Senior Pastors Giving Up Control, Going to an Equal Elder Leadership Model… My Interview With Dr. Bob Halstead


A few months ago I had an amazing conversation with Dr. Bob Halstead, senior pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Stockdale, Georgia. Bob is a humble man, an individual who has chosen to set aside the oftentimes discontenting and overwhelming ideology that the senior pastor and staff team run the church. He moved to an elder led model with him being an equal elder. I think you’ll be blindsided by some of the outcomes of giving up control and giving others equal footing.

This is day one of a three day interview.

Rick: Bob, I understand that you changed your churches leadership structure? Would you mind describing the structure you were using and the structure you’re now using?

Bob: For years we had a staff-led model of leadership at our church. Now we have a elder-led model of leadership where all the elders are equal in leadership and authority. Each elder has an area of minister he gives leadership to and is responsible for.

Rick: How did you come to the conclusion that you needed to restructure?

Bob: With using a staff-lead approach there was a resistance that would rise from the fact that our by-laws were written for a deacon-led approach. Both parties would pick and choose which parts of the by-laws we would ignore or adhere to. With this friction we knew that we needed to revisit the whole polity issue and make a decision as to which style it was going to be and get our people and policies in alignment.

The restructure came out of a 3-year study by the staff and key leaders in the church. We met for 2.5 hours twice a month for 3 years looking in the Scriptures about what God’s word has to say about how the church should function. This was the most exciting study I have ever done in the church. God blessed it in a tremendous way. Most of us had a preconceived idea about how the structure would end up looking and all of us were wrong. The Bible straightened us out. We looked at how scripture depicts the body functioning and what it teaches the leadership should be responsible for. We discovered that both have important roles and responsibilities.

There is much about Elders and how they are to shepherd, lead and administrate the church. Deacons have a helpful and vital role and the body has a great responsibility to seek God’s guidance and discernment then follow His direction. It makes a beautiful picture and partnership when done correctly.

Certainly the Bible leaves a lot of questions unanswered that we would like answers to but the all-wise God gave us a timeless, cross-cultural plan that gives us basics without all the details so that we can adapt His truth to our individual situation.



One comment

  1. I served on a church staff that the senior pastor led to do a very similar thing. We studied the Scripture for a year, meeting weekly for 2-3 hours as a group (combined with key lay leaders including deacons). We came to the same conclusion as this church…God’s design is a plurality of leaders with the pastor being “the first among equals.” The church was then taught the principles and given a chance to ask questions and have any concerns addressed. It was a smooth transition that has been blessed by the Lord. The elders and deacons worked well together to administrate, meet needs, and teach the Word.

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