“If the NT required multiple pastors for every church, this passage would have said so – but it does not.”

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TylerR's picture

Editor

Overmiller sounds like he's trying to find reasons to not follow the descriptive norm in the NT. Bauder made similar arguments in his Baptist polity book. I get it; I just find the reasoning for denying two elders unconvincing. We just called another elder where I pastor, and I would never put myself in a situation where I was a solo pastor. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

 I just find the reasoning for denying two elders unconvincing.

He is not really denying multiple elders, is he? He affirms their existence in the NT. His point is about requirements. He is arguing that the NT does not require multiple elders. 

josh p's picture

With respect to the 1 Tim. 3:2 passage, I found Wallace’s argument convincing that the word was used generically. In chapter 2 verse 11 and 12 “woman” is also used singularly when Paul is giving instructions to women. I don’t think that he means one woman or that it precludes the necessity of Paul speaking to every woman.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Perhaps.  I don't think that possibility can be ruled out entirely.  Still, doesn't it seem strange that "deacons", in the same passage is plural, whereas "bishop" is singular?  Does that imply a deliberate distinction between the requirement of singular and plural respectively?

G. N. Barkman

TOvermiller's picture

TylerR wrote:

Overmiller sounds like he's trying to find reasons to not follow the descriptive norm in the NT. Bauder made similar arguments in his Baptist polity book. I get it; I just find the reasoning for denying two elders unconvincing. We just called another elder where I pastor, and I would never put myself in a situation where I was a solo pastor. 

Tyler, you are correct that Bauder makes a similar point, which I (unlike you) have found to be insightful.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TOvermiller's picture

Larry wrote:

He is not really denying multiple elders, is he? He affirms their existence in the NT. His point is about requirements. He is arguing that the NT does not require multiple elders. 

You are correct. I am not denying multiple elders and I am affirming their existence in the NT. And yes, I am making a case that the NT does not *require* multiple elders.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TOvermiller's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Doesn't it seem strange that "deacons", in the same passage is plural, whereas "bishop" is singular?  Does that imply a deliberate distinction between the requirement of singular and plural respectively?

That's why I am emphasizing this point (as Bauder does).

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TOvermiller's picture

P&D will be posting two more installments (one Thu, one Fri) that continue what I've introduced in this one.

  • Thursday's post will address the group leader dynamic, the problem of domineering leaders, and pastoral accountability.
  • Friday's post will address congregational accountability, congregational decision making, and the spiritual fitness of a congregation

There may also be a fourth post next week that addresses paid vs. unpaid pastors and various related factors.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm looking forward to reading the rest. I respect folks who don't see the need to make dual elders a requirement. I just disagree! No worries.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TOvermiller's picture

TylerR wrote:

I'm looking forward to reading the rest. I respect folks who don't see the need to make dual elders a requirement. I just disagree! No worries.

No worries at all brother!

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Don Johnson's picture

The next posts (there are three, actually) are spread out over the next few weeks.

We aim to keep people coming back!

And in Thomas'  defense, as noted, he is not being dogmatic on this point. Neither is the Bible. This first article begins to outline the data, then Thomas explores other angles as we go along.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

He seems to admit this passage is silent on numbers, but then makes a claim as to what that silence means. 

I don't think he is admitting the passage is silent on numbers. His point in the preceding paragraph is that there is a number: one by virtue of the singular.

From beginning to end, it describes this role in a singular way. The word bishop is singular not plural. The same is true for all the following referents, descriptions, verbs, and pronouns. These all refer to a single pastor, not multiple ones.

In contrast to deacons:

In fact, this contrasts markedly with the way that Paul refers to deacons in a plural way in the following verses, saying “deacons” and referring to them with plural words afterwards.

Dan Miller's picture

Just because you say, “contrasts markedly,” doesn’t mean it does contrast markedly.

If I tell my son, “If you want to be a soccer player you have to practice, practice, practice.” And he walks away and says, “Dad used singular - ‘soccer player.’ So obviously a team can consist of just one player.” Then he didn’t get the point and what he did get he misunderstood.

EDIT: I am not saying this is a cut and dried explicit matter. 

TOvermiller's picture

Larry wrote:

He seems to admit this passage is silent on numbers, but then makes a claim as to what that silence means. 

