A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 44

Organization of the Church

In this lesson, you gain insight into the organization and authority within a church, specifically focusing on the role of scripture as the ultimate authority. The speaker discusses various models of church leadership, including pastor rule, elder team rule, and congregational democracy. They emphasize the importance of understanding who holds decision-making authority within a church and how different models can function. The lesson also touches on the unique role of the apostles and the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes. Ultimately, the key message is that while there are different approaches to church governance, scripture serves as the guiding authority, and the nature and function of the church should align with biblical teachings.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 44
Watching Now
Organization of the Church

I. Introduction

A. Defining the Church

B. The Authority of the Church

II. Authority of the Church

A. The Authority of Scripture

B. The Nature and Function of the Church

1. Making Disciples

2. Spreading the Gospel

3. Worshiping God

C. Church Traditions and Other Authorities

III. Describing Church Forms

A. Congregational Organization

B. Episcopal Organization

C. Presbyterian Organization

D. Congregational Democracy

IV. Models of Local Church Leadership

A. Pastor Rule

B. Elder Team Rule

C. Elder Team Led

D. Congregational Democracy

V. Conclusion and Considerations

A. Decision-Making Authority

B. Adapting to Your Congregation

C. Importance of Clarity in Decision-Making Processes

VI. Q&A Session

A. Uniqueness of Apostles as Models

B. Obedience to Elders and Leaders

VII. Closing Remarks

A. Leadership Styles and Culture

B. Clear Decision-Making Processes

C. Importance of Studying Different Governance Models

D. Adaptability to Local Congregation Needs

  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
  • Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
  • This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
  • Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
  • Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
  • This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
  • This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
  • This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
  • This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
  • This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
  • The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
  • Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
  • Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
  • This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
  • Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
  • Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
  • Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
  • This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
  • Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
  • This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
  • This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
  • In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
  • Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
  • Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
  • This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
  • This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
  • Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
  • Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Organization of the Church
Lesson Transcript

Let's continue to explore a little bit. We've talked about the church as a biblical body of Christ, which I think is confessing believers, who have devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and baptized and that sort of thing. Then the sociological organization would be other people who are part of the meeting that happens on Sunday morning, the other times or maybe the mission we take out.

But I'm thinking now of, in the organization of the church, what's the authority? And to my judgment, and I stand very strongly in the reformation tradition here, the authority of the church is scripture. Well, okay, what does that mean? It's a really good question. Really good question because what does it mean the authority of scripture? Because there's a lot of stuff that we look at in scripture that even tell us what to do.

I am going to be at an elder meeting tomorrow night. How many elders should there be in a church? Should they have term limits or not? Should they have a chairman, should the chairman be the pastor of the church? I mean, there's so many things and scripture is ridiculously silent on those things. What does authority of church mean if we say sola scriptura? Well, let me get my view on the things because I could have a view everything as you know, I think, and this student guide, I think the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice.

I don't think it's the only authority, it's the final authority because there are authorities. I mean the government has an authority. We are a 51C3 organization, have to comply with the laws of the state of Oregon regarding boards of directors and human resource things and all those things. And we do. You get some conflicted things going on as what happens if the government requires that we wear masks for Covid, which again is a recent memory as I record this, and different churches came to different conclusions on that.

But the Bible is a final authority. Bible didn't describe what to do about Covid. So we're left on other things. But that final authority, what the Bible prescribes, what the Bible tells us to do, we have to do it. So the nature and function of the church are taught prescriptively. That's the second line there. So the Bible is the final authority. There are other authorities, they cannot contradict scripture, what the scripture clearly teaches.

So elders in the church have an authority. The government has an authority, parents have an authority. But as far as the church goes, the Bible has the, you cannot contradict what the Bible says. And I think the nature and function of church are taught prescriptively. We have a mission to make disciples. We have a mission take the gospel of the world. We have a mission to worship God in deed and word. And those are not negotiable.

And that's what annoys me is when I get churches that really ignore what scripture prescribes and they say, we just don't do evangelism in our church. We want to be community disciples. We want a place that celebrates and we teach Bible and we've got Bible experts, but we don't try to bring in because they don't know what they're doing. It's hard to work with.

I know churches that do that. So the nature and function of the church are taught prescriptively as I understand it. But there's another side and that's many aspects of form are described. It's not taught, it's not prescribed, but it's described in scripture. And I think these should be followed as closely as possible, but noting that different cultures will come out in different ways of doing things. So let me give you an example.

