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Sunday School: Mark IX: Biblical Church Leadership (Part 11)

December 10, 2017 Speaker: John Bell Series: Sunday School: What is a Healthy Church?

  1. In the New Testament, how many elders/pastors/overseers should there be in any local church?
  • The word "church" (in the singular) is regularly bound up with the city: Ephesus, Jerusalem
  • The word "churches" (in the plural) is bound up with larger geographical units: the churches in Judea, the churches in Samaria, the churches in Asia Minor.
  • But all of their "house churches" in one city constituted, as far as they were concerned, the "church" of that city.
  • How the elders of that one "church" were distributed, it is impossible to say.
  • There is no absolute biblical rule requiring that a certain number of elders is necessary for larger churches, or that a percentage of the congregation must be elders.


  1. What are the advantages of having a plurality of elders?
  • Biblical accountability
  • Wisdom
  • Balance
  • Burden sharing
  • Sets an example for the church


  1. Does a plurality of elders preclude the position of “senior” pastor?

Practical Considerations

  • Continuity in the Church’s teaching
  • Leadership is facilitated by having a point person
  • The emergence of an individual leader is almost inevitable


  1. What does “first among equals” mean in relation to a plurality of elders?’

* In some situations, the lead guy might have an extra measure of authority and honour. The emphasis will fall upon the first in “first among equals.” In other situations, the lead guy might have less authority, and he will need to rely more upon the parity of elders. The emphasis will fall upon “among equals.” And the difference between one context and another, I assume, will be dictated by a host of factors:

1) the competencies and spiritual maturity of the lead guy

2) the competencies and maturity of the other elders

3) how long he or they’ve been serving

4) the season of the church’s life, and what kind of leadership it needs;  

5) a host of other providential arrangements.

  1. Four primary duties of lay-elders
  • Teach
  • Lead
  • Model
  • Pray


  1. What is the difference between church elders and church staff?


  • An elder is a man who meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy and Titus and leads the congregation by teaching the Word (1 Tim. 3:2), praying for the sheep (Jas. 5:14), and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:2).
  • The staff are people paid by the church for either part or all of their week to facilitate the church’s work and ministry. This means they will be most familiar with what is going on day to day in the church. They may or may not have seminary training. They must have a certain degree of godliness and maturity since they occupy something of a public and representative role for the church.
  • Staff may or may not be elders. If they are not, they are more like deacons—men and women given particular formal areas of responsibilities for carrying out the vision of the elders.
  • There are good reasons to have paid staff who are not elders, and to have elders who are not in the pay of the church. Specifically,
  • Having non-elder staff allows the church an expedient way of getting administrative work done by competent, godly individuals without requiring them to be elders.
  • Having non-elder staff provides a way for the church to set aside godly women who can devote themselves to working with women and children.
  • Non-elder staff work under the oversight of the elders. They’re hired hands.
  • On the other hand, it can also be very useful to have non-staff elders. Non-staff elders help root the congregation’s leadership in the congregation itself, rather than in one man who may be called from the outside and won’t be around forever.
  • Non-staff elders give people in the congregation a model of maturity to aspire toward even as they work in non-vocational-ministry jobs.
  • Non-staff elders teach the congregation that Christian ministry is something Christians should do regardless of whether they get paid.

More in Sunday School: What is a Healthy Church?

March 4, 2018

Sunday School: Elder-Led Congregationalism (Pt. 7)

February 18, 2018

Sunday School: Elder-Led Congregationalism (Pt .6)

February 11, 2018

Sunday School: Elder-Led Congregationalism (Pt. 5)