An Open Letter to Morris Chapman on Biblical Eldership

Tim Brister —  April 23, 2007 — 20 Comments

Dr. Morris Chapman, 

I trust this letter finds you doing well.  Let me first begin by expressing my appreciation to you for the warm-hearted outreach you have shown to the younger generation of Southern Baptists.  Your encouragement and interest in the future of the Southern Baptist Convention can clearly be seen in your vision to listen to as well as invest in the next generation of leading Southern Baptists.  With that said, I would like to draw your attention to an interview you recently participated through the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and in particular your comments on biblical eldership

Having served the SBC in various areas of leadership, not the least of which as past president of the SBC (1990-92) and current president of the Executive Committee, it goes without saying that your words receive a wide readership that come with a great deal of respect.  This does not mean, however, that your comments can be unaccountable to Scripture and Baptist history.  I am writing you to express my concern that you have not only misrepresented the evidence of Scripture, but you have also ignored the historical testimony of biblical eldership in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Granted, the matter of church government should be handled with some degree of latitude, but the conclusion you have shown in your comments reveals that biblical eldership is contradictory to the practice found in most Southern Baptist Churches and that such forms of church government can ultimately be “a recipe for disaster both for the pastor and the church.”  I would like to reassess such comments in light of known facts in Southern Baptist life.

For instance, let me begin by considering how some of our Baptist confessions have addressed elders and eldership:

London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)

A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.

The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.

Philadelphia Confession (1742)

A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church, so called and gathered, for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which He entrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops, or elders, and deacons.

The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop, or elder, in a church is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein: and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.

The Abstract of Principles (1858)

The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church, which is composed of all his true disciples, and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to his commandment, Christians are to associate themselves into particular societies or churches; and to each of these churches he hath given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which he hath appointed. The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.

Baptist Faith & Message (1925)

A church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ, governed by his laws, and exercising the gifts, rights and privileges invested in them by his word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Its Scriptural officers are bishops or elders and deacons.

As one can clearly see through four centuries of confessional history, biblical eldership has been affirmed throughout Baptist history and in particular Southern Baptist life.  In fact, the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, W. B. Johnson wrote in his book The Gospel Developed that “each [New Testament] church had a plurality of elders” (W. B. Johnson, The Gospel Developed in Mark Dever, Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life, 192).  In 1849, J. L. Reynolds also argued that “the apostolic churches seem, in general, to have had a plurality of elders as well as deacons” (J. L. Reynolds, Church Polity or the Kingdom of Christ in Dever, ibid., 349).  William Williams, one of the founding faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote, “In most, if not all the apostolic churches, there was a plurality of elders” (William Williams, Apostolic Church Polity in Dever, ibid., 531). 

Having provided some historical confessions and leading Southern Baptist professors and theologians during the nineteenth century, one must wonder whether such convincing evidence was considered in your comments regarding biblical eldership.  However, as strong as the evidence from Baptist history shows, we know that Southern Baptists find the Scriptures to be our only source of authority for faith and practice.  Regarding the Scripture, you make the assertion that  

“The concept of elder rule is based upon the interpretation of a single verse in 1 Timothy 5 that is not a clear and compelling interpretation. The mention of ‘elder rule’ is not accompanied by an explanation that compels the church to adopt elder rule.  On the other hand, Baptists have historically interpreted the data of Scripture to view the three terms pastor/elder/bishop as an interchangeable way of expressing three facets of one office, serving under the authority of the local church. Such an argument is biblically compelling.” (emphasis mine)

I am not sure that those who have written books on biblical eldership will find that you contend their position to be “based on the interpretation of a single verse” and moreover that it is “not a clear and compelling interpretation.”  In the New Testament, the term “elder” is taken from the root presbu,t which is used 75 times, twenty such uses specifically to refer to elders in churches (Jerusalem, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Ephesus, Crete, and other general uses).  You are correct that the term “elder” is used interchangeably with “bishop,” “pastor,” and “overseer” (which you did not mention).  However, if that is the case, then I cannot understand how biblical eldership does not carry greater weight in Scripture.  To provide an alternate view of biblical support, I have provided an addendum to this letter which provides all the Scripture texts used in support of biblical eldership.  Having spent several hours typing them up, I am led to believe that the position is far more biblically tenable than you have made it appear to be. 

