Elders Rule! But Congregations Decide

"They understand 'ruling' to mean that elders make decisions for the congregation, and they understand 'obeying' to mean that the congregation knuckles under to those elder-made decisions. The question is whether this construal really does justice to the evidence."
Elders Rule! But Congregations Decide

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dgszweda's picture

I would say that most conservative evangelicals that lean towards elders, are more aligned with elder led than elder ruled.  Maybe I am in left field, but of those I interact with, it is more predominately elder led.  With that said, I think that most people ignore the fact that in churches without elders, there are a significant number that are deacon ruled.  Much more than most baptist would like to admit.  Sure on paper it is congregational in polity, but in reality (where the rubber meets the road), many deacons have reached well beyond a biblical role, and have deacon boards or other types of government institutions that are ruling the church in a myriad of ways.

James K's picture

Apparently research is simply a title in some employment capacities.  Yet another word salad that failed to represent what he was arguing against.  There is just so much wrong.  The same errors were repeated.  Saying something over and over is an attempt to make it true I suppose.  After correcting the previous installments, I am afraid this is another case of why bother.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Jim's picture

James K wrote:

Apparently research is simply a title in some employment capacities.  Yet another word salad that failed to represent what he was arguing against.  There is just so much wrong.  The same errors were repeated.  Saying something over and over is an attempt to make it true I suppose.  After correcting the previous installments, I am afraid this is another case of why bother.

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josh p's picture

dgszweda wrote:

I would say that most conservative evangelicals that lean towards elders, are more aligned with elder led than elder ruled.  Maybe I am in left field, but of those I interact with, it is more predominately elder led.  With that said, I think that most people ignore the fact that in churches without elders, there are a significant number that are deacon ruled.  Much more than most baptist would like to admit.  Sure on paper it is congregational in polity, but in reality (where the rubber meets the road), many deacons have reached well beyond a biblical role, and have deacon boards or other types of government institutions that are ruling the church in a myriad of ways.

This has been my observation as well. The deacons function as elders. Also of the elder led churches I have been a member of the congregation had as much (if not more) say in decisions than at the single elder/congregational church. I am sure there are many churches that this is not so. I am only talking about my experience.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I have struggled to understand the expectation of scripture that elders rule well. It seems like we are doing mental gymnastics here with the word rule in the article. Dave Doran recently wrote on the same topic and included this excerpt about the meaning of rule:

The word translated rule “is used here of one who has been placed before, or at the head of the church, and who has responsibility in that position both to ‘rule, lead, or direct’ and to ‘be concerned for and care for’ the church” (George W. Knight III, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], p. 232).

Notice the and in that definition, there is both authority and influence in the word rule. I think there must be some middle ground between a dictator and the powerless "influence" Dr. Bauder describes. One extreme eliminates the congregation altogether, but the other seems to eliminate any authority from the "rule" of the elder leaving the congregation essentially autonomous.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

josh p wrote:

 

dgszweda wrote:

 

I would say that most conservative evangelicals that lean towards elders, are more aligned with elder led than elder ruled.  Maybe I am in left field, but of those I interact with, it is more predominately elder led.  With that said, I think that most people ignore the fact that in churches without elders, there are a significant number that are deacon ruled.  Much more than most baptist would like to admit.  Sure on paper it is congregational in polity, but in reality (where the rubber meets the road), many deacons have reached well beyond a biblical role, and have deacon boards or other types of government institutions that are ruling the church in a myriad of ways.

 

 

This has been my observation as well. The deacons function as elders. Also of the elder led churches I have been a member of the congregation had as much (if not more) say in decisions than at the single elder/congregational church. I am sure there are many churches that this is not so. I am only talking about my experience.

I agree. Most Baptist churches are influenced by the pastor but led by the deacons. And, you can throw in another unauthorized group to the mix in many churches as well, which is the church board. This is often an independent group from the deacons who also exercise authority in the body. I see scriptural support for pastoral and congregational authority at work in the corporate body of believers, but no other leadership entity in the church. The deacon's role is not to provide a counterbalance to the pastor' that's the congregation's role. Too many deacons want to function like elders, and too many churches lack true deacons altogether. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

James K's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

I think there must be some middle ground between a dictator and the powerless "influence" Dr. Bauder describes.

Three pointed at the buzzer...swish!

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Ron Bean's picture

"Deacon (or Board)  led/ruled is a fact not often discussed in Baptist circles. It is not unusual to see deacons acting like elders and trustees acting like deacons. It is interesting to see what happens when some deacons hear a "Deacons have no authority in a local church" sermon. That kind of talk can get a pastor fired.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hey brothers, long time. Trust you are richly blessed in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ - !

