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One thing that has often crossed my mind when thinking about Eldership is the extent to which the Elders must be "in one mind and one accord".  Of course, in an ideal world, we would "all speak the same thing" and there would not be much difference in what we believe.  However, if you have three or four well-studied, "seasoned" men, from potentially different backgrounds, they will rarely see eye to eye on everything.  And this is good because this diversity is an important aspect of what makes Eldership work.  You do not want one well-studied, confident Elder and have the others be passive "yes men".  You want honesty and sincerity all around.


Now, I know that the ideal case is for an "apostle" type person to appoint these Elders, but I have seen a few groups who do not practice Eldership nevertheless have a few men that stand out as potential Elders.  In one case (and I am trying to broach the subject of Eldership with them), these men of are varied backgrounds (grew up in different congregations, countries, and cultures).  How much must they have in common in doctrine and personality implement Eldership?


Obviously, Elders must agree on the Oneness of God and the plan of salvation.  But consider the other subjects:

  • End times prophecy (dispensationalist, amellenialists, preterism, pre/mid/post trib/mil)
  • The priesthood of all believers (no different "classes" of clergy and laity)
  • Original Sin/Sinful Nature (is man born guilty, is he born with a sinful nature)
  • Predestination (do we have a free will to chose God, is everything that happens on earth somehow in the will of God, is it possible to backslide and be lost)
  • The Lord's Supper (is sin forgiven there, wine vs grape juice, how often)
  • The role of women in the family, church, and society (egalitarianism, women teachers/preachers, women politicians)
  • Is there a baptismal formula (do you have to say certain words when administering baptism)
  • The eternality of the soul (do souls get burned up in hell and go away, or is hell eternal)
  • Tongues the Initial Evidence (can you receive the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues)
  • Creation/Evolution (young earth, gap theory, pre-Adamic earth, theistic evolution)
  • "Holiness standards" (pants, covering/hair, makeup, jewelry, shorts, etc)
  • and many, many more.

 

Of course, within a congregation there can be a diversity of views on matters such as these.  But to what extent must the Elders be in agreement on these things?   And what criteria do we use to determine if a issue is a must-agree-on issue or a diversity-allowed issue?

 

Food for thought and discussion.

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Great questions, Bro. Prevost. Having been part of an elder team for the past five years, I have a little experience in this. I would start by saying that the first requirement is that the men serving as elders must have a strong mutual respect for one another, that they must be kingdom-minded men, not have any hidden agendas, and that they must be men of high godly charcater. When you have these foundational elements in place, disagreements get handled in a godly mature way.

We make a very clear distinction in our assembly between what we call our essential tenets of faith and our general doctrinal teachings. For example, we believe and teach the post-tribulation rapture, but we do not consider this to be an essential tenet of faith. We could theoretically have a pre-tribulation rapturist (nice word!) as an elder, but we would expect him not to teach this view for the sake of unity in the assembly. We may allow him to present his view as an alternative viewpoint, but to be part of the team he would have to submit his view to what we have already established as our doctrinal position.  Of course, we would be glad to let him try to convince us that he is right and we are wrong, but only in a close meeting of the elders.

One thing that I'm sure helps to make this work is that most of the initial elders in the Bible (and at our assembly) were taught by the founding apostle(s). They would therefore tend to believe the same way. As you stated, however, it is vitally important that every elder be pursuaded in his own mind and not be yes-man. Yes-men have no place on an elder team.

If anyone has any specific questions as to how we have handled these kinds of matters in our elder team, please post them and I will be glad to respond.

 


David Huston said:

We make a very clear distinction in our assembly between what we call our essential tenets of faith and our general doctrinal teachings. For example, we believe and teach the post-tribulation rapture, but we do not consider this to be an essential tenet of faith. We could theoretically have a pre-tribulation rapturist (nice word!) as an elder, but we would expect him not to teach this view for the sake of unity in the assembly. We may allow him to present his view as an alternative viewpoint, but to be part of the team he would have to submit his view to what we have already established as our doctrinal position.  Of course, we would be glad to let him try to convince us that he is right and we are wrong, but only in a close meeting of the elders..


I like to try to distill "the principle of the matter" and work from there, so I am mostly interested in why (on what basis, for what reasons) you add things to the essential list and why you exclude them.  What is it that makes something essential or non-essential?  E.g., why is rapture timing considered non-essential?  It's an abstract question, I know, but principles are inherently abstract.

Bro Houston, Do you mind posting your essential tenants of faith?  I couldn't find them on the church web site (I did find the four bullet points on the home page, and I read the Doctrine page, but I tend to think you have more essentials than that).  Thanks!

There are several aspects to this topic, but lets approach it from essential/non-essential first.  