In conclusion, I have provided some of the leading papers, articles, and messages in support of biblical eldership in recent scholarship.  Having become aware of the importance and recent controversy of church government in the SBC over recent years, it is crucial that whether one is for or against a form of church government the biblical and historical data be given due consideration.  Given that you have commented in such a venue as a seminary website entitled as the “Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry,” I fear that your comments have not reflected a well-rounded Baptist perspective nor the theological arguments for biblical eldership (thus, the fallacy of “the excluded middle” applies here).   As Southern Baptists look to address the growing controversies in our churches and Convention at large, it is my prayer that such issues can be addressed with the biblical precision that truth demands and the brotherly love that grace commands.  May God’s richest blessings be yours in Christ.

Sincerely yours,

Timmy Brister
www.timmybrister.com

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Recent Articles, Essays, and Presentations

Mark Dever’s essay, Baptists and Elders
John Piper’s booklet, Biblical Eldership
John MacArthur’s essay, Answering Key Questions about Elders
Shawn Wright’s message, Baptist and a Plurality of Elders–Why or Why Not
D. A. Carson’s message, Defining Elders
John MacArthur’s essay, The Call to Lead the Church–Elders
Jim Hamilton’s post, Elders in Baptist Life
Mark Dever’s article, Should a Church Have Elders?
DG’s staff answers, Do You Believe a Church Should Be Governed by One Elder or Many? 
Mark Dever’s article, What Is the Relationship Between the Elders and the Church?
John MacArthur’s article, What Relationship Do Elders Have with the Congregation?
IX Marks forum A Pastors’ and Theologians’ Forum on Selecting Elders
Dan Wallace’s essay, Who Should Run the Church?: A Case for the Plurality of Elders 
Fred Zaspel’s chapter, Spiritual Leaders in the Local Church
Or How About Any of These Articles provided by Mongerism?

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Scriptures Used in IX Marks Booklet By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life

Ex. 18; Deut. 1; 19:12; 21:1-9, 18-21; Ezra 10:14; Matt. 15:2; 16; 18:15-17; Mark 5:22; 7:3, 5; 10:42-45; Luke 1:18; 7; 15:25; John 8:9; Acts 2:17; 2:42; 6:3, 5; 11:30; 13:15; 14:21, 25; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 18:8; 20:17; 20:28; 21:18; Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 5; 12:28; 2 Cor. 2: 6-8; Gal. 1; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1; 3:11; 4:4; 4:14; 5:1, 2; 5:17; 5:19; 2 Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:5; 1:7; 2:2, 3; Philemon 9; Heb. 11:2; 13; 13:17; James 3:1; 5:14; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:1; 5:1-2; 5:2-3; 5:5; 2 John; 1; 3 John 1; Rev. 2; 3; 4:4, 10; 5:5, 6, 8, 11, 14; 7:11, 13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4

