Baptists and Elders

Someone recently asked me for evidence of a plurality of elders in SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCHES, and I did not have an answer for that person. I can’t remember who asked me, but the evidence is beautifully summarized in a piece by Mark Dever available at the 9 Marks site called Baptists and Elders.

In view of the evidence that Dever cites—evidence that includes an endorsement of the plurality of elders by the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, William B. Johnson (you really should go read Baptists and Elders)—it is surprising to me that some Southern Baptists are suggesting that having a plurality of elders in a local congregation is “semi-presbyterian.”

Dever also summarizes the biblical evidence for a plurality of elders in every church in Baptists and Elders, so I won’t rehearse what I have said earlier on this blog.

If you’re looking for more on a plurality of elders, you might be interested in a new book called Elders in Congregational Life, which is also reviewed on the 9Marks site. If you do a search on the 9Marks site on elders, you’ll see that Dever has written several short pieces on this issue.

I’ll never forget hearing John Hannah say that we owe two things to everyone with whom we enter into theological dispute. We owe them understanding. We must understand what they are saying. And we owe them fairness. We must treat them as we would want to be treated.

I hope that we Baptists can dialogue about our differences on these matters in a way that reflects that we understand the position taken by those with whom we disagree, and I hope that we’ll be fair to those with whom we disagree (in other words, I think the charge that a plurality of elders is "Presbyterian" is both unfair and fails to understand those of us who take this view).

2 replies on “Baptists and Elders”

  1. Jim,
    I agree with you that some Baptists make uninformed accusations against other Baptists regarding our polity, history, and doctrines. Regarding multiple elders, it is biblical, it is historically Baptist, and it has lots of advantages. For example, I think many of the personal problems pastors get themselves into can be prevented through a team ministry approach, and the personal accountability that comes with it. Also the cult-like status some pastors engender would be prevented or at least reduced with multiple elders. Moreover, the difficulty some churches encounter in transitioning pastors would be reduced through the biblical model of multiple elders. I could list other advantages, but others have already done so quite admirably.

    Thanks again for this post.–>

  2. It is o.k. to have elders in our SBC churches, as long as we understand who the elders are. And it is also o.k. to have more than one leading our churches. There certainly is wisdom in having a plurality of them. Our SBC churches have had elders for years. We simply called them “pastors.” These men have been called into the ministry to be the pastor, or pastors of our churches. FBC Jacksonville, Florida had multiple pastors for years when Homer Lindsey, Jr and Jerry Vines were co-pastors. The words elder, bishop, pastor identify the “elders.” They are the pastors of the churches; that is, they are the men of God whom we call ministers. They are not a body of leaders that include the preaching/pastor of the church and the rest of them laymen who have “pastoring” responsibilities. Otherwise, we have a semi-presbyterian church governance that is neither biblical or historically accurate. Baptist history shows us that elders were ministers. Some were church-planters, others were ministers without a charge. As it is today, they were laymen in the church whom God called into the ministry. And when this took place, they were called by a church to become their pastor. When will we realize this truth? Soon, I hope.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from For His Renown

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading