Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Senior Pastor - New Testament Evidence (intro)

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I am on a journey to analyze all views on the senior pastor, and evaluate them to determine which view constitutes the better New Testament model. As Paige Patterson stated during the question and answer session of a recent Baptist distinctive conference,[1] the term senior pastor, as used in current evangelicalism, is not found in Scripture. Not only is the term not found in Scripture, but, as he states in an article entitled "Single-Elder Congregationalism," "there simply are no 'commands' on this issue."[2] Dever similarly agrees when, in the section entitled "Relationship of the Elders to 'The' Pastor", he states: "If you ask the question, 'Does the Bible teach that there is to be a Senior Pastor-figure alongside, or inside the eldership?' I think that the answer to that question is 'No, not directly.'"[3] Nevertheless, the discussion on the issue has to begin with Scripture. Therefore I will begin the discussion by analyzing various passages of Scripture, both in the New Testament and the Old Testament, which might give some insight on possible Biblical patterns on the topic.

Much discussion in the literature is centered on two passages in the New Testament: the role of James in the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15:13-21, and the addressing of letters to the messenger (singular) of the seven churches in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation. My next two posts will look at these two passages. In the meantime, can you think of any other NT passages with which people support the office of the senior pastor?

[1] Paige Patterson, “Observing Two Ordinances” (paper presented at Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church conference, Fort Worth, TX, September 26, 2008), available at (accessed Fall 2008). During the question and answer session after presenting his paper on the two ordinances recognized by Baptists, while talking about other pastors baptizing and the senior pastor not baptizing, Patterson states: “… other pastors who aren’t the quote senior pastor, find that terminology in the Bible.”

[2] Paige Patterson, “Single-Elder Congregationalism,” in Who Runs the Church?, gen. ed. Steve B. Cowan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 150-2.

[3] Dever, 23.

[4] See Cowen, 15; and Patterson, “Single-Elder,” 151-2, for a couple of examples.

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