Scriptures Used in Alexander Strauch’s Book Biblical Eldership

Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-25; 2:20-23; 2:20, 22, 23; 3:5, 14, 15; 4:5-8; 28:18, 19a; 31:40; 48:14; Ex. 3:15, 16; 4:29, 31; 12:3, 21, 27; 13:18; 18:13-27; 19:7; 19:7, 8; 28:40-29:41; 29:21; 30:30; 33:11; 36:6; 40:9; 40:14, 15; Lev. 1:4; 4:13-15; 8:12; 10:8, 9; 16:21; 24:14; Num. 2:2; 4:16; 7:2; 8:10, 14; 11: 14, 15; 12:6-8; 22:17, 37; 24:11; 27:17; 27:18-23; 27:22, 23; 31:14; Deut. 2:7; 5:23; 8:3b; 8:15, 16; 12:30; 13:11; 17:6; 19:11, 12; 19:15; 21:1, 2, 6-9; 21:1-8; 21:3-8; 21:18-20; 22:16-19; 25:4; 25:7-9; 27:1-8; 31:9-11; 34:9; 34:10-12; Joshua 20:2-4; Judges 11:11; 21:16; 1 Sam. 8:10-18; 10:1; 16:13; 17:33-37; 24:9; 24:18, 19a; 2 Sam. 5:1, 3; 5:2; 7:8; 9; 12:3; 17:4, 14; 1 Kings 1:39; 4:7; 12:8, 13; 22:17; 2 Kings 9:6; 11:18; 13:16; 1 Chr. 15:25, 28; 26:24; 2 Chr. 16:12; 19:11; 24:12, 17; 26:16; 32:25; 32:33; Ezra 8:21-23; 10:8; Neh. 6:5-9; 6:13; 11:9; Job 1:1; 4:3, 4; 12:12; 12:20; 29:7, 21, 25; 29:14-17; 31:21; 31:21; 31:32; 38:7; Psalms 11:3; 23:1-2; 78:17-22; 78:71, 72; 86:5; 105:22; 119:100; Prov. 3:9; 6:16-19; 11:2; 14:31; 16:5a; 16:18; 17:9; 18:1; 18:8; 20:1; 23:30-35; 25:28; 26:1; 27:18; 27:23; 29:7; 29:22; 29:23; 31:4, 5; Ecc. 4:-12; Isa. 1:6; 5:11, 22; 28:1, 7, 8; 56: 9-12; Jer. 23:2; Lam. 2:10; 5:14; Ezek. 3:18, 19; 7:26; 9:1-6; 28:11-19; 34:2, 8; 34:4; 34:11, 12; Dan. 11:38; Hosea 4:11; 8:4; Amos 5:10; Nahum 3:18; Zec. 10:2; 11:16; 11:17; Matt. 5:9; 5:13, 29, 30, 39-41; 5:21; 6:3, 24, 25; 6:33; 7:15; 8:5-13; 9:18-26; 9:36; 10:1; 10:2-4; 10:10; 11:28; 11:29; 15:3-6; 15:21-28; 16:6, 12; 16:18; 17:14-21; 17:20; 18:15-17; 18:20; 19:12; 19:15; 21:21, 22; 22:16; 21:1-12; 23:5-8; 23:6-8; 23:6-12; 23:11, 12; 24:45-51; 26:38; 27:57; 28:19, 20; 28:20; Mark 2:5; 3:14; 3:16-19; 3:20, 21; 5:12, 13; 6:15; 6:7, 12; 6:13; 7:34; 8:23, 25; 8:31; 9:23; 9:33-35; 9:50; 10:16; 10:35-45; 10:42; 10:42-44; 11:15-17; 11:22-26; 12:40; 14:33; 16:18; Luke 1:3; 2:23; 4:40; 5:4-11; 5:5; 5:31; 6:12; 6:13; 6:14-16; 7:2-5; 8:3; 8:49; 8:51; 9:1, 2; 9:28; 10:2; 10:7; 10:9; 10:17; 10:34; 11:5-13; 12:37; 12:42; 12:48b; 13:13; 13:14; 14:26, 33; 15:13; 15:25; 16:1-8; 16:14; 20:46; 22:24-27; 22:26; 