Elders in the SBC

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Elders in the SBC

Postby William Thornton » Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:54 pm

So, the estimable and avuncular Haruo almost attended Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, I think a GARB kind of Baptist, and certainly Calvinist and no doubt with Elders.

And ex-SBC, ex-ABC, now UMC Timothy asks about "lay elders" in SBC churches.

And CBF oriented (Alliance maybe?) BDW has never visited a small to medium sized SBC church with elders and only one smallish mega with such.

Ah, you guys are all sooooo out of touch with SBC stuff. Sandy sees elders in PA but did not so much down South or West.

This is a calvinist thing, of course, with a good chunk of grads of some of our seminaries self-identifying as Calvinists and Calvinist influence in the SBC is such that many Calvinist pastors are using the term, mostly for what they describe to be "leading" elders, those who preach, teach, etc., rather than "ruling" elders, those who have the authority formerly residing in the congregation. These may be church staff or not.

I would cast a wary eye at any SBC church that suddenly has elders. Often, in my wild conjecture of an opinion, this is a method to diminish the role of the deacon, or a route to moving power away from the congregation, but sometimes it's just a pastor who gets a burr in his saddle to change the terminology.

Memo to any SBC pastor search committee: Look very carefully at any candidate who prefers elders. You've likely got yourself a genuine Calvinist and ought to know it before you call the guy to be your pastor.

I've written several articles on this on my witty, insightful, and informative blog for those who care.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:11 pm

William Thornton wrote:Memo to any SBC pastor search committee: Look very carefully at any candidate who prefers elders. You've likely got yourself a genuine Calvinist and ought to know it before you call the guy to be your pastor.

I've written several articles on this on my witty, insightful, and informative blog for those who care.


Or you could be talking to an ex-Methodist. The two orders of Methodist clergy are Elders and Deacons. So the whole Presbyterian thing that SBCers seem to be interested in really confuses Methodists who assume an "Elder" is the pastor.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Jerry_B » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:00 pm

Don't like a church not being congregational in government, wouldn't go to one nor would I want to pastor one. Power to the people! It can be messy but I wouldn't have it any other way.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:37 pm

Jerry_B wrote:Don't like a church not being congregational in government, wouldn't go to one nor would I want to pastor one. Power to the people! It can be messy but I wouldn't have it any other way.


OK [/Begin soapbox speech - Please be warned. :wink: ]

Jerry I used to think that. But now it is very unlikely that I'd ever join a congregationalist church ever again for any reason.


Abuses of Congregationalism

I've seen congregationalism up close for a lot of years and a lot of what I saw wasn't pretty. I'm not saying that any system is perfect. But I've seen many abuses in congregationalism and congregational denominations in the name of autonomy. I've come to believe that some kind of representative form of church government be it Episcopal (as in my Church), Presbyterial, or something else that is representative of the larger church is necessary for the protection of the ministry of the church, its members, and its leaders.

Unchecked congregational government in the church can be a lot like each city in the state of Iowa making all its own laws so you might have the right to get married in Johnston and you don't in Des Moines just 5 miles away. It is too small a unit of representation. And because the the unit of representation is so small even if both churches call themselves "Baptist" they may believe many things that are totally opposite from each other. And if you never change churches and you like the one you are in you may be just fine with that. But if you ever try to move you may suddenly find that you don't fit in anywhere else. But beyond variations in church doctrinal beliefs there are other big problems.


The Need for Representative Governance

There is a reason that societies have representative governments. It is so that people actually have their rights protected in a consistant and meaningful way and so that you have the same rights and responsibilities from location to location. In congregational government the person(s) with the most money/power/or personality (be that a lay person or pastor) often runs the local church and there isn't any structure or leadership outside that local church that can do a thing about it.

Because congregational government is easily usurped it also can attract the kind of people who want that kind local unchecked power. And since each congregation makes it own rules there is no one to tell the local Baptist church that won't marry black people "you can't do that!" Or the congregation that won't ordain women that they have to. Or the congregation that says it "supports" women in ministry but never actually calls a woman pastor that they shouldn't or can't do it that way. Or the pastor that makes their pastor the "ruler of the church" that they are wrong. So such local power allows for myriad types of abuse and injustice.

