Thursday, June 11, 2009

Working away from home.

We went to visit Cindy's mom and did some more work on her house. One of the projects was this spiral deck staircase. It gives her a shortcut from the car to the house without having to use the long ramp.

It was an interesting project to figure out: lots of weird angles. My laser guided skill saw actually came in handy to set the saw blade at the right angles.

We were pleased with the final result.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Senior Pastor - some first & second century evidence

We continue our pursuit to find arguments for the necessity of a senior pastor and quickly look at two early church fathers and their writings. 

Looking at first century writers, the writings of Ignatius of Antioch present a very strong argument for the presence of a monepiscopacy in the first century. As an example, Ignatius writes in his letter to the Ephesians, that being "subject to the bishop and the presbytery," was an essential characteristic to "be real saints."[1] Obviously, Ignatius' view of the bishop is that of a singular figure separate from the presbytery. While Baptists do not agree with this interpretation of Scripture, one has to admit that this could be seen as evidence that a traditional senior pastor type of office had developed in the early church; even though that is not the direction the early church followed. It could even be argued that much of what some associate as being the responsibility of the senior pastor was gleaned from the writings of Ignatius about the bishop: overseeing the Eucharist (Ignatius To the Smyrnaeans 8.1b, 2b), overseeing baptism (Ignatius To the Smyrnaeans 8.2b), and overseeing marriage (Ignatius To Polycarp5.2b).[2] While this is interesting and might give some insight on where the traditional senior pastor view might have originated, it only proves that the church moved in this direction in the first century, but cannot prove that this was God's plan for the church as laid out in Scripture.

Much has also been made of the fact that in the second century writings of Justin Martyr, Justin makes mention of a 'president of the brethren'[3] (singular) who officiates the administration of the Lord's Supper. The translation notes of the Anti-Nicene Fathers, though, suggest that "this expression may quite legitimately be translated: 'to the one of the brethren who was presiding.'"[4] This translation does not point to an office per se, as one would think when reading the title 'president of the brethren'. Therefore this person, whoever he was, was not necessarily the holder of a certain office and, as a matter of fact, did not necessarily have to be a fixed individual, but just the one who was presiding in that instance. This could allow for a first among equals type of figure, but does not necessitate it. More importantly, it reduces this evidence to a preference of translations and, while it can stimulate invigorating discussions, it does not prove the existence of a senior pastor office in the second century.

I am sure there is more first and second century evidence out there. Anyone?


[1] Ignatius of Antioch To the Ephesians 2.2b.

[2] Alan Knox suggests this as a possibility in Alan Knox, "Following Ignatius," The Assembling of the Church, entry posted October 1, 2008, (accessed January 28, 2009).

[3] Justin Martyr Apology 1.65, 67.

[4] Ibid.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Senior Pastor - Evidence from the synagogue

Continuing our pursuit to find arguments for the necessity of a senior pastor takes us to extra Biblical evidence. Some might argue that one should look at the synagogue's structure to find a justification for a senior pastor, so we will start there.

Jalland, in his Origin and Evolution of the Christian Church, tries to make an argument for the emergence of a bishop, separate from the presbytery, and against the understanding that the terms for elder and overseer are used to represent the same office in the New Testament. While, as mentioned already in this paper, Baptists do not agree with his argument, Jalland presents a historical perspective on the synagogue which might give some insight into the synagogue's structure and might shed some light on the perceived necessity for, and origins of, a senior pastor.

In his description of the organization of the synagogue, Jalland makes much of the fact that a synagogue not only had elders, but it also "included the 'ruler' (archisynagōgos)"[1] of the synagogue. He then suggests that the Rom 12:8 reference to 'he who leads' (which he translates 'he that presides') might be the Christian equivalent to "the Jewish 'ruler of the synagogue',"[2] since it is his contention that the early Christian communities were Christian synagogues. To support his position even more, he points out that there was also a "prominent place assigned to the Kathēdra Moysis in the synagogue building," possibly in the same position "as the later episcopal kathēdra." He then conjectures that it was possible that this seat was "assigned to the archisynagōgos," and speaks of archeological evidence that might point to the fact that such a seat was present in "the earliest remains of a Christian church."[3] In the midst of this series of conjectures used to substantiate a historical trail from the synagogue ruler to the monepiscopacy, Jalland candidly admits some crucial issues. First of all he states that "admittedly the archisynagōgos had no specific liturgical function in synagogue worship,"[4] therefore making his role different from our understanding of a bishop or, more appropriately for the topic at hand, from the traditional understanding of a senior pastor figure. He also admits, even if buried in an endnote, that "possibly Acts xiii, 15 shows that the 'ruler of the synagogue' and the 'elders' were not always clearly distinguished."[5] This is because Acts 13:15 refers to rulers (plural) of the synagogue (singular). Therefore even with these possible parallels presented by Jalland, there does not seem to be a clear cut case for a traditional senior pastor figure in the synagogue setting, and while the synagogue 'ruler' is at times singled out by his title, this seems to be more of a functional distinction, not an authoritative distinction.[6] 

Therefore, the synagogue evidence could, at best, possibly point to a leader of leaders type of figure, but one needs to remember that the church is not equivalent to the synagogue, thus any parallel between the two can hardly be used to substantiate a need for a single senior pastor. Maybe we will have better luck with first and second century writings ...


[1] T. G. Jalland, The Origin and Evolution of the Christian Church (New York: Hutchinson's University Library, 1948), 34.

[2] Ibid., 89-90.

[3] Ibid., 91.

[4] Ibid., 91. As a matter of fact, he states that the rule’s “main duty was concerned with the selection of the readers of the scriptural lessons, and the preacher of the ‘discourse’” (Ibid., 34), and therefore he was not necessarily the preacher of the ‘discourse’.

[5] Ibid., 180n 93.

[6] Some authority figures are seen in the synagogue setting with possible typical pastor functions. The elders were to “pronounce sentence of excommunication against those who were judged to be notorious breakers of the law” (Ibid., 34-5). Also the ‘ministers’ were responsible to teach “the young and of inflicting corporal chastisement on those condemned to receive such punishment by the decision of the presbyterate” (Ibid., 34). In both cases these roles are in the plural and neither of them falls upon the ‘ruler’.

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