The church I have the privilege of pastoring has pastors/deacons/deaconesses and trustees. Our deacons function in many regards like biblical elders but that sermon is for another Sunday. New Testament church polity is really not that confusing. The apostles appointed a plurality of godly men to help govern, lead, and shepherd the early church. Those men (elders) served as spiritual overseers and were the primary spiritual teachers in each local church. My sermon series on this subject can be examined here http://www.fbcfreeport.com (note the series: “By Whose Authority? Spiritual Leaders in the Local Church”)
I am currently reading Wesley and Men Who Followed a book written by my favorite author, Iain H. Murray. In this book I came across the following comment on trustees.
There was, however, on preparation for the future that Wesley had made and one which was to prove his wisdom. By 1791 there were about 400 meeting-houses belonging to his connexion and the deeds of these buildings were held by local trustees. From time to time these trustees were so attracted to certain preachers that they would have been glad to have them permanently. No such option was allowed in Wesley’s lifetime but it suggested one possibility for the future: let the Assistants all become ministers settled in local churches. Wesley had foreseen such a scenario and put arrangements in place to prevent it. His reasons were twofold: first, such a change would put the appointment of preachers into the hands of trustees, men who were not called to be spiritual leaders. This would necessarily have been the case because the people in his societies knew nothing of the ‘democracy’ of independency, and were (not without reason) prejudiced against any form of Presbyterianism. Second, and more important, settling men in local churches would bring an end to the itinerant plan upon which, he was convinced, so much good depended.
Because a trustee board is a non-biblical office and because with the exception of my current pastorate I have never been apart of a local church that had trustees I have yet to do a historical study on this “office” (for lack of a better word). I always assumed that a trustee board was a modern Baptist invention. That assumption was held until I read this paragraph in Murray’s latest book on John Wesley (is it a Methodist invention?). Does anyone know of a good resource that accurately chronicles the development of trustees throughout church history?
If you want to know what my convictions are with regard to the subject of biblical church polity I direct your attention again to our church website http://www.fbcfreeport.com and the sermon audio section. The best books that I know of on this subject are those written by Alexander Strauch and John MacArthur’s the Master’s Plan for the Church.