Thoughts on Plurality in Church Leadership

Good leadership is vital to the church.  A study of leadership in the early church as recorded in Scripture will support the following conclusions:

  • Throughout the OT, the nation of Israel gave honor to its elders, i.e., the older men who had become recognized as leaders.
  • The apostles knew that a ministry had been committed to them as a group; they appointed a replacement for Judas; Acts 1:17
  • The many statements describing rapid expansion of the early church show that growth was directly connected to good leadership, and did not take place in spite of it;  the apostles were visible both in direction and in dealing with problems.
  • The apostles worked together as a plurality. The transition through the book from “apostles,” to “apostles and elders,” and finally to “elders” never shifts to a lone apostle or elder leading the church.
  • Later, the pattern of plurality in leadership was universally followed in the Gentile churches; Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5
  • The apostles in their later years referred to themselves as elders, without giving the slightest hint that the word now carried a different meaning from that which it had always had ( I Peter 5:1; II John 1), or that a new leadership position had been adopted, or that a different leadership style had replaced the old.
  • Diotrephes (III Jn 9) – a church leader known to the apostle John  is condemned for his love of the preeminent place and for acting independently.

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