Last night, the church where I pastor, voted to have a plurality of elders/pastors. This has been a long process, but one for which I am grateful. In October 2015, the church adopted a new Constitution and By-laws allowing for the set-up and transition of plural eldership, thus setting the first leg of the marathon behind us. Then it was a matter of waiting for God to send the right men for the job. It was a long wait. It’s been almost three years, but God is faithful, even in our impatience, and last night two men were voted in to help pastor our church. One of these will join our team in a few weeks when he is ordained, the other has pastored other churches and has already been ordained into the ministry, thus last night’s vote brought him immediately into the pastoral role once again. But now what? What does this mean for us in the church?
That is a very good question. It is probably one that I will not be able to answer fully, because I don’t know fully what to expect myself. Some things may not change immediately. Other matters might change rather quickly. At present, all of us are reading through Alexander Strauch’s book, Biblical Eldership, at least hoping to get a mental grasp of what it means to share the leadership of the local church. We are meeting together to flesh out how this shared leadership will actually work. We will be examining strengths and weaknesses so that we can complement one another in the ministry. We will be keeping each other accountable in our ministry roles and personal lives.
Soon each of us elders will be given families with whom we will be in contact. At minimum they will be contacted monthly by phone/text, depending on preference, and visited quarterly. While all pastors are expected to pray for and/or with all members and attendees of the church at any time, there is a commitment to pray for assigned families regularly and often. These “assigned” families are only bearing upon the pastors to focus us and give us direction. They are not bearing upon the flock; any person in our congregation can go to and speak with any pastor.
As elders, we want to lead, not rule. We are not looking to be an oligarchy (ruled by the few), but a group of shepherds watching over their flock until the Good Shepherd returns. Therefore, we will be in prayer with one another for the sake of the church, its direction, and its good. What direction that will be is unknown to us, but well-known from before time began by our Sovereign Lord. Surely there will be times where we be lying down in green pastures and by still waters, and other times we will be walking the terrain surrounded by deathly shadows. Yet, we shall not fear for the Shepherd-King is with us, and with his staff he pulls us close, with his rod he fights on our behalf. As under-shepherds, we three men, will not take His place, but we will fight for the orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practice) of our flock, and do our best to keep every false belief and every false way far from those under our charge.
That being said, we ask for patience. We ask for patience from the flock and from each other. This is relatively new for everyone. It will take trust on everyone’s part. It will take determination and grit to get through those moments when it would be easier just to go back to the way things use to be.
We also ask for prayer. While many churches have walked this terrain before us, we have not. We will most likely make mistakes and we will most likely have to apologize for those mistakes, but pray that while on this well-trodden land, we can follow the paths of those who went before us, avoiding most of the pitfalls that other churches and pastors have taken. Pray for each other. Changes will happen; that’s inevitable. Some changes may be exciting and feel good; others may be foreboding and feel overwhelming. And so we must pray–pray for the elders and pray for one another.
Exactly how things will change, I cannot say at this moment. But God is doing something new for us and in us and to us. That means things are and will be changing. May we respond in unity, prayer, and to the glory of God.