Christ said that he would build his church, but he doesn’t raise up saints from stones. He uses means. And the means by which he strengthens, purifies, and corrects churches are godly elders who preach the gospel, teach the Scriptures, and call out error.
This is what we find instructed by Paul in Titus 1:5 and church history is filled with stories of godly men who have been used by God to bring about reformation and revival! May God be pleased to raise up more of these godly elders and may more elder/pastor/overseers be willing to remain in their churches to see this sort of reformation take place.
There is good reason to be optimistic, even in these times of growing hostility toward Christians, Christ and the cross. I came of age, if you will, in the late 70s. If you had told me then that the top commentaries in the next century would argue for Pauline authorship of the so-called pastoral epistles, I may have looked at you as if you were a bit nutty and certainly out of touch with the academic world. And, if I had known back in 1987 that I would be finding these kinds of posts, articles, books, and resources about elders1, I may have broken down in tears of joy and relief: Our church embraced plural leadership by a body of elders because we saw it as Biblical and not to be trendy. I am not exaggerating when I say they treated us like we were crazy. Many of our Christian friends seemed to think we’d gone off the deep end or were involved in some kind of cult. Pastors and leaders indicated that they were aware of “those passages,” but were quick to remind us, “plural leadership doesn’t work.” But, more about that in a later post.
A lot has changed since then. And there are plenty of resources for churches transitioning to plural leadership or planting. Here are just a few places to start:
Biblical Eldership – This book by Alexander Strauch played a major role in this shift
- The New Testament uses the terms <em>elder</em>, <em>pastor/shepherd</em>, <em>overseer/bishop </em> interchangeably. This NT vocabulary serves to illustrate or emphasize the character and functions of the leader(s) in local Christian communities. So, when I speak of elders, pastors, or overseers on this blog I am referring to the same leaders within a church – <em>an elder is a pastor and an overseer.</em> [↩]