We were talking about my resignation from the professional pastorate. The two of us (obviously) have different opinions on this issue. As we were talking, the subject turned to leadership within the church. After a few minutes, I realized that we were saying two very different things. While my friend repeatedly used the term "leader," I kept saying "leaders." This may at first seem like a small difference, but in reality it is a large one.
I know that my friend believes in strong pastoral leadership. In particular, the "senior pastor" must lead the church as it strives to follow Christ. Therefore, when he says "leader," he is referring to the senior pastor. I, on the other hand, was saying "leaders" because I was envisioning people within the church (both elders and non-elders) who lead through servanthood and holiness of living. They lead by example.
The conversation was pleasant enough, but I'm not sure that it accomplished much. Since our views of church and the pastorate are so different, it was almost as if we were speaking two completely different languages.
The more I ponder this conversation, the more I see what the confusion was. We were thinking of leadership in terms of how we think of the church. If the church is what the bible describes plus additions such as the big building, the programs, the budgets, etc., then leadership almost has to come in the form of one strong senior pastor. Someone has to be in place to keep track of all of the stuff that the scriptures do not talk about.
However, if church is what the bible describes and no more, then leadership can fall into the hands of multiple people. In fact, each person in the body can show leadership in his or her particular areas of giftedness. The elders should primarily display leadership through being sacrificial examples of servanthood to the body. No one man is needed to take care of all the extra stuff.
How we view leadership in the church necessarily stems from how we view the church itself.
In the end, the church does have one man as senior pastor. This is always the same man. His name is Jesus Christ. No one else need apply. The rest of us instead have the joy of together leading as servants under the benevolent rule of Christ.