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August 20, 2009

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Reasons why the church would be better off without clergy\Pastors

1. God doesn’t intend such a profession to exist. There is simply and unequivocally no biblical mandate or justification for the profession of clergy as we know it. In fact, the New Testament points to a very different way of doing church and pastoral ministry.

2. It crushes “body life.” We can see in the New Testament that God doesn’t intend church to be a formal association to which a rank-and-file membership belongs by virtue of paying dues and attending meetings, an association which is organized, guided, and governed by a professional leader (and, in larger organizations, by an administrative bureaucracy). Yet that is exactly what most churches are.

3. It is fundamentally self-defeating. Its stated purpose is to nurture spiritual maturity in the church-a valuable goal. In actuality, however, it accomplishes the opposite by nurturing a permanent dependence of the laity on the clergy. Clergy become to their congregations like parents whose children never grow up, like therapists whose clients never become healed, like teachers whose students never graduate. The existence of a full-time, professional minister makes it too easy for church members not to take responsibility for the on-going life of the church. And why should they? That’s the job of the pastor (so the thinking goes). But the result is that the laity remain in a state of passive dependence.

4. What it does to the people in that profession. Being a member of the clergy as we know it is difficult. Doing it very well is almost impossible. Yet good-hearted men and women, convinced that they are serving God in this way, admirably pour their lives into this task. What they encounter as professional clergy, however, is stress, frustration, and burn-out.

Got this from an awesome blog called Post-Congregational Christianity

Church would be better off without pastors?
Sounds like an over-reaction to cases like these rather than consideration of what a pastor should look like and how he should be accountable to his congregation

The Presbyterian form of church government does a good job in preventing the pastor (or senior pastor) from becoming the rock star of the church. I came from a Baptist background, and the Presbyterian form of government took a little getting used to, but it wasn't long before I could see the practical benefit in that the pastor was not the end-all of every decision and direction the church would take.

You are to right. Especailly about the laity depending to much on one preacher. Every one of us can make mistakes even out preachers. If everyone in the church is depending on one person for our Bible knowledge who is going to speak up when the preacher gets it wrong?

I too am not supportive of the "Protestant Pope" model of church government. I attended a popular church for a few years where the pastor called all the shots. He was a good guy and did a lot, but I was never quite comfortable with him running the whole show. And he did have a sort of super star aura. Funny thing is, he never encouraged it; It was something that was simply created by the congregation.

First comment is a knee-jerk reaction. Darrin, you may have had a bad experience at a mega church with one guy in charge. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. By definition, churches have a hierarchy, it's in the Bible. Look at the church in Acts. Leaders, pastors, and administrators are what God gives His church.

Daniel, I agree with you. I have been attending a conservative Presbyterian church for about 4 years now and one of the things I definitely like is their model of Church government. The pastor isn't the main guy running the show. He is also accountable to the elder board. A huge, huge plus. If he is found delinquent in doctrine or life, the elder board will take appropriate action. My pastor have been frank on this and he prefers not to be the guy running everything. It's a relief for him and takes away the burden that would come with all the added stress.

Would you include Calvary Chapel churches in the Pastor Run Category? They do have a board.

I specifically think of CC when reading this. People I know that go to CC go there because of a pastor they follow. (as I said, most people I know)

It's about accountability. Presbyterianism model is the most biblical!

Hi there, Shane.

I'm wondering what you think about the New Atheists' view of Christianity?

Would you say it was distorted for the purposes of their argument and they create 'straw men' (which don't represent orthodox Christianity) then knock down something which bears little resemblance to the truth in the first place?

If so, I'm sorry, but I find your term 'Protestant Pope' just like one of their straw men.

I think, as apologists, we need to be very sure of the accuracy of our comments and our interlocutors to make sure, even if we disagree, we don't cause offense of misrepresent, and thereby show we're totally ignorant of what Catholics believe about certain things, for example.

You say, "The pastor isn't the main guy running the show. He is also accountable to the elder board.", and, well, that's pretty much the Catholic view, too. We call it the Magisterium. We realise the truth can't be contained in one man (apart from Jesus Christ!), becasue of our propensity to sin.

But if you're interested in finding out what Catholics believe, people like Loraine Boettner aren't the place to begin. :)

Also, like Greg's great talk on 'Never Read a Bible Verse' (which is very much in line with the Catholic view of Scripture, BTW), in the same way, it's no good just going to, say, papal Encyclicals, and simply find verses we don't like and claim they're proof of Catholicism's errors.

