I want you to hang with me through this. This is worth reading all the way through. OK?
Jesus loves His Church. He died for her. He is preparing a new, perfected, sinless, infinitely happy heaven and earth for her. In the meantime, He has gifted her with officers and sacraments to build her up toward maturity in Him in a Spirit-driven and orderly fashion.
We describe our polity (how a church is led and governed) at Seven Mile Road as being elder-led, deacon-served and congregation-responsible. The question we’re considering is this: what does it mean to be elder-led?
It’s important to note that first and foremost, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and Senior Pastor of Seven Mile Road. By His Spirit and through His Word, Jesus is the one leading the church. He is the one who lovingly cares for us and directs us. Jesus is our highest authority, our greatest treasure, our deepest joy and the one in which true wisdom and counsel comes from (see Ephesians 1:22-23, 1 Peter 5:4, Hebrews 13:20 and John 10).
In love, Jesus has given His church elders to oversee and care for His people. Elders are called by God to serve the church by praying and preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, exercising church discipline, and governing the church. Ephesians 4 says that the pastors of the church are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Since the members of Jesus’ body represent Jesus to the world, elders are responsible to see that the individual saints under their care are pursuing holiness and unity in accord with the clear commands of Scripture and the covenantal commitments they have made as members of the local church. As with fathers in the home, our elders are the senior leaders of our church family. We believe the Scriptures teach that churches are best served and led under the ministry of a plurality of elders. Men of excellent character, wisdom, and leadership are entrusted with the authority to lead the church.
A quick aside to this. Pastor/Elders are not men who are entrusted with authoritarian leadership. These are not men who are better than anyone else. These are not men who are to throw authority around in a smug, arrogant, “I’m more powerful than you” way. These are not men called to lead in a domineering way. These are men who are servant leaders, following the Ultimate Servant Leader, Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). These are men who are called to give up their lives and sacrifice for the sake of Jesus’ people, called the church. I need us to hear that loud and clear.
The words elder and pastor are used interchangeably in the New Testament to describe shepherds and overseers as it relates to the office of highest leadership in the local church. At Seven Mile Road, when we talk about elders and pastors, we’re talking about those 2 titles synonymously.
Jesus’ boy, Peter, gives 5 principles of leadership for Pastor/Elders (1 Peter 5:1-4).
- Careful Direction – Elders are to lead the church to know, love, and follow Christ so that they have a vision for how to live out the gospel in their context.
- Willing Desire – Elders are to lead not merely out of a sense of duty, but driven by a desire of delight.
- Pure Motivation – The motivation to lead comes from a joy of knowing the grace of God and leading others to taste it, not for shameful gain.
- Humble Posture – Elders have real God-given authority to lead, but it must never be dictatorial. They are called to sacrificially serve the people of God so that they thrive and flourish.
- Godly Example – Elders are called to live as Godly Examples for the flock. They are to lead exemplary lives. Not perfect lives. But lives that say, “follow me as I follow Christ.”
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul lists the qualifications of the two officers (elders and deacons) who provide leadership in the Church. Paul lists several qualifications leaders must have (1 Timothy 3:1-13).
- Godly Ambition – It is a noble thing to have a godward ambition to accept the weight and responsibility of eldership.
- Godly Character – There must be an inner and outer integrity to their life so that people can trust and respect them. They must be disciplined, know how to fight sin and cultivate holiness in their life. Elders must be the husband of one wife, which means they are to be men marked by chastity if single and faithfulness if married.
- Godly Presence – They are to be Gentle, Peacemaking, Hospitable, Respected by Outsiders. There must be an approachability to them where people are built up, not torn down.
- Godly Teacher – This requirement means that an elder must be able to rightly handle the word of God and communicate those truths in a clear and compelling way so that members are built up in the truth. This doesn’t mean he needs to be able to preach sermons in front of the church on a Sunday. He must be able to handle and instruct sound doctrine in order to rightly order his life and the people he’s called to lead. He must be able to guard the gates of sound doctrine in the church, whether it’s preaching, teaching a small group of people, or counseling someone one to one over a coffee or meal.
- Godly Leader – Elders must be sober-minded, mature, and humble. They should be level-headed, wise, discerning knowing how to tell right from wrong. They must also lead their homes well.
Wow. That’s a heavy calling and huge responsibility, right? Not every man is called to this (although I think every Christian should be striving to see these qualities and character values developed in their own lives). Seven Mile Road takes this seriously and wants to train, disciple and develop men who are aspiring to this in a healthy and patient way. We’re never in a rush with stuff like this.
Currently, I (Pastor Bryan), serve as the lone Pastor/Elder in Kennebunk, serving as the Lead Pastor of our church. But on Sunday, February 17, as Seven Mile Road Kennebunk continues to take slow and methodical steps towards more formality in how we lead our church, we are pumped to put before the church, Mark Jago, as our next Pastor/Elder candidate. Mark has been part of the core team of Seven Mile Road since we started this journey in 2016, has faithfully served as part of our leadership team and is leading, along with his amazing wife Beccy, a growing and thriving Gospel Community on mission in Wells.
We will put Mark before the church as a candidate on the 17th. We are not formally calling Mark as a Pastor/Elder – yet. But what we are doing, in accordance with our bylaws, is allowing for you – the church – to have a period of 14-60 days to offer feedback, insight, comment, or bring into light anything that would keep Mark from stepping into this call. You can do that by contacting me and setting up a time to talk (email@example.com). After this time period, we will formally commission Mark on a Sunday morning, before our church, and celebrate God’s incredible grace and work in and through the life of Mark and this church. It’s going to be a blast.
I couldn’t be more excited to put Mark before our church. I’m jazzed to serve alongside Mark in leading this church towards deeper faithfulness and fruitfulness in Jesus in this next season of life at Seven Mile Road. And I couldn’t be more pumped to see team ministry continue to unfold, as we seek to be a healthy, thriving, growing church IN and FOR the Kennebunks.