it all. All the other good, able men are just supposed to sit there and wait for him to do something.

Sounds like you need a sabbatical, Jerry. I think it would benefit you as well as your congregation. It may encourage others to become self-feeders, or other leaders may finally emerge to stand in the gap.

18   Joe    http://joemartino.name
December 4th, 2008 at 8:05 pm

They are all lone rangers who answer to no one,

Well, you know that’s not true for Ken. He has a fully integrated and trusted board that he answers to…

19   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
December 5th, 2008 at 8:27 am

“He has a fully integrated and trusted board that he answers to…”

Oh yea, I forgot. :roll:

If you believe the visible church is moving in unbiblical directions, it seems you have an unbiblical carte blanche in attitude, speech, and behavior in “addressing” such issues. Your entire “ministry” can be a modern day “cleansing of the temple” while ignoring the more humble and loving aspects of Christ’s ministry, to say nothing of the cross.

Some have compartmentalized the cross as the core component of eternal redemption, which of course it is. But they have ignored the command to take up that cross and its infinite revelation of selflessness and humility, exclusively for the sake of its enemies. None among us can ever fully expose that grace in our lives, but when we fail to understand that we are called to “press toward that mark”, then we tend to live within the fortress of our own self righteous castle, fully surrounded by a moat of systematic theology, and sending out a continuing stream of literary knights to attack those who live anywhere but within the walls of the chosen castle, supposedly built upon the foundation of grace.

20   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
December 5th, 2008 at 11:52 am

Well, you know that’s not true for Ken. He has a fully integrated and trusted board that he answers to…

Joe – I don’t think I’ve laughed harder in weeks than I did reading this comment.

Did you write that with a straight face?

21   Joe    http://joemartino.name
December 5th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Did you write that with a straight face?

Well, I have a really bad chest cold so it helps me to suppress my smiles and laughs.

22   Mike    
December 5th, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Jerry, I find it very interesting that you are have a problem with not having any elders. I used to attend a very traditional LCMS church, then help start a much less traditional mission LCMS church. We eventually closed and began a home church, and I currently attend a non-denominational church.

All of these churches had radically different structures of “eldering”.

The traditional church had the elder board that was appointed by the pastor and the current elders. The congregation voted to accept or deny that person, but it was not an open election. This traditional structure was very beneficial to the pastor we had because we were able to shield him and kept him from leaving when a few nasty people decided that they wanted him gone. Eventually, he did leave and no one wants to be an elder there now. The nasty attitudes are something that no one wants to deal with…

In the mission church, we had a church counsel (pres, vp, etc.) to help with day to day business, but we really wanted to foster the idea of “the priesthood of all believers”. We all were responsible for the pastor’s well being, teaching, planning and working together. It was mildly successful, but we only had about 30 people, so I am not sure how feasible it would be in a large church.

Our home church had no structured leadership at all. Just a general meeting, where leadership of the gathering rotated from week to week. Again, mildly successful.

I think our mild success with getting everyone involved was due to the fact that most traditional churches encourage a certain laziness in their members. Congregation members come to be fed, to listen to a sermon, donate a little money and then, their weekly obligation fulfilled, they go home.

Ideally, all the people in a church should be acting as elders, studying, praying, teaching and working together and with the Holy Spirit to build a healthy body.

How do we get people to buy in to the idea that they are as responsible for the well being of the church as their pastor… I am not sure… the non-denominational church I attend seems to be headed that direction, but I am not sure what they are doing that is different than what I have seen or heard before. We don’t have elders, but there is a core group of about 20 people who coordinate, keep the church running and basically get people involved and active in outreach, teaching, prayer, home groups, etc.

Would this work anywhere else, no clue…

23   Neil    
December 5th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Mike,

Those are great questions… I cannot tell you how many times I have had a “member” of our church refer to the church, thier church, in the second person – e.g. “How come you dont’…” and they obviously mean the church as a whole.

Neil