Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Governed by Elders

This past Lord's Day night, the elders laid hands on Brian Hough (above) to ordain him as an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ and to install him as assistant pastor at Redeemer. It was a blessed service with guest preacher, and new covenantal sith underling, Darth Jay Bennett (long story) all the way from Texas ably opening the Word to us. I had the privilege and pleasure of moderating the proceedings. As I prepared for the service by reading and organizing the explanations and vows once again, I was grateful for our form of government, which, in my opinion, is the most biblical form of church government there is.

The late Greg Bahnsen provided a good outline demonstrating the biblical basis for the Presbyterian governance we follow:

Christ directs his church through the Scriptures, His own self-revelation and authoritative guidance. Let me offer here a brief summary of the biblical material which I believe is relevant to determining how Christ would have His church governed. The Bible is not silent on this matter.

1. There is no distinction between “elders” and “bishops” (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17,28); these represent the same office and order.

2. Each congregation and center of leadership is to have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1), not one-man rule.

3. These elders have oversight of the church (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2-3) and are thus responsible to rule the congregation (I Tim. 3:5; 5:17; I Thes. 5:12; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24).

4. They judge among the brothers (cf. I Cor. 6:5) and, in contrast to all the members, they do the rebuking (I Tim. 5:20). Christ calls them to use the “keys of the kingdom” to bind and loose (Matt.16: 19; 18: 18; John 20: 23)—these keys being the preaching of the gospel (I John I :3), administering of the sacraments (Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11: 23ff.), and the exercise of discipline (Matt. 18:17; I Cor. 5:1-5).

5. The elders are assisted in their ministry by “deacons” who give attention to the ministry of mercy (Phil. 1:1; Acts 6:1-6; cf. I Tim. 3:8-13).

6. The office-bearers in the church are nominated and elected by the members of the congregation (e.g. Acts 6:5-6), but must also be examined, confirmed and ordained by the present board of elders (Acts 6:6; 13: 1-3; I Tim. 4: 14).

7. Members of the church have the right to appeal disputed matters in the congregation to their elders for resolution, and if the dispute is with those local elders, to appeal to the regional governing body (the presbytery) or, beyond that, to the whole general assembly (Acts 15). The decisions of the wider governing bodies are authoritative in all the local congregations (Acts 15:22-23, 28, 30; 16:1-5).


Frontier Forest said...

What a refreshing and empowering worship experience! This was the first holy ordination or “setting apart for His service” that my wife and I have witnessed within the PCA. Brother Bennett’s message from John 21, (Jesus dialog with Peter on “feed MY sheep”) spoke to volumes to my heart. Jesus’ stern Words to Peter, encouraged me to never be satisfied with where we I am, but never depend upon who I am either. Even after we blow it spiritually, like Peter did, Jesus never gives up on us. He is always there to help us through our shortcomings, and at the same time help us see own human limits, strength and weaknesses. Quite providential, one of the first commands Jesus exhorts to Peter (Matthew 4:18-19) was “Follow Me!” And then in John 21:19, Jesus gives Peter his last face to face charge, “Follow Me!“

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony! I only this week discovered your blog, but I'm excited to find it. How exciting to have Brian on board - it's hard to believe how much Redeemer is growing! Actually, mom, dad, the kids and I will be down Sunday night (couldn't make it in time for church) at Great Wolf and are hoping to stop at the church Monday late morning if you're going to be around. It would be great to get a tour of the sanctuary from you!

Feel free to stop by my blog any time ( Hope to see you soon!


Rick Calohan said...

Having been an Elder and a Ruling Elder in my former PCUSA church I am in awe of the Elders and Teaching Elders at Redeemer PCA. I say this because the process of becoming an Elder at Redeemer and throughout the Presbyterian Church in America is Biblically and doctrinally sound. As Tony explained to us last Sunday in the “Meet the Pastor” class a man is not selected just to fill in a void. There is at least a two-year waiting period, classes, examination and of course, all is in accordance to the Book of Church Order, which has 63 chapters and is from cover to cover at present 346 pages in length.

Each nominee for Elder shall then be examined in:
a. his Christian experience, especially his personal character and family
management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7
and Titus 1:6-9),
b. his knowledge of Bible content,
c. his knowledge of the system of doctrine, government, discipline
contained in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America
d. the duties of the office to which he has been nominated, and
e. his willingness to give assent to the questions required for ordination.

For Teaching Elder of course the completion of seminary education, licensure, an internship, Ordination, then installation;

Trials for ordination shall consist of:
a. A careful examination as to:
1. his acquaintance with experiential religion, especially his
personal character and family management (based on the
qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:6-9),
2. his knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages,
3. Bible content,
4. theology,
5. the Sacraments,
6. Church history,
7. the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, and
8. the principles and rules of the government and discipline of
the church.
A Presbytery may accept a seminary degree which includes
study in the original languages in lieu of an oral examination in
the original languages.
b. He shall prepare a thesis on some theological topic assigned by
c. The candidate shall prepare an exegesis on an assigned portion of
Scripture, requiring the use of the original language or languages.
d. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the
Presbytery or committee thereof, upon three-fourths (3/4) vote.

Questions for Ordination1
Then, addressing himself to the candidate, he shall propose to him
the following questions:
1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of
God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and
the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of
doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further
promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with
any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you
88, 03
1For an assistant minister, only questions 1-7 shall be used.
will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery
the change which has taken place in your views since the
assumption of this ordination vow?
3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of
the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the
general principles of Biblical polity?
4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
5. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart,
to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a
sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the
truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of
the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise
unto you on that account?
7. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all
your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether
personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the
grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your
manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the
flock of which God shall make you overseer?
8. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church,
agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call?
And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to
discharge to it the duties of a pastor?

That only scratches the surface so keep in mind that although Pastor Brian is from Texas and a Houston Astros fan, he has walked a similar road that Tony and Nathan did to become a Teaching Elder. Our system of Government ensures that no man shall wear a funny pointed hat claiming to be the Vicar of Christ.

M. Jay Bennett said...

It was a joy to visit Redeemer. What a wonderful group of God's covenant people.