If I look at Acts chapter six, this describes the working of a church in selecting leaders. And this is Old Testament roots and [inaudible] one and such. So I'm looking here at Acts chapter six and we have a racial discrimination problem comes up. The Hellenistic Jews are being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So what do they do? There's the problem. So it says the 12 gathered all disciples together.

So they brought the problem to the 12. What did they not do? Well, first of all, they didn't ignore the problem, hope it'd go away, gathered in a prayer meeting or something. The other thing they did not do is they did not bring it to a senior pastor. Peter was the unquestioned central leader of the church at this point. They didn't come to Peter, they came to the 12 apostles.

And what I find being described all through scripture is multiple team leadership, whether you call it apostles or elders or sometimes have both terms, I think the team leadership is described in scripture and I think we should follow it. So I stand, hostile may not be too strong a word, but very much so against the so-called Moses model where there's one man who goes to the mountain and gets word from God.

He gathered all disciples together. So that's congregational and they propose a plan. It'd be an RFS and so on. We'll give ourselves to attention to a ministry, the word. And then verse five, this proposal please the whole group. So I see being a process guy, problem comes to the 12. The 12 make a proposal plan to all the disciples and the whole group approved the proposal.

So I see a give and take between the leadership and the congregation. Leaders are leading by being wise examples. The congregation is being active and involved and they approve the proposal. So it's not elders gathering together and giving down commands from their decision. We'll unpack this in more detail in the next lesson. In the plan, they talk about their role. We can't neglect the ministry of the word. So brothers and sisters choose seven men from among you and they give criteria, full of spirit and wisdom.

And we'll turn the responsibility over to them and we'll give our attention to the prayer and the ministry of the word. So they make a proposal that the people would choose these leaders. It's not a nominating committee, it's not the leaders choosing leaders, it's the people choosing from among themselves who the leaders are. And they do. They, the congregation choose Steven and these other guys.

And the apostles in verse six presented these men who prayed for them, and the word here a little more literally would be appointed them. So I see here as a description put in scripture for us to ponder. And I think this gives us a pattern for how church works together in problem solving and appointing leaders. And what I find frankly is almost no churches in my fairly wide context of involvement do it this way. And we'll talk about different models of leadership here in just a bit, but I find a description here, but no details.

How did the 12 come to the proposal? How did the congregation choose these seven men? This doesn't say. So what I'm looking at here is a description. I think we should follow it. I'm pretty simple-minded about things, but a lot of stuff missing in the how to kind of stuff. So that's the final spot here in your student guide is there are many more aspects of form and program that are not addressed.

And freedom is being encouraged to follow needs of different cultures but under the Holy Spirit's guidance, as long as it's in line with the nature and form of the church, we cannot, cannot ignore the nature and function of the church as prescribed. So we must be careful not to canonize nor ignore church tradition.

So when I think about this, there are a number of places in scripture where you have these kinds of descriptions and I think they're to give us patterns and principles by which to organize our church today. But those will vary a lot depending on the culture of your community and the size of the church and those kinds of things. But what we try to do at my church is we try to follow these as closely as possible and we'll talk a little about that.

Now, some organizational things as we finish up this lesson. External organization. So we've got a local church by case, Grace Community Church Congression, how it's in relation with external organization. Well, there are three basic models. One is Episcopal, the local church is accountable to a bishop. That would be true San Roman Catholic. That'd be true in things like Foursquare. They don't call it a bishop, but there's a district superintendent or something and they have an authority over the local churches.

There are different ways that's worked out. But the Bishop is an official responsible for a number of local churches and has significant authority. The Presbyterian view is that there is a local church as a group of elected representatives. So in a typical Presbyterian, they may not be called Presbyterian, but that's the model, what we might call the ordained leaders in a church are on the presbytery, but they also have some non-ordained lay elders, sometimes they're called who are elected.

And that group then controls the doctrine and key things of local churches. So typically in those kinds of organizations, the local congregation does not own the building. It's owned by the organization. It's like Presbyterian churches, it's the presbytery that owns the church building. They're having a big fight in some of the Episcopal churches because the Episcopal diocese owns the building. The Episcopal diocese has gone quite liberal.

So local Episcopal churches are opting out to become Anglican churches. Then you have a big fight over who gets the building and other assets related. And it's really messy, which makes me glad that we're not under a denomination because we're what we call congregational. That is there's no authority above Grace community Church, we're part of various organizations. We have a very cooperative relationship with the Church of East Multnomah County, but there's no authority higher than the local church. The downside of that is if the church goes wonky, there's nobody to appeal to.