I don't think he is admitting the passage is silent on numbers. His point in the preceding paragraph is that there is a number: one by virtue of the singular.

From beginning to end, it describes this role in a singular way. The word bishop is singular not plural. The same is true for all the following referents, descriptions, verbs, and pronouns. These all refer to a single pastor, not multiple ones.

In contrast to deacons:

In fact, this contrasts markedly with the way that Paul refers to deacons in a plural way in the following verses, saying “deacons” and referring to them with plural words afterwards.

From a contextual perspective, Paul refers to the pastor as singular and the deacons in a plural form. At the very least, this numerical distinction between the two allows for a single pastor and does not require multiple. A key to understanding my point is the distinction between the two within the same context.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TOvermiller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

If I tell my son, “If you want to be a soccer player you have to practice, practice, practice.” And he walks away and says, “Dad used singular - ‘soccer player.’ So obviously a team can consist of just one player.” Then he didn’t get the point and what he did get he misunderstood.

Dan, I think I know what you are trying to say, but I'm not sure that your analogy accomplishes that.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Dan Miller's picture

My point is that it is possible and normal to speak about a person in a role using singular terms, even when such a person, acting in his official capacity within that role, will act as one of a group of others of the same role.

TOvermiller's picture

Dan Miller wrote:

My point is that it is possible and normal to speak about a person in a role using singular terms, even when such a person, acting in his official capacity within that role, will act as one of a group of others of the same role.

I agree! By designating pastor by a singular form, Paul allows for multiple pastors, but he does not require multiple pastors by doing so. He allows for a single pastor, too Wink

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

Dan Miller's picture

TOvermiller wrote:

 

Dan Miller wrote:

 

My point is that it is possible and normal to speak about a person in a role using singular terms, even when such a person, acting in his official capacity within that role, will act as one of a group of others of the same role.

 

 

I agree! By designating pastor by a singular form, Paul allows for multiple pastors, but he does not require multiple pastors by doing so. He allows for a single pastor, too Wink

I agree that this passage allows either view:

  1. Plurality only (or very much preferred) (my view)
  2. Single pastor (and more as needed, but one “senior” or “head”)

This passage (1Tim3) only tells us what the qualifications for elders are.  

But I don’t agree that this passage insists that either is ok. 

And IF Paul had used pleural grammar, “elders,” that would not prove that a single elder is disorderly. Like I could say qualifications for mayors are x, y, z - but each town has one.

Dan Miller's picture

Good one.

G. N. Barkman's picture

But if, in the same paragraph, you said "qualifications for mayor" and then added "qualifications for council members," most readers would probably conclude that you were thinking of the office of mayor in a singular sense, and office of council member as a normally plural situation.  No small wonder then, that some find that same pattern implied in I Timothy 3 for the bishop and deacons.

In truth, I am an advocate for a plurality of elders, but like so many issues, those who insist on this as a requirement are pushing their agenda too hard.  The I Timothy 3 passage should slow them down a bit.

G. N. Barkman

TOvermiller's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

In truth, I am an advocate for a plurality of elders, but like so many issues, those who insist on this as a requirement are pushing their agenda too hard.  The I Timothy 3 passage should slow them down a bit.

Well stated.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TOvermiller wrote:

Dan Miller wrote:

... pleural grammar ...

Plural Smile

That's what happens when people with a medical education participate! Smile

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

It is tough, Greg, to read something like 1 Tim 3 without prejudice when you have already a view in mind, as I admittedly do. But even your description of how singularity might be specified is, “most readers would probably conclude.” 

I want to address the word “required” in the tile of this thread. Yesterday I said:

1. Plurality only (or very much preferred)

And I have been stewing over what should go in those parentheses. Perhaps “expected” or “maturity” better conveys the idea. I certainly wouldn’t want to claim that you’re not a church if you only have one pastor. 

To my reading, the New Testament paints a picture of church life supported by plural elder leadership. Do you have theological question? It goes to plural elders (Acts 15). Do you need doctrine guarded and the sheep pastored? These are done by the (plural) elders (Acts 20). Do you need to have a case that needs to be heard? Plural elders (Acts 22). Do you need to formally ordain an elder to ministry? Plural elders do this (1 Timothy 4:14). Does the church need to be led in the Word? Plural elders (1 Timothy 5:17, Titus 1:5-9). Are you in need of [spiritual] healing? Call your elders (James 5:14). Does the flock need shepherded? This is done by plural elders (1 Peter 5).

