Elders: How Many? -- By: George E. Meisinger

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 10:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: Elders: How Many?
Author: George E. Meisinger

Elders: How Many?

George E. Meisinger

George Meisinger is the president of Chafer Theological Seminary and professor in the Theology, Old and New Testament departments. He earned a B.A. from Biola University, a Th.M. in Old Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary, a D.Min. in Biblical Studies from Western Seminary and has pursued Ph.D. studies in Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological Seminary. He also pastors Grace Chapel in Orange, California. His email address is [email protected].


Many Bible students go through a stage when they debate, sometimes heatedly, various kinds of church government. Let us say upfront that the Lord is more pleased with believers who faithfully serve Him while walking in the light than with those who quarrel about elders, pastors, and deacons.

This does not imply that the study of biblical church polity is useless. The point is that we should not view such a study as an end in itself, but rather as a means to organize our churches according to Scripture in order to be more effective in the work of the ministry. Good teamwork and fruitfulness depend, in part, on doing all things decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:401 ). Therefore, we should learn what Scripture says about shepherds2 and sheep and put it into practice.

We come from a range of churches with different governments. The Roman Catholic Church has a pope at the top, then the college of cardinals, and under them an assortment of bishops and priests. This is a hierarchical church government. The Presbyterian church has the General Assembly consisting of elders nationwide at the top, then Synods consisting of regional elders, and finally, the local church with its ruling board of elders. Because of the prominence of elders,3 we call this a Presbyterian government.

Baptist churches usually have a pastoral staff and deacon board that manage the day-to-day spiritual and material aspects of ministry, but the congregation elects its leaders, as well as votes on other matters considered too important for just the leadership. Because the congregation votes, we call this a congregational government.

A frequent question one hears is, which kind of church government is the best? This answer is, that depends! If one of these categories of church government has men of integrity and spiritual maturity while the others do

not, then it is the bes...

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