And so what happens when you get a pastor who's guilty of power abuse, let's say if you're a non-denominational church, there's nobody you can appeal to for authoritative help. Of course, if you're in a church with external authority, maybe the bishop is the power abuser. Now what do you do? So there are pluses and minuses to all of these. And my heritage has always been in what we call the congregational as far as external, no authoritative head above the local church. But we're part of groups that gather together for local service or gather together things like mission organizations or camps or things like that.

So that's where you come out and that's one of those questions you need to really think through because there's real advantages to having somebody outside the local church to help you with stuff, wise leaders who are up there. But then I look at some of the problems that come when the upper echelons go bizarre. So external authority, do not do confuse Presbyterian or congregational external authority with Presbyterian or congregational internal authority.

They're quite different. You could be congregational as far as external authority, nothing above the local church and still have elders or a bishop in your local thing. So they would decide things, not the congregation as a whole. So we'll talk about local leadership in just a bit, but I want to stop and just think for a minute with you and see if there are questions from the hoi polloi here in the room.

Well, speaking as one of the hoi polloi.

There you go.

How would you handle the argument that the apostles were unique and therefore not a model?

Yeah, I would agree that the apostles are unique in the 12 or a unique apostolic group, witnesses the resurrection, have an early authority in the church that is not ... I do not believe in apostolic succession. I don't believe in Peter becomes the first pope or something like that. I don't deny Peter's the unquestioned leader of the local church. And in the early church, the apostles are acting as elders. And as you find the church developing through Acts, apostles disappear and elders become the norm as there are more churches and not enough elders to go around.

They're absolutely unique in Acts chapter six, but not by Acts chapter 15, you find elders doing things as well as apostles being among them. That's where the apostles are acting as what's later called elders at local church.

So in the biblical admonitions to the church to obey their elders and their leaders and to let them do the work without grumping and complaining, whatever the phrase is.

Yeah, he was 13, 17.

You've been using the word, well your example was ultimately it's the congregation that holds the power, but you have all these admonitions to have the congregation obey the elders.

That's correct.

So how does that balance out?

We're going to talk about the nature of authority here in a bit. What I'm going to argue is biblically authorities to exemplify, empower, unify, those kinds of things rather than giving commands. So biblical leadership is not making decisions and giving commands. There is an element of that, but the big element is being leaders of wise character that people say, I want to be like him. And there's a trust relationship.

And the role of the elders is to empower others, to equip others, to unify others, to exemplify what godly character is like. And that's the heart of leadership. So obedient doesn't mean being unquestionably submitting to commands so much as being committed to the example in life that the elders lead. I think there's a wisdom. I know we do that at Grace, our leaders are selected because they just have experience in life and they make their proposals, they can pull things together. But running things through the congregation can be a real helpful way to bring people on board. But I recognize I'm representing a minority view at this point.

Speaking of which, when we talk about the style of leadership at a local level, another topic, I bring this down to four different models of local church leadership. And I can name good churches that have all of these. So I have my view of course. One, and this again, this is on your student guide, so have a look, otherwise, you get lost in all my verbiage. You may get lost anyway. A pastor rule, this is what I call the Moses model. There's one person who, and usually a man, the pastor leads by defining vision, making decisions on important issues.

This is the Moses. He goes to the mountain, gets a word from God and brings it back to the people. He can veto any decision and deacons or whatever you call them, are an advisory council to the pastor. But this is pastor rule. So the pastor's the one who makes all the important decisions and he can veto anything else happening in the church. And deacons have no authority as a group, but they're an advisory council that are selected to lead the church. This is the model I was in. It's typical in many Baptist churches, they say they're congregation, but they're not. They're pastor rule.

And the deacons are advisory too, and this is very common, classic Calvary Chapel is like this. I mean there are a lot of groups. So the pastor rule. A second group is often called Presbyterian. Now this is internal, not external. Internal is elder team rule. So authority and decision making resides in the elders as a team. And so instead of having a single individual, it's now the team of elders that lead by defining vision, making decisions on important issues. And they have a veto power over everything.

And at this point, the elders gather in a closed room, literally with doors closed, nobody else invited, and they make decisions about church matters. And it could be all kinds of different things. Hiring, firing, building, acquisition, those kinds of things, doctrinal sorts of things. And their word carries. And the congregation role is to submit.

