Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Expectations, Fears, and Hopes: Part 4

I'm finally getting around to this post. This is part four in a series of post that I've been thinking about lately in respect to the expectations of pastors. You can read the first three here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

In this post, I want to quickly show that God expects the elders to rule the church. I am probably less congregational that many of my friends (even though I'm in a very congregational church!), but I want to look at Scripture for this. Before I do, however, I do believe the congregation should be involved with many significant issues within the church. When it comes down to it, however, I still believe there is authority, much authority, given to the elders.

To deny that there is some form of ruling aspect given to the elders is hard to do since Paul tells Timothy, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (2 Timothy 5:17). Some would argue that the way they rule is through preaching and teaching. That is certainly true and is important. In the last post I stated that the primary calling for the elders is the ministry of the Word. However, I do not think that is the extent of their authority. In Hebrews 13:17 the author tells the saints to "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account." To deny that a great deal of authority have been given to the elders is very difficult when one just reads the New Testament text.

It could be misunderstood here, so I want to be clear about something. One of the reasons many people object to this is that they are in a single elder church and this seems odd dangerous to give one elder this kind of authority. I understand that, which is why I think it's important to have a plurality of elders (who are qualified) as soon as possible. It is also important to stress that these elders are qualified! If they are not, they will mislead the church or take advantage of that leadership and authority. This too will leave a bad taste in the mouth of the congregation and will be unhelpful at best.

Elders who are qualified will take seriously the charge that Peter gives in 1 Peter 5:1-5:
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposed the proud but gives grace to the humble."

A church with a plurality of humble, godly elders, and a church who submits to them and follows their authority, will honor Christ and live for the glory of God.

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