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Old 09-11-2008, 11:51 PM   #1
Peter Debelak
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Location: Avon, OH
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Default Eldership

My focal interest is what kind of structure of gathering the Lord is after and even whether there is a particular structure at all that He prescribes in His word. Does the Lord prescribe that each of us meet in a formally recognizable congregation (and therefore, if we no longer meet in the LC, must find another one)? Or is His call to something less specific - as general as 1) were two or three are gathered and 2) don't forsake the gathering of yourselves together.

On this broad question - whether the Lord prescribes "groups" as such - we could all argue all day long. However, I think another means by which to determine whether the Lord prescribes we meet in a formal congregation/group/etc... is whether He prescribes the eldership as an office. That is, if He prescribes the eldership, then He necessarily prescribes that we are members of an outwardly identifiable congregation (the only other possibility, if he does in fact prescribe the eldership, is that he only does so when saints determine to gather regularly as a consistent group, but I'll bracket this possibility for now). So, if the eldership is a prescribed office, then observable congregations are also prescribed - and if so, each of us should be in one and under an eldership.

So, that said, I wish to pursue the question of whether the office of eldership is one which is prescribed in the NT, or whether its presence in the NT (which no one can deny) is a description of circumstance, or just a pattern (but not a prescription) of healthy practice.

The two competing lines of thought on this are summed up:

1) The apostles obviously did appoint elders (thus, eldership seems to be an office and the apostles deemed them necessary)

2) eldership was a Jewish office and the Jewish tradition relied much on order and structure. The early Christians adopted and merged many of the Jewish practices and structures with the early church practice (many early church leaders were likely Jewish elders, or at least used to being under Jewish elders...). To the extent that these tradition were powerful and not easily purged (and not inherently unhealthy), Paul and the other apostles permitted it and, to the extent they were permitting it, gave instructions to guide the most healthy exercise of an otherwise unnecessary practice.

This second point could be restated: the early Jewish Christians were stuck on keeping the tradition of Jewish elders - and, at that, they were prone to let some "wolves" into that position - so, to the extent they were stuck on this tradition, which had potential for destruction, the apostles said "fine, if you're going to insist on your traditions, let's at least lay out some healthy guiding principles for choosing elders..."

I submit that it is not obvious from the scripture that either of these views is right. But does the scripture lean in one direction more than another?

Thoughts?

In Love,

Peter

P.S. I will state here that I don't think the office of eldership is prescribed. But I will add that I don't think the Lord is against being a member of a "group." And, whereever the Lord leads us, there may be some folks there that, situationally (or even most of the time), to whom He wants us to submit. We don't look for it because its prescribed. We follow His leading which may, in some contexts, entail submitting ourselves to others. I add this P.S. lest anyone think that this inquiry into eldership is an attempt to eschew all restraint in favor of an "individualistic" Christian life. Even if someone believes that their only prescription is to simply follow the Lord's leading as an individual, does not mean they won't be lead to be part of a group and under an eldership...

P.P.S. If the eldership is prescribed, then that means that formal recognizable congregations are also prescribed and that each individual must be under an eldership. Of course, that doesn't answer the question of which congregation... which is a question being wrangled with all over this forum...
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Last edited by Peter Debelak; 09-12-2008 at 12:04 AM.
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