Over at the Covenant Life Church website,C.J. is still listed as one of the pastors. Both this page, and also a page of audio messages for those considering pastoral ministry, clearly use the term “pastor,” “elder,” and “overseer/bishop” interchangeably. I believe that I am correct to assert that almost all modern scholars would concur that the New Testament itself does the same thing (see especially Acts 20).
C.J. is listed on the Covenant Life Church website as working full-time for Sovereign Grace, which is presented almost as an outworking of that local church itself – it is as though Sovereign Grace is one of the areas of church life that individual elders/pastors care for specifically. The SGM website itselfspeaks of C.J. as follows: “C.J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission to establish and support local churches.”
Thestructure of church government in Sovereign Grace Churches is well described in one of the FAQ’s covered on the SGM website: “Our polity stands upon three principles: plurality among elders, the senior pastor, and partnership with apostolic ministry.” As far as I can see, nowhere does the website actually name specific people as being modern day apostles. But, the clear implication is that the leadership team of SGM, including C.J., fulfill an apostolic function. I have written previously about my own reasons for believing that apostles are needed in today’s churches. I like the way the SGM FAQ defines their role:
With regard to the principle of apostolic ministry, we want to be clear that the men identified as apostles within Sovereign Grace Ministries are understood by all to hold a position decidedly and radically inferior to that of the original twelve Apostles. But the label is retained because Scripture appears to offer another type of apostle — one that neither writes Scripture, nor is counted among the twelve. In fact, there appears to be at least eight others, apart from Paul himself, who graced the pages of the New Testament in apostolic ministry. In our view, apostolic ministry can exist today without comparing its authority or impact to Paul or the twelve. Briefly stated, the role of the apostle is to ensure that the Gospel is preached and applied in the daily life of the church. Concentrating attention on the writings of Luke and Paul, one might conclude that apostles are devoted to church planting, being set apart for the Gospel and sent forth with the Gospel, that they might protect the Gospel and build with the Gospel. They are called to serve churches as spiritual fathers, with primary responsibility during a formative season in a local church (much as earthly fathers do with the formative years of their children), a pattern that eventually transforms into a partnership with mature local churches.