(Section from the book titled Which direction is the Church going to?
by Sandor Abonyi)
This section can download in PDF form here:
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There are some people – unfortunately little in number for the time being – who are of the opinion that plural leadership is Biblical. They have a desire in their hearts to realize this model, but they don’t know how it functions and how to take the fist steps into this direction.
Biblical teaching on eldership
It is necessary to provide a biblical teaching for both leaders and believers about eldership, so that they will be able to accept the fact that eldership is not emergency or anarchy only because there isn’t an appointed man to whom everybody can go with all their problems. We have to see that one person is not entitled to step into the place of God, no matter how anointed he is. One person can’t be the head of a local church and he can’t be the only channel for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Resignation of a pastor from his privileges
Having accepted the above biblical doctrines, every present one-person church leader has to come to a personal decision; can he resign from his priority over elders and is ready to become a partner of the elders with equal authority? In case he is unable to come to this personal decision he has to overcome his Ego or else he cannot go forward.
If he is able to make this decision, but he is hindered in the realization by his official status, state salary or church flat, he has to have confidence in God and start getting rid of these bonds step by step. What order should he follow when doing this? First of all it is necessary to be personally lead by God, because it won’t go without Him. We have to cast our fears away and trust in the Lord. Doing so is not a blind jump into nothing, on the contrary, it is confidence in God and his Word, an obedient step in faith. We are called and empowered by God and we don’t have to please people.
If you are afraid of how to get on a living after all that, you can choose among the following possible solutions:
- If you have a trade you can make a living on, ask the Lord wether you should practice that profession. (Paul’s way)
- If your own church is able to support you from donations and is willing to do so, it is also biblical:”the worker is worthy of his reward”.
- The solution for accommodation depends on personal possibilities, but mainly on the getting and following the Lord’s will.
- The problem of an office is no problem, if it is not one person who has to do everything. If more people lead the church and they divide the work among themselves it is not necessary to have an office, because they can do their tasks in their own flats. We know it from our own personal experience.
Establishment of presbyterian leadership in a functioning church
Different ways lead to the realization of the Presbyterian leadership depending on the existing leadership in the local church. The most important is to maintain the continuousness of leadership to prevent different disorders (chaos) in the process of change.
1st situation: there is one pastor and elders with restricted power, where the pastor has all the authority and the elders hold only deaconial ministries.
This is a most favorable situation, because in this case the pastor only has to resign from his privileges and the elders have to undertake bigger responsibility.
2nd situation: There is one pastor and more elders, but the function of the elders is only formal. The gifts of the Holy Spirit just partly work.
In this case the pastor first of all has the task to teach the elders so that they can reach maturity. If necessary, he should ask for help from other experienced servants of God. Only then should he resign from his privileges, having raised elders who are able to work in unity without depending on one pastor. If the pastor resigns sooner than it is needed, it can cause chaos in the church, but these mistakes do not come from the presbyterian leadership but are the consequence of wrong realization.
3rd situation: A temporary pastor is entrusted, who is the partner of the elders, however, has privileges.
The situation is very easy, because the temporary pastor just has to resign from his privileges and the elders have to begin functioning with equal authority similarly to the case above.
4th situation: Guest-pastors living in other towns “lead” the church.
Leading from a far away place (remote control) does not work and is not a biblical way. It is necessary to step forward quickly according to the following:
„The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:” (1Pe. 5.1.)
Out of the more experienced men in the church elders have to be appointed and taught so that they can take over leadership with total rights as soon as possible. The manager of these changes can be the guest-pastor who, having started the presbyterian leadership, steps out of the leadership, but can keep ministering as an experienced guest-minister.
Establishment of presbyterian leadership in a new church
Most mistakes and deficiencies can be experienced in this area. Establishing a new church in a different settlement is a big and not easy task. Here we have to lay down and emphasize some important rules from the Word, which have unfortunately not been kept recently, though the Word gives clear guidance on this line:
„But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things, which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Act. 13.45-46.)
„And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” (Gal.2.9.)
„Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:” (Rom. 15.19-20.)
We can see from the above verses that the apostles shake hands brotherly to agree among each other over the division of the areas where they are to preach the gospel. It was a thing of honor for them not to build on each other’s work. They also set up a priority to preach the gospel to unsaved “Jews” (religious people) and just then to the gentiles (people in the ungodly world). We should read the Acts carefully, because it gives answer for every question. We don’t need to make up any human ideas. The Word does write in this book how the Good News need to be preached and how new churches should be established.
1st rule: Don’t to establish a new “church” (a new group for your organization or denomination) in those places where there is some group or church with born again people already working, because it will divide the Body of Christ and work schism! If God gives you work in such a place, you have to have your work built together with the elders of the existing church working at that place.
2nd rule: The establishing of a new church and the appointing of elders – according to the Word – is an apostolic task. If you are sure to have the calling of an apostle, it is all right, you can go ahead and do it, if not, you don’t know what you are doing and you can cause a lot of harm to others and you are an irresponsible man.
3rd rule: The evangelist – in co-operation with an apostle – can go ahead of the apostle to a new place, but it is necessary after the evangelist leaves for the apostle to step in and continue his work: establish a new church and appoint elders.
The first disciples in Ephesus did not even hear about the Holy Spirit. Apostle Paul had to compensate for the deficiencies: baptize them in the name of Jesus and fill them with the Holy Spirit by putting his hands on them. Later he spent two years in Ephesus and fought against the evil powers building the church.
In another case we can see that Peter and John had to hurry into Samaria to finish the work that had been started by Philip evangelist. If a “baby” after its birth cannot receive the suitable milieu and it does not get what it needs for its growth, it will die or in a better case it will be underfed, retarded in growth. If the work of an evangelist is not followed by apostolic work, it is like we put the “baby” out to freeze to death.
4th rule: The establishing of any church (teaching disciples, appointing elders) is really an apostolic work and if it is possible – as we can see it in the Word – it is necessary for the apostle to live at the place where the establishing of the church is taking place. We should have in mind that Paul, who was an apostle, during his first journey established churches spending two years in Ephesus, 1.5 years in Corinth and several months at other places teaching the disciples day by day.
5th rule: After the establishment of a church the apostle – having made disciples and appointed elders -, leaves the church entrusting it to the local elders. After the apostle is gone the believers can work independently, without a guardian. Later – like Paul did during his second journey – it is possible to make corrections through personal visits and letters.
Teaching believers living on their own (discipleship)
Believers need to attain full age so that they can rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit and become God-dependent and not “pastor-dependent”. All believers day by day have to be able to fight their personal fights independently, led by the Spirit. They also need to have power to fight not only for themselves, but for others as well.
However, it is much more comfortable for believers to always listen to a visible person and obey him. They do not really want to change this comfortable situation because of the following:
– They would need to have a committed life and a sensibility to hear the Lord, which requires a fighting attitude.
-Many believers wish to have a false peace of mind and do not know that it does not work this way. They need to be taught how to have the peace of God.
God expects all believers to become disciples. The Word says: “Go and make disciples all nations.” It means that first we ourselves must become disciples so that later we can make other people disciples. It is more than simply pastoral care. Discipleship tasks in the biblical sense are drafted at the sending out of the first 12, later the 70 disciples.
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