This website provides added learning by offering fresh biblical perspectives. We hope this site helps you.
MENU
HOME
ARTICLES
TEACHING
SERMONS
RESEARCH & BOOK REVIEWS
E-BOOKS
SLIDES AND PPT
ABOUT THE TEACHER
TEACHING COMMITTEE
DONATION
CONTACT US
TEACHING SITES
DOUGLAS JACOBY
STEVE STATEN
JOHN OAKES
JOEY HARRIS
GLENN GILES
GORDON FERGUSON
  MALCOLM COX
RELATED SITES
MMCC
DISCIPLESTODAY
ICOC INFO
ATHENS INSTITUTE
CHICAGOCHURCH
DENVER CHURCH OF CHRIST
ST. LOUIS CHURCH
PHOENIX VALLEY CHURCH
FAMILY DYNAMICS
   
ADD TO YOUR LEARNING - The Philippine Teaching Ministry

ARTICLES

HAVING ELDERS

ANDREW KITCHEN
SYDNEY, APRIL 2003

A class to help prepare the Sydney church as we move to having a leadership of elders in the near future.

ROLE AND TITLE:
" Three words in the Greek NT pertaining to the eldership role:
" Poimen - shepherd (Eph 4:11)
" Presbuteros - elder (Acts 11:30,14:23, Acts 15:2, Acts 20:17, 1 Tim 5:17, 5:19,Tit 1:5, Jas 5:14, 1 Pet 5:1)
" Episkopos - bishop (Acts 20:28, Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:7, 1 Pet 2:25)

(1 Pet 5:1-2 NIV) To the elders (presbuteros) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder (presbuteros), a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: {2} Be shepherds (poimaino tend as a shepherd) of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (episkopeo)--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;

(Acts 20:17 NIV) From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders (presbuteros) of the church.

(Acts 20:28 NIV) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (episkopos). Be shepherds (poimano) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

We see the three words used fairly inter-changeably. We should take this to mean that the different word used in a particular context has been chosen to emphasise a particular function of the one role, rather than indicating there were three separate roles or offices. Over time however, the roles of elder, bishop and pastor have been become distinct in many churches.


THE BIBLICAL PATTERN:
" Evangelists start churches. After a period of time, an eldership is put in place to lead the church. The evangelist may stay or may move on to start the next church. An evangelist may also become an elder.

RESPONSIBILITIES:
" Keeping watch over themselves and the flock (Acts 20:28).
" Against false teachers and false teaching (Acts 20:29)
" Guard against those who would seek to draw away disciples (Acts 20:30)
" Might teach and preach but not essential (1 Tim 5:17 some do, some don't)
" Direct the affairs of the church.

QUALITIES:
" Personal spiritual maturity (able to keep watch over himself) Acts 20:28
" Vigilance. Acts 20:31
" Solid Family man (1 Tim 3:2-4, Tit 1:6-7)
" Servant leadership style (Tit 1:7, 1 Pet 5:3)
" Eager to serve (1 Pet 5:2)

QUALIFICATIONS:
" Two key passages: 1 Tim 3:2-7 and Tit 1:5-9
" Above reproach (1 Tim 3:2)
" Husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:6)
" Temperate (1 Tim 3:2)
" Self-controlled (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:8)
" Hospitable (1 Tim 3:2, Tit 1:8)
" Able to teach (1 Tim 3:2)
" Not given to drunkenness (1 Tim 3:3, Tit 1:7)
" Not violent but gentle (1 Tim 3:3, Tit 1:7)
" Not quarrelsome (1 Tim 3:3)
" Not a lover of money (1 Tim 3:3)
" Manage own family well (1 Tim 3:4)
" Children well-behaved and respectful (1 Tim 3:4, Tit 1:6)
" Not a recent convert (1 Tim 3:6)
" Good reputation with outsiders (1 Tim 3:6)
" Believing children (Tit 1:6)
" Blameless (Tit 1:7)
" Not over-bearing (Tit 1:7)
" Not quick-tempered (Tit 1:7)
" Not pursuing dishonest gain (Tit 1:7)
" Lover of the good (Tit 1:8)
" Holy (Tit 1:8)
" Disciplined (Tit 1:8)
" Hold firmly to the message (Tit 1:9)
" Encourage and refute (Tit 1:9)

Most of these qualifications are fairly self-explanatory. In summary, the qualifications are in the areas of having sound marriage and family, qualities in relationships (gentleness, temper, hospitability etc), qualities in self-control and righteousness (lover of money, drunkenness, temper, disciplined, pursuing dishonest gain), able to teach and refute false doctrine, and reputation.

Some comments on a few of these:

Blameless. Where do we draw the line on being blameless? Was the apostle Peter blameless? He denied Jesus publicly, yet we see him as an elder (1 Pet 5:1). Peter blew it again with full-blown hypocrisy in Gal 2:12-13. The apostle John was a man with selfish ambition, needing to learn about servant leadership (Mk 10:35-43) coupled with a harsh streak (Lk 9:54). He progressed from being a son of thunder (Mk 3:17) to an elder (2 Jn 1, 3 Jn 1).

The Greek word for blameless (anegkletos) means unaccused, uncharged etc. Tit 1:7 expands on the meaning of blameless: --not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Honesty, sobriety and gentleness are being discussed here. Someone who had these sins in their life would have multiple people aware of these shortcomings. Accusations and reproach would be evident.

