In every instance when elders are mentioned with shepherding, elders (plural) are present. Scripture teaches that church leadership is not meant for one, but a plurality (Acts 11; 14-16; 20; Eph 4; Phil 1; I Tim 5; Tit 1; Jas 5; I Pet 1; 5). Even John MacArthur, the Teaching Pastor of one of the largest churches in America, concludes,
“Clearly, all the biblical data indicates that the pastorate is a team effort. It is significant that every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros is used, it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John, and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. The norm in the New Testament church was a plurality of elders. There is no reference in all the New Testament to a one-pastor congregation.”
The biblical church model of a government is an elder-led church.
Here are some other reasons why a plurality of “elders” is best:
- A plurality of elders helps balance pastoral weaknesses. No one person has all spiritual gifts necessary to lead and rule a church. And the more elders you have, the greater variety of giftedness you have. You have more strengths than weaknesses. Paul tells us that we all have gifts given that are of variety and that is needed on an elder board (Rom 12:6).
- A plurality of elders diffuses congregational criticism. When a congregation doesn’t like the direction of the church, a plurality of elders helps protect one man from being the object of that criticism.
- A plurality of elders is wise. Proverbs 15:22 says without plans counsel fails, but with many advisers those same plans succeed. Most decisions made for the church need wise men (plural). Collective wisdom trumps singular foolishness.
- A plurality provides accountability. If you are the sole pastor in a church, you don’t have the necessary accountability with others who should be pastoring. Pastors needs pastors. Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety in an abundance of counselors.
- A plurality of elders lightens everyone’s workload. Not one elder is in as much danger of burnout with others to help him.