Church Governance Issues

When I first began in ministry I was so resolved on the fact that the way that the churches I had been a part of as a Southern Baptist ran exactly according to scripture. I had heard of some alternative ways of doing church such as Catholicism, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, etc. I knew that there were alternative views. I was then introduced to them in more detail in college and seminary. Finally, I have been having recent discussions about these issues in my doctoral work.

It seems that many people are starting to adopt an elder rule model of doing church. Now there are lots of ways to think about this type of rule. The difficulty is trying to determine how the New Testament church governed itself. It seems that there were the offices of elder, pastor/teacher, overseer, and deacon. It also seems from I Timothy that the pastor/teacher was also an elder because the elder needed to be able to teach.

All of this is to say that there are some confusing elements to this debate. Many people are now prescribing to an elder rule situation where there is no senior elder but everyone is equal. While this on the surface seems to be what is indicated in scripture by the elders in each church it does seem that God has always raised up leaders throughout the Biblical text.

For example, Moses was raised up as the leader but he had Aaron along side of him and after Jethro scolded him he had other leaders to help him. At the Jerusalem council it seems that James was the leader of the church that made the ultimate decision.

I would prescribe to a group of elders leading the church with a senior leader whose voice is a little louder than the others. More on this later.

We know of a couple of ways that are not right in church governance. One of these is all our Congregations making every decision. This leads to much confusion. We can also eliminate the dictatorial, papal like authority of one single elder. This seems out of balance with scripture.

I hope to have more on these topics later. I am just now starting to flesh out my ideas on this subject.