Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Senior Pastor - Fourth view: final comments

So what of the fourth view, the absence of a human senior pastor? At least two final comments need to be made about it. While this view advocates the absence of a human senior pastor, it does not mean that it lacks a senior pastor. The senior pastor in this view is the one found in 1 Pet 5:4: the chief Shepherd.[1] Jesus is the head of the church,[2] under which are all believers, including pastors, who use their gifts among the congregation.[3] If the New Testament church is to use Christ as an example, one could point out that in Christ's ministry, there was no plurality of equal elders and that Christ was the senior pastor figure. According to the fourth view, Jesus still is the senior pastor.

The second comment is that while some proponents of the fourth view like to structure the church in such a way as to strictly enforce parity and equality among the pastors,[4] this view can, and should, make room to acknowledge the differences in the pastors' gifts and talents[5] without having to identify any one pastor as 'first among equals'. Often the main disagreement with this view is that it is idealistic and will not work in practice because, as Patterson states, there is an "innate difficulty of 'shared leadership' or any approaches where all elders are perceived as equal."[6] Pragmatically speaking, though, dealing with decision making within this view can actually be easier and healthier than in any human senior pastor view. If all pastors agree, there is no problem. If there is a division between the pastors, the high view of the centrality of the headship of Christ and the reliance upon the leading of the Holy Spirit necessitate proponents of this view to believe that any difference in opinion is likely the result of one or more of the elders not being filled with or led by the Holy Spirit. This dictates a period of prayer, repentance, and the seeking of guidance from the Holy Spirit which eventually will result in full agreement between the pastors. The single-elder counterpart would possibly result in a bad decision being made if that single-elder is the only one making decisions and he is not being led by the Spirit at that time. It might not be a speedy process, but it is a more robust process, reminiscent of the multiple redundant systems on most aircrafts nowadays: if one fails, there are two more to back it up.

So what do you think, can the church operate with Christ as her senior pastor, or must we fall into pragmatism?

[1] The Greek arcipoimenos could be translated chief pastor or even senior pastor.

[2] Eph. 5:23, Col 1:18.

[3] 1 Pet 5:1.

[4] Waldron, 192.

[5] Ibid., 216-7.

[6] Patterson, “Single-Elder,” 152.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great comments! Unity of the Spirit in the New Testament seems to focus on consensus versus majority rules of a democracy or autocracy. Consensus means a longer period of time, but God is focused on growing us, which means the fruit of patience. Most, including me, don't like patience, because it means we have to die to ourselves and prefer others. Perhaps this is God's reason for having such a focus on loving one another as Christ loved us! We do not grow as a body of Christ when the body is subjected to a senior pastor or plurality of pastors of a program based church when the body is required to be spectators versus participants in "worship services" versus focused on living out the "one anothers" in the lives of one another. Senior pastor makes "church" more efficient and requires less work from spectators because the senior pastor or pluarilty of pastors in an institutional church do most of the "work." More like a co-dependecy. Our busy society feeds this system. Jesus IS the Head of the church, and when the body comes together (not as huge stadium sized events) in the intimacy of homes and they make Jesus Head, Lord, King, dieing to themselves, then unity of the Spirit takes a more personal meaning and lives truly become touched with His love, mercy, and grace and the body of Christ can truly be edified and built up. This is what I have been experiencing, and look forward to Jesus making this more real in our lives daily and weekly between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. God bless brother!

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