Local Church Autonomy - Tough to Find in the Scriptures

Each little congregation being a law unto themselves in all things was never envisioned in the scriptures. You can see an almost presbyterial system in the Jerusalem Council deciding how the Gentile and Jewish Christians would relate to each other. You can see Paul acting a lot like a Bishop telling churches that he helped start that they had to follow the doctrines of the faith brought to them by the Apostles. But you honestly can't see churches going rogue and doing whatever they want in the New Testament, calling and hiring their own pastors, and then making their own rules and doctrines.

Local Autonomy Leads to No Pastoral Leadership or Too Much

Nor do I believe pastors working as hired hands of the individual congregation leads to the best atmosphere of pastoral leadership in many congregations. Congregational churches call/hire pastors so of course many tend to believe that the pastor isn't a spiritual leader, or even an equipper of the saints in ministry. She/he is a hired employee of the church paid to do the ministry for the church and follow the dictates of that local church's leadership. And so the pastor isn't there to represent her/his call to God he/she is there to take orders from the congregation or a faction within the congregation. They become the representatives of the will of the congregation they work for. And Lord help them if they stand in the pulpit and disagree with the wrong people in the church i.e. those who pay their salary. In many congregational churches the pastor has about as much authority as the custodian. She/he can be hired and fired for pretty much any reason or no reason at all. Often it is the more moderate or liberal churches that do this in the name of "power to the people."

Or often in more conservative churches you can have just the opposite situation where a local autonomous church so over empowers the pastor that he (and in this case it is almost alway a he) becomes the one person who calls all the shots in a church as long as he can hang on. So on one hand you have a pastor in one church with no leadership authority and in another church the pastor is king, all because of local autonomy.

Now I know my examples are extremes. But I've seen both extreme in Baptist churches that I know or have had a relationship with. And the percentage of churches that have the whole leadership piece out of balance I'm afraid is higher than we'd like to hope or believe.

Autonomy Made it Easy for the SBC Takeover

If Southern Baptists previously had a representative system of governance with binding church law and settled set of doctrines the SBC takeover could have never happened. But because the denomination literally could choose to entirely change it doctrines annually if it wanted to then you end up with a denomination that was moving towards supporting women that now doesn't, a denomination that used to lean moderate and now is clearly fundamentalist, all because a congregational system autonomy means "whatever we want to do."

I know Baptists hate the word "creed." But a moderate binding creed would have served the denomination a lot better for moderate Baptists than continued march to the far right that the SBC has made since the 1970s. Yep, you are free alright in the Baptist life, free to get stomped on. :brick:

No Real Freedom without Responsibility to Each Other

I believe some Baptists want "absolute freedom" so badly they are willing to take anarchy instead, rather than accept a lot freedom within a fair system. I'd rather have a fair system where everyone is following the same rules than a system without rules so I can say I'm "absolutely free" only to have my freedom taken away by someone who is willing to misuse their absolute freedom in the name of power.
[/end soapbox speech]

Feel free to lob things at me now. :wink:
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Jerry_B » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:12 am

Hard to argue with what you posted, but since I'm Baptist you know I will!

I'm a realist, no right thinking person could look at the history of congregational rule and see a nice neat package of church rule and governance. It is not the history however that draws me to congregational rule, though I must admit it is at the very least entertaining and heartbreaking all at the same time. I believe that the creativity and giftedness of each individual should have a voice in how things are done. This voice should be fully empowered to suggest and approve new and different things as well as the ability to say no, we aren't doing that.

I'm not saying other forms of church governance don't allow for some suggestion and implementation but do they have the power of no? For me this trumps the messiness and the sorted history of congregational rule because I truly believe it isn't freedom unless you have the freedom to say no. I'm sure it is my Baptist bias speaking but I just can't imagine not having a say in so many important decisions.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:17 am

Jerry_B wrote:Hard to argue with what you posted, but since I'm Baptist you know I will!


