Identify Your Scenario

Click here to read a conversation introducing this section
Tim Curious: Well, I have read through all the material you showed me and am convinced of biblical eldership (BE). Where do I start?

Paul Mentor: Well, the first thing is to determine which scenario best fits your situation.

Tim: Scenario? You mean like how big our church is?

Paul: No, what I mean is that how you go about implementing biblical eldership depends on your role in the church and your church’s particular situation

Tim: So you customize a plan for each church?

Paul: No, that would be impossible for us to do for each church. After all, we are trying to provide a resource for churches around the world!

Tim: So, it’s a “cookie-cutter” approach, the implementation process is the same for every church?

Paul: Not really. We have discerned that there are five basic scenarios, or situations, that churches find themselves in when they are seeking a change of leadership structure. For each of these scenarios, many of the steps are similar or overlap, but there are important differences.

Tim: Now I see what you are getting at. So I need to figure out where I and my church fit into your schemes, right?

Paul: Well, one of the five scenarios will provide implementation guidelines that will fit your situation more closely than the other scenarios.

Tim: What happens if we don’t fit any of them?

Paul: Well, then call us and we can help you think through the situation. However, I think you will find that one of the scenarios will fit your situation closely, or at least one which you can adapt.

Tim: OK, let’s get started, what are the five scenarios?


The implementation process is divided into logically arranged, well-ordered steps—the Scripture says, “All things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:40). You who are reading this may be a pastor, a board member, or a member of the congregation. The implementation steps you take will depend on which scenario best describes your situation. In order to help you, we have identified five common scenarios.

The Scenarios

Pastor: The pastor has a growing conviction and desires transition to BE. In this situation, he should take the lead, being the primary catalyst. He already has the respect of the congregation and is accepted as the leader.

Board: The church is currently without a pastor and the board desires to implement BE.

  • One or two key leaders in the congregation should take the initiative, that is, to be the catalysts. These could be members of the governing board or influential, reputable members of the congregation. It is important that these members have the confidence of the church body.
  • Plans to find a new pastor should wait until the transition to BE has been completed. Once a functioning elder board is in place, you will be in a better position to evaluate whether help is needed and how the fulltime pastor/elder will function within the new leadership structure. Crucial to anyone new joining in the shepherding ministry is that he be committed to BE.

Congregation member(s): Spiritually minded and biblically oriented individuals seek BE. This scenario involves someone not in a recognized leadership role who desires to influence the church toward a BE model of leadership and shepherding. The emphasis here will be on how to approach the leadership about BE.

Divided leadership: Some of the ruling board (deacons/elders/pastors) seek BE, but not others. This division can be described in one of the following ways:

  • A disagreement in principle among an otherwise healthy ruling board
  • Dissatisfaction with the leadership abilities of those in key positions of leadership
  • General tension and conflict among board members

New church: Beginning from scratch has its unique challenges for implementing BE. But, in some regards this is the easiest time to implement BE.

Based on which scenario best fits your situation, we will walk you through some preliminary steps having to do with motivation and preparation—these will be unique to your scenario. Following that we will help you through one of two approaches depending on which will be most suitable for you church.

General Principles

Benjamin L. Merkle, in his book, “40 Questions About Elders and Deacons” (192-196), outlines six essential elements for leading a church in the transition to plurality of elders. You would do well to keep these in mind as you progress along.

  • Entreat the Lord – Seek the Lord’s direction and wisdom.
  • Establish trust –The congregation must come to trust the catalyst (whether he is the pastor, a board member or another leader) and be convinced he is not driven by a special agenda, but “is humbly seeking to obey God’s Word.”
  • Evaluate the leadership structure – “Before a church can transition to something, it must properly identify what it is changing from.” Is the church following in practice what its governing documents proscribe?
  • Educate the congregation – Teaching about BE must take place in the context of embracing inspiration and authority of Scripture and God’s design for the church. (Note: We would add that it would be wise to begin first with teaching the existing leaders or governing board of the church.)
  • Emphasize qualifications – “Without godly, qualified men leading the church, all the talk about biblical eldership is useless.”
  • Engage the plan slowly – Slow implementation is crucial for a smooth and (relatively) painless transition to take place.”

What’s Next?

Now, go ahead and click on the scenario sub-menu item which best describes your situation. You will be on your way to preparing for the task of helping your church transition to biblical eldership.