Building up believers and the New Testament church


Protection in Plurality

When we read about elders in scripture, we always see them mentioned in plurality. I believe this is very important. We said in the beginning that one of God's goals is that Christ may be Lord of every member. He must also be Lord (or head) of the gathering as a whole. A plurality of eldership is essential if Christ is to be the head of the body. While this may seem elementary, my observation is that this is not easy to implement in reality. The tendency is to move toward a "one man ministry" or "single pastor system." The effect of this is to put the focus on one man, which tends to draw our attention to that man instead of to Christ. In the end, this does not achieve the goal that God wants.

A plurality of eldership that is moving together as one achieves several objectives that are very important in the growth of the assembly. First, as we have already said, it has the effect of pointing each member to Christ. The eldership (even in plurality) is not the head of the body. Christ is the head of His body. He is able to speak to each member and direct each one as He chooses. This is accomplished in reality as each member is filled and led by the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to exalt Christ to His rightful place. Our focus must be on God, not on man. Having a single pastor usually causes men to look to him for the final word. This does not allow for healthy spiritual development in each member.

In order for eldership to function effectively, the elders must submit one to another. No single elder can stand out as the "leading elder" with all the answers or "the final word." Each one is responsible to move in the grace that God has given, while submitting one to another. This sets the example for the flock. An eldership that is properly functioning in unity and love will lead the whole body to a place of oneness. Peter says they are to be examples to the whole body. The elders will complement each other in this manner. Some may be stronger in one area than another, so as they submit to one another, the weakness in one will be complemented by the strength of another. Together, they will be able to provide a balanced leadership.

Another reason for plurality is safety for the flock. If correction needs to take place, it can first take place in a private way amongst the elders. The other members of the body do not have to "jump in" and immediately try to correct what they perceive to be an error or weakness. They can have confidence that it is already being handled. Most needs can be handled in this way. By knowing there is balance and plurality in eldership, the flock can rest and concentrate on their own relationship with God. Of course there is always a possibility that the eldership as a whole may take a wrong direction, but if the elders have been chosen properly, this should be an unusual condition.

Plurality also allows for members to approach an elder that they feel comfortable with. They are not limited to just one man. If they have a question about another elder that they do not feel they can address directly, they have a place to go. Of course, this puts a demand on each elder to move in harmony with the others and maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. If a member approaches them about the actions of another elder, they must use wisdom in how to answer. All of this works a great humility in each member and brings everything out of theory into reality. The growth that takes place in each member in this process is real. God's design is perfect for dealing with all the effects of sin and providing the perfect environment for the spiritual growth of every member.