We have looked at the reality that there is diversity of spiritual giftedness in true elders and that there is also diversity of financial support. In this post a third area of diversity among the elders will be our focus. With regard to biblical eldership, there is also the diversity of actual influence.
It is also clear that there may be great diversity in a man’s actual influence as a Christian minister. This was certainly true even of the highest office in Christ’s church—the office of Apostle. Paul labored more than all the Apostles. He had, thus, a proportionately greater influence (1 Cor. 15:10). It also seems clear that Peter exercised a greater influence than many of the other Apostles (Matt. 16:18; Acts 1:15; 2:14, 38; 3:1).
What is true of the extraordinary office of Apostle certainly must be true of the ordinary office of the pastor or elder. The sovereignty of God in the work of salvation and the differing gifts the Spirit gives lead to differing degrees of influence for good in Christ’s church. Of course, once more church history and Christian experience demonstrate that this is true.
The New Testament, then, teaches the plurality, the parity, and the diversity of elders in the eldership of the local church. It is in light of these three principles that the eldership of every local church ought to be organized. The distribution of responsibilities and ministries must be guided by each of these three principles. The diversity of gift, influence and support must not disguise the parity of official authority belonging to each elder. The parity and plurality of the elders should not suppress the implications of the diversity of elders in the distribution of the responsibilities and ministries in the church. Parity of office does not require an artificial equality in the distribution of ministry or financial support. Rather, the sovereignty of Christ in giving a diversity of gifts should be acknowledged in such matters.
One great implication of the diversity of the eldership as we have seen it in this blog series is that part of the calling of a pastor is giving the man who is to be called a clear job description. This is especially true where the man is not to be the first or sole supported pastor of a church. Of course, the Bible provides every elder such a job description in its explanation of the duties of the office. These duties, however, will vary in their proportion and their weight depending on his particular gifts and specific responsibilities. His ability to fulfill such duties will also be dependent on the time he can devote to such responsibilities. In turn this will be dependent on whether and to what extent he is financially supported.
To re-emphasize my main point: all of this requires that the elder-to-be must be provided a clear idea or specific, job description of the particular duties he is called to fulfill as an elder. This is necessary in order to help a conscientious man make a responsible decision to accept the position being offered to him. This is also necessary in order to assure that hopes are not raised by the call to the eldership which are false or unrealistic.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.