Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A couple of good posts on elders

I liked what Dave Black posted this morning (7:55 AM), replicated below in its entirety:

This Sunday our church will be "ordaining" our elders. Just what is ordination? It is not the conferring of special grace (as in Catholicism). It is simply the setting apart, the commissioning, the consecrating to a particular ministry in the church. As such, ordination is not in contradiction with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In the Body of Christ there is a principle of equality with functional differences without being hierarchical. From a scriptural perspective, a better word might be "dedication" or "consecration." Since all ministers in the Body have the same purpose -- to serve Christ in the ministry of reconciliation -- all believers are to be dedicated or consecrated to their tasks. The danger we must avoid this Sunday, I believe, is to give the false impression that only these 3 men are somehow "in ministry." In Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 we find lists of the spiritual gifts that the risen Christ has given to the church "for the work of ministry." The basic idea of ordination in early Christianity was not transference of authority but conferring a blessing and petitioning for divine favor. Because the church is a priesthood of ALL believers, the recognized ministry is a representative ministry. To belong to this representative ministry, it is the call that is important and not any rite of ordination. 

Elders are overseers, but as members of the Body of Christ they no doubt also have individual gifts that vary -- teaching, administration, etc. They are shepherds but, like the rest of us, they are also sheep. They are, as Phil. 1:2 reminds, not over the church but extensions of the church. Thus, from the beginning of church history, ordination has never been a cardinal doctrine of the church. Service is what the church is all about -- and all of us are to be servants of Christ. The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers would suggest that our elders should view themselves first and foremost as co-members of the Body, under the authority of Christ. Together, leaders and led alike are unified in a Christ-centered and Spirit-filled ministry. In such a setting, ministry does not create a hierarchical organization. The total ministry is the Body of Christ, and He alone remains the Head of the church. In this light, I fully expect that after this Sunday Ed, Jason, and Jason will continue to be called Ed, Jason, and Jason by the congregation, and that without any disrespect. For in the Body of Christ, there can be no higher title than that of brother (Heb. 2:11).

That is one of the best explanations of the calling and appointing of elders I have ever read. It is so seductive to let that call turn into a place of pride and demanded privilege marked with titles and demands of deference rather than humility and servant-hood marked by the towel and the basin. It is good and proper and Biblical to recognize men as elders among the church but never to place those men on a pedestal over the church. We should call the church to repent where we have exalted men over others but we must also be careful to not go so far in the other direction that we don't see the need for elders. I certainly need them in my life although I will also say that I rarely find them among those who insist on titles of honor beyond "brother".

The second comes from Eric Carpenter and looks at a familiar passage that comes up when discussing elders: should they be paid? Eric argues in Keeping I Corinthians 9 in Context that the oft quoted passages in 1 Corinthians 9 cannot be used to support paying elders/pastors since they are not talking about elders/passages in the first place! That is very true but often ignored. I also commented that when read in its entirety rather than plucking a couple of verses out that Paul is arguing against being paid for ministry because preaching the Gospel is its own reward and being paid creates a stumbling block to the Gospel. Anyway, read Eric's post but don't take our word for it. Read all of 1 Corinthians 9 and see if you find that it supports  full-time paid professional pastors.


David B said...

This is something I am struggling to accept/understand right now. I understand that the paid "pastor" is not a Biblical office. As a matter of fact there are no "offices' under the New Covenant. But I understand that there are those whose activities and understanding of the gospel are recognized.
Some of these are recognized as elders. My frustration comes when some translations say these elders are "appointed". As if this means that they are being put into a position above the rest of their local church - which church tradition has taken advantage of. But it is also frustrating that church tradition has ignored the fact that these were believers "appointed" from within the local church, not brought in from another church to oversee them.
By allowing or expecting overseers to act as leaders and rulers over it, the Church has operated the exact opposite way from how Jesus told his disciples that they were to be toward one another(MK 10:42-45).

Arthur Sido said...

David, I am not a Greek scholar but I like the idea of "recognizing" more than "appointing". Primarily I am not a fan of men demanding to be obeyed by virtue of their title or ordination instead of simply living as the Bible describes and being recognized and followed by the church for doing so.