And it's not quite that simple, but that's the base things it works with. Sometimes in many cases, elder rule will have the congregation choosing elders or voting on elders, voting on property acquisition, voting on budget, that sort of thing, as opposed to just elders. But elder rule, the elders make these decisions in a closed room and hand the decision down to the rest. That's a common often called Presbyterian model. The view that I prefer is what I call elder team led.

I think that's what we find in Acts chapter six. In this case, the elder team equips and leads people of the congregation for ministry and for making and carrying out wise decisions. So the elders are responsible for the spiritual oversight of the ministry of the church as a whole. But the team works to make proposals to the whole congregation. The whole congregation comes to buy in or not.

And you give and take between wise leaders and participating congregants and decisions are made that way. So who has final authority? Well, I suppose at that level, at a certain level the congregation has final authority, but the elders have an authority of wise leadership to make good proposals that people say, yeah, that's a good idea. And that's what I see happening in Acts chapter six. Now again, these are ideal examples of all of these. Congregational democracy and that's authority and decision makes in the congregation as a whole.

And again, I find that most churches that call themselves congregational aren't. You have congregational meetings and it's a vote of confidence on the pastor. And if you really disagree, the pastor is looking for a job or you're looking for a church. But especially in smaller churches or new church plans, many times it's really congregational, the whole congregation is making key decisions and they're doing it together with everybody invited to come.

And I find that can be a very helpful kind of way to have that wide involvement and there's real team involvement. So house churches many times end up being truly congregational. The whole group makes the decision. Just an example of elder led. We had the question come up in our church recently, well, it's been around for a long time, should we give the title pastor to women? And that's a huge emotional issue. We'll talk about that in a bit.

Our elder team, I was pro, I'll tell you why later, and a couple of the elders were too, but the elder team as a whole was negative. Now, that's a male role. And we went round and round this several times and through a particular incident that happened, we had the elder team come to a conclusion, oh, pastor, elder, not the same thing. We should give the pastor title to women and other non elders. But how did we do that?

See, in an elder rule, we would've made the decision, handed down to the congregation. What we did do is we made that decision, then we went to what we call lead, our leadership meeting that meets twice a year. There are 50 or 60 people in the room in our church. And we went to that group and said, hey guys, here's what we're thinking. We made a proposal, talked about what was involved with it, said, what do you guys think?

Not here's what we decided, what do y'all think about this proposal? There's quite a bit of discussion and the lead team thought, totally makes sense to us. Let's do it. What we didn't do is have an open meeting where we invited congregation to come and do the same kind of thing. Now, a lot of people wouldn't have come because they didn't really care. We didn't do that. And when we handed down, when we gave the title pastor to three women and six men who are not elders, there was, can we say a nuclear explosion of descent. It was brutal.

Then we called a congregational meeting, anybody who cares, come. We had maybe 150 people showed up and some angry folk. But trying to undo the descent was really difficult to do. We should have done that before we handed the title to the three women instead of after, in my view, as an elder led. But I think we would've done it. It wouldn't have been that people wouldn't disagree, but their voice would've been heard and they felt like they're included in the decision making.

And I think that's the best way to do it in our American society. If you're in a Korean society with a high power distance, it can be real different because they just don't do things that way. If you're in other places, which is very communitarian, there would be some differences in culture. But I actually think the elder led is a pattern that could be done wisely in most any culture. And I think that because that is the way I find the New Testament being described. That's where I would come out on these kinds of things. But where you come out on this, who actually makes the decision becomes a crucial, crucial question for church governance.

Is it the pastor? One person? Some pluses, efficient, clear if you've got a good pastor. Downside, huge weight on that one guy. Huge weight. Especially as the church grows, it becomes even more difficult. Some churches I know have an executive team. They have three people making this executive team. They have elders among them, they're making broader decisions, but the team, the executive team makes that decision. So it's a team rule. Our church, we have nine elders currently.

We've had fewer. We won't have many more. We may have 10, but we don't get larger than that. And the elders propose on bigger decisions and anybody can come and comment on those. We just had a lead meeting where we did some of that. So who actually makes the decision, then have that written into your constitution so it's clear it seems to me, because if you're not clear on who makes decisions, you're just setting yourself for misunderstanding and controversy.

So I think these should be made clear, but there are different philosophies. Study the strengths and weakness of each one and then make one that works well in your congregation. I think that's a really, really important thing to do.


Log in to take this quiz.