Jerry, Methodists like to argue too. :D I think I get what you mean about the right to say no. But my experience is that in the connectional churches the local church is run primarily by the lay people in that church. My congregation elects its own officers, decides on its own programs, adopts its own budget, determines its own mission programs etc. Yes there are some things they don't decide. But my experience is that it is in a smaller set of things than many congregationalists might think it is. And even in Baptist churches not every decision is passed on to the congregation as a whole. You have elected officers too that are empowered to make certain decisions on behalf of the church. Monthly business meetings in my experience was a southern thing. In the churches I've pastored in the ABC business sessions were no more than once a quarter or even once or twice a year.

My experience is that local churches (or church people) can even choose to violate their own bylaws and rules they've created for themselves again because there is no one to call them on the behavior.

Also I think we all can forget (in any denomination) that we aren't supposed to make decisions that are about what we want. We are supposed to make decisions that are about what Jesus wants. In that sense none of us is supposed to be "free." To me congregationalism often becomes freedom without responsibility.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Tue Oct 02, 2012 3:17 pm

Southern Baptists here in Western Pennsylvania tend to mingle with the other Baptist groups, and there's really not a clear identifying mark or division between Baptists of most stripes up here. GARBC would be the denomination with the most churches, followed by a number of independent, reformed Baptist churches. The swapping back and forth of members and leaders between the churches has put a strong Calvinist influence in many of the SBC churches, so they have elders. And since there is also some member crossover with Evangelical Presbyterians and Christian and Missionary Alliance churches as well, and they are elder-oriented, the Baptists tend to be similar.

I do not see any place in the order of the church in scripture where some kind of separate, "clerical" authority was granted to elders of the church. The Apostles were certainly a unique group of individuals with a very unique role, but most churches, once formed, did not have apostles, but elders and deacons. Pastors are elders, the two terms are used interchangeably, but I don't see a distinction in authority that separates some elders into a separate "clergy" class, while those who do not appear to draw their vocational service from the church are less in authority. In fact, this is leadership by spiritual giftedness, not leadership by title or authority. The elders "directed" the affairs of the church, preached, performed teaching responsibilities and handled the money. But it is clear all through the book of Acts that congregational authority was behind their leadership. When the deacons were selected, the scripture very clearly says that all the disciples were gathered together and consulted. Likewise in the case when the letter was sent from the Jerusalem church to Antioch. Churches gathered in houses, selected their leadership from within the group, and they exercised authority granted by the group. I do not see a distinction between "laity" and "clergy." That comes along later, not from Biblical origins, but from a time when the church was forming a heirarchy.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:55 pm

Sandy wrote:
I do not see any place in the order of the church in scripture where some kind of separate, "clerical" authority was granted to elders of the church.


So you are disagreeing with the 1925 BFM that made declared Elders/Bishops to be the same order of ministry? If so why? You seem to be saying that Elders are clergy and they aren't clergy in the above. Or, are you saying there is no such thing as clergy? You kind of lost me in the above post Sandy.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Tue Oct 02, 2012 7:28 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:
Sandy wrote:
I do not see any place in the order of the church in scripture where some kind of separate, "clerical" authority was granted to elders of the church.


So you are disagreeing with the 1925 BFM that made declared Elders/Bishops to be the same order of ministry? If so why? You seem to be saying that Elders are clergy and they aren't clergy in the above. Or, are you saying there is no such thing as clergy? You kind of lost me in the above post Sandy.


A bishop [overseer], is an elder, and is also referred to as a "shepherd" or "pastor," in fact, in I Peter 5 the same word is used in the same verse. But there is no distinction made between an elder who is a bishop, or overseer, and one who does something else in managing the affairs of the church. Bishops are elders, but not all elders are bishops. But along with Deacons, they are selected by the congregation from the congregation based on the exhibition of their spiritual gifts evidenced in the list of qualifications. They are chosen, or set aside by the congregation, and if there is a problem, they are rebuked by the congregation (I Tim.5::20). They do have authority to rule, but what I don't see is the separation of elders into a separate class of "clergy" as opposed to "laity." As church members met the qualifications, they could be called to serve.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:07 pm

Sandy wrote: Bishops are elders, but not all elders are bishops. But along with Deacons, they are selected by the congregation from the congregation based on the exhibition of their spiritual gifts evidenced in the list of qualifications. They are chosen, or set aside by the congregation, and if there is a problem, they are rebuked by the congregation (I Tim.5::20). They do have authority to rule, but what I don't see is the separation of elders into a separate class of "clergy" as opposed to "laity." As church members met the qualifications, they could be called to serve.


