Let me start with this caveat: I do not take the stand that a plurality of elders is the only acceptable model of the New Testament church. On the other hand, I’ve learned that there is great wisdom in having others who walk beside us as we lead the church together (and, how I wish I’d known that reality as a young pastor!). Here’s why a plurality matters:
- God created us to be in relationships. The pre-fall condition of Adam’s not-so-good aloneness (Gen 2:18) was not a mandate for all of us to be married, but it was a reminder that God created all of us to need others. That simple truth pushes against any leading by ourselves.
- None of us is wisest alone. No matter how smart we may think we are, we can always learn from others when we invite them into our lives. Indeed, we need people who speak truth to us.
- All of us have blind spots. We might try hard to be self-aware, but none of us sees himself without bias. The trouble with blind spots is that they often affect how we act—but we don’t even recognize our tendencies. We need others to point them out to us.
- A plurality of leaders keeps us humble. I’m assuming, of course, that these other leaders honestly critique us, push back at our ideas, affirm us when it’s right, and help us grow in Christ. They point out our arrogance that we so often don’t recognize.
- A plurality brings multiple gifts. In some ways, a plurality of leaders is one expression of the 1 Corinthians 12 church. God puts His Body together as He wills, and all of us matter in His work. Our combined gifts help the local church to move forward.
- A plurality of leaders promotes the witness of unity in the Body. It’s amazing when God takes us from different backgrounds and makes us one. That’s especially apparent when a plurality of leaders who trust each other can debate issues, wrestle through disagreements, and still come out with a united voice.
- We share the burden if plans don’t work out. If I’m the only one leading, I bear full responsibility if my plans don’t succeed. With a plurality of leaders, though, all of us bear the weight of failure—which makes the weight much lighter.
Even if you’re the single pastor of a local church, I encourage you to prayerfully seek others who might serve alongside you. You may not use the terms “plurality” or “elders,” but still you need a team of people around you. Let us know if you’d like us to pray for you about this matter.