In fact, you give the best advice in your post, too:

"Don't throw out the baby with the bath water."

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Everyone, forgive my rabbit trail but I need to answer this.

Hi James,
You're right, I could have used a different choice of words other then "Protestant Pope". It was an over generalization to compare the Roman Catholic model of church government to that of the modern evangelical form. I have fallen into the informalities of the internet- I am at the mercy of technology!

I have read some of Boettner's materials, but none of his critiques on Rome. Actually, I have read Trent through several times and that is where I find my disagreements with Rome, particularly Session 6 on Justification and Session 22 on the Sacrifice of the Mass. In my opinion, some good things are said and some blasphemous. I'll have to leave it at that.

On Jose's question:
I am biased for the Calvary Chapels, even though I am now one of those mean 5 point Calvinist. I went to a Calvary Chapel for several years when I was first converted.

They do have a board, every non-profit company must. But from what I understand, and I am no business lawyer,the bylaws are what govern how the members of the board and the pastor operate. So although churches have boards, you can still have one guy driving the bus, so to speak.

Thanks for your courteous reply, Shane. It's appreciated, and thanks for sharing a little bit about your disagreements.

If I may be autobiographical briefly, I think one of the things I struggled with as an Evangelical was how I could judge blasphemy as the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I was a sort of 'Christian relativist', as there were so many church splits and disagreements over the Bible. We all seemed to have our own wildly differing interpretations and so people were church-hopping because this or that pastor taught heresy, or the worship didn't 'meet their need'. In short there was no foundation because the Bible was merely like the Elephant in the story of the blind men: all of us feeling it and drawing totally different conclusions. Our criteria, and methods of judgment seemed no different to the relativism in secular culture. And yet, it was hard to argue any right position because there didn't seem to be any authoritative interpretations.

For me, I discovered that in the Catholic Church, the Magisterium was the guardian of the Faith and the Word, a bit like Paul's exhortation to Timothy that Greg brings out in 'Never Read a Bible Verse' (i.e., it was a solid foundation, although I felt a bit uncomfortable at first like a fish out of water!), and Catholicism was actively criticising relativism face-on.

I can't be sure, of course, as it's a hypothesis contrary to fact, but I think if I'd heard Greg Koukl on Scripture and Relativism, etc., in the 1980s, I might not have reverted to Catholicism.

That said, I'm truly glad I found STR. With the quality of the thinking that goes on here that I've benefitted from as a layperson and no expert, I can understand why it wouldn't have been a big step for Frank Beckwith. The STR staff and associated are great thinkers and deeply committed to Christ. It shows in the presentations I've downloaded.

I've been learning so much about being an Ambassador here, and I feel truly blessed to be able to chat with people who appreciate STR too!

Sorry it's a bit long, but I'd love any comments you might have on the above issues.

Thanks again for your reply!

Paul

While the pope model may exist in many churches - especially larger ones - many of us serve as senior pastors in churches where we are a leader among equals and do our best to serve our people rather than run them.

As is usually true, the abuse cases get noticed and what is generally the norm - at least from the 30+ years of experience I've had in pastoral ministry (as both an associate and a senior pastor) - is ignored by over-reaction.

What! someone stole from a group of people?! See this is why i hate organized religion, i'm never goin back to church again!! << don't be that guy.

The problems you listed above can and do happen at congregationally and elder led churches too though. Just FYI.

It seems to me that the real root of this isn't the model we use, its sin. I don't mean that to sound cliche, but every "model" we think of has the basic limitation that people are running it. There's problems with no pastors, senior pastors, multiple teachers, deacons, elders, the pope.

The one commonality is us. Perhaps there is some truly "ideal" way of running a church, but as long as man is involved so will sin.

Great article, Brett. I appreciate the desire for balance expressed by Peter and Dwayne. But the senior pastor model has problems inherent simply because of the unwarranted and unhealthy prominence of the senior pastor. And I fail to find such a model taught or even described in the NT.

We have passages directly addressing elders, giving us the qualifications for elders, and describing the appointment of elders. However we have no passage addressing senior pastors, giving us qualifications for senior pastors, or describing the appointment of a senior pastor. In the NT the church elders are the pastors of the church. I think if we incorporate a church office that isn't taught or modeled in Scripture, the burden is on us to show why it's warranted.