22:32; 22:66; John 1:12, 13; 7:25; 8:17; 8:21-47; 10:11, 14; 10:12b; 10:16; 10:35; 13:3-17; 13:12-14; 13:14, 16; 13:34, 35; 15:7, 16; 15:16; 16:24; 21:15-17; 21:16; 21:17; Acts 1:13; 1:13a, 15b; 1:14; 1:15; 1:17; 1:21; 1:24; 1:26; 2:10; 2:14, 42; 2:44, 45; 2:46; 3:1; 3:11; 4:4; 4:7-10; 4:8; 4:32; 4:33, 35; 4:34-37; 4:35, 37; 5:2; 5:3; 5:11; 5:12; 5:18, 25, 29, 42; 5:14; 5:15, 29; 5:21; 5:42; 6:1-6; 6:1, 7; 6:2; 6:2-4; 6:8-7:60; 7:10; 8:1, 3; 8:4-40; 8:14; 8:14-17; 8:14-24; 8:17, 19; 8:21; 9:12; 9:17; 9:27; 9:32-11:18; 9:39; 10:1-11:18; 10:38b; 10:40-41; 11:19; 11:19-22; 11:22; 11:24; 11:25, 26; 11:29; 11:30; 12:1, 5; 12:3; 12:12; 12:17; 13:1; 13:1-3; 13:3; 13:13; 13:14-14:21; 13:43; 13:46, 48; 13:47; 14:3; 14:4; 14:12; 14:14; 14:22; 14:23; 14:24; 14:26; 14:27; 15:1; 15:2; 15:2-29; 15:3, 12; 15:3, 30; 15:4, 6; 15: 5, 7; 15: 7-11; 15:11, 19, 28, 29; 15:13-21; 15: 22-25, 28; 15:23; 15:24; 15:25; 15:26; 15:35; 15:36-39; 15:40; 16:1-3; 16:6-10; 16:15; 17:1-9; 18:3; 18:8; 18:17; 18:22; 18:25, 26; 19:6; 19:11; 19:22; 20:11; 20:17; 20:17-35; 20:19; 20:20; 20:24; 20:25; 20:26, 27; 20:27-31; 20:28; 20:30; 20:31; 20:32; 20:33-35; 20:34; 20:36-38; 21:8; 21:16; 21:17; 21:18; 21;18-25; 21:20; 21:21; 21:20-26; 22:5; 23:5; 24:25; 26:16-19; 28:8; 28:10; Rom. 1:11; 5:14; 6:19; 7:2, 3; 8:23, 26; 8:29; 12:1-2; 12:6; 21:7b, 8; 12:11; 12:13; 12:20; 12:21; 13:7; 14:15, 21; 14:19; 15:2; 15:25, 27; 15:26; 16:1-15; 16:1, 2, 4, 12; 16:3; 16:5; 16:6; 16:16; 16:19; 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:2; 1:5; 1:7; 3:1-15; 3:5-9; 3:6-7; 3:10; 3:21a; 4:1-5; 4:6, 7; 4:12; 4:14; 4:17; 4:18-21; 4:21; 5:4, 11; 6:8; 6:9, 10; 7:2-5, 7, 8, 15, 32, 36-39; 7:7-9; 7:17; 7:32-35; 7:39; 8:11-13; 9:1-6; 9:4-14; 9:5; 9:6; 9:9; 9: 14; 9:16; 9:25; 10:32; 10:33; 11:2-16; 11:3; 11:7; 11:8, 9; 11:10; 11:20; 11:29-34; 11:30-32; 11:34; 12:18; 12:28; 12:31; 13:1, 2; 13:4, 6; 13:4-7; 14:33, 36; 14:33-38; 13:34-35; 14:40; 15:7; 15:24-28; 15:45, 47; 15:58; 16:1; 16:10, 11; 16:15, 16; 16:16; 16:18; 16:19; 16:20; 2 Cor. 1:9; 1:23, 24; 2:1-11; 2:3, 2:4; 2:6; 2:9; 2:11; 3:5; 4:5; 4:7; 5:9-11; 5:14, 15; 8-9; 8:1-5; 8:4; 8:6, 7; 8:18; 8:19; 8:20; 9:1, 12, 13; 9:5; 9:7; 9:8; 9:10; 10:1; 10:2; 10:1-11; 10:8; 