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The Coming Senior Pastor Transition - A Word about Plurality

• Phil Sasser

Posted in Life in the Church, Theology

A couple weeks ago I shared some comments during announcements and said that we would follow them up with a blog post. Well, here it is.

WHERE TO BEGIN

Any discussion of eldership and Senior Pastor must begin with a biblical understanding of the office of elder in the New Testament (Remember, in the New Testament a special office of Senior Pastor is never mentioned, per se.) The Bible teaches by precept and example that qualified men should be elders, that they are appointed and not elected, and that there is a plurality of elders. There are elders (plural) in every church (singular).

NOT PERFECT, BUT QUALIFIED

Elders must first be qualified according to the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers, and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:5-9)

All elders must meet these qualifications. They are not perfect men, but there should be clear consistency in these areas.

THE EQUALITY OF THE ELDERS

Second, as all the elders are equal in the dignity of their office, they are also equally responsible to pastor and teach, and all are equal in their authority. None of them gets two votes in the eldership! And as members of the church we have a responsibility to appropriately submit to their leadership:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

NOT CARBON-COPIES

Though they share these qualities, elders are not identical. They will differ in gifting and experience. That fact will make them more or less suitable for the differing roles that may exist within a church’s leadership. But an eldership should be a plurality if there are biblically qualified men available to serve in that capacity. That is what the scriptures teach. That is what we have always held to in this church. From the time of this church’s founding in 1992 until this day, this church has held to the priority of a plurality of elders. And it has been practiced whenever possible.

THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE PARTS

The plurality of elders is more important that any distinction of a Senior Pastor or Lead Elder, or whatever you call him. And the way that a plurality functions can differ from church to church as each eldership varies in its makeup by reason of the age of the elders, the experience of the elders, and the gifting of the elders. Our plurality looked one way in 2004 when it was me and Daniel and Jim. I was 55 and had been an elder for 20 years; they were 35 and had just become elders. It looks different 10 years later. It is a robust plurality with five and soon to be six elders, all with much more experience. Our eldership is more gifted and able than it ever has been, in my opinion. That is a gift from God.

INPUT ON YOUR INPUT

So as you are asked to give input on this decision, keep in mind that the Senior Pastor designation is not the selection of the one man who leads the church, but rather the selection by the elders of one of their number to lead their team—this particular team of elders. Remember, give this input to your sphere pastor (ask your home group leader if you’re not sure who that is; give it to another elder if Daniel is your sphere pastor). As we said, we are leaving time till the end of November for this input.

Thank you for your prayers and support throughout this season of transition.

Phil

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