At the business meeting in September we announced that Phil will transition to working half time starting January 1st. We see this as a tremendous blessing because it allows Phil to slow down some and yet have the church still benefit from his teaching and pastoral gifts.
The elders also announced they believe Daniel Baker should be the next senior pastor of our church. Our Book of Church Order states that this decision of who should be the senior pastor is to be made by the elders with appropriate input from the congregation. So we have been encouraging you to do so—to give any feedback, questions, amens, or concerns to us. We have also been using this occasion to talk about what is the role of the senior pastor and how does he serve within a plurality of elders and in general how does our eldership work. The elders have asked me to share briefly this morning concerning how the senior pastor interacts with the church (as opposed to the eldership itself).
Is a Senior Pastor a Biblical Role?
Let’s review some of the points that the Sovereign Grace Book of Church Order states about the role and place of a senior pastor:
- The role of “senior pastor” or “lead pastor/elder” is supportable by biblical precedent and practical wisdom. It is not a biblical office per se and therefore not absolutely required in this polity. Nonetheless, the Bible presents numerous examples of groups in the Bible where a man is or becomes the leader, or at least the spokesman. It mentions the example of Moses in the nation of Israel, Peter with the apostles, James in the church in Jerusalem.
- Further, practical wisdom tells us that a group is served when one individual is identified as the primary leader or spokesman, even if he is technically a “first among equals.” He is an equal among his fellow elders in the exercise of authority, not another class of elder, but his role is distinct in that he serves as a leader of his fellow elders.
- The Book of Church Order also states that the lead elder is part of a plurality of elders, and his character and gifting are not necessarily uniformly greater than that of the other men. What is distinct is his measure of gifting and capacity in those areas (teaching, leadership) most central to pastoral leadership.
Teach and Lead
So two of the main ways a senior pastor interacts with the church are teaching and leadership. I want to commend Daniel in both of these areas and highlight some of the ways that show he is faithful and gifted in these areas. The BCO mentions that historically the senior pastor in our churches has provided doctrinal leadership through a prominent teaching role. Daniel has shown his qualification for this over the years. He has shared the primary Sunday teaching responsibilities with Phil over the last number of years. He also teaches in other venues such as the new members class, our home group sphere meetings, deacon's and men’s retreats as well as blog postings.
He is always thinking theologically about issues and how to communicate those to our church. This includes thinking with the other elders about what sermon series we should do and within those series what key theological issues need to be highlighted and fleshed out. I Timothy 5 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Daniel’s labor in preaching and teaching and its impact on the congregation is evident, and we are grateful for that.
Leadership is another area that I have seen Daniel excel. Ephesians 4 says that pastors equip the saints for the work of ministry. Daniel does this. All elders are called to do this, but he has shown himself to be a pastor who takes initiative and has been faithful in this area. He thinks about areas of ministry that our church can grow in and sets about seeking to equip members to serve in these areas. This summer he gathered a number of people in the church who had experience and a burden in the area of missions. He led a roundtable discussion in order to encourage and strengthen those members in their particular areas of service. He was also the person who initiated the idea of scripture reading on Sunday mornings where we now hear men and women publically reading scripture before the preaching occurs.
Jim Martin mentioned to me that Daniel has assembled men with teaching gifts and given them occasions to teach, while equipping them for the task. He has done this by meeting with them in small groups in order to help prepare them for their teaching assignments. Jim said that Daniel has been doing this for 15 years. His purposeful leadership is reflected in raising up worship leaders, too, over the same period of time.
Daniel also listens to members who have ideas for ministry and seeks to help them make those ideas a reality. Henri Kadima had a vision to start a Bible study for French speaking people from West Africa. He is now doing so on Sunday nights at our church building. Joby Ruhl and Matt Noel had a desire to have an outreach to neighborhood kids via a sports camp. Lord willing, that will happen this coming summer. Ideas are one thing. Helping make those ideas come to fruition is another. You can’t just assume they will happen. You must help prepare and equip people to minister to others, and Daniel has done this. These are a few examples of why we feel Daniel is the person to become the senior pastor.
Phil's Unique Contribution
In some ways, especially for those who have been at our church from the beginning, no one will be able to take Phil’s place - in function or in our hearts. We are very grateful for his labor of love here in our church and his work for the churches of Sovereign Grace. We are happy that he will continue to labor among us and that we will continue to benefit from his gift as a shepherd to our church.
At the same time we realize the strong teaching and leadership gifts that God has blessed Daniel with. We have confidence in God’s anointing upon his life to serve our church and elders in this position. And we have confidence that he will continue grow in his gifts as well. Daniel is a man who is serious about growing as a Christian and as a pastor. We believe our church will grow and be fruitful under his leadership.
And we believe, if it is God’s will, he will confirm it through his church through strong amens from his people. So please feel free to speak to any of the elders about your thoughts on this.