I wrote the other day regarding the role of male headship in marriage on a complementarian understanding. I have previously written on this here and the post the other day can be read here. But in response to the second one of those, somebody helpfully pointed out that there was an issue here regarding eldership in the church too. I agree with them and thought it might be worth just fleshing that out a little.
In my previous posts, I spoke about how husbands and fathers are held uniquely accountable by God for the state of their homes. That means not just the ultimate spiritual outcome (some of which is beyond their power and purview) but how they have shepherded their wives and children. If they are managing their households well, this does not mean that they will be making every decision. Rather, they will be ensuring that whoever is best placed to make decisions, and whoever is best placed to fulfil whatever functions are given the license and liberty to do so knowing that this is what will best serve their family. This, it strikes me, is good household management.
What is true within the family home is also true in the church family. The principle for the family home is to lead in such a way that your family members are is led to use the full extent of their gifts, to the glory of God, so that the whole family might flourish. Similarly, within the church, the principle is to lead your members to use their gifts, to the glory of God, so that the whole church family might flourish.
This inevitably means that elders are not called to make, or micromanage, every possible decision within the church. There will be times when various members are better placed to determine wise courses of action. The elders are not appointed because they have the best business savvy or they are particularly able to produce brilliant accounts sheets. They are appointed as godly men, who are able to teach the Bible well, in order to equip the saints for works of ministry. No elder is called to be omnipresent nor omnicompetent. That means rightly delegating decision-making and functions to others within the church who are better laced to help the church membership to grow.
If an elder is managing his household well, this should not be at all alien to him. He will already be delegating decision-making responsibility and various functions to his wife, where she is better placed to help the family flourish. Again, there is a reason why one of the qualifications for eldership is to manage one’s household well. What the godly man does in his home in helping his family to flourish he is called to do in the church in order to help his church family flourish. This – just like in the home – does not mean taking every decision onto himself nor fulfiling every function himself. It means being a good manager such that those who are better placed to help the church flourish are given the license and liberty to do the things that the elder can’t do so well in order to equip the saints for works of ministry.
When we understand this, we will better understand the role of eldership altogether. It is not the elders’ job in general to micromanage every decision of the church. Rather, it is the elders’ job to teach the Word and equip the saints for works of ministry. It is, in other words, their job to help the congregation flourish and they are to do this by teaching the Word and delegating responsibility within the church to those who are best placed to help the church grow towards its goal of maturity in Christ. As it goes in the home, it is to go in the church.