Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Senior Pastor - Old Testament Evidence

Continuing the search for Biblical arguments for the necessity of a senior pastor brings us to the defense arguments based on Old Testament leadership models. Often Moses, David, the prophets, and the high priest are pointed to as examples of singular leadership figures whose lives can be used as a Biblical model for a senior pastor figure. One must question, though, if throughout the history of the kingdom of Israel, these really were singular figures, since there seemed to have been a triad of leaders: king, prophet, and priest. In this triad, any one of the three might be seen as the leader of Israel at a particular instance in time, but at other times one of the other three would play a prominent role. It is then legitimate to ask which one of these three would the senior pastor be modeled after, since in this plurality, the primacy shifted, not due to their position, but due to their heart condition. Therefore, here one can at best only honestly see a first among equals model.

As for pre-kingdom figures, Moses is often used as an example to support having a single leader. Akin, when discussing elders in the Old Testament context, points out that "it is instructive to note that the elders shared in the work with Moses yet remained under him."[1] Tidwell, in his book on church administration, claims that Ex 18:13-27, describing Jethro's 'organizational' advice to Moses, is "the most fruitful passage in all of literature on leadership and organization."[2] Though, as Akin himself admits, "it is not easy to determine the precise relationship between Christian elders and the elders of the Old Testament, . . . the differences are substantial enough to reject any direct correlation."[3]Also, if one were to try to make a correlation, it is important to keep in mind that, as Akin states, Old Testament "elders ruled as a collective body, and the term is almost always found in the plural."[4] Akin still sees this collective body as working both "with and under"[5]Moses, and thus identifies Moses as an example of a senior pastor. If one ignores Akin's own warnings and looks to Moses as a prototype for a senior pastor, he would be the most convincing Biblical argument for a typical senior pastor position and possibly even for a leader of leaders position. What is lacking from this discussion, though, is the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of the fact that when looking at the Old Testament, one has to keep in mind that not all people in the Old Testament were indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Leaders like Moses, who were indwelled by the Spirit of God, obviously needed to have a more prominent role in leadership. Could it be possible that if all the Old Testament elders had been indwelled by the Holy Spirit, as is the case with New Testament elders, that this scenario would have been different? Therefore, could it not also be possible that since in the church, all believers and all believing pastors are indwelled with the Holy Spirit, that this hierarchy is not necessary? This line of argument does not deny the benefit of looking to the Old Testament examples of leadership when one wants to learn about godly leadership skills, but it does point to the fact that a one to one correlation between any person or office in the Old Testament and the New Testament is conjectural at best. 

One also needs to keep in mind that many of these Old Testament figures were images of Christ. So one could say that their use could support the fourth view's position that Christ is the only legitimate senior pastor of a congregation. In addition, the role of priest is now associated with every believer. But ultimately, one has to keep in mind that the church is not equivalent to the temple, thus any parallel between the two can hardly be used to substantiate a need for a single senior pastor.

Next, we will briefly look at the first century synagogue structure to see if we can find arguments for the necessity of a senior pastor there. In the meantime, can you think of any Old Testament evidence that would actually support a senior pastor concept?


[1] Akin, 41.

[2] Charles A. Tidwell, Church Administration - Effective Leadership for Ministry(Nashville: B&H, 1985), 104.

[3] Akin, 42.

[4] Ibid., 41.

[5] Ibid., 66.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

community of believers - R. T. France

While commenting on Matt. 18, R. T. France states that:

The portrait of the church which thus emerges is an attractive one. Status-consciousness and formally constituted authority have no place. The focus is on the relationship and mutual responsibility of all members of the community, each of whom matters, and yet all of whom must regard themselves only as 'little ones.' The resultant pastoral concern and action is not the preserve of a select few, but is the responsibility of each individual disciple, and, where necessary, of the whole group together. The structure is informal, but the sense of community is intense. And overarching it all is the consciousness of the presence of Jesus and of the forgiveness and pastoral concern of 'your Father in heaven.
found in R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 674-5.

France, in his footnotes, also directs the reader's attention to the formulation of a similar idea by E. Schweizer, who in G. N. Stanton (ed.), Interpretation, 161, states that Matt. 18 shows "a community which seems to know neither elders nor bishops nor deacons," in which "everyone is involved on a par with everyone else."

How does this view of the church compare with your body of believers?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

End of the school year.

Wow, another year has gone by. I have just finished my second and last semester at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, and have 1 more Monday class to teach at The College at Southeastern, then the summer begins. This is going to be a busy summer. "Why?", you might ask. Well, let me tell you ...

Two years ago I wrote a blog post entitled Deciding in Community (I more recently posted an update on that prayer request in Deciding in Community ... Update). Since then, though, there has been another opportunity for us that we and our community of believers have been praying about: going to SWBTS to pursue another PhD, this time in theology, to then be able possibly to go to France and do some theological education (details here are still very fuzzy). After two long years, much prayer, and many people approaching me confirming God's leading, we have decided to pursue that option. That means that we will move to Fort Worth, TX; we have to be there no later than August 17, 2009.

... and that means that we need to finish remodeling the house so we can put it on the market to sell. We also need to pack and move all of our junk, and we have less than 3 months to do it all !!!

As for writing ... I'm going to try my best to finish my current series on the senior pastor in a timely manner, but besides that and the occasional pictures of the house, this will probably be a quiet summer.

We covet your prayers, both for the summer and for the years ahead.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cook-out at the Disseau's.

Last week, I had several students from my Statics class at St. Augustine's College, and a few others, come to the house to eat and hang out. I have often wanted to do this, but in the many years I have been teaching college level classes, I have never quite gotten around to it.
We did not discuss forces and moments or centers of gravity, but life, dating, cooking, fishing, ethics, and much more. It was nice to be able to relax and get to know my students a little better. Unfortunately, I will not be back at St. Augustine's College next year, but luckily, due to technology, I'll be able to keep in touch with some of them.

May I urge the ones of you who are in academia to take time to spend with your students on a non-academic level? These young adults need mentoring, and mentoring goes far beyond just academia. I promise you, you will never regret pouring your life into theirs, after all ... that is what teaching is all about.

Join my blog network
on Facebook