Remember years ago we argued this topic back and forth (http://sharperiron.org/article/congregational-voting-biblical)?

Problem for Kevin and all you brothers who believe in congregational decisionalism is what Chip mentions above: "I see scriptural support for pastoral and congregational authority at work in the corporate body of believers, but no other leadership entity in the church." Given what you see, you're right, Chip. Ultimately though, who submits to whom?

The New Testament gives many precepts and examples for eldership, but advocates of congregational rule can only point to examples, usually Acts 6 and Acts 15. Yet both texts are better explained, imo, apart from votes.

But for the sake of argument, let's say Kevin is 100% correct in all he say and in his interpretation of all biblical texts. Let's also agree 100% with Kevin, that eldership churches are oppressive and led by men who crave domination (see his use of 1 Peter 5:3, for example).

Still, even if Kevin is perfectly true, the right way to develop the New Testament's own teachings is to examine its doctrines and practices that are clearly taught in both precept and example. That way we aren't carried along with every wind of doctrine like speaking in tongues, head coverings, and snake handling.

And since congregationalism has no NT precept (like those three practices), it fails this humble test.

Jim's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

And since congregationalism has no NT precept ...

Please list the process steps explaining how you became the pastor of your church. Thanks (I may have some very practical follow on questions)

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jim wrote:

 

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

And since congregationalism has no NT precept ...

 

 

Please list the process steps explaining how you became the pastor of your church. Thanks (I may have some very practical follow on questions)

Jim - why? Just get to the questions. The New Testament is an open book.

Jim's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

Jim wrote:

 

 

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

And since congregationalism has no NT precept ...

 

 

Please list the process steps explaining how you became the pastor of your church. Thanks (I may have some very practical follow on questions)

 

 

Jim - why? Just get to the questions. The New Testament is an open book.

OK .. who appointed you the Pastor?

Ted Bigelow's picture

In my case, it was sort of myself who "appointed" me. Then I, along with congregational testing and approval, appointed the other elders within several weeks. They have as much authority as I; I have no more than they. 

As for my appointment, not a good way to do it, but a horribly sin-filled group of men and women caused it. We had about 100 people who left a church and no one was questioning me as to whether I was qualified. We had about 20 men who had been extensively trained to evaluate church leadership by 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1. That in small part caused the split.

Here's my position, though. If I had been less-than qualified my actions would have been high-handed sin against Jesus Christ. As for the other men who became elders, they were appointed by the qualification of Scripture. That process - how we did what we did - is probably what you want to evaluate/test for its merits. Good for you. May your tribe increase, Jim.

So too, when a congregation votes a man into pastorate/eldership/diaconate who is not qualified, it is the same high handed sin against Jesus Christ. The vote doesn't qualify a man to serve Jesus Christ any more than watching a Superman movie qualifies a man to fly.

GregH's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

In my case, it was sort of myself who "appointed" me. 

Here's my position, though. If I had been less-than qualified my actions would have been high-handed sin against Jesus Christ. 

I ask this sincerely. How do you know you are not "less than qualified"?

Ted Bigelow's picture

GregH wrote:

 

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

In my case, it was sort of myself who "appointed" me. 

Here's my position, though. If I had been less-than qualified my actions would have been high-handed sin against Jesus Christ. 

 

 

I ask this sincerely. How do you know you are not "less than qualified"?

 

Greg - why do you ask?

James K's picture

Ted, you rightly judged the exegetical skills in the presentation.  You should have seen the other ones before it.  It would at least help explain why it was as far off base as it was.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Jim's picture

James K wrote:

Ted, you rightly judged the exegetical skills in the presentation.  You should have seen the other ones before it.  It would at least help explain why it was as far off base as it was.

We've yet to judge your exegetical skills, because you've not yet put forth your ecclesiology

A request that I submitted earlier:

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DavidO's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
In my case, it was sort of myself who "appointed" me. 

Actually, if you're a real pastor and not an hireling, then Jesus appointed you.  A congregational vote or, as perhaps in your case, the congregation's acceptance of you in that position would have or actually confirmed that divine appointment. 

This isn't that hard.

GregH's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

GregH wrote:

 

 

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

In my case, it was sort of myself who "appointed" me. 

Here's my position, though. If I had been less-than qualified my actions would have been high-handed sin against Jesus Christ. 

 

 

I ask this sincerely. How do you know you are not "less than qualified"?

 

 

 

Greg - why do you ask?

I am a bit surprised that you don't want to answer questions about your own experience in being appointed to/accepted by your church since you obviously have very specific ideas about how it should be done. I may be wrong but what you describe above about your own situation breaks your own rules.

But leave all that aside. I am just very curious about how you know you are qualified to know if you are qualified to be a pastor. That is very interesting.

