Can a pastor be the chairman or president of the church?
It is common for a pastor to be the chairman of the leadership team in a church. This is the normal practice of some churches, but not every church. What does the Bible teach? What is correct? This article answers the question, “Can a pastor be the chairman or president of the church?”
Pastor Controlled Church
3 John 9-10 describes a bad situation where one man wanted control of the church and was in control. This passage describes a man who was in total control.
I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. 3 John 9-10 (NASB)
It is common for pastors to believe that they should be consulted about everything that happens in “their” church. What they really mean is that they have the right to approve or disapprove of every significant action and decision. Such an attitude was found in Diotrephes.
A Plurality Of Elders Appears In Every Church
In sharp contrast, the New Testament clearly teaches that a plurality of elders should be in control or in leadership of the church. Almost every time the New Testament refers to the leadership of the church, it references a group called elders. For example, in Philippians 1:1 the apostle Paul refers to the congregation and then the leaders of the church who he calls overseers and deacons.
Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons . . . Philippians 1:1 (NASB)
Notice that the word “overseers,” επισκοποs, is in the plural. Overseers also occurs in the plural in Acts 20:28. A careful comparison of Acts 20:17 and 28 reveals that overseers are also called elders. The term overseer refers to the function of the church leaders; the term elder refers to the character of the men.
Elders almost always occurs in the plural when it refers to church leaders. The first use of the term elders in the context of a church is in Acts 11:30. It occurs again in Acts 15:2 when the entire church comes together to make a decision regarding the salvation of Gentiles. They conclude that salvation is for the Gentiles also and not just for the Jews. The term “elders,” πρεσβυτεροs, occurs in Acts 15:6, 22, 23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 and 1 Peter 5:5.
A Plurality Of Elders Controlled The Church
1 Timothy 5:17 teaches that the elders or overseers are to be in control of the church when it says “elders who rule well.”
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17 (NASB)
One of the qualifications for an overseer or elder was that he managed his own home well and his children were under control (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Notice that the Holy Spirit explains the reason for this qualification.
He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) . . . 1 Timothy 5:4-5 (NASB)
The reason is that if he cannot manage his home well, how can he be expected to manage the church well with dignity?
Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 5: 2-3 also state that the elders are the overseers of the church. In summary, the elders are to be collectively in control of the church. The principle is that the elders are equal when voting. Collectively, they are the leaders of the church.
Therefore, does this mean that the pastor or the primary teaching elder cannot be the chairman of the church or of the elders? The answer is he could be the chairman of the church and/or of the elders. But this is not the best role for him. The priority of his ministry is preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). It is best that he leave the ruling to other men since those activities can be a significant drain on his time. Preaching and teaching is his priority. Notice that 1 Timothy 5:17 describes the one who is worthy of honor and then it concludes with “especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Preaching and teaching is his priority and not ruling.
The New Testament clearly states that the priority role of the pastor or primary teaching elder is not oversight and control. His priority function is preaching and teaching. It is not wrong if he is chairman of the church or the elders, but it is not best. The apostle in Acts 6:2-4 clearly established that the priority for the pastor was to study and teach. In this passage they refused to be involved in the organizational matters of the church.
So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4 (NASB)
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