Sandy as far as I can tell in the new Testament Bishop and Elder are synonymous terms for clergy/Overseer and that is what Baptists taught. To me it muddies the water and really confuses the language of scripture to make out Elders to ever be laity. It seems to me that in Baptist historic usage (and Methodist as well) Elder is the term used for clergy and not laity ever because that follows the way the words are used in the New Testament meaning "Overseer."

Again, if you look at old Baptist annuals from the 17th century and you'll find the pastors exclusively were termed "Elder." Lay people were not listed as "Elder."

I see this as another example of what happens when a Church/Denomination has no foundational doctrines. You end up decades later asserting this just the opposite of what the denomination historically asserted in 1925 less than 100 years ago.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Blake » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:58 pm

Some Anabaptists had/have bishops/elders, preachers/ministers, and deacons/deaconesses. I've come to prefer their model over pure congregationalism for many of the reasons Timothy has already mentioned. As to Jerry's concern, this model didn't hamper their ability at all to say no and fracture.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby William Thornton » Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:06 am

A church which has a three tier, or three category, system of leadership - pastor, elders, and deacons - is clearly outside of the BFM. In cases I am familiar with churches retain deacons and have elders instead of a pastor or pastorstaff.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:31 am

William Thornton wrote:A church which has a three tier, or three category, system of leadership - pastor, elders, and deacons - is clearly outside of the BFM. In cases I am familiar with churches retain deacons and have elders instead of a pastor or pastorstaff.


William, in those cases where they have an "Elder" rather than "pastor" what is the difference? Do they have an entire board of Elders (a la Presbyterian) or do the have a single Elder who is basically the pastor with another title?

When Baptist churches have a board of Elders what function does the board of Deacons serve?
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Oct 03, 2012 8:40 am

BTW, if I understand my Presbyterian friends setup they have a Board of Elders "ordained" to that position. The pastor is considered the "Teaching Elder" and her/his ordination is different. United Methodists pastors are usually "ordained Elders", Deacon is actually a clergy position in the UMC often for people who don't ever want to be the lead pastor. Deacons usually cannot officiate communion or perform baptisms. Our Bishops are not a "third order." They are Elders who are elected to be Bishop and then consecrated to that role.

So I guess one of the questions is how you interpret in the New Testament what an "Elder"is. Baptists and Methodists certainly have seen "Elder" as the term for the pastor. The Roman Catholic Church and The Episcopal Church see "Elder" as synonymous with Priest/Pastor as well.

"Deacon" in the Episcopal Church, Catholic Church, and United Methodist Church is a clergy position but it is a lay person in the Baptist church and the Disciples Church among others.

Bishop is a third order of ordination in the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church but not in some other churches.

So there are several structural models for church leadership but if you end up adopted the theology of one of the above groups, as Baptists going Calvinist, you may also end up being attracted to their structure as well. Makes sense to me.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:23 am

There are only a few references to qualifying and choosing elders and deacons in the New Testament, but what is lacking in all of them is a specific instruction or example of separating the overseer, or Bishop, from "laity." Elders were called to service right out of the congregation they came from, and they were designated based on their qualifications. Paul tells Titus to "choose elders in all the towns," but in Timothy and Peter, the elders appear to be selected by the congregation based on the qualities he outlines in his epistle to them.

The clergy/laity distinction is an evolutionary practice that, for Protestants, is a holdover from the Catholic system that developed as the Bishop of Rome progressed and evolved from being simply a pastor, to being the infallible Vicar of Christ. So a special designation was needed to separate the elite from the common people in terms of ecclesiastical authority. For Baptists, and most other Evangelicals, there is no ecclesiastical class system with "clergy" or "laity," the designations are occupants of an "office" by virtue of meeting the scriptural qualifications and leadership ability, not by title or position. So pastors of Baptist churches are Elders, and by designation and qualification, others who serve the church vocationally in ministry, or voluntarily as the case may be, would be also. But they serve as members of the local body of believers, not as "clergy". Baptist churches are independent and autonomous, and if the pastor doesn't join the local church, there is no "church" structure to which he can belong outside of it.

