Recently, the Kentucky Baptist newspaper, The Western Recorder, featured an article on leadership in the church. It dealt specifically with the issue of elder leadership in a church and how it affects the congregational polity that Baptist churches try to represent. I hope you'll go and read the article. Below is a Letter to the Editor that I sent them with some questions concerning the article.
Thank you for the article, “Who Rules?” by David Winfrey that was featured in the June 6, 2006 edition. As a Pastor in a church that has recently transitioned to being elder led, I would like to ask some questions of the article.
First, is being elder led and congregational mutually exclusive? If we study Scripture, don’t we see both of these ideas? We hear Paul call Titus to appoint Elders in every town (Titus 1:5) and we see Paul working with a group of Elders in Ephesus (20:17). At the same time, we hear the words of Christ calling for the church’s authority in Matthew 18:17 and Paul echoes this in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. It seems that a church can be and should be elder led and congregational at the same time.
Second, is moving toward elder leadership really a step away from historical precedent as the article presented? While the article referenced the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message stating that the word “elders” does not appear there, it did not point out that the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message says of “The Gospel Church”, “Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.” (http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfmcomparison.asp) Therefore, it was less than 100 years ago that the SBC recognized elders as leaders in the local church. Perhaps some churches moving this way is not much of an historical shift after all.
Finally, shouldn’t we be concerned about what Scripture says rather than what we have done in the past or even what we are doing now? Before we start labeling ideas as Calvinist and Arminian, or conservative and liberal, for the glory of God and the building up of the church, let us seek to be Biblical above all.
Grace, Brandon Porter
Pastor, Smiths Grove Baptist Church