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As we turn our attention to God’s Word today, you need to know that this sermon is a bit out of ordinary for what we usually do here.
95% of the time we are walking through portions of Scripture chapter by chapter and verse by verse, mining the goodness of God’s Word.
Right now we are in a sermon series on what is called Ecclesiology, or the study of the church.
We are seeking to establish a biblical form of church polity by examining the Scriptures together.
Today’s sermon is really, part lesson, part argument, part sermon.
so bear with me through the lesson and argument and stay for the sermon.
I guess The good news is that we are all super well rested, right?
There will be pictures to help us as we move, so no need to worry.
Last week I shared that this may be the most important sermon series I’ve ever preached.
The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to consider that it might be true, because I’m praying that God uses this series to help set the trajectory for how Pillar Fellowship functions, and my hope and prayer is that we embrace a biblical structure, not because Pastor Kenn says this is whats right, but because we are convinced together that this is what the Bible teaches.
Here is how I’d like to approach our time together today.
I’d like to go over the common ways that Church leadership structures are set up in our day and age.
That’s the lesson or lecture.
Then I’d like to walk through some biblical texts to determine which, if any are the biblical approach.
This is the argument.
Then I’d like to conclude by answering the question, What are Elders supposed to do?
What is their role in the life of a church?
And that’s where I get to preachin’
Common Church polity Structures.
First is called Episcopal.
The word Episcopal comes from the Greek word Episcopos that can be translated as Bishop or overseer.
In this model of governance, you might have a priest at the lower levels of the heriarachty, but as you move up you find bishops who are not only responsible for their own church, but also those under them, but they also answer to the bishop over them.
What does this sound like?
This is the Catholic Structure.
Also, Episcopal churches!
Shocking I know!
Episcopal churches have an episcopal form of government.
Next we have a Presbyterian form.
In this form of governance, instead of a single priest, each church has a multiple elders.
Usually one elder from each church is selected to serve as elders over what is called the session.
The session has authority over all the churches under it, and the elder from each church represent their church as they rule over the session.
This comes into play when there are church disputes that cannot be solved at the local level, and things have to be elevated.
It should be obvious, but this the style of governance practiced in Presbyterian churches.
This doesn’t have to be practiced at the denominational level though.
Local church can work this way independently from a denomination or session.
Its technically still called Presbyterian form of governance, even if there is no connection to any denomination and its a fully independent church.
Finally, there is the congregational form of government.
Independent churches are often congregational.
There are slightly different forms of this, but there is usually a lot of voting.
From the color of the choir robes, to the hiring or firing of the pastor, a congregational church is going to vote on most matters.
Some churches are a hybrid model.
So its a congregational church but there are a plurality of elders, but the authority is still vested in the members.
So those are the broad strokes of common structures.
This is a very zoomed out generalizing of how things are often organizied.
What I’d like to do is zoom in a little now and consider how some of these flesh out in independent churches like our own.
Some independent churches function like this.
This is a single elder model.
The blue guy is THE pastor.
Underneath might be a team of deacons or trustees.
This is very common in independent fundamentalist churches.
This might also be true of some mega churches that are built on one guy’s personality.
He’s the CEO, and under him are the other staff positions that he has hired to do a job.
This is essentially an Episcopalian structure.
Other churches have a plurality of elders.
They are often selected from the congregation as lay leaders.
The pastor is hired to be brought in to teach the word, cast a vision, and lead the elders.
Often in this structure, the pastor, though considered on the elder board, is still considered a notch above.
Often the elders function like a board of a not for profit, or exist to execute the pastors vision.
The pastor is the one who has been to seminary, after all so he has the skills and the training for the position.
Then there are the churches who hire in a pastor, who is one of the elders, but he is notch below.
The elders have the authority, they call the shots, the pastor is an employee who is brought in as a speaker, but the elders set the agenda and direction of the church.
What all these last couple have in common is that, though they have a plurality of elders, there is still a major bifurcation between the lay elders and the senior pastor.
Though the pastor is considered one of the elders, he is still viewed as separate from them at the same time.
Finally, there is the plurality model that sees every elder a pastor, and every pastor an elder.
Sometimes one elder may be a staff elder, what many would call the senior pastor, and often the senior pastor is going to be the most trained and skilled man.
But that doesn’t mean that the other elders have less responsibility for the well being of the church.
All of them together are tasked with the shepherding responsibility.
They may have different roles between them, but the essential function is the same.
What I’m going to argue from the Scriptures today is that this is the biblical model.
In order to do that, I have to show from the Scripture three things:
That the terms we often use for leaders within the church such as pastor or elder are in reality the same office.
That a plurality of elders is preferred
that the essential function for pastor/elders is the guarding, teaching, and shepherding of the flock.
If you can’t tell, this is where I move from lesson to argument.
Here is the biblical case.
A. Elders are Pastors and Pastors are Elders
Different Terms, Same Office
There are three words that are used in Scripture to describe what I believe is one office in the church.
There is the word pastor, the word elder, and the word overseer.
The word for pastor is the word ποιμένας (poimenas) and can literally be translated as shepherd.
Scripture speaks of the church of God as being a flock, with individuals being sheep.
Pastors are to shepherd the flock.
This speaks of a tender care for the spiritual needs of the sheep, but also the need to guard against wolves.
The word for elder is πρεσβυτέρο ς“presbuteros” which is the word that “Presbyterian” comes from.
The concept stems of the Jewish elder concept.
Those who were recognized leaders in the community because of the character and wisdom would be called elders.
Not all elders are older, but they ought to men of character and wisdom.
The word for “overseer” comes from ἐπισκοπoς “episcopos”, which is where we get the word episcopal.
This word has more of a stress on the functional oversight responsibility that the leaders of the church have.
They are to oversee the work, to administrate it and care for it.
Our american church culture often gets these three words wrong by dividing up the functions of the three words into two or three offices.
Many view the “Pastor” as one office and the “elder” as another.
But the biblical picture is that these three words are often used interchangeably of the same men in the same office and the word that is used in a given context is selected for particular emphasis.
Here are some examples.
In Acts 20:17 We see Paul calling the elders of the church as he is about to give them some final instruction to them before going to Jerusalem, where he knows he will be imprisoned.
Acts 20:17 (ESV)
17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.
Then, down in verse 28, Paul, who is still speaking to the same men, the elders, the presbuterous
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