Tag Archive: senior pastor


In Acts 15:19 it appears that James is the leader in the church in Jerusalem when we see that he makes the final statements after the church has debated the issue of circumcision among the Gentiles. However, when we read in the translation “my judgment” it is not to be likened to the expression of a judge with the final verdict. This is simply the personal view and suggestion of the church’s brother, elder and apostle, James.

Historically, he had the last say when he shared what he did. However, it was what the whole group had been led toward by the Spirit to have agreement on through all their participation. We cannot presume that everyone was waiting for James to deliver the final verdict.  Any of the apostles or elders could have said these words and we would be wrong to read into history that they were the lead elder or senior elder simply because they were the last person to speak.

Notice too, that the letter that was sent is not from James, but from “The apostles and elders and brethren.” Also, it was not sent to some church leader, but to “the brethren” of many churches. The content also shows who was to be credited for the final verdict where it says “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us (the brothers, elders and apostles), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.”

Granted, a strong argument for James’ leadership in the Jerusalem Church exists, which if true, needs to be considered as leadership without rank, as everyone’s was, in the context of the “all ye are brethren” and “it shall not be so among you” statements of Jesus.

This James (Jesus’ brother), is prominent in the New Testament, but this does not equate to rank leadership. We are reading far too much of our church experience into this historical account if we use it as a bases for the practice of having a senior pastor. This is especially a problem if the text can be comfortably viewed in a way that fits Paul’s specific instructions elsewhere and all of the other historical accounts in the New Testament.

In 1Timothy 1:3 we see Paul “urged” Timothy to “remain behind” to settle things in the church of Ephesus.  Timothy is not the pastor, nor lead pastor, but part of a church planting team. In this letter, Paul instructs Timothy on the appointment of elders among many things, but never is the appointment of a senior or lead pastor mentioned.

In Acts 14:23 we see the appointment of a plurality of elders with no sign of seniority given to any, “and when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Elsewhere, Paul meets with the elders of Ephesus with no sign of a special meeting with “the senior leader”. You would think that by then, such a person would exist. Also, Paul addresses his letters to the elders and saints with no sign of a senior leader in the list of recipients or his content.

The Catholics with their tradition defend the Papal system from the Bible. We have done the same with our own systems and are so entrenched that we cannot see that what we have is wrong.

Rob

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Rank or Respect

These are my comments taken from LinkedIn XPastor Group in answer to “How much control should the Senior Pastor have? Other than God, should the pastor be answerable to anyone?”

Personally, I believe that single pastor and pastor/board leadership cannot be justified biblically and I’m afraid that the longer we persist with this paradigm the longer we maintain its limitations and its poor results. On the other hand, mutual submission across the entire body, with multiple eldership can clearly be seen in the New Testament. The word that was proclaimed and lived by was the authority. The idea that some elders had authority over others and even that some elders had more than others is easily, but mistakenly read into the passages because of our paradigm. We mustn’t confuse function or role for rank.

This was Jesus’ heart for His people: “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes {position} of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them {position}, and they that are great {position} exercise authority upon them {position}. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (slave).” – Matthew 20:25-27.

I believe that if we look carefully at Jesus’ words in Matthew 20:25-27, we see that He is not only saying that we mustn’t lord it over one another, but also that we are not to have authority over one another period. Paul’s words, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves” – Phil 2:3b, best capture the attitude we are to have toward one another. Creating hierarchy automatically undermines this attitude.

In Romans 12:8 (and elsewhere) the word “leads” or “rules” is translated. This however, has some possibilities of meaning and also application. Often a hierarchical interpretation of “leads” or “rules” is how many read it because that’s the paradigm they’re used to. However, the word used for “leads” or “rules”(Gk. proistēmi) as used here can also mean – to be a protector or guardian; to give aid; to care for, give attention to.

If we had never experienced church governance that was top down then the word “leads” would be fine as it wouldn’t be misunderstood as ruling over. I believe the passage should read something like, “He who guides and protects let him do so with zeal.” The word “rules” could be fine too if “is an example” or “is a measuring standard” is understood. We cannot be sure of the translators’ intentions, whether they were caught in an unbiblical paradigm, or whether the meanings they afforded to “leads” or “rules” were without rank. I somehow doubt it’s the latter. What these words mean to us is what’s important. In the light of Jesus’ ban on His people ruling over one another, I believe we can only have one conclusion.

Also, some translations use the word “over” when “among” is more appropriate when speaking of leaders in Heb 13:17. Also, the word “Obey” here doesn’t imply unquestioned obedience, but rather “allow yourselves to be persuaded”. Submission is a requirement of everybody, summed up in, “submitting to one another”. A pleasant yielding attitude was what was encouraged, and in this case particularly toward the leaders among them, whose aim was to help them.

The word “leader” is used throughout the New Testament, but these people were servants of God and of those they served. They were without rank; however their character, lifestyle and the anointing of Jesus evidenced their calling and drew respect. Jesus and His word was everyone’s authority.

Leadership in the church does exist, but it is so utterly other than the world’s form that it’s called servanthood. Someone has said that “leadership is influence” and there is more than one way to influence someone in a direction other than using rank. For example, it’s God’s gentleness that leads us to repentance. We don’t need rank!

For more on leadership see https://realchurchlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/shepherds-of-the-flock/

Blessings, Rob

Shorter answer to “How much control should the Senior Pastor have? Other than God, should the pastor be answerable to anyone?” –

There shouldn’t be a Senior Pastor. No one should have any control through rank, but rather influence through respect. Everyone in the body is answerable to the word and one another. Like a prophet in the OT could only speak God’s word, but not enforce it, so too we can proclaim it, but we cannot enforce it. Nor can a leadership group. In fact consensus is the only way to govern in the church. Even disciplining someone is the whole church’s responsibility in the light of God’s word.

Elders who are without rank and among the flock, not over them, influence through respect. Any rank is the same spirit as the Papal system.

Rob

The Bible passages with the inserted {words} are from a very insightful presentation http://biblicalelders.com/presentation.htm (Note: not all views in the presentation are supported by Light and Life Bible Ministries).

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