[FWIW, Calvary Chapels follow what's called the "Moses model" of pastoral ministry, where the pastor stands in relationship to the congregation as Moses did to the people of Israel. One is not to counter or openly disagree with one's pastor. If you can't support him, you are to quietly leave. For more info, see The Philosophy of Ministry of Calvary Chapel by Chuck Smith where he describes this leadership model and tells of instructing one pastor to "fire the elders" because they wouldn't follow his vision. BTW, my intention is to clarify previous posts, not to disparage Calvary Chapel. I love them and could list many wonderful qualities that are worthy of emulation. But their leadership model is openly published, and has arguably---and sadly---been their Achilles heel, leading to much pain for both pastors put into unhealthy places of authority and people in their churches.]

I should also add that Calvary Chapel's form of senior pastor leadership is not the norm for churches that have senior pastors. Don't want to present that as a straw man!

I would beg to differ, Curt. It could be argued that the Timothy and Titus both served in roles similar to the role senior pastors have today. While the title "senior pastor" is not used in Scripture, having someone primarily given the day-to-day responsibility for leadership is hardly antibiblical. In our church our elders are heavily involved in teaching and leading, but I serve as a leader among them. I'm an elder also, not some newly-created entity. I'd argue that such an approach is very biblical.

Titus was sent to appoint elders in each town on the island of Crete. How is that the work of a senior pastor? Timothy was frequently left behind for additional work with churches that Paul and his team had planted, or sent ahead before Paul got there. According to 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul was intending to arrive soon but might be delayed. Scholars are divided on whether Timothy was located in Ephesus when 2 Timothy was written but there's nothing in the letter indicating so (actually it sounds as if he's somewhere other than Ephesus). Both men were part of Paul's apostolic team, and both shared in Paul's work of establishing and strengthening churches. The letters written to both demonstrate this ministry of apostolic assistance very well.

The consistent theme throughout Acts and the pastoral epistles shows that both Timothy and Titus assisted Paul in his apostolic ministry. To now claim that both men were senior pastors seems to me to be reading back into Scripture our current models. Peter, could you show me in Scripture where either Timothy or Titus were given responsibility for the ongoing, day-to-day leadership of the church rather than a ministry of assisting Paul in the establishment and strengthening of these churches?

Peter, I addressed the roles of Timothy and Titus without really responding to the nuance of your comment. Elders will most likely have differing roles because of their differing gifts and time availability. Some elders will be especially committed to studying and teaching, and may therefore be supported financially. I don't have a problem with one elder handling the day-to-day leadership of the church, or being the primary teacher---although this can easily evolve into a separate office in distinction to the other elders.

I think there is great latitude in how we apply the scriptural model. But I don't see any justification for distinguishing one such elder from the others, especially designating a different church office. I would agree with you that serving in leadership among the other elders is biblical; I would question the biblical precedent of one elder being designated to lead the others.

Lets not put God in a box with respect to church organization and leadership. Time and cultures change and how churches are organized can change as well. What works in the west may not work in an undergound house church in China. The constant is faithfulness to God and scripture, and ACCOUNTABILITY by all in leadership, whether there is one person in that role, or many. We are all sinners by nature and left unchecked, can stray. Good leaders will surround themselves with godly men and women who are not afraid to hold each other accountable.

Curt, I appreciate the tone of your remarks, but I'm going to have to disagree with you regarding the role of prominent leadership in the NT churches - and beyond. While the biblical pattern is plurality of elders, that pattern does not leave out the role of one or two having greater responsibility and perhaps authority in the church.

While the fact that something happens does not mean that which happened is good, it seems clear that God has used the role of leaders among equals (whatever you want to call it) for centuries in the believing community. It is hard for me to say that thousands upon thousands of (hopefully) godly men have been incredibly mistaken as to their call by God into pastoral work. While God certainly could work with our weakness, it seems that with all that God has reformed in the church through the centuries this would be high on his list since it affects that which His Son died for. Subjective, perhaps, but worth considering.

It seems that regardless of which church structure God has allowed the believing community to use, there has always been the individual or individuals who rise to greater leadership. You may not like the term, and perhaps you have been in a situation where that leadership has been abused, but it would be hard - outside of the use of the title - to make the case that pastoral ministry by prominent people is outside the pattern of Scripture. You may see Timothy and Titus as mere apostolic assistants, but it is clear from the books written to them that they did more than appoint elders. I think they served - as did some of the Apostles - in a primary leadership role among other elders.