Baptists, including Southern Baptists, do have foundational doctrines. They are rooted in a belief that the Bible is the written word of God, not that it "contains" the written word of God, and in the interpretation of it in its literal sense rendered by its historical context. There is wide acceptance of the idea that learning is progressive, and as the church moves forward and meets the challenges presented to it by shifts in culture, it is constantly evaluating its position and its relevance, as well as continually studying the scripture, and it is correcting itself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit as it moves forward. Those churches and denominations that are locked into doctrinal positions and practices which are only examined at the highest level of clerical authority, and depend on some kind of historical assertion have seen millions of church members leave because they are looking for significance and relevance in the practice of their faith, not some historical mile post marker that represents a faulty prior doctrinal position that wasn't open to examination or reflection because only the clergy can do that, and because their authority rests on prior interpretation, not on the scripture.

Being congregational is a part of this. If there is a separate clergy class, it isn't anywhere in the New Testament. In Acts, when the deacons were chosen, the entire assembly (Ecclesia) participated. In the Jerusalem council, when the final letter was drafted, the assembly (Ecclesia) again approved.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Haruo » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:26 am

Tim Bonney wrote:Baptists and Methodists certainly have seen "Elder" as the term for the pastor. The Roman Catholic Church and The Episcopal Church see "Elder" as synonymous with Priest/Pastor as well.

Yet the Catholics and many Baptists, unlike the Methodists and Episcopalians and some Baptists, ignore/deny the fact that there are female "Elders" mentioned in the Bible...
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:34 am

Tim Bonney wrote:
William Thornton wrote:A church which has a three tier, or three category, system of leadership - pastor, elders, and deacons - is clearly outside of the BFM. In cases I am familiar with churches retain deacons and have elders instead of a pastor or pastorstaff.


William, in those cases where they have an "Elder" rather than "pastor" what is the difference? Do they have an entire board of Elders (a la Presbyterian) or do the have a single Elder who is basically the pastor with another title?

When Baptist churches have a board of Elders what function does the board of Deacons serve?


I can only use an anectodal example, because I don't know of many Baptist churches with a "Board of Elders." Up here, in one nearby church, the Elders each have individual responsibility for one area of church ministry. The Pastor is preaching and teaching, and church administration. One Elder works with worship, the worship team and putting together the elements of a Sunday worship service. One Elder is in charge of the small groups which make up our discipleship training. One Elder works with the deacon body, which is responsible for ministry service, benevolence, and family ministry, and another Elder works with some of the deacons on outreach and evangelism, and external kinds of ministry.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:22 am

Sandy wrote: So pastors of Baptist churches are Elders, and by designation and qualification, others who serve the church vocationally in ministry, or voluntarily as the case may be, would be also. But they serve as members of the local body of believers, not as "clergy". Baptist churches are independent and autonomous, and if the pastor doesn't join the local church, there is no "church" structure to which he can belong outside of it.


Yes and no Sandy. I think most all of your Baptist experience has been SBC experience and it is a common mistake to assume the SBC way is "THE Baptist way" when it is "A Baptist way." The ABC has associational ordination councils or regional committees to examine clergy, and a national recognition system for clergy. General Baptists have a Presbytery that recognized clergy.

