On December 6, 2009 I was called to be the Senior Pastor at Oak Park Baptist Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana. God has been kind to my family and me and our church-family over these last several years to do a good work in and through our church. I’m thankful and humbled by His goodness. One of the good works that has been done is our church’s transition from a senior pastor model to an elder-led model. This post will be a short explanation where we (Chase Sears and Nate Millican) will seek to answer the question “why transition a church to an elder-led model.”
Why make the transition?
First, we want to be directed and governed by what the Word says. To the degree that the Bible speaks to a particular truth or practice believers should work hard to understand it and live accordingly. Here are several passages that speak to the biblical warrant of an elder-led model:
- Acts 14:23 “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Elders is in the plural, while the church is in the singular.
- Later in Acts 15, specifically verse 2, 4, 6 and 22 we see the office of elder mentioned alongside the office of apostle. Specifically, in 15:2 an issue is presented to the apostles and elders for a resolution concerning Gentiles and the apparent need to get circumcised. Thus, we see that leadership lies with the apostles and elders.
- In Acts 20:17-38 Paul gives a farewell address to the Ephesian elders where he describes to them that their role is to oversee, teach, protect and care for the flock of God. Later as the apostles die we see elders taking the forefront of leading the church (1 Tim 3:1-7; 5:17-20; Titus 1:6-9; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-5)
- 1 Peter 5:1-5 describes elders as shepherds of the flock of God, who serve under the Chief Shepherd Jesus.
Second, there are many practical benefits to an elder-led model. Here are several:
- An elder-led model provides a democratic style of leadership as opposed to an autocratic style. Further, we see from the Proverbs that there is safety in a multitude of counselors (11:14) and that plans will succeed with a multitude of counselors (15:22).
- An elder-led model provides shared ownership in decision-making, as well as successes and failures. As a result, the direction and vision of the church does not rest on one man’s shoulders, but is carried by a multitude of qualified, Holy Spirit set-apart men.
- An elder-led model affords the church to benefit from multifaceted giftedness of a multitude of pastors.
In the next post I’ll seek to answer the question of “how to make the transition to an elder-led model.” We’ll do so by sharing some several insights, as well as some principles and practices that are indispensable in making such a transition.
By Chase Sears and Nate Millican