The Head of the Church Knows Best: Benefits of Having a Team of Elders
In the first church I served as a pastor, I was the only elder.1 I was in that position for nearly five years.
Since 2007, I’ve served as one elder on a team of elders. In the 1990s, I became convinced biblically that this is God’s design for each local church — to be led by multiple qualified elders (cf. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). I’ll not argue for that here. I simply want to list some of the benefits of a church having a plurality of elders leading instead of a sole pastor.
It expands pastoral care.
It makes up for each elder’s weaknesses.
It takes the pressure off of just one man when major decisions have to be made, difficult judgments are required, or strategic vision has to be cast.
It protects against authoritarianism.
It increases the confidence of the church members in the leadership.
It provides a stronger defense against false teaching.
It protects individual elders from slipping into bad methods, and even worse, false teaching.
It protects against “pastor worship.”2
It promotes continuity of leadership if an elder steps down, leaves, or dies.
It protects against burnout.
It provides an example to the church of love, cooperation, and unity.
It provides pastors for each pastor.
Many more benefits could be listed. These twelve not only should strengthen our resolve to continue to implement the Lord’s design in our churches, but they’re also a reminder that Christ, the Head of the Church, always knows what is best for his people.
“Elders,” “pastors,” and “overseers” refer to the same group of men in a local church — cf. Acts 20:17, 28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:1-3; Titus 1:5, 7
Churches with a “plurality of elders,” but still with a “pastor,” remain vulnerable to this. I would urge rethinking the idea of having a “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” and instead work for parity among the elders. This will involve restructuring the church’s meetings and leadership expectations in some ways, and even rethinking the finances of the church related to “honoring” its elders (see 1 Timothy 5:17, which isn’t arguing for two types of elders, but is addressing how believers “honor” those elders who “work hard at preaching and teaching” — what they all should be doing).
Originally published on CCWtoday.org on Oct. 9, 2019 by Steve Burchett