But even in the SBC I don't buy the idea that pastors are not "clergy" different from laity. That doesn't fit the SBC understanding of call to ministry I was taught in SBC schools and churches and it certainly doesn't fit my experience of ordination and being set aside for the preaching of the gospel ministry by a council of the ordained. Clergy are no better than laity. But clergy are different from laity in calling, in some cases in spiritual gifts at least if not in training and education.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:23 pm

I see the work of an elder as leadership in the various functions of the body of Christ. The way we do church now, in our culture, incorporates the use of vocational ministers, some on a full time basis, some bi-vocationally, to provide overall oversight of the ministry of the church, while there are others who are spiritually gifted as elders, who provide the same kind of spiritual leadership, but do it on a volunteer basis. And I don't think this is a limited calling, I think anyone with the spiritual gifts combinations needed for leadership can be called to serve a church as an elder. I believe the intention, as expressed in both instruction and example in the New Testament, was to open the door to as many elders within a body as were qualified according to the requirements that were laid down, not limited as a result of the size of the church. Paul speaks in terms of the church being a "body with many parts," and for each part to function as it is intended, it requires the leadership to work together, which means that there is an elder who oversees the whole ministry, and then elders who lead the various "body parts" in their work. Theological education in the early church was an in-house ministry, beginning with the apostles providing the teaching, and writing down what they were led to write by the Holy Spirit for further instruction. One of the problems I see with a "clergy class" is that people depend on them to "do church" for them, and tend not to include them in fellowship or build relationships with them because they are "different."

Here, in Western Pennsylvania, I am meeting, through my job, a large number of individuals who are pastors of churches, but who are either bi-vocational in terms of salary, or not paid by the church at all, but serve as the overseer, and primary teaching pastor. There are several congregations within a dozen miles of my school which have no building, and no paid ministry staff which meet together in a variety of locations, from the back rooms of Starbucks and Panera Bread restaurants, to Dairy Queens, movie theater auditoriums, and even homes. They have elders who share the leadership and oversight responsibilities, with one or two doing the teaching and preaching, and as far as I know, none of them have any formal education in Biblical studies or theology, though all of them are highly educated people with Masters' and doctorates. That's how I envision the early church, more or less, without the degrees, and what I see as coming down the road in the future.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:59 pm

For me Sandy being an "Elder" or "Pastor" has nothing to do with salary, bi-vocationalism etc. It has to do with calling by God, recognition of that calling by the Church and placement by the church (however your church does that) in a leadership role in the church. I believe that ordination for an Elder/Pastor is to certain kinds of roles. I don't believe either that the purpose of being an Elder is to do all the work the of the church. Pastors/Elders are equippers. We are there to help give order to the ministry of the church.

But I also do believe there is a unique calling in being a Pastor which includes a call to preach the gospel which includes a different kind of commitment in your personal and vocational life.

You seem to want, for whatever reason, to use "Elder" to describe all/many gifted leadership roles in the church. I don't think that fits the New Testament usage of Elder/Overseer/Pastor. Yes there are many gifted lay people who do many ministries in the church. But they aren't the Elder who has charge over the over all leadership of the church. The person who is the "Lead Pastor" is a different role than any of the other roles in the church.

It isn't our job to equalize the leadership roles. It is our job for each of us to answer the call that God gives us to whatever role we are called to.

I am called to preach. I have experienced that call in a very personal almost Damascus road kind of experience with God. I am as sure of the power of that call in my life as I am that the sun rises every morning. It is one of the things in my life I have absolutely no doubt about. And I know from experience that some people have experienced that call and others haven't. There is nothing wrong with them having not received a call. But if they haven't they shouldn't be in the ministry of leading a church as the pastor.

A good friend of mine in ministry once said to me "if you can be happy doing anything else other than preaching the gospel go do it. But if you are truly called by God to preach you will never be happy doing anything else." I have that kind of call. I've known since I was at least 17 years old that I was going to be a pastor and preacher. When churches have treated me well and, even when churches have treated me very badly, I have still known that I am called to preach the gospel. And I know I'll be preaching until my voice is still or the day I die, whichever comes first. I have no choice. As Paul said, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

If someone doesn't have a strong calling in their life to pastoral ministry, however they receive it, they aren't going to make it in this very taxing and stressful role. So we need to be very careful equating that call with just any other leadership position in the church. We only want the "called" to be leading our churches. We don't just want the curious or those looking for a job in the church because it is another job.

