Gene Getz on leading a team of "leaders"

Many of us here speak to the importance of not falling into the trap of a dictatorial style of leadership. The NT is clear on a pattern of shared leadership in a congregation. Scripture is also clear that their ought to be a strong leader who leads the leaders. Getz gives great clarity on this dynamic.

Let me encourage especially those in leadership to get this book by Getz.

Straight Ahead!

Joel

Quote from Getz:

".....One of the great principles that grabbed my attention during this preocess was "plurality in leadership." I'd always enjoyed working with a "team," but as I ventured into church planting, I became even more committed to this concept. I saw no other "plan" in the New Testament story - and still don't. To be perfectly honest, I have always been very disapointed with what I've percieved to be ministries built around personality and abilities of a single leader.

Let me be perfectly honest. I was initially so committed to the principle of plurality in leadership that I, at times, downplayed and, in some respects, denied how important it is to have a strong primary leader. When I was asked, "Who leads the Church?" I would alwyas say, "The elders." In essence, that was a very true statement. And I was then asked, "Who leads the elders?" I'd answer, "We lead the church, together." Again, this was a true response , but I didn't answer the question adequately. The facts are that "I lead the elders" and together "we led the church." I was then and always have been, the primary leader in the Fellowship churches where I've served as senior pastor. Unfortunately, in those early years, I communicated a "model of leadership" i was not in actuality practicing.

It didn't take me long to discover I was overreacting to what I still believe is a distortion of what God intended in the realm of local church leadership. I needed to discover a balance....."

(Gene Getz - Elders and Leaders: God's Plan for Leading the Church - Moody Publishers, 2003 - quote from page 18)

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Bob T.'s picture

Joel, with all due respect
i feel I should share my knowledge and experience on this. I do so recognizing many may differ and many have better and broader experience.

Gene Getz told me himself that the leadership style he exercised at his Dallas church ended in disaster. They had an "elder" over each "mini-church" which we today would call small groups. They ended up with too many elders to be able to have orderly meetings. The Elders appointed an "Executive board of Elders" to run things. Eventually the Executive board thought Gene Getz was a hindrance and led all the Elders to ask him to leave. Gene then went and helped start another Church in a suburb of Dallas. Gene Getz view if Eldership dumbed down what an Elder was. The result was some who were over their heads and doing what they were not qualified to do.

In reality, the phenomena of N.T. Eldership is not just seen at 1Tim. 3 and Titus 2. It involves what we we the elders doing at Acts 15 and at Acts. 20. They are men able to discuss theology as advisers to the Apostles at Acts 15 and who are able to passionately declare the whole counsel of God and protect the flock from wolves as indicated at Acts 20. In our day this would probably mean men who have taken the time for formal training and ordination before others of competence. This would mean that some whom are called Pastors of churches may qualify. Also, perhaps some others in churches here and there may qualify. However, most churches with a plurality of elders have merely dumbed down the concept and put some who may qualify for general ministry apart from Eldership (Deacons) in the position.

Gene Getz gave a resurgence to the plural Eldership concept in the 1970s with his book "Targeting the Church." Other books on eldership qualifications followed.

The plurality of Eldership in the N.T. was to "city churches." The city wide fellowship of believers was possible as there were nor doctrinal splits yet and the Apostles were still on the scene. They most likely met in different small groups due to lack of a meeting place but had one cohesive city wide fellowship under Elders. As time passed this became impossible to maintain. Today we have many churches with multiple theological orientation and loyalties in each city. City eldership over all believers is not possible. That does not mean we need plural Eldership in each assembly in the city. We end up with many unqualified Elders and false concepts of leadership.

A close personal friend pastored a church of about 1500 in attendance. They had perpetual elders in place when he got there. After 7 yrs. He wanted to expand the Elders from 5 to 7 and include some very Godly men. The other Elders refused. This was the beginning of differences. He felt compelled to leave after 10 years. This scenario has repeated itself in other churches. In some the Congregational vote is completely removed. This actually does away with the concept of the assembly (church). The people are the Church and the ultimate authority (Matt. 18). In other cases the assembly is hindered by the Elders and or staff running the church without properly listening to the people. In many large chuches unqualified Elders give way to the will of the staff and the staff becomes the authority or the "Senior Pastor."

There is a need to have qualified Eldership. It may be but one. Allow Eldership to be answerable to the congregation and to the Deacons. There is but two principle foundation principles for Biblcal leadeship. 1. Love others as yourself. 2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The specifics become easy from there.

I personally would not look to Gene Getz for guidance on organization or leadership. He is a good man used by God, but not necessarily right on these subjects.

dmicah's picture

bob, you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. the principles in the book are quality. if his implementation failed, or some of the specific dynamics of his church created division, it doesn't mean that his teachings are completely flawed. assuming you have read the book you know he spends most of the time teaching what the Bible teaches about church roles and offices, not just the Getz system of leadership.

Ed Vasicek's picture

This is great stuff here. I too have been very influenced by Gene Getz in the 1970's. I agree with the perspective that Joel quoted him on. Plurality is not the same as equality. Like it or not, there is a sense in which a trained pastor is a "professional." In the typical Bible-oriented church, he knows a lot more about Bible, theology and counseling than do the lay leaders. He should not be allowed to be a dictator, and he needs to work with the other elders. But in many situations, his opinion should bear more weight. It only makes sense.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joel Tetreau's picture

Bob,

That's a great perspective and I had heard from a few others that Getz had "changed" his approach a bit in eldership. But as these other men have responded, the NT teaching is fairly clear. What might not be as clear is the dynamic between "first among equals" and "equals." The principles are universal but not the application. Differences abound in the type, maturity, giftedness and calling of each congregation. Still your post is excellent in that you state well that just having a "plurality of elders" does not mean there will not be issues. I would counter that Getz is right on the money....the problem you mention is not that they had a plurality of elders (they got that right).....the problem was they had the wrong guys.....any men who would reject an increase of elders demonstrate that they probably had a "turf" mentality. The overwealming tenor of Scripture is that a group of elders lead single congregations......period. Other than the single leadership of an NT evangelist there is no evidence that the pattern of the NT church was a single pastor for a single church. Just the opposite......17 Xs you have elders with a single congregation. Over 50 times presbuteros is in the plural. That's not Biblical illiteracy as some have suggested.....it's in plain language. Now your points are well made....that doesn't take away from the first among equals. In defense of Gene I think he had learned those lessons and frankly I think you'll see a change in his writing if you will compare his stuff from the early70's to the last work he did on Elders and Leadership (I think it was 2005 or 2006).

Straight Ahead!

Joel

* Minor spelling correction (J Peet)

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;