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Why Our Church Has Multiple Senior Pastors

January 25, 2017

Recently our church, at the direction of our elders, changed the title of Dax Hughes, who was our Senior Associate Pastor, to “Senior Pastor, Leadership”.  My title changed from Senior Pastor to “Senior Pastor, Preaching”.  Dax and I were college roommates 22 years ago and God has formed a special brotherhood between us.  Really, this title change makes clearer how we actually function, namely, we have shared the senior leadership role for years.  We aren’t trailblazers.  Many other churches have done this before us.  We aren’t evangelists who think everyone should do this.  In fact, many churches shouldn’t do it.

With that said, we’ve had a lot of people curious about this change knowing that it departs from the traditional norm.  So, I thought it might be helpful to express why we made this change.  So, here’s a list of reasons.

(1)  We believe plurality of leadership is biblical.  It’s a rarity to see Christian leaders in the New Testament alone.  Jesus sent disciples out by 2.  Paul makes it clear that he works in teams most of the time.  Even our one true God expresses Himself in trinitarian plurality and rejoices in the love and collaboration between the Father, Son, and Spirit.  This alone does not mean every church should have multiple senior pastors.  It simply means that God’s plan for all of us includes the plurality of life in community.  We can say then that having multiple senior pastors  is at least not unbiblical.

(2)  Because we have the option.  It’s an option for us and we believe it is the best option when it’s available.  We can do this because of the kind of brotherhood, trust, and compatibility that exists between Dax and I.  We realize not everyone has that.  In fact, churches would be better off not having multiple senior pastors than having the wrong chemistry.  Our harmonious chemistry gives us this option.

(3) Empowerment.  Our multiple senior pastor model reflects the strategy of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 where he describes the body of Christ functioning more powerfully as a unified but diverse group.  Diversity enhances the body’s ability and unity makes sure that it works in cooperation.  Dax and I have the same philosophy and doctrinal convictions but we do find that our unique gifting make us each more effective.  In other words, we have the belief that we are both better when working together than apart.

(4) Increases wisdom and decreases burdens.   We are an elder led church.  A lot of churches are scared of elder led because they fear that it will give too much power to leaders.  I think it does the opposite.  Every decision we make occurs among spiritually mature and trusted brothers by consensus.  When leaders are isolated they make many of their decisions on their own.  This increases the burden on the individual who is alone in convincing an entire church of their direction and it decreases the wisdom of the decision. The larger the church, the larger the burden.  I have no doubt that multiple senior pastors works better in an elder system than a congregational one because it is the consensus of the whole elder group that determines the path rather than two individual perspectives competing with each other.  If we are willing to share leadership in humility to trusted, proven people then we will also share the burdens and be less likely to burn out.

(5) Application of a kingdom understanding of power.  Some folks have not been able to understand my motives because they see me as someone who is relinquishing power.  However, doesn’t the teachings of the New Testament and the example of Christ lead us to a different understanding of power than our world’s understanding?  Christ taught that those who are great don’t “lord” their power over others but instead serve.  He lived this vision out as well, especially through the cross.  We have to be careful making a wholesale application of business models to church because we are a different kind of society in which those who are last are first, and those who serve are the greatest.  We have a different version of power.  I haven’t lost.  I have gained.

(6) Displays Christian community and brotherly love.  I’m afraid our strict hierarchies are a reaction to sin not a reflection of the heart of God.  Since we are sinful and full of ego, we think have to have one dominant leader or there is a lack of harmony.  It’s a safeguard because of pride.  However, shouldn’t we long in our church leadership for a modeling of humble, selfless, submitting, cooperating brotherly love that looks more like Christian community and less like the power structures of the world?  I realize sometimes we can’t have that because we still live in a fallen world and church leaderships are not immune to it.  However, when it is possible, it seems to me that it should be the goal.


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