Friday, 1 February 2013

Church Government: Single-elder Congregationalism

Note: This is the fourth post of a series on church governments, which began as I seek to understand the distinctives and issues of various church government systems. You can read the first three as listed below.

  1. Introduction and Anglicanism
  2. Presbyterianism
  3. Breakthrough

There can be only one elder in a local church?

Paige Patterson presents the single-elder congregationalism. I found this chapter a bit difficult to follow and of the arguments I think I understood rather unconvincing, but here's what I gleaned from it.

1) Every Christian is a priest, hence there needs no distinct/higher office in a church. Every member can and must take the responsibility together regarding decisions in the church.
2) The models in the New Testament regarding church structure shows single-elder congregational structures while there are some counter models as well.
3) Even in plural-elder congregationalism, or Presbyterianism, at the local church level, there usually one senior pastor who is at the front of the leadership in the church because of the very nature of the leadership.
4) Although there's no clear command from the bible whether to have one elder or multiple elders in a church, from seeing how the leadership panned out throughout the scriptures, single-elder congregationalism is the most appropriate form of the church government.
5) Patterson seems to give allowance for having multiple elders in a church as long as there is one definite leader/pastor among them (single-elder), and that no authority outside the church is enforced over the church and all members take part in decision making (congregationalism).

Ok, I don't feel I've summed up this chapter very well, but I think it's because the case was not made very well, or maybe it's the limitations of the single-elder congregationalism.

I am not convinced by this model and I'll move on to the plural-elder congregationalism in the next post.

(Photo credit: Memegenerator)

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