My friend MaÃ«l from “The Adventures of MaÃ«l & Cindy” is writing a series concerning whether or not the “senior pastor” role is biblical. His first post is called “The Senior Pastor – Introduction“. Look through his blog for the other posts.
I do not intend to discuss his premise or his arguments. I’ll just say for the moment that I agree with him that a separate “senior pastor” or “teaching pastor” role is not biblical. Instead, I want to discuss something related.
After reviewing the literature on the topic, MaÃ«l lists four options:
- The first view is the most common one: the senior pastor is the leader (some may even say ‘head’ or ‘under-shepherd’) of the congregation. The other pastors, usually called associate pastors or ministers with specific designations, help him in the work of his ministry. He is the main shepherd of the flock and the main preacher for the congregation… He might seek advice from the other pastors and be very open to their thoughts and suggestions, but ultimately ‘the buck stops with him’. Throughout this series, this view of the role of a senior pastor will be referred to as the ‘traditional’ view.
- The second view is similar to the first one: the senior pastor is still the leader of the congregation with associate pastors helping him in the work of his ministry. He is still the main shepherd of the flock and the main preacher for the congregation. However, in view number two, unlike in the traditional view, when there is room for pastoral decision making and vision casting, his vote counts as only one among equally weighted votes with the other pastors… This view will be referred to as the ‘leader of leaders’ view…
- The third view is called by Strauch the ‘first among equals’ view. Strauch pictures the difference between the senior pastor and the other pastors as being one of function, not title. The senior pastor is “the natural leader, the chief speaker, the man of action;” he challenges, energizes, strengthens, and ignites the group. In this view there is the sense that this leader is the leader because of his personality and outgoing attitude. He is probably the most outspoken of the pastors and possibly the main teacher also, but he is not officially designated the senior pastor. Note that the difference between views two and three can be very subtle. While it seems that the outworking of both views is similar, the fundamental difference is in the need to officially name this separate office and the implications which develop because of it.
- The fourth view is one void of a human senior pastor altogether. In this view, all the pastors are equal in the eyes of the people and equal in practice. Some advocates of this view will purport that Jesus Christ is the rightful senior pastor of any congregation.
While MaÃ«l doesn’t name this last view, I’m going to call it the “no senior pastor view”.
Now, my questions. Have you been part of churches with any of these structures? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of each of these views? How do you think the “no senior pastor view” would work?