Rob Fall's picture

It looks to me your case is closer to that of a church planter.  This as church planters go into an area and start a church from scratch without the benefit of a preexisting formal set of elders.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ted Bigelow's picture

Rob Fall wrote:

It looks to me your case is closer to that of a church planter.  This as church planters go into an area and start a church from scratch without the benefit of a preexisting formal set of elders.

Hi Rob,

We had elders within a few weeks, but only because we had several qualified men. Sometimes we can forget 1 Tim. 3:6, "not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." It's a disservice to a young believer to put them in leadership, no matter what the polity.

jhorneck3723's picture

While I do hold to congregational authority, I'm concerned that the article over-limits the pastors ruling function. προί̈στημι is also used in the qualifications when dealing with the pastor's family responsibilities. If the role of a father in "ruling/managing" his home is analogous to the pastor's role "ruling/managing" the church, can we really say that he is "ruling/managing" only through teaching and example? I'm sure we would agree that a father has a greater authority than teaching/example! If a pastor is fulfilling a similar role to a father, he must also be doing more than leading through teaching and example.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

jhorneck3723 wrote:

While I do hold to congregational authority, I'm concerned that the article over-limits the pastors ruling function. προί̈στημι is also used in the qualifications when dealing with the pastor's family responsibilities. If the role of a father in "ruling/managing" his home is analogous to the pastor's role "ruling/managing" the church, can we really say that he is "ruling/managing" only through teaching and example? I'm sure we would agree that a father has a greater authority than teaching/example! If a pastor is fulfilling a similar role to a father, he must also be doing more than leading through teaching and example.

This has been my struggle in this conversation. It seems like we are taking words with clear definitions in scripture and redefining them in the specific case of elders. Words like rule and obey cannot mean two different things simply because we don't like the implication the usual definition carries in this particular context. I have not yet seen a justification provided from scripture to understand these words differently in relation to the elder than we do for every other instance of their use.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Rob Fall's picture

Who said anything about the church planter being a novice?  The ones I know personally spent time (years) in established churches before starting their plants.  Further, I know of men who were serial church planters.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

Rob Fall wrote:

 

It looks to me your case is closer to that of a church planter.  This as church planters go into an area and start a church from scratch without the benefit of a preexisting formal set of elders.

 

 

Hi Rob,

We had elders within a few weeks, but only because we had several qualified men. Sometimes we can forget 1 Tim. 3:6, "not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil." It's a disservice to a young believer to put them in leadership, no matter what the polity.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ted Bigelow's picture

Who said anything about the church planter being a novice?  The ones I know personally spent time (years) in established churches before starting their plants.  Further, I know of men who were serial church planters.

Only was saying church planters, in their zeal for leaders, are tempted to see other men appointed who are too young for the office.

I too love church planting, where churches are not yet planted. I hope you enjoy this: "Planting Schism"

 

Rob Fall's picture

Ted, please understand I write as a Californian.  The Golden State is so church poor and\or Biblically illiterate.  Schisms are the least of our worries.
 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ted Bigelow's picture

Rob Fall wrote:

Ted, please understand I write as a Californian.  The Golden State is so church poor and\or Biblically illiterate.  Schisms are the least of our worries.
 

 

I'd like to be in CA right now! Dealing with about 15" of the white stuff Smile

 

Must agree with you, brother, about church poverty and biblical illiteracy. Question is, are you helping, or hindering?

If schism is the least of your worries, why does Paul take the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians to deal with it? It was more important than all the other problems in that church. Know why?

So a little quiz for you to see who owns the illiteracy. How many churches are there where you live, and how many are needed?

The Bible has a definite number. Do you know it?

Jim's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
How many churches are there where you live, and how many are needed?

The Bible has a definite number. Do you know it?

Is it Pi?

 

Rob Fall's picture

In Northern San Mateo County, 15 miles south of San Francisco.  I've been a member of and active in Hamilton Square Baptist Church of San Francisco http://hamiltonsquare.net founded in 1881.  With its large and varied population, my immediate region could use at least 12 more good churches.

Ted Bigelow wrote:

 

Rob Fall wrote:

 

Ted, please understand I write as a Californian.  The Golden State is so church poor and\or Biblically illiterate.  Schisms are the least of our worries.
 

 

 

 

I'd like to be in CA right now! Dealing with about 15" of the white stuff Smile

 

Must agree with you, brother, about church poverty and biblical illiteracy. Question is, are you helping, or hindering?

If schism is the least of your worries, why does Paul take the first 4 chapters of 1 Corinthians to deal with it? It was more important than all the other problems in that church. Know why?

So a little quiz for you to see who owns the illiteracy. How many churches are there where you live, and how many are needed?

The Bible has a definite number. Do you know it?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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