So I would much rather limit the term Pastor/Elder/Overseer to those who give that kind of lead role to the church. I think it is less confusing and less compromising to the knowledge that the call to a lifetime of pastoral ministry is different than the call of most other Christians whose call is worked out in other kinds of ministries of service in the church and the world.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Sandy » Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:13 am

I don't see the term "elder" as applying to all gifted members. I just don't see an example in scripture where it is limited to just preaching and teaching. There is an emphasis on that, those elders are considered worthy of "double honor" as Paul says, but there's no indication that setting aside and recognizing the leadership and qualifications of individuals who are called to serve as elders separates them from the "laity." It's not leadership by official authority, it is leadership by recognition of calling, gifts and qualifications, and it is servant leadership by Christ's example. The elders of the church have the calling to equip the church for ministry, which means that all of its members are supposed to be "ministers." The idea of separation of "clergy" and "laity" comes from the evolution and development of the position of the bishop of Rome into the papacy. In Protestant churches it is a modified remnant of Catholic hierarchy.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:25 am

Sandy wrote:The idea of separation of "clergy" and "laity" comes from the evolution and development of the position of the bishop of Rome into the papacy. In Protestant churches it is a modified remnant of Catholic hierarchy.


You keep saying that. But to say it you are skipping hundreds of years of development to what the Roman Catholic Church has now. In doing so you are making an assumption that the development at any time in the process was wrong. In the New Testament we have the very beginnings of the Church when the Church is first coming into existence. Why is that the be all and end all, the final development of what the church should be?

It is necessary and inevitable that the structure of the church would continue to change at least some as the faith becomes established and as the church decides what it needs to do ministry. It is a big assumption that the way the Church was in its first few years is the way it is always supposed to be. It took hundreds of years to develop into the kind of structure that the RCC has. That does not mean that the development of a more specific role for clergy is bad or unbiblical just because it wasn't already there in the beginning when the Church was just starting out and coalescing on day one.

I just don't see the total lack of separation between laity and clergy that you are arguing for in the New Testament. I see it as an new Evangelical hyper-individualism that seems to be rampant among conservative evangelicals and independent conservative churches.

BTW, I think you are disagreeing with all three versions of the BFM in your arguments. And that is fine. I'm not a Baptist either. But lets be honest here, you are making non-Baptist arguments about church leadership for Baptists. You would almost sound like a Presbyterian other than the fact that the Presbyterians also have a clear role for the Pastor as the Teach Elder even in the midst of their board of Elders who had final say in certain areas of church life.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Haruo » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:35 am

There are a lot of other churches that were never part of the Roman hierarchy or papal supremacy, but they almost all have a clergy/laity distinction similar to that found in the RCC, all except the top dog. Look at Ethiopia, the Nestorians, the Copts, etc., not to mention all the normal Greek-related Orthodox.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:51 am

Haruo wrote:There are a lot of other churches that were never part of the Roman hierarchy or papal supremacy, but they almost all have a clergy/laity distinction similar to that found in the RCC, all except the top dog. Look at Ethiopia, the Nestorians, the Copts, etc., not to mention all the normal Greek-related Orthodox.


That's a very interesting point Hauro!

Whatever you choose to call it, any organization of human beings needs leadership be that a committee chair, a club President, a CEO or whatever. I see the idea that there are no clergy very close to saying that the church has no leadership. IMHO that is a recipe for a church having no direction. Even if a church wants to rotate leadership regularly, have leadership by committee, etc. someone ultimately has to lead in certain functions or nothing would get done. Even clubs usually have a presiding officer even if that officer only holds office for a term.

Also there is another issue with the creation of clergy that I believe may have driven part of the development of that distinction. Besides calling there is the issue of education and training. If you want a good leader then you will want that leader to be trained and you are likely to want leaders who have gained experience leading. That lends itself to being a separate group of people who are trained to do that kind of leading so that you aren't always reinventing the leadership wheel.
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Re: Elders in the SBC

Postby linda » Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:46 pm

Mind a bit of a tweak from someone who is a "sister?"

Over and over I hear males telling us someone has to be in charge.

Might I suggest that is a man thing?

Groups of women often function quite well by consensus. Christian groups of women often combine that with Someone, not someone, being in charge.

Some of the younger more emergent Christians around here are absolutely turned off by discussions about someone having to be in charge, and who that can be.

So they are out and about winning the lost pretty effectively.

Tweaking over, and peace to all!
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