"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins." (Mark 2:21, 22)
In a church replant there is usually a consensus for change, transition, conversion, development, or whatever adjective you might want to use. However, an agreement for change is always a bit theoretical and here is why. Whatever has been the policy and behavior, irrespective if it is successful or not, that behavior is familiar and comfortable and transitioning away from it will always be a challenge—hence Einstein's definition of insanity. Change, simply for the sake of change is foolish but an unwillingness to accept change that brings greater Biblical alignment, spiritual health, and increased gospel effectiveness boarders on insanity. Single pastor leadership is not wrong but there is a Biblical pattern for multiple elder leadership in the New Testament as well as evidence that plurality of elders contributes to a healthier, happier, less political community of faith.
The passage from Mark 2 teaches two principles. First, unwise transitioning can be destabilizing. In my first pastorate, as a novice, I was fully convinced of my own opinions and committed to making them a reality. One day an older female member, a godly humble woman seriously asked me, "Pastor, is everything we have been doing in the past wrong?" That gave me pause. Change, not guided by the Holy Spirit and undergirded with compassion is always problematic.
Also, in the Mark passage, there is no condemnation of either the new wine or the old wineskins—only a warning against the unwise mixture. I think a careful reading will conclude that one point of the Lord's advice was that we must seek to preserve both the new wine and old wineskins. This is crucial in a faith community filled with biblical love and gospel expectation. As we transition to multiple elders we must be careful not to discard biblical deacons. We must know and have both—Biblically qualified and Biblically functioning elders and deacons. Furthermore, when they are not available we must be patient and wait on the Lord to provide.
Elders who spiritually, Biblically lead and shepherd the flock is our goal. We need men who will teach the Word of God, model Christlike behavior, maintain doctrinal purity, discipline the flock when necessary, oversee the needs of the church, and pray for the body.
In my next blog, I will deal with the issue of a "chief" elder among the elders.