Identifying Elders, Part 4
This is my fourth post on a process our church has begun to identify and install elder leadership, highlighting questions I’ve been asked or thought would be helpful to answer. Feel free to ask more questions in the comment section below.
Why appoint elders before making changes to the church constitution? Why not change the constitution first and then appoint leadership to match it?
This is an important question that our current church leadership has carefully considered. It’s important to differentiate between the ‘who’ questions and ‘what’ questions of church leadership; a major part of teaching on this subject last year and in the last month. The ‘who’ questions concern individuals and qualifications. The Bible gives us much to consider when answering these questions. The ‘what’ questions concern roles, responsibilities, structures, etc. We’re given far less on this in scripture – in fact, only elders get a clear job description. We have the freedom to make Deacon responsibilities align with whatever ministry requires.
When making a transition like this, from a singular board or council to differentiated roles of elders and deacons, there are only three options:
- Affirm elders & deacons and change the constitution at the same time.
- Change the constitution first, then affirm elders & deacons later.
- Affirm elders & deacons first, then change the constitution later.
Below is an explanation of why we chose the third option, beginning with why the first two options were rejected.
Affirm elders & deacons and change the constitution at the same time.
This is too much to consider all at once. What I mean is that the ‘who’ questions will potentially get lost as we debate the ‘what’ questions. The danger is that we’ll be sidetracked by constitutional questions that could potential derail the more important questions of biblical qualifications. It’s a lot for the typical church member to weigh out, and a lot for the current leadership to orchestrate. As I explained in a previous post, we believe we can still honor the constitution but address changes at a later date.
Change the constitution, then affirm elders & deacons.
This really isn’t a viable option. We don’t want to create offices in the church constitution without properly filling them, even for a short period of time. The constitution is a tool that helps us fulfill our mission; it’s not the mission we fulfill.
Affirm elders & deacons, then change the constitution to match.
Obviously, this is the one our current leadership (council & myself) have chosen. Our current constitution has a degree of ambiguity which, while creating some problems, allows us to make this transition. In short, I’m calling the church to focus on what is clearly biblical before we focus on the more subjective matters of polity. The priority we see in the scriptures is to answer the ‘who’ questions before considering the ‘what’ questions. This is why we chose to identify individuals before addressing responsibilities and structures.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions. I’m looking forward to our Special Business Meeting this Sunday at 9:30AM to affirm our elder candidates!