The biblical pattern of missions and evangelism is almost always a team effort (Ephesians 4, Titus 1, I Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5, James 3, Hebrews 13). It is not good for man to be alone, especially as a missionary-pastor! The demands of fruitful industrious gospel ministry in a city are intense. Therefore, while I think it is biblical to plant with a team of missionary-pastors, it is also extremely wise.
Once a church decides to constitute, an unoriginal, biblical, team-concept of leadership should unfold into something called “plurality leadership,” or a “plurality of elders.” In its purest form, this is a model of leadership where the pastors/elders are equal, and Jesus is rightly recognized as the Senior (or Chief) Pastor-Shepherd. The Lead Pastor position will never be available because Jesus is never going away.
Tony Merida lists a few reasons why planting with a team of pastors has many benefits: (1) protects you from mistakes you could make as the lone pastor, (2) helps make up for your deficiencies as a pastor, (3) makes your job more enjoyable, (4) guards against sacrificing your family, (5) provides accountability and encouragement, (6) allows you to divide the shepherding responsibilities, (7) ensures doctrinal integrity, (8) reinforces the idea that Jesus is the Head of the Church, (9) allows for a team-teaching model to flourish, and (10) it is the best way to prepare for the departure of a(n) elder/pastor. I think these are compelling reasons.
I am currently doing a church planting residency at a church made up of three lay pastor/elders and two vocational pastor/elders. Like Imago Dei Church, this church, too, is not exclusively built on either of the vocational pastor/elder’s personalities, presence, or uniqueness. This model is not the Corporate-America-hierarchical-chain-of-command model that has made its way into so many churches today. I do not see the ugly symptoms (particularly prevalent in evangelical pastoral culture) of “ministry as identity” at this church. We have no benevolent dictator calling all the shots and ruling the church like a CEO. It is freeing, challenging, and decentralized (like the New Testament). No doubt, decisions are made slower (as they must convene more frequently in prayer and discussion), but they are made together.
If the Lord wills, two families and myself (and hopefully others!) will be planting a church in Washington D.C. by the end of 2017. We know we must continue abiding in Christ. We recognize that we will need to intensify our existing commitments in making disciples and explaining the good news to our neighbors. We realize the assumption “more people will come to your church if the product is better” is deeply flawed (most people in our context have no intention of ever attending a church service). Therefore, we are committed to doing church and missions in the context of every-day life. In short, we are committed to being incarnational missionary-pastors. This undertaking is a team endeavor.
God has been gracious in allowing our core leaders to be discipled and to serve in the context of two churches with healthy leadership structures. We desire to model our leadership culture and structure based on these two wonderful churches. Please continue to pray with us as we aim to exalt Jesus not only on our outward ministry, but in the inward ordering of ourselves as his church. Is there a place for solo-pastor led churches? Absolutely. However, what I am asserting is that plurality should be normative and everything else the exception. Solo-elder led churches should strive for plurality. If you are a lone-elder at a church, this is not an indictment. Building off of Philippians 3:14-15, I urge you to perform the heavenly call in Christ Jesus given to you; I also trust that if you are not thinking rightly about the ordering of the church “God will reveal this also to you.”
If you are a pastor or a member at a church that is led by a solo elder, what do you think about this blog? Any questions, comments, complaints, throw them in the comments or engage with us on Social Media!