In my pastoral theology class today we continued our study of what qualifies a man to be an elder. We have been systematically making our way through every single character qualification written in the New Testament. It is a humbling study!
In considering the command found in Titus to have “believing/faithful children,” one of my students made a keen observation. He commented how church government often impacts how we view these qualifications. For example, if our church government is something like one pastor, and a second board of deacons or elders or managers or what have you, there is an added pressure on the church to tolerate sin/disqualification in a pastor. Why? Because if the church were to remove the pastor, they are a ship without a captain!
However, if a church operates Biblically, with a plurality of elders (equal in standing, ministry and responsibility – albeit, to use Strauch’s term, there exists “a leader among equals”) then if one elder is disqualified (sad as this may be!) there is freedom to remove him without ripping apart the overall leadership of the church. Removing a solo elder is a much greater threat to the church. (This is partly why we wrote into our constitution that any time our local church is without 2 or more elders, the church must apply to a sister congregation to have their elders join the solo elder in leading our church.)
This is one more reason I think the Lord was quite right when he established two offices in the church – elder and deacon – and determined that both offices should be filled by a plurality of qualified men.