2 thoughts on “Core commitment 3: team-led and team-taught

  1. I agree with the multiple elder ministry, but often, like with CWOWalls, not all the elders can devote themselves full-time to ministry and not work another job. Then some sort of compensation comes up, as the Bible says, not to muzzle the ox. Even though you and Kurt and Nino were all elders, everyone did look to you as “pastor” even if that title was not used, and you were better trained and equipped. The New Testament Church also had deacons to do the more mundane but essential work of day-to-day administration. Is this still good for today?

  2. Hi Paul, the biblical model seems to indicate that most elders will be unpaid, working other jobs. Some churches may not be financially able to free any of their elders to serve vocationally. But the elders are still given—as a group—the sacred duty to shepherd the people of God. They will vary in their gifting and the time they can make available for service, but they share in this ministry together.

    According to 1 Timothy 5:17, churches should strive to financially support those elders who work hard at studying and teaching the Word. But notice it doesn’t say the “pastor” or the sole professional elder who does this. Again, this shows a plural group of elders doing this teaching. It can be a challenge for a small church who can only afford to pay one staff person to live out this principle. But that doesn’t mean only the one paid elder is “the pastor.”

    The problem we had in PR is that the church is somewhat artificially kept small. We were always growing and incorporating new people but, because of the incredible transience of the expat population, the church stayed about the same size. This meant we could only afford to pay one person. We always struggled with this, striving to teach and demonstrate that the church was pastored by all the elders, not just me. If people saw me as the teaching pastor or as a fairly prominent elder, that’s okay. But if they saw me as “the” pastor, that was simply wrong, and we would have corrected this misperception. (I was referring to this issue in my earlier post.) If we hadn’t had to deal with the extreme transience we did, the church would likely have grown to the point where we could have supported two or three elders as teaching pastors.

    The ministry role of deacons is absolutely still a vital one for churches today. The term “deacon” however means different things in different church traditions, so not everyone uses this terminology. I wouldn’t limit this ministry role to the mundane or administrative though. The New Testament doesn’t give a definitive description of the normative role of deacons. The principle seems to be that any need for ministry leadership that would distract the elders from their specific roles would be delegated to the deacons. This will look differently in different churches, but I would see all staff leadership positions (whether paid or voluntary)—other than those who pastor the whole church—as being the equivalent of deacons. IMO this could include non-elders who pastor or lead music ministries, women’s ministries, college ministries, youth, children, administrative, evangelistic, missions, etc.

    (BTW, any elder who desires in-depth training and equipping for a teaching ministry should be able to receive the training and equipping they need right in the church. That’s part of our disciple-making responsibility. More on this tomorrow.)

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