11:3; 11:7; 11:8; 11:9; 11:21; 11:29; 12:1-13; 12:4; 12:7-10; 12:8, 9; 13:7; 13:8-10; 13:11; 13;12; Gal. 1:1; 1:2; 1:7-9; 1:19; 2:1-12; 2:5; 2:7-10; 2:12: 3:28: 3:29; 4:2; 4:12; 4:13, 14; 4:17; 4:20; 5:21; 5:23; 6:1, 2; 6:6; 6:10; 6:15; Eph. 2:13-19; 2:20; 3:5; 3:10; 4:3; 4:5; 4:11; 4:28; 5:18; 5:18-6:9; 5:22; 5:23; 5:24; 5:25; 5:32; 6:2; 6:4; Phil. 1:1; 1:5; 1:7; 2:2-8; 2:5, 7, 8; 2:12; 2:15; 2:19, 20; 2:27; 2:29, 30; 3:14; 3:18; 4:2, 3; 4:5; 4:15, 16; 4:17; 4:18; Col. 1:7; 1:8; 1:18; 3:15; 3:16; 3:18; 3:23, 24; 4:5, 6; 4:12, 13; 4:15; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2:5, 6; 2:9; 3:2; 4:11, 12; 5:11; 5:12; 5:13; 5:15; 5:23; 5:26; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; 3:8, 9; 3:14; 15; 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:3; 1:3-11; 18-20; 1:12; 1:15; 1:18; 1:19; 1:20; 2:1, 2; 2:1-8; 2:1-3:13; 2:7; 2:9; 2:10; 2:9-15; 3:1; 3:1-7; 3:2; 3:4; 3:5; 3:6; 3:7; 3:8; 3:9; 3:8-13; 3:10; 3:11; 3:12; 3:14, 15; 3:16; 3:17; 4:1; 4:1-5; 4:3; 4:6-16; 4:7; 4:9; 4:10; 4:13; 4:14; 5:1; 5:2; 5:3; 5:5; 5:9; 5:10; 5:14; 5:17; 5:17-25; 5:18; 5;19; 5:20; 5:22: 5:23; 5:24; 5:25; 6:1; 6:2; 6:3-5, 20; 6:76; 6:7-9; 6:10; 6:18,19; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1:7, 11; 2:2; 2:11; 2:15; 2:24; 2:25a; 3:3; 3:6; 3:16a, 17; 4:5; 4:7, 8; 4:13; 4:20; Titus 1:1-3; 1:5; 1:5-7; 1:6: 1:7; 1:9;1 1:9-16; 1:10; 1:11; 1:13; 2:1; 2:3; 2:4; 2:5; 2:8; 2:10; 2:15; 3:1, 2; 3:8; 3:9-11; 3:12; 3:13; 3:15c; Philemon 2; 9; 14; 16; 21; 23; Heb. 3:16-4:16; 4:14; 5:1; 5:12; 8:3; 10:28; 10:39; 11:2; 12:1-3; 13:2; 13:5; 13:17, 24; 13:16; 13:17; 13:18-24; 13:20; 13:23; 13:24; James 1:1; 1:5-7; 1:6; 1:7; 1:18; 1:20; 1:22-27; 2:1-13; 2:2; 2:14-26; 2:15, 16; 3:1; 3:14; 3:18; 4:1; 4:3; 4:6; 4:7; 4:11; 5:5; 5:9; 5:12; 5:13-15; 5:14; 5:15; 5:16; 1 Peter 1:1; 1:2, 14; 1:15, 16; 1:22; 1:23; 2:5; 2:5-10; 2:11, 12; 2:13; 2:13-3:12; 2:16; 2:17; 2:21; 2:25; 3:1; 3:1-6; 3:7; 3:8; 3:11; 3:13; 3:15; 3:16; 4:1, 4; 14, 16; 4:3; 4:4; 4:8; 4:9; 4:10; 4:12-19; 4:16, 17; 5:1; 5:2; 5:3; 5:4; 5:1-5; 5:5; 5:8; 5:9; 5:12; 5:14; 2 Peter 2:10; 3:17; 1 John 3:7; 3:8; 3:17; 2 John 11; 3 John 2; 4; 9, 10b; 5-8; Jude 1; 12; Rev. 1:6; 1:12, 16, 20; 1:20; 2:1; 4:4; 7:17; 21:14

