On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.4: “Chief Among Equals”?

Sándor and I concluded our exchange on church leadership with the following emails.  Though relatively short in length, they did touch on a vital question: What about the principle of “chief among equals”? 

[For the full context of this post, please see the prior parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]

~ ~ ~

I continued:

Hi Sándor,

Thank you for getting back to me on this, and for your comments.  I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly that a plural form of eldership is the only possibility that will be able to administrate the Headship of Christ.  I also agree that the single pastor system is the same as the Israelites wanting a king to rule over them, as all the other (denomi-)nations around them…I.e. a rejection of God as their King, or in the case of the church, rejecting Christ as the functional Head of the church in favor of a man.

Another facet of this matter of plural eldership, is that many will say they agree with it, but that there still needs to be a “chief among equals…” “lead”, “chief”, “or “senior” elder or pastor.  They will use the Jerusalem church, with James as the apparent “chief elder” there, as their model.  This in reality seems to be more of a playing with words, in my mind, in order to justify a “one man at the top” system.  I am not totally against the concept of “chief among equals”, for it seems to me that even in the economy of the Godhead, there is a functioning of the Father as “chief among equals”, and also in marriage, with the husband as head of the wife, but it needs to function truly as an equality in the end.  If anyone is to be “chief” they are to be the greatest servant and the one least desiring to be chief.  The “chief” aspect among elders should only be functional in nature, if at all, and not positional in any respect.  That is at least how I see it at this point.

Those are just a few more thoughts on this subject, albeit rather incomplete.

I appreciate the translation of “The Headship of Christ…” teaching. I will most likely link to it in an upcoming post once I record the audio of the English.  I’m glad it was a blessing to you and that you have been able to pass it on to your readers.

Blessings, my friend,


Sandor replied:

Yes.  We agree on this totally.

I know these arguments.  Many say that one needs to be „chief” (senior, pastor) but they think really „chief” over others.

I like to use the „first among equals” phrase instead of „chief/leader” among equals.  The „first” means: one is not a leader or chief over others, only the first with his biggest experiences, highest age, or apostolic gift, like James among the elders in Jerusalem.  It seems in the Scripture at the big decision in Jerusalem that apostles and elders made the decision together.  (James and Paul were mediators there.)  One with apostolic gift is able to fill a father role within the elders as you told.

I appreciate the discussing with you very much.

I have a detailed description about plural leadership in English from Alexander Strauch (USA). I translated this writing earlier too.

I think this is a balanced writing.  If you are interested in it, I will send that to you.

Now I go to sleep because it is 11 p.m. here.


I concluded:

Yes, Sandor. I think we are in true agreement in these matters.  It has been encouraging and edifying for me to have these discussions with you and to be of one accord.  It is also as Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov.27:17.

Another example of our unity is that I was also going to mention to you Alexander Strauch’s book on Biblical Eldership.  I have not read all of it, but have been blessed by what I have, and found it balanced and solid.  So, thank you for that recommendation!

May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry in Him in Hungary!


~ ~ ~

This concluded the email exchange between Sándor and I from a number of years ago.  We have had further dialogues on this subject and others since then and may possibly share some of the content of those in the future.  To conclude this series, though, I’d like to simply summarize some of the main points of what we shared in this exchange.

Of all the aspects that we discussed, that which stands preeminent above them all is the practical Headship of Jesus Christ over His church.  That is “the first button”, as was discussed in Part 1.  If that “button” gets firmly secured in the “first hole”, all subsequent “buttons” will naturally line themselves up to follow in their rightful place!  If the Headship of Christ doesn’t get firmly fastened, however, then no amount of “biblical” form that follows will satisfy God’s desire and design for His Ekklesia.

Once the practical Headship of Christ is secured, He may then sovereignly work in various ways to bring about the “wineskin” and “wine” that He desires.  This may come about either by His first establishing a biblical form, as a “possibility” (only), and then filling it with biblical content, as a “solution” (see Part 2), by working according to the principle of “Form follows function” with a recognition of leadership coming only after a substantial period of common, non-recognized functioning, or through an overlapping interplay of both (see Part 3).  In any case, this work must be by Christ’s sovereign Headship and hand, and not merely by the wisdom and works of man.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

As the shape and substance of the church develops organically by the Spirit in this way, the form of leadership that will most naturally develop will be one of a plurality of non-hierarchical, servant leaders/elders.  Although there will naturally be differences of gifting, calling, experience, and maturity among these, so that some may exercise a more prominent influence than others in certain respects, those differences ought not to constitute a positional or hierarchical arrangement.  The calling and intention of such plural, co-equal leadership is the establishment and manifestation of the Headship of Christ through His many-membered Body in unity, fullness, purity, and balance.

It is the firm conviction of both Sándor and I that the Lord desires to raise up a remnant of His people in this last day as an overcoming testimony to His original purpose and pattern for His Ekklesia.  These will return to Him with all of their heart and collectively seek the restoration of the centrality and supremacy of Christ in all things related to the Church.  We pray that this personal exchange that we have shared concerning church leadership, under the Headship of Christ, will be helpful and encouraging to those who are seeking such a restoration.  May we all join in this ongoing conversation with others, wherever God has placed us!

For your further edification and encouragement along these lines, I will be following up this series with some of Sandor’s original (English) writings on the church.  Please stay tuned!


Related posts and pages:

The Greatest Among You (3D post)

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ – by Gospel Fellowships (a “hosted”, free resource)

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
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4 Responses to On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.4: “Chief Among Equals”?

  1. errollmulder says:

    David and Sandor, it is so true that the Hebrews chose an earthly king over the King of heaven and earth. One of the main obstacles to truly ‘organic church’ is the desire for a ‘king,’ a ‘senior pastor’ to tell the congregation what to do, and then of course fight with him if he doesn’t do what they would like! I saw it over all my years of denominational pastoring, I see it still on every hand. Folk will even agree that ‘organic church’ is the biblical way to go, but then personally fail to pay the price of ‘crossing over.’ One would despair, but then it is ultimately Christ who builds his ecclesia, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandor says:

      Erroll, I agree with you totally. I remember at the starting of our local church we had a visitor pastor for one year and it was a terrible period for the minority of the church filled by Holy Spirit, but this state was very comfortable for the majority. This was a starting period with many baby Christians. After this period as the oldest believer in the church I had got a mandate to be pastor. I imagined my position and was shocked. I felt myself as if would occupy the position of Jesus and had a certainty that humanly it can not fulfil.. I laid away my mandate to be pastor and we started with the eldership form. During the first two years the majority of the believers looked for one person continuously who will say to them what to do. At such a time we showed to upto the Lord. After two years everybody regained strength by the Holy Spirit and the gifts of Holy Spirit started to work. I had got more biblical visions about the church in this period which are readable in my book what will be loaded up by David.

      Liked by 2 people

      • David Bolton says:

        Erroll and Sandor, thank you for sharing your experiences. Mine have been mostly on two sides of the pendulum swing. On the one hand, there have been those who have looked mainly to “the man” to do the leading and the majority of the “ministering”, and on the other, those who resisted any hint of there being any leadership and/or “equipping” of any kind. Those, not surprisingly, tended to be more self-promoting and tended to over-function, while the other group felt little spiritual responsibility and tended to under-function. As has been said, “You can fall off both sides of that horse.” Your final sentence, Erroll, really does sum it up!
        Blessings to you both, and stay the course!


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