I know of no situation in the NT where the prescribed remedy is, “Go and ask your pastor.”

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dan, I agree that NT evidence indicates that plurality of elders is much preferred.  I agree that this is clearly the most commonly employed arrangement.  It is surely the ideal situation, and the goal for which every congregation should strive.  But to say, as some plurality advocates insist, that a church without a plurality of elders is not a true New Testament church goes too far, in my opinion.  The I Timothy 3 passage should give pause to such assertions.  If a church does not have qualified candidates, it is detrimental to install unqualified candidates into the office of elder, as I have observed in some cases where churches were straining to achieve the hypothetical requirement imposed unwisely by themselves or others.

Also, there is another often over-looked factor, namely, can a church afford a plurality of elders?  It seems to me that a clear NT teaching that elders should be financially supported by the church, is often sacrificed upon the altar of achieving plurality.  How does a NT precept get trumped by a NT description?  (Agreeing, as I'm sure you do, that there is no NT requirement for plurality, only multiple descriptive phrases.) 

G. N. Barkman

Dan Miller's picture

...The I Timothy 3 passage should give pause to such assertions.  If a church does not have qualified candidates, it is detrimental to install unqualified candidates into the office of elder, as I have observed in some cases where churches were straining to achieve the hypothetical requirement imposed unwisely by themselves or others. ...

As I think through the question I posed earlier I also settle somewhere near “very much preferred.” But I feel like that doesn’t adequately express the maturity side. I do see plurality as a NT imperative, but I do NOT mean by that that a church is sinning by having just one. 

It’s much like if I command my son to be a doctor, he is obeying by and while he’s attending medical school. If he forgoes training and just sets up shop as a doctor, well that would be a disaster. 

T Howard's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
Dan, I agree that NT evidence indicates that plurality of elders is much preferred.  I agree that this is clearly the most commonly employed arrangement.  It is surely the ideal situation, and the goal for which every congregation should strive.  But to say, as some plurality advocates insist, that a church without a plurality of elders is not a true New Testament church goes too far, in my opinion.  The I Timothy 3 passage should give pause to such assertions.  If a church does not have qualified candidates, it is detrimental to install unqualified candidates into the office of elder, as I have observed in some cases where churches were straining to achieve the hypothetical requirement imposed unwisely by themselves or others.

No plurality advocates I've read advocate that a church should "install unqualified candidates into the office of elder" just to have a plurality of elders. In fact, the plurality advocates I've read insist that before men are installed as elders that they must meet the biblical qualifications needed. For example, here's Strauch:

Quote:
The most common mistake made by churches that are eager to implement eldership is to appoint biblically unqualified men. Because there is always a need for more shepherds, it is tempting to allow unqualified, unprepared men to assume leadership in the church. This is, however, a time-proven formula for failure. A biblical eldership requires biblically qualified elders (Biblical Eldership, 68).

 In a church context where there is only one elder, that elder should look for qualified men who can be trained and groomed to become elders. 

 

Dan Miller's picture

How plurality should work isn’t really on topic. Thomas wrote in part to express that 1 Timothy 3 promotes single-elder church government by using singular for elder and plural for deacon. 

I believe the use of singular there is consistent with either single-elder polity or plural-elder polity. This passage doesn’t give me pause regarding plurality. It could be like, “If you want to be a soccer player you’ll have to work hard.” And it could be like, “If you want to be mayor you’ll have to...” 

TylerR's picture

Editor

On the practical way for small churches to make plural elders work = both elders have to be committed to being bi-vocational. See my comment here:

I'm in an odd situation. My State job pays well, so my small church salary is just fine. I feel strongly enough about dual elders that we just brought on another pastor and will pay him an identical small salary. I could have made a play to (1) combine both small salary, (2) and add significant savings from when we reduce the secretary's hours next year, to (3) create a decent solo pastor salary that could have allowed me to quit my job and be a "fulltime" pastor.

But, I decided to bring on another elder because the current one is retiring.

I think the new elder and I represent what you'll see in the future. We both have credentials to work outside the church and expect to do so during our entire ministries. He is about to do a quick MA to get a better teaching job in public schools, and I'll soon do likewise for an MPA to further my government service.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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