People ask me all the time if I ever think about starting a church. My answer? No, not much. Only about twice per day.
I have thought through quite a bit what an “ideal” church looks like. You know the old saying, “once you find the perfect church, you better leave since your presence makes it no longer perfect” . . . or something like that.
No, I am not talking about the “perfect” church. There is no such thing. Ideal. That is the key. How would it be structured? How often would you take the Lord’s supper? Liturgy? Type of preaching? All of these are great questions. But I want to talk only about one here today. Maybe we will follow this up with other issues, but let’s focus now on my (loosely held) opinion concerning the pastorate:
Michael, what would your pastoral staff look like theologically? Calvinistic? Premillenial? Memorialist Lord’s supper?
No, none of these. I would propose a call for a somewhat theologically diversified group of pastors. I would not only allow for freedom in many areas of theology, but I would intentionally attempt to build a diversified staff, many of whom would disagree with me on issues about which I have very, very strong opinions.
I would have to distinguish between those issues upon which I have strong opinions and those which I am convicted are necessary for the proper functioning of the local church.
- Belief in the central elements of the Gospel: The person and work of Christ (who he is and what he has done).
- Belief in sola Scriptura: Scripture alone is the final and only infallible authority for the Christian.
- Belief in sola fide: Faith is the only instrumental cause (from a human standpoint) that brings about justification (i.e., no works-based salvation).
- Belief in the future coming of Christ: i.e., cannot be a Preterist.
- Must be formally trained in Bible and theology (sorry, no online stuff).
(Oh, and then there is the 1 Tim requirements, but that goes without saying here).
Pretty Evangelical Protestant so far.
Some areas I might seek diversity in:
- I would want an Arminian on my staff.
- I would seek someone who has a different eschatology.
- I may seek someone who disagrees about infant/adult baptism.
- I would seek someone who is more liturgical (high church) than me.
- I would allow for someone who has a different view of creation (i.e., young earth/old earth) as long as they were not militant about it or too self-assured about their position (Don’t turn the comments into this debate again!)
Okay, those are some good representative doctrines that give you an idea of what I am talking about.
Why would I seek such diversity? A few reasons:
1. It would better represent the broad tradition of Evangelicalism. I don’t believe that there is a good or compelling reason to separate locally (i.e., with extensive traditional doctrinal statements) when we don’t separate conceptually as Evangelicals.
2. It would be didactically (educationally) beneficial for the congregation. I want to illustrate to all the people, young and old, how Christianity is built around key central beliefs (I am a centralist!). I want to demonstrate how Christians can disagree meaningfully and strongly on certain issues, but still serve the same God together in a united purpose. I would even do special sessions/sermons where I and another pastor defend our positions. Then we would hug. (Well, shake hands.)
3. It is a better presentation to the world of our unity. The outside world needs to see such focus. It would, in my opinion, charge the Gospel with the power of its message as the message could no longer be obscured in secondary issues.
Of course, there are some things that are negotiable that cannot be demonstrated in the same way. For example, I may have someone on my staff who is a congregationalist, but the church would not be congregational.
In the end, it is my proposal that churches should be intentionally diversified in their pastorate.