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Some Selected Works to Consider:

Alexander Strauch. Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis & Roth, 1995.

Phil A. Newton. Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model of Church Leadership. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005.  

James R. White. “The Plural-Elder-Led Church: Sufficient as Established–The Plurality of Elders as Christ’s Ordained Means of Church Governance” in Perpsectives on Church Government: Five Views of Church Polity. eds. Chad Owen Brand and R. Stanton Norman, 255-96. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004.

Samuel E. Waldron. “Plural-Elder Congregationalism” in Who Runs the Church? 4 Views on Church Government. eds. Paul E. Engle and Steven B. Cowan, 185-221. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.

John S. Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005.

Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2005.

Mark Dever, ed. Polity: Biblical Arguments on How to Conduct Church Life. Washington D.C.: Nine Marks Ministries, 2001.

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END

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  • http://chadwickivester.wordpress.com/ chadwick

    Bro. Timmy,

    Excellent refutation. The SBC “powerbrokers” assume that nobody knows the history of the SBC . . . their “because I said it, therefore it must be true” tactic worked well before the “blogging” era. (Example: Chapman says eldership is bad, therefore it must be bad . . . Patterson says Calvinism is bad, therefore, it must be bad.)

    How can they argue with history . . . Chapman is trying to change history just as Paige Patterson is trying to change SBC history by trying to trace the SBC roots to the anabaptists rather than the Founding Fathers, such as James P. Boyce, James Brodus, & Basil Manly . . . just to name a few. (Patterson has already established, “The Anabaptist Studies Center” at SWBTS.)

    The only way the “powerbrokers” can succeed in their ill tactics is by passing a law that anyone who studies SBC history, prior to the “good ole’ boy resurrgence,” is “disqualified” and “unfit” to serve the SBC in any capacity.

    If the “powerbrokers” had their way, the Abstract of Principles would not exist along with all versions of the BF&M prior to the 2000 edition.

    Keep up the good writing.

    chadwick ivester
    john 3:30

  • http://chadwickivester.wordpress.com/ chadwick

    Correction: John Broadus

  • http://none Tanya

    Timmy,

    I just wanted to say that your blog is awesome! This is the first time I went to it, and now it is one of my favorites. This is Tanya, and I met you yesterday (Sunday), after I attended the Preview Conference at Southern Seminary. I met you after Dr. Moore’s class, in the classroom. Also, by the way… I didn’t spot Al Mohler’s link on your Blog Roll. Did I miss it?

    Take care,
    Tanya (Buffalo, NY)

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Ah Tanya! It was great to meet you yesterday. You need to watch out for Toby, though, because he looks too much like Arsenio Hall, especially when he’s got that big overcoat on.

    I hope the Lord directs your steps and leads you regarding future plans whether it here or elsewhere.

    God bless you, and it was a pleasure meeting you.

    Timmy

    Oh, regarding the blogroll, I didn’t realize he wasn’t on there. I have since added it.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Chadwick,

    It is interesting to note that the first two confessions since the inception of the SBC held to “elders”, isn’t it. What befuddles me the most, however, is the conclusion that eldership is based on one verse, and a misrepresentation at that! What are we to conclude from this? That the greatest Greek scholars such as Tom Schreiner and Dan Wallace got their views of plurality of elders wrong? That Baptist scholars and historians such as John Hammett and Shawn Wright got it wrong? That leading pastors today such as John MacArthur, John Piper, and Mark Dever got it wrong? How could all these men build their eccleiosological structure of leadership on such flimsy evidence, and a poor representation at that? I would not be surprised if some of these men took offense at such a charge (hence the long, arduous work of supplying the biblical texts aforementioned was a worthy exercise).

