A filing cabinet drawer full of objections can be raised against pastoral leadership by a plurality of elders. For the Bible-believing Christian, however, the real issue is this: is pastoral leadership by a plurality of elders biblical? Is it apostolic? It is my contention that it is! Both the apostles, Paul and Peter, mandate that the local church elders pastor the flock of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2; cf. Titus 1:5). We have no right, then, to take away the elders’ God-given mandate. Yet that is precisely what most churches have done by applying the apostolic mandate to shepherd the local church to a single, professional pastor and by subordinating the eldership to the pastor. Where in the New Testament do we find references to the ordained (reverend-clergyman) pastor and his advising elders? We don’t! We find only pastor elders mentioned.
We must admit, however, that most traditional, clergy-led churches will find pastoral leadership by a plurality of qualified pastor elders to be difficult if not impossible to implement. So, to try to implement biblical eldership will require two conditions. First, each local church and its leaders must be firmly convinced that eldership is a scriptural teaching. Second, the local church must be committed to make the difficult, personal changes necessary in order to make eldership work for God’s glory.
These two conditions, of course, are essential when implementing any unfamiliar or difficult biblical practice or doctrine. If you were to ask, for example, “does marriage work?” many people would answer that it doesn’t appear to be working. So should we discard the institution of marriage and look for something better? No! The marriage institution is God’s will for the human race, as revealed in the Bible. So, in order to make marriage work we must first believe it to be a biblical teaching and then be committed to making it work. Only then will marriage work. The same conditions hold true for implementing a biblical eldership. We must believe it is scriptural and be committed by God’s help to making it work effectively.
To be sure, the incorporation of pastoral eldership into the local church is not the cure-all for every problem. Eldership creates its own problems, and these must be understood and continually addressed. However, when properly implemented, biblical eldership allows the church to be what God designed it to be, fosters the spiritual development of the leading men within the church family, and honors the teaching of God’s precious Word.