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Who Leads the Church? Plurality of Elders

Who should lead a church? One pastor? A pastor and deacon? The congregation? Dr. Dan Wallace, NT Scholar at Dallas Seminary gives an extremely convincing case that for the NT Church a plurality of Elders was the standard. He writes: 

The case for plurality of elders can be argued along four lines: biblical, historical, theological, and pragmatic. At bottom, I would say that the reason the scriptures teach multiple eldership is at least twofold: (1) mutual accountability is necessary if leaders are to avoid falling into sin; and (2) a church takes on the personality of its leader/s: if there is just one leader, the church will inevitably take on that man's personality, including his quirks and faults. But if more than one person leads the church, there is the greater chance that the church will be balanced.

Under his first point of Biblical arguments he notes:

The consistent pattern in the NT is that every church had several elders.

Note the following texts (where either elder or bishop is used):

Acts 11:30--elders at the church of Antioch

Acts 14:23--Paul and Barnabas appoint "elders in every church"

Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4--elders at the church in Jerusalem

Acts 20:17, 28--elders/bishops at the church of Ephesus (v. 17--"elders of the church")

Acts 21:18--elders at the church in Jerusalem

Phil 1:1--the church at Philippi has bishops and deacons

1 Tim 5:17--elders at the church of Ephesus

Titus 1:5--Titus is to appoint elders in every town7

Jas 5:14--"the elders of the church"

1 Pet 5:1-2--"the elders among you"8

In every one of these texts the plain implication is that each church had several elders.

Note also that other more generic terms are also used of church leaders. The pattern once again is that there are several leaders for each church:

1 Thess 5:12, 13--the congregation is to respect its leaders9

Heb 13:7, 17--heed the leaders of the church, "for they are keeping watch over your souls" (v. 17)10

The evidence is overwhelming.

He concludes: 

Thus, the case of multiple elders in the local church is solidly based on biblical, historical, and pragmatic reasons. By having several leaders, the church is more able to take on the personality of Christ rather than the idiosyncracies of any one man.

You can read all his Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pragmatic arguments HERE. 

 

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