    The real issue in the SBC today is not whether plurality of elders is a biblical form of church government, but how and when a pastor should implement it in the local church. It took Dever five years before it was introduced at Capitol Hill, and for Piper it was even longer. No SBC pastor who looks to have plurality of elders should not expect to see the changes happen overnight or the next year for that matter. It takes a long time of exposing the church to Scripture, of loving the flock and training men who would fill the roll of elders as the Bible describes them. For what purpose would it be to move to plurality of elders when there aren’t men qualified to fill that position?

    Baptist Press and state papers have covered the recent controversies regarding biblical eldership over the past couple of years, and this is currently a hot topic. I would presume that people are asking questions and reading their Bibles more than ever before on this matter. I would presume that they are also looking to what leading Southern Baptists have to say on this matter. Unfortunately, sometimes an influential figure carries more weight than the revealed Word of God (haven’t we seen this regarding Calvinism?). But an open and honest inquiry into God’sWord will do more to enlighten and inform the believer on such a matter as any leading Southern Baptist opining away. I am convinced of this, and it should be our hope to expose our people as much to God’s Word as possible. If we believe in the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, we should build our theological convictions on it and not on the preferences or convictions of Southern Baptists, as respected and influential they may be.

  • http://www.lamentations322.blogspot.com Jason M.

    Timmy,

    Could it be that in this article Morris Chapman is rejecting “elder rule” and not the “plurality of elders”? From his comments, the majority of his statements are directed against a system where the elders make all final decisions in the church and the congregation is never appealed to. I may have misread his words, but it appears to me that he is not rejecting a plurality of elders, but he is rejecting the type of church polity where the congregation has no vote.

    I too am a pastor who is convinced of the need for a plurailty of elders in each local church, however I am also convinced that elders are not the final word on church issues. The discipline of church members (1Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 2; Matt. 18) is one example where the congregation has final authority, not the elders.

    Finally, the issue may be illustrated in the differences in the polities of Capitol Hill Baptist and Mars Hill, Seattle. Both hold to a plurality of elders, but I BELIEVE only Capitol Hill Baptist is congregational in its polity, while Mars Hill is Elder-Rule.

    Jason M.

  • http://www.timmybrister.com Timmy Brister

    Jason M.,

    I have to be brief because I am heading into class. While the question posed speaks directly to “elder-rule,” Dr. Chapman makes this comment,

    The term, “ruling elders,” in my opinion, is a contradiction to congregational rule, the practice found in most Southern Baptist churches. Changing the terminology to “leading” elders does not change the practical outcome. An elder system of government cannot effectively co-exist with congregational rule in a Southern Baptist church for an indefinite period of time.

    From his comment, any system, whether elder-rule or elder-led is unacceptable in Southen Baptist life. Granted, Dr. Chapman does not make the distinction between the two, but maybe because he doesn’t see that one exists. So I carry the assumption that plurality of elders, though not specifically mentioned, is included in his idea of “an elder system of government” which he says cannot co-exist with congregational rule.

    The only other way to take it would be to say that he addresses elder-rule in the strict sense and ignored altogether the other forms of elder-led forms of ecclesiological leadership. If that is the case, it would be nice to have such a clarification provided.

  • Greg Alford

    Dr. Chapman said:

    The mention of “elder rule” is not accompanied by an explanation that compels the church to adopt elder rule.

    Ummm… What?

    For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Tit.1:5)

    Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb.13:17)

    These verses sound pretty compelling to me…

    Grace to all,

  • http://www.lamentations322.blogspot.com Jason M.

    Timmy,

    From the cited paragraph above, it does appear that Chapman is rejecting all elder styled polities. This is unfortunate. I do not see why a plurality of elders who lead, like a single pastor who leads, would be so difficult for a local church. If a single pastor can lead and co-exist with the congregation then a plurality of pastors can definitely co-exist with the congregation. I would even say the relationship would be better.

    Jason M.

