Why Does LBC Have Multiple Pastors, Pt. 2: The Practical Benefits

This is the second installment on a two-part series on our church structure. You can find the first part here

In the first post, I looked at what the Bible has to say concerning how a local church should be structured. I believe that the consistent pattern of Scripture is that local churches are lead by a team of pastors, not merely one guy at the top. Now, I want to look at the practical benefits of having a team of pastors lead the church.

The Practical Benefits of Having a Team of Pastors Lead the Church

First, a team of elders balances of the weaknesses of an any particular elder (Remember, “pastor” and “elder” are interchangeable terms). Our culture loves the idea that you can be omni-competent—good at everything. But that is just not true. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. When you surround yourself as a pastor with other godly men who have different strengths from your own and different giftings than your own, you can more adequately minister to the body of Christ.

Second, a team of elders gets more done. Rather than having one guy oversee the whole church, which is a quite impossible task I would say for a church larger than 50, multiple elders can oversee the church and make sure that the ministry of the church is well-rounded. Too often, having one single senior pastor will skew the church according to the senior pastor’s strengths and gifting. For example, the senior pastor may place a high value on verse-by-verse Bible teaching. But he may be weak on mission. What do you think the church will look like? Probably having lots of people who know a lot of Bible but don’t evangelize.

Third, it checks pride in the pastors. Pastors need to have other godly men who can say “no” to them and shoot down their ideas. If a pastor’s power cannot be limited, well, you already know the quote on the corrupting influence of absolute power. It’s amazing to me that our Founding Fathers saw the importance of providing checks and balances of power in our government, yet many churches do not follow such practical (and biblical!) wisdom.

Fourth, it gives power back to the people, not the professionals. If the locus of leadership in the church is found in the elders as a whole, then it gives the congregation more power. Because most of the elders will not be paid by the church. Therefore, they will be much more in tune with the needs and desires of “normal” church-goers, who are not “professional” ministers.

Fifth, it provides stability for the church. If the “senior pastor” abruptly leaves, or commits grave sin and is removed, the church is in crisis. Having a team of leaders, however, can help the church weather the storm of having a high-profile leader leave. If your church falls apart when the senior pastor leaves, you’re doing it wrong.

Objection: Too much plurality makes change harder to enact and can keep the church spinning its wheels. In other words, it is inefficient. 

Another objection of the team of elders model of church governance is that it’s inefficient. For example, the more people who need to sign-off on a decision slows the decision making. Especially if a change is almost self-evidently obvious, it is detrimental to have plurality. Just make the decision!

Response

Efficiency is overrated. Sure, there are times when change can be and should be implemented quickly, but many times, having to “fight” for a ministry or a change brings great benefits. When multiple leaders can weigh in on a decision, they can often provide constructive feedback and see blindspots that you didn’t. It also forces more precise thinking on a various issues and ministries. For example, a married elder with kids will examine a proposal for a new ministry through the lens of “How will this effect families in our church?” If the pastor is single, that can be an especially helpful question to grapple with.

Conclusion

I wrote this short series to hopefully answer some questions of why we do what we do at LBC. On a closing note, I want to express how much I love working in a church that has multiple pastors. It has been one of the greatest joys of my first year plus working here. It has kept me from acting rashly, making foolish decisions, saying stupid things, and derailing the work that God is doing in the church. I cannot commend the biblical model of a team of elders/pastors highly enough for a church.

Why Does LBC Have Multiple Pastors?

This is Part One of a two-part series on our church structure. 

At Lincroft Bible Church, we have multiple pastors on staff as well as six other pastors. (The other pastors are also called “elders.” The term is interchangeable in Scripture. To be an elder is to be a pastor and vice versa). Moreover, we rotate our preaching schedule so that all three of us staff pastors preach every month. Visitors can sometimes be surprised that we don’t have a “senior pastor” or a “lead pastor”: one guy who runs the whole church. Rather, we run the church through a team of pastors. Here’s why…

Scripture presents a pattern of local churches being run by a team of pastors/elders

Paul regularly appointed multiple pastors/elders in the churches that he established (Acts 14:23). We see then his practice worked out as he summons the Ephesians elders together (Acts 20:17-18). When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he addresses the “overseers” (“Overseer” is another term for the office of pastor/elder) (Philippians 1:1). Again, notice the plural. Furthermore, just as Paul appointed multiple elders in churches, he also tells his apostolic delegate, Titus, to also appoint elders (plural!) in the the churches of Crete (Titus 1:5).

Other New Testament writers assume the basic framework that multiple elders lead local churches. For example, James believes that those who are sick in the church should ask the “elders” to pray for them (James 5:14). In addition, Peter gives instructions to the “elders” who are in the churches of Asia Minor (1 Peter 5:1-2).

Therefore, based upon the pattern laid forth in the New Testament, it seems wise to also pattern current church structures the same way.

Objection: Both the Old and New Testaments give evidence for “Senior Leaders” among God’s people

A common objection to the plurality of elders is that the Bible has examples of one dynamic leader having authority over God’s people. In the Old Testament, Moses is the head of Israel, therefore, churches can have one “senior pastor” who runs the church. For example, Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, is a proponent of the “Moses Model.” In addition, the New Testament has examples of “senior leaders.” Peter and James, who were both apostles, stand up and seem preside over the “elders” who were present at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:4, 6). Paul, as an apostle, also established churches and appointed elders, seemingly having authority over them. Therefore, it is appropriate for one leader to be the top leader in a local church.

Response

All of those examples used to oppose the plurality of elders are unique situations which do not have bearing on today’s church. Israel is not the church, so taking Moses’ leadership over Israel as a model for church governance is misguided. The church is a new covenant reality and should not be patterned after old covenant structures.

The book of Acts is a transition book as a old covenant is vanishing (Hebrews 8:13) and the new covenant community, the church, is being established. Therefore, stories in the book of Acts are not necessarily normative for today’s church. It is especially dubious to see any church governance implications in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, because the apostles were debating whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be included in God’s people! Hopefully we have moved past such debates. The Jerusalem Council was a unique event which does not have bearing on how churches should be structured. However, Paul’s method of establishing multiple elders to lead local churches is not unique, it’s a pattern. A pattern which is also further confirmed by the other New Testament writers.

Furthermore, Peter in his letter of 1 Peter calls himself a “fellow-elder” with the elders of already established churches, even though he was an apostle (1 Peter 5:1)! In addition, even if the apostles did have authority over elders of local churches in the New Testament, apostles do not exist any longer. Therefore, it is inappropriate to argue for “senior leaders” based on the apostles.

So, I hope that can be a useful in explaining why, based on Scripture, we have multiple pastors. Next post, I will look at the practical benefits of having multiple pastors.