Recently, I’ve encountered a few articles on the leaders of local churches. N.T. Wright put together a great article on why he is opposed to homosexuals being ordained to the ministry, and Jimmy Carter discussed leaving the Southern Baptist Convention over the issue of equality for women in ministry.
I encountered these articles more as a writer for www.examiner.com but they got the gears moving in conjunction with my own preparation to lead our church into revising our constitution and by-laws. We have recently completed a model of leadership that we believe is reflective of the biblical teachings of a a male-led (but not dominated) church government.
In our egalitarian society which seems so focused on redefining justice as “everyone gets the same thing and can do the same stuff”, how should the church be led? Who should lead it?
Let me first begin with the statement we ultimately created in our ruling documents for our local church:
We unashamedly declare ourselves to be followers of Jesus Christ, united under His authority and the authority of his original, chosen apostles who gave us the New Testament as a standard for faith and practice as a church. (“Articles of Faith and Practice”)
The congregation of members shall be the final temporal authority within the local church, under the eternal authority of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. This authority shall be normally exercised through the election of officers who govern and serve the church. (“Constitution”, Article IV, Section 1)
The leadership of the church shall be vested in the Elders who are responsible for governing the church, teaching the Word of God and tending the flock of God in this church. The elders shall be equal in authority buy specialized in function. All vocational pastors shall be elders, as outlined in the By-Laws of the church. (“Constitution”, Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph A)
Qualifications and Work of the Elders: Elders and nominees for Elder shall be qualified for the office as specified in the Bible. We believe the eldership is reserved for godly men. [1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4]. (“By-Laws of Heritage Baptist Church, Article II, Section 2)
You can read the entire section on church governance in our ruling documents here.
Briefly stated, we believe that the church is first and foremost God’s. God is the sovereign over all and determines the order of everything. Second, the church is Jesus’ body. He is our head, speaking to us through His Spirit. Third, Jesus established the Apostles who lead the church through the New Testament, which was given to them by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In human terms, the church congregation listens to the Spirit’s direction (through Scripture and prayer) and chooses qualified elders to lead them. Among these elders, a single elder is chosen as the ‘senior pastor’ – the first among equals. The plurality and the choice of a single, vocational elder as the first among equals is vital for rule as a community.
We will be exploring this more in depth during our Sunday worship gathering. Make sure you check it out!