  • http://www.timmybrister.com Timmy Brister

    Jason M.,

    I agree brother. I did not provide the entire context of Dr. Chapman’s comments for brevity’s sake and am glad that I was able to clear up the matter a little bit.

    What I find most troubling is that whether you are a pastor, scholarship, or simply a student studying a particular doctrine or subject matter, our goal should be to bring to light all that God has to say on the subject (i.e. expose the Scripture). While I did not expect Dr. Chapman to provide an exhaustive list of Scripture to defend his position, he did not even begin to argue from God’s Word. Rather, I fear that the end result is that he was hiding God’s Word rather than revealing it. One might conclude that he or she either disagrees or is embarrassed with what the Bible has to say on that matter (such as Ergun Caner on Rom. 9 for example). I surely hope this isn’t the case, but the burden of proof lies in those who are out there trying to argue that biblical eldership is, in their words, unbiblical.

  • js

    Nicely done.

    It boils down to this: control.

    Control of the convention, control of the association, control of the local church…the laity are not equipped to lead a body of believers, so the clergy must take on that role to save us from ourselves…and to maintain control.

    Control is managed through complexity, be it of terms, research and application.

    Christ spoke most directly and consistently to the humble, undereducated and unsophisticated. His Word grew from a few hundred believers to hundreds of thousands in less than a century…simple works…

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    js,

    I am not sure what you mean that it boils down to “control.” Rather, I think the issue has to do with the order in which the church should administer itself under the provided guidelines disposed through Scripture. It is not managed through complexity but through the application of divinely laid out principles and the appropriation of such offices as commanded by God. There is a big difference between seeking power and control and shepherding the flock of God as ordained overseers who will give an account for the way they served, led, and gave their lives to God’s people.

    When you say,

    “Christ spoke most directly and consistently to the humble, undereducated and unsophisticated. His Word grew from a few hundred believers to hundreds of thousands in less than a century…simple works…”

    Do you mean to tell me that what “works” is having a church led by undereducated and unsophisticated men who could care less about theological truth but really only want control?

    I am struggling to find a coherent point to your comments, so if you don’t mind, please elaborate further. Thanks.

  • http://tonykummer.blogspot.com/ Tony Kummer

    Timmy,
    Congratulations on a very helpful post. Excellent supporting material. You should add some of this to Wikipedia.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Tony,

    Thanks man.

    I don’t know anything about Wikipedia, so for now it will have to stay in the archives of Timipedia. :)

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  • Jerome

    Timmy, you seem to be reading way too much into Baptist confessions’ use of the term elder. The recent Baptist fad of adopting a Presbyterian-influenced concept of a plurality of elders was definitely not what was meant back then.

    Here is how one of the actual signers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession understood the term:

    Benjamin Keach on mandatory “plurality of elders”, 1697
    “an Elder, or Elders, a Deacon, or Deacons, ought to be elected in every Congregation,”.

    Benjamin Keach on “non-pastor” elders, 1697
    “Query, Are there no ruling Elders besides the Pastor?
    Answ. There might be such in the Primitive Apostolical Church, but we see no ground to believe it an abiding Office to continue in the Church, but was only temporary.
    1. Because we have none of the Qualifications of such Elders mention’d, or how to be chosen.
    2. Because we read not particularly what their Work and Business is, or how distinct from preaching Elders; tho we see not but the Church may (if she sees meet) choose some able and discreet Brethren to be Helps in Government. We have the Qualifications of Bishops and Deacons directly laid down, and how to be chosen, and their Work declared, but of no other Office or Officers in the Church, but these only.”

    Benjamin Keach on “non-pastor” elders, 1701:
    “others think there were men ordained Elders, that were not gifted to preach, but to be helpful in Discipline, or in the Governement of the Church : but we reading neither of their Qualifications, or how to be chosen (nor of their peculiar Work, distinct from Pastors, nor any such elders chosen in any particular. church in the Apostles days) can see no ground for any such an Office, or Officers in the Church”