Our Essential Tenets of Faith

 


The Bible teaches that there is "one faith," which has been once for all delivered to the saints (Ephesians 4:5; Jude 3). The question is, What is this One Faith? We recognize that all members may not agree on every detail of doctrinal interpretation or every application of truth; yet Paul admonishes us to all "speak the same thing" (1 Corinthians 1:10). This suggests that we must decide what doctrines we do agree on and commit ourselves to not sowing discord over those on which we do not agree. Eventually, it is hoped, we will all grow together into the "unity of the faith" (Ephesians 4:13). It is vital, however, that the membership be in solid agreement on certain essential biblical teachings. All members are therefore required to profess their unwavering agreement with the following Essential Tenets of Faith:

WE BELIEVE that the Bible in its original languages is uniquely the infallible, unchangeable, divinely inspired Word of God by which all believers are to order their lives. (2 Timothy 3:16; Proverbs 30:5-6; Psalm 119:89; Matthew 7:24-27)

WE BELIEVE that there is one God, who is Creator of all things and Lord over all creation; that He is an eternal, invisible, omnipresent, almighty Spirit; that He is holy; that He is merciful and good; and that He is the author and arbiter of all Truth; and that God is ONE. (Isaiah 45:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11; Matthew 11:25; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Jeremiah 23:24; Genesis 17:1; John 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:9; Deuteronomy 32:4; 6:4)

WE BELIEVE that God was manifest in flesh as the Man, Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Son of God, the Christ, and our Savior; that in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and that the name JESUS is the only personal name of Deity given among men whereby we must be saved. (1 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:3; Matthew 16:16; John 4:42; Colossians 2:9; John 5:43; Hebrews 1:4; Philippians 2:9; Acts 4:12)

WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was fully human; that He was begotten of the Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sins, rose bodily from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, poured out the Holy Spirit, gave ministerial gifts to the Church, and is coming again to reward all human beings according to their works. (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 2:16; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11; 2:1-4; Ephesians 4:7-11; Revelation 22:12).

WE BELIEVE that salvation was purchased for all by the blood of Jesus Christ, but is effective only in those who repent, believe, and obey. (2 Corinthians 5:14; Luke 13:3; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 5:9)

WE BELIEVE that salvation is based solely and entirely upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that salvation is received through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, which must be expressed by baptism (full immersion) in water in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission (or forgiveness) of sins; and that those so doing are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is initially evidenced by speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. (Acts 2:38; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-6; Acts 2:1-4)

WE BELIEVE that all believers must follow on to know the Lord, to keep His commandments, to perfect holiness, to love their neighbors as themselves, and to live in a manner that reflects a total commitment to the principles and standards of Christianity as set forth in the Bible—and that anything less than this will ultimately result in a departure from the faith, a falling away, and a fearful expectation of judgment. There is no unconditional eternal security. (Hosea 6:3; 1 John 2:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Matthew 22:39; Titus 3:12; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-27)

WE BELIEVE that there will be a bodily resurrection of the just and the unjust; that all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that all who have been faithful will live forever with Jesus Christ; and that all who are unbelieving and unfaithful will destroyed in the lake of fire, which God has prepared for the devil and his angels. (Daniel 12:2; Acts 24:15; Romans 14:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:12-15; Matthew 25:41)

Wow, Bro Houston.  I didn't track down all the scripture references, but that's an EXCELLENT statement of faith!

 
A summary:

  • Scripture: the Hole Bible is the only infallible word of God.
  • Nature of God:  There is one God.
  • Nature of Christ: The man Jesus is the Son of God and God manifest in the flesh.
  • Basis for Salvation:  Solely by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
  • Plan of Salvation: faith + repentance + baptism in Jesus name + infilling of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues + continuing to live a life devoted to God (it is possible to backslide and be lost).
  • The Afterlife: there will be a bodily resurrection and a final judgment where people will either be allowed to live with God forever or be sentenced to the lake of fire (unclear whether they are burned up at once or they stay in the lake of fire forever, seems like the former given the word “destroyed”).


I particularly like how this statement of faith does not argue against anything – it's not a statement of what we don't believe.  It isn't intentionally controversial.  It doesn't explicitly deny the Trinity, but a Trinitarian, upon careful reading, could not agree with it.  It also leaves a lot of room for diverse ideas on other things.   Good job!


I don't remember how you stand on the eternality of the soul.  By including the word “destroyed”, did you intend to include that souls are burned up and go away in the list of essential beliefs?


So what we have in this statement of faith is really a list of things essential for salvation (with the possible exception of the eternality of the soul).  It is a definition of genuine Christianity – the bare essentials to consider someone an Apostolic Christian.  Certainly the Elders must be in agreement about the essentials of salvation.


