Friday, October 06, 2006

Alexander Strauch on Biblical Eldership

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee!
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
if with His love He befriend thee!

We opened this morning with song and Scott Brown pointed out the verse above as especially meaningful in his own life. Certainly I concur. I haven't heard the official number yet but we're sitting in the Crystal Ballroom with about 400 people, not just the men of the church but a number of their wives and not a few children. I don't know if there is any program for the youngest present, though.

Alexander Strauch is speaking this morning. Scott Brown is introducing him and his book, Biblical Eldership. “This has become the seminal work on church leadership. It is a timeless book because it is a collection of expositions of Scripture, nothing fancy but the beautiful, sweet words of Scripture,” says Scott. He says this book has sold something more than 250,000 copies since publication in the 1980's; “It has been a wonderful correction in the life of the church,” he says.

Strauch recommends two books: Agape Leadership on the life of Robert Chapman, the spiritual mentor for George Mueller and the first trustee of Hudson Taylor's China Inland Mission. Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man” he knew. The second book was given to us at check-in, Leading with Love, Strauch's own.

The opening Scripture is Titus 1:5-10 on Paul's view of elders and church order.

The essential nature of having elders who are properly qualified. “[Paul] would say this is a problem in many churches today.”

Strauch said when he was a student at a Baptist seminary some decades ago, the professor lectured on church polity without referencing Scripture. When he asked why, Strauch said he was told all those passages in Paul were just “proof texting” and not relevant.

Many churches have people called “elders” but many are not Biblical elders. The Board Concept is common – elders are elected laymen and not expected to be qualified nor permanent leaders.
“Reformation, revitalization, and recovery of doctrine is an unending task for God's people” he says.

“In every generation, we need an enlightened purification of our tradition; the cry of the Reformation is semper reformanda. The church is always being reformed.” -- R.S. Lewis

John Robinson writing for the Separatists on their departure from Holland deplored Reformed churches who have not moved beyond their reformers – Lutherans who stopped growing with Luther, Calvinists who never go further than Calvin, and so on.

The churches established by the apostles are always examples for the modern church. Further, the New Testament teaches and models plurality of elders and pastoral eldership.
OT witnessed plurity of elders. “It is not a new and subversive doctrine invented by John McArthur twenty-five years ago.” There are elders around the very throne of God. It is the background to the NT

Jesus Christ established eldership for His church. He did not appoint a single man to head the church but appointed twelve and then trained them as a team. He singled out three for particular ministry and leadership; “[And] They were not twelve long-stemmed roses,” he says.

New Testament elders are more defined than their Old Testament counterparts. Further, there is more in the New Testament about elders than about the Lord's Supper, baptism, the Lord's Day, or spiritual gifts. The NT gives us Examples of elder-led churches, Instruction to churches about eldes, Instruction and exhortation directly to elders (Acts 20, 1 Peter 5), and the apostolic direction to elders to “set in order” and correct deficiencies in the church.

“Why do we have elders? Because the Bible says so.” A mission professor who was reprimanded for using Biblical Eldership in classes when it didn't include women in that role said, “It's not the author's fault; look at the title.”

Elders promote the true nature of the church. The structure of government you give the local church makes a profound statement about the body, and it is important. Why? Because the church is a close-knit family and household -- 1 Tim 3.15. The church is a humble, serving community. Luke 22.26f. Humility, servant hood, and love is modeled by shared leadership.
Mt 18.20 The church is under the headship of Christ. “This was very real to the early church.”
And it promotes the protection and accountability of leaders. “Our theology tells us man has been ruined by sin.” Jer 17.9 says the heart is desperately sick. “You need accountability and community.”

Defining and understanding New Testament Christian eldership

The general NT concept is pastoral oversight, not board eldership or lay eldership. They shepherd the church.

There is one very confusing subject in many churches ... equality and diversity within the eldership. It's taught in the four gospels even before the Epistles. The church is built on the apostolic body and authority selected by Christ. Not Peter and the associate apostles – all equally called to go out in Christ's name. But no question Christ also picked Peter to strengthen his brethren.

Look at 1 Tim 5 (Cf. Acts 20) – Paul charged the Ephesian elders to guard the church. The church's great enemy is false teachers. Five years later he returns to Ephesus and finds false teaching rampant, excommunicates two men (see 1 Tim 1) and leaves Timothy behind to take action, sending a letter of instruction and authorization to him later. The best remedy for false teaching is good teaching.

“Sermonettes produce Christianettes.”

Those who work hard, to the point of weariness, in preaching and teaching. Among the elders, not every is gifted as a teacher but every one must be able to teach. Some rule well, some are laborers, some are due double honor for their diligence in study and exhortation. The church must take care of them, not be jealous of them, because they will grow the church. All share the same charge but not all are similarly gifted. There is equality and diversity, the Biblical pattern from both Christ and Paul.

“What a beautiful system of government that allows all men who have desire and qualification to take part in the government with their particular giftedness being recognized.”

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