Mark 9: Biblical Understanding of Leadership

9 Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever

It’s really difficult for me to put a quotation up with regard to Mark Dever’s 9th Mark without context. I will say, the chapter is written to a mixed audience with regard to church polity and he argues for the Baptistic positions of two offices and congregational authority. But he argues that a church should have a multiplicity of elders. He does not see the necessity that all elders be supported full time by the church, but likes the idea of “having them be people rooted in the congregation.” He does say this regarding the distinction between “elder” and “deacon:”

Many modern churches have tended to confuse elders with either the church staff or the deacons. Deacons, too, fill a New Testament office, one rooted in Acts 6. While any absolute distinction between the two offices is difficult, the concerns of the deacons are the practical details of the church life: administration, maintenance, and the care of church members with physical needs. In many churches today, deacons have taken some spiritual role; but much has simply been left to the pastor. It would be to the benefit of the church to again distinguish the role of elder from that of deacon.

Eldership is the biblical office I hold as a pastor: I am the main preaching elder. But all the elders should work together for the edification of the church, meeting regularly to pray and to discuss, or to form recommendations for the deacons or the church. Clearly, this is a biblical idea that has practical value. If implemented in our churches, it could help pastors immensely by removing weight from their shoulders and even their own petty tyrannies from their churches. Indeed, the practice of recognizing godly discerning, trusted laymen as elders is another mark of a healthy church.

I would encourage you to visit his website for more information. What are your thoughts?

(As a post script, I asked Dr. John Hartog what he thought of the idea and he stated simply that he doesn’t see the case for “lay eldership.” He cited, 1 Timothy 5:8 “For the Scripture says, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.'”)

3 thoughts on “Mark 9: Biblical Understanding of Leadership”

  1. Fair question. But which is set forth as a pattern to follow? It would seem to me that Biblically a church has a responsibility to pay those who are devoted to the word. I wonder if churches following this model offer said support to their lay elders? Although if I were Dr. Hartog answering my question, perhaps I would tend to ask how could a “lay elder” have the time to devote to faithful study like he needs to (which seems to be the pattern of pastoral leadership). Either way, at this point in time having unpaid elders WHO FIT THE PASTORAL QUALIFICATIONS doesn’t seem to be a huge concern to me.

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