One thing I didn't see in the statement of faith was Eldership itself, so that's at least one additional not-essential-for-salvation thing that Elders must agree on.


Can anyone give examples of doctrinal things that the Elder's DON'T have to agree on?  Is it ever OK for the Elders to not present a united front on a given issue?  Assuming the Elders have the “unity of the Spirit”, must they always have, or pretend to have, the “unity of the faith”?

 

 



Mike R. Prevost said:

Wow, Bro Houston.  I didn't track down all the scripture references, but that's an EXCELLENT statement of faith!

 
A summary:

  • Scripture: the Hole Bible is the only infallible word of God.
  • Nature of God:  There is one God.
  • Nature of Christ: The man Jesus is the Son of God and God manifest in the flesh.
  • Basis for Salvation:  Solely by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
  • Plan of Salvation: faith + repentance + baptism in Jesus name + infilling of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues + continuing to live a life devoted to God (it is possible to backslide and be lost).
  • The Afterlife: there will be a bodily resurrection and a final judgment where people will either be allowed to live with God forever or be sentenced to the lake of fire (unclear whether they are burned up at once or they stay in the lake of fire forever, seems like the former given the word “destroyed”).


I particularly like how this statement of faith does not argue against anything – it's not a statement of what we don't believe.  It isn't intentionally controversial.  It doesn't explicitly deny the Trinity, but a Trinitarian, upon careful reading, could not agree with it.  It also leaves a lot of room for diverse ideas on other things.   Good job!


I don't remember how you stand on the eternality of the soul.  By including the word “destroyed”, did you intend to include that souls are burned up and go away in the list of essential beliefs?


So what we have in this statement of faith is really a list of things essential for salvation (with the possible exception of the eternality of the soul).  It is a definition of genuine Christianity – the bare essentials to consider someone an Apostolic Christian.  Certainly the Elders must be in agreement about the essentials of salvation.


One thing I didn't see in the statement of faith was Eldership itself, so that's at least one additional not-essential-for-salvation thing that Elders must agree on.


Can anyone give examples of doctrinal things that the Elder's DON'T have to agree on?  Is it ever OK for the Elders to not present a united front on a given issue?  Assuming the Elders have the “unity of the Spirit”, must they always have, or pretend to have, the “unity of the faith”?

 

 

 

Just want to add an amen to the teaching of the destruction of the soul in the Lake Of Fire. The scriptures do teach the wages of sin is death.

Anyone interested on my views concerning what happens to the unsaved dead should go to the forum titled "Man Does Not Have an Immortal Soul." This has an article I presented at our last Glorious Church conferencce and the response from Bro. Tom Ryerson. To listen to the presentation at the conference, you can go the www.GloriousChurch.com and search the Audio Library.

 



David Huston said:

Anyone interested on my views concerning what happens to the unsaved dead should go to the forum titled "Man Does Not Have an Immortal Soul." [...]

 

But, did you mean to include it in as an essential tenant of faith?  Your tenants seem to be related to salvation.  Is belief in no immortal soul salvational? 

 

 

 

 

We do not consider belief in a post-trib rapture or that man does not have an immortal soul or that assemblies should be led by a team of pastors to be essential tenets of faith in so far as the fellowship of our assembly is concerned. This does not mean we count them as minor issues that don't really matter. Our objective as an assembly is to understand and embrace "the whole counsel of God." We believe we are saved by "belief of the truth," not just a small part of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:14). But we also believe that the Spirit has been sent to "guide us into all truth" (John 16:13). We are therefore willing to give the process time.

Great post.  I have found these tenets quite useful since I first read them nearly 10 years ago. :)  I do notice, however, that there is no mention of man's need of salvation.  This may be a small thing since of course it would be assumed as a necessary requirement for salvation, yet it also seems such a fundamental starting point that I'm wondering if it was intentionally left out of the document.  Am I missing something here?

Nathan

You're not missing anything, Nathan. When we put these together, we just assumed man's need of salvation and didn't feel it had to be explicitly stated. Perhaps it should be, since as you say it's a fundamental starting point. Just in case you're not 100% sure, we do believe that "everyone" deserves the lake of fire and needs to be saved. I put everyone in quotes because I am not persuaded that everyone deserves by their own acts to be cast into the lake of fire. An example would be a newborn baby. I don't want to take this discussion off in another direction, so if someone wants to comment on that particular point, how about starting up a new forum.
I'd like to talk about the newborn baby too (probably boils down to "original sin" or "sinful nature" or both -- I believe neither).  But I do want to continue this discussion about upon what must Elders agree.  I have been a bit sapped for time.  Perhaps I can make a post later this afternoon.

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