Tag:

Polity

Preface

18 May 2015, by

The subject of eldership in Baptist circles has been one of the most misunderstood issues of recent years, with the result that it has become fashionable and even considered orthodox for churches to supplement or replace a single pastor with a team of ‘elders’. I contend this mode of governance is unscriptural, impractical and unconventional. This pamphlet is designed to argue the case why Baptist churches should retain their historic practice of appointing one bishop/pastor, assisted by a group of deacons. I have completed a comprehensive textbook on this subject, which is under review for publication. In the interim, this pamphlet is an abridged preview of the larger forthcoming work, and I extend special thanks to Adam Nixon who encouraged the pamphlet’s preparation, and to Yasmin Cooper and Kevin Price for their editorial notes and helpful suggestions.

Jared Smith

May 2017

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Introduction

18 May 2015, by

It is commonplace to hear it staunchly affirmed by preachers that the term elder is one and the same with bishop and pastor; that the term is usually used in the plural, indicating the early churches were overseen by a plurality of elders. Hence, it is argued, if churches today are to reflect the most Scriptural form of governance, then elders must be appointed as overseers.

• Some believe there is parity among the elders, wherein all share equal authority as teachers/rulers; whereas others believe there is…

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When the term elder is used within Christian circles, it conjures up ideas of ecclesiastical clergy, either elected to office by the congregation, or appointed to office by the denomination. In fact, it is only within Christian churches that the term elder is made to mean something other than persons honored in virtue of their age, wisdom and influence. This irregular interpretation is rooted in a flawed hermeneutic of several biblical texts which refer to elders. It is assumed, because a few scripture passages use the term elder when identifying a bishop/pastor, that therefore, most (if not all) references to elders in the early churches must be bishops/pastors. The absurdity of this presupposition is comparable to one who boasts that all…

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Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;”

The apostles and prophets were temporary offices, laying the foundation for both the establishment and edification of Christian churches—apostles were primarily sent to organize new churches; prophets were appointed to nurture existing churches. The evangelists and pastor-teachers are permanent offices carrying out a…

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Eldership advocates tend to sing the praises of the many benefits a church receives by appointing a plurality of elders. Seldom do they sound the alarm for the serious problems that arise from the appointment. Baptist historian Dr. Kenneth Dix confessed this was the initiating cause which led him to reject plural elderships—he believed too many churches have jumped on the bandwagon without giving sufficient thought to the inevitable problems arising from an eldership. To name just a few drawbacks:

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