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Why do we… (Part 3)

February 10, 2009

Why is The Bridge led by a group of elders instead of “the Pastor”?

At most churches (even some of the very best), “the pastor” pretty much runs things.  And, honestly, if you’ve just visited The Bridge a couple times you might think that’s how it goes with us too… which probably scares you since I’m 25 and a little goofy.

Behind the scenes, however, The Bridge is radically different in leadership than any other church I’ve been a part of.  A group of 4 men that we call “elders” (not NECESSARILY indicating that they’re old) seek vision for, oversee, and lead The Bridge together with equal say.  Here’s why…

  1. Jesus is our Senior Pastor.  It’s easy for churches to overlook their ecclesiology and ask “What leadership structure works?” instead of “What leadership structure is Biblical?”  A lot of ideas about church leadership in America during the last 40 years (during the “Seeker-Sensitive” movement)  have been more shaped by the business world than the Biblical one.  In a business there’s a CEO that’s the most gifted, proven leader in the company who sits at the top of the leadership flow chart and calls the shots.  Many churches function like this with a “Senior Pastor” at the top of the leadership flow chart.  The Bridge rejects this view; Jesus alone sits at the top of The Bridge’s leadership flow chart, leading us through prayer and His Word.
  2. Multiple elders in the New Testament.  While Jesus is the “Senior Pastor” of churches in the New Testament, we see HUGE evidence that multiple godly men served as “under-shepherds” (under Jesus) as elders in each local church.  For example…
    • Acts 11:30 – elders at the church of Antioch
    • Acts 14:23 – “appoint elders for them in every church”
    • Acts 5:2 – elders at the church in Jerusalem
    • Acts 20:17 – Paul calls the “elders of the church” in Ephesus to come to him
    • I Peter 5:1-2 – Peter exhorts “the elders among you”

And those are just a few of dozens.  It’s incredibly clear that churches were led by multiple elders in the New Testament.

3.  Practical Advantages.   As usual, obedience to Scripture in this area comes along with a bunch of practical advantages:  every decision benefits from the prayer, wisdom, and study of four very godly men instead of one; the stresses of leading difficult people is divided among the elders instead of one guy getting his ear chewed off once a month; the church is much more stable because it isn’t dependent on one personality; multiple men are devoting their lives to “shepherding the flock of God” instead of a single person.  The advantages go on and on and on…

This is why we’re devoted to an ecclesiology of multiple elder leadership.  We LOVE Jesus’ church and believe with everything we’ve got that Scripture is the best guide for church leadership.  And right now, it’s obvious that God is blessing the leadership of these guys.  I love our elders!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2009 7:27 pm

    I would agree. We loooooove our elders. Thank you so much men for your Godly leadership.

  2. February 11, 2009 8:21 pm

    Hey Josh,

    I’m very interested in your leadership setup. Are you elder-led in that the elders make the day-to-day decisions of the church? If so, how do you keep from being bogged down with having to come to a consensus?

    Also, if the elder team leads the church, what is your role at the Bridge then?

    Looking forward to hearing your input!

    – Ariel

  3. josh permalink
    February 12, 2009 11:21 am

    @Ariel – depending on what you mean by “day to day” decisions, the leadership staff usually make those, although we’re constantly fighting against the pull to get bogged down in administration and details as elders.

    The elders are responsible for big-picture decisions, doctrinal issues, church discipline, and shepherding/pastoral care.

    My role as the Lead Pastor (probably a better way to say this is “Pastor for Leadership and Preaching) is to be a “first among equals” when we come to things as elders. The other elders know and recognize that God has called me to seek and develop vision for the direction of The Bridge, to lead, and to preach. While I introduce direction into the conversation during elders’ meetings, after my introduction you would not be able to tell that I was “the pastor” as our discussion is completely among equals. We pray over where I believe God is taking us together until we come to consensus that this is God’s leading.

    PS – Biblically, deacons should be taking care of day-to-day things. We’re getting there…

  4. Susan Howerton permalink
    February 12, 2009 3:18 pm

    Great explanation of all this, Josh. I think our church is blessed to have the most incredible, godly elders one could find. I’m thankful we have Jesus at the top of our leadership flow chart and would not want to be on this leadership staff if He wasn’t. I believe God is blessing our choices in this and am so grateful to you and our elders for their biblical, prayerful leadership.

  5. February 16, 2009 8:19 pm

    Thanks for the response, Josh. Really, I appreciate it.

    Hey are you all a Southern Baptist community?

    – Ariel

    • josh permalink
      February 16, 2009 10:17 pm

      Ariel – always love hearing from you on the blog. Yes, we are.

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