You probably don't agree with me and that's ok. I appreciate your perspective and wish you God's best in your quest to serve Him.

God has put me the position of sole pastor of my church. Call it what it is- the pastoral epistles are the biblical support for the position. That wolves sometimes come in among us not a reason to abolish the office established by Christ. More members fall than pastors- should we abolish the preisthood of all believers?

Peter, thanks for your response. I, too, appreciate the spirit of your posts. I think a reliance on historical precedent can be helpful, but also dangerous. I'm sure the reformers had similar challenges. And a polity of co-equal elders actually seems to reoccur fairly often throughout church history, albeit always in the minority (after the early second century). Just because people are sincere and seeking to be godly doesn't mean that they are necessarily correct in their methods. So I would say that this issue is primarily an exegetical one.

I would agree that Timothy and Titus did more than appoint elders. They worked with the elders, ensuring quality teaching and sound leadership practices for the churches. I do see this as very much in line with their ministry of assisting Paul in establishing and strengthening churches. I think the fact that they were apostolic assistants is undeniable. The disagreement we seem to have is whether they---or Paul for that matter---exercised this kind of apostolic oversight in a specific local church on an ongoing basis. I just don't see the scriptural basis for claiming this. It seems to be reading back into Scripture. Even Paul's stay in Ephesus seems to best fit an apostolic church-establishing ministry, and this is the longest stay we see described in Scripture.

It's not that senior pastors can't faithfully and effectively serve, or that their churches can't be healthy. I highly respect many who serve as senior pastors, and have benefited greatly from their ministries. But I think we all want to seek God's very best in our own ministries and in our churches. Part of the beauty of the biblical model of church leadership by a team of co-equal elders/pastors is that it is very flexible. The Bible doesn't give us elaborate, detailed instructions regarding method, so the principle can be applied to any culture or church situation (addressing the concerns of Ed). There is also freedom for men who are specially gifted as teachers or leaders to fulfill their ministries, but with built-in accountability and protection against abuses. I see great balance and wisdom there.

I don't mean to belabor this, and maybe we have reached the point of simply agreeing to disagree. If so, I pray that God will richly bless you in your ministry, Peter, and use you to edify His people. But I am sincerely open to correction regarding this issue if I can just see it in Scripture. Can you point me to specific passages that clearly show for Titus, Timothy, or Paul an ongoing senior pastor type role to one local church, as opposed to a limited stay that is part of an ongoing establishing and strengthening apostolic ministry to many local churches? If I could see such a role patterned in Scripture, I would have no qualms in embracing such a model. I'm not in the minority on this issue because I enjoy it(!), but simply because this is what I see in Scripture.

Of course, as others have pointed out, no leadership structure is completely immune from abuse. And regardless of our polity, we all bear the same responsibility to lead in a godly manner, remaining accountable to others and serving with right motives---for the glory of God and the real edification of His people.

Curt - I was going to write up a lengthy description of why I believe the most accurate reading of scripture and study of early church history reflects a leadership model of a plurality of co-equal elders/pastors...but you already did it!

I go to a church that employs this model - we have about 4 pastors, 2 of which do more of the teaching and day-to-day ministry (the others are more focused on worship and counseling areas).

I can say firsthand that having this model has blessed the church body greatly. Each pastor is accountable to every other pastor and the body. One person's weaknesses are balanced by others' strengths. No one person is getting burnt out - responsibility is shared. It's much more difficult to have a "cult of personality" around one person when the ministry is shared.

But perhaps the greatest benefit that arises from this model is that the leadership - the elders of the church - is not static. Hopefully over time the body will grow, and as that happens new elders will be raised up. The model in Acts and in the early church is that we see churches not grow and then stagnate - they multiply. Over the span about 10 years, the church and it's "children" have planted 8 other churches in different parts of the state, country, and world. It's been amazing to watch God's hand!

Good thoughts, Jon. Another benefit that I've seen is when a prominent pastor/teacher leaves a church. If he's one of a team of pastor/elders, with shared teaching responsibilities, then he'll be missed but there will still be a solid continuity to the leadership of the church. Most of us have experienced how the exit of a senior pastor can damage the equilibrium of a church. At the very least it puts the church into "pastor search" mode. With a team of pastor/elders this is unnecessary.

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