Should past shortcomings and sins disqualify a potential elder candidate? We must be careful not to micro-scrutinise (Mt 7:3). All potential elder candidates will have present and past sin in their lives (Rom 3:23, 1 Jn 1:8-10). The question is one of character, not one of a perfect track record. Character cannot be faked. If someone is of eldership age and still has an overbearing nature, a poor temper, occasionally gets drunk, beats his wife or smashes things, these things will be visible and would disqualify him.

If some church members have specific issues with elder candidates relating to past events they should be resolved in the normal way. An unwillingness to resolve such issues by an elder or elder candidate would be of great concern.

'Blameless' must not be used in a digital, on-off, True-false way. If it is, then a single sin would disqualify all candidates for eldership, and this is clearly not the intent of the passage. We must seek to uphold God's standards yet not set the bar unrealistically high. Look for character qualities over time, pay special attention to the marriage and family (because that is a very true test of a man's ability to manage a church (1 Tim 3:5)).

Able to Teach.
How able is able? Clearly the role of elder and teacher are distinct, so we can assume there will be a difference in the teaching ability between an elder and a teacher, although elders may be teachers and vice versa. 'Able to Teach' and 'able to refute false teaching' requires the following abilities:
" Knowledge of the Bible.
" Ability to process and analyse an argument or point-of-view.
" Ability to arrange thoughts and construct an argument.
" Ability to communicate.
" Conviction on the core truths of the gospel.

Certainly an elder should be able to study the Bible with people to teach them the gospel, should be able to use the Scriptures to present a point of view, and to mature others in the faith.

LOCATION:
" An elder should be a part of the church he is serving and live in the same town or city. This we infer from the NT examples and simple common sense.
" The elder would have been part of the church for some time before being appointed. A 'move-in' elder would seem to defeat the purpose.

REMUNERATION:
" The NT does not require that elders be paid, although it does not rule it out either. The majority of elders would serve on an unpaid basis. Elders in large churches with large responsibilities may need to be compensated for their time spent in serving the church, especially if they are preaching and teaching. (1 Tim 5:17-18, 1 Cor 9:7-14, Galatians 6.6, 1 Timothy 3.3, Titus 1.7, 1 Peter 5.2)

APPOINTMENT:
" If the Biblical model described above has been in use, then the natural process is for the evangelist who started the church to appoint the eldership for its ongoing leadership. This is what Paul advised Titus to do (Tit 1:5).
" After the initial appointment it would seem logical that the eldership as the church leaders would appoint any later additions to the eldership. The Bible does not discuss all the cases and options of appointing elders (e.g. what if the evangelist died before elders were appointed etc).

TENURE:
" The Bible has nothing to say about tenure. A frequently changing eldership would produce instability. A permanently unchanging eldership would not be desirable either. Clearly, over time more and more eligible candidates become available, so there should be new elders appointed from time to time. Elders would be free to retire from the role. Some form of rotation of elders would be the net result.

DISCIPLINE:
" An elder may be disciplined for their sin. (1 Tim 5:19-20)
" Elders hold a very visible position and are entitled to protection from individual accusations. Accusations against elders must be seconded at least.
" Discipline would take the form of a public rebuke.
" Serious sins would disqualify an elder from further service.
HOW WOULD IT WORK IN PRACTICE:
" Elders are to lead by example, not lording it over others (1 Pet 5:2). Influence would be via relationships and mutual respect. There is no 'discipling chain'.
" Elders would operate in a consultative fashion rather than a dictatorial one. This would involve seeking advice and input from those within the congregation.
" A primary function of eldership is to raise up others to lead within the church to meet needs.
" Church leadership in general will consist of those who are willing to serve to meet needs within the church. There are many possible roles here (Rom 12:4-8). The elders would assist in assessing needs, evaluating suitability of potential leaders. Elders would also evaluate timing considerations.
" Elders would meet periodically with various parts of the church or ministry leaders (those who are leading in some way) to discuss issues, plan, make decisions etc.
" Overseeing - more of a listening (examining needs), quality control and review process (making sure) rather than an executive one (doing it all themselves). Key tools would be asking questions, consulting with members and offering advice. At the end of the day, the elders need to be satisfied that those with responsibility are discharging it well.
" Elders would visit regional services periodically to strengthen relationships and provide access.
" Spirit of teamwork: Members need to have a submissive spirit to the elders (1 Pet 5:5). Mutual respect and humility by all.
" Elders can control access to the pulpit.
" Elders would represent and speak for the church.
" Elders would liaise with the Trustees in financial matters. Trustees have final say on budgets and expenditure.

MISTAKES TO AVOID:
" Evangelists not raising up local eldership.
" Evangelists not relinquishing leadership of a mission church to an eldership when the time has come.
" Elders, while having many strengths do not have them all. They need to know when to be silent and let others speak.
" Seeing the elders as marriage or financial counsellors. Situations requiring professional counselling should be referred to suitably qualified practitioners.
" Members expecting the full range of organisational initiatives, motivational talks and counselling services from their eldership.
" Members expecting perfection from the eldership.
" Members not initiating to serve and use their gifts.
" Lack of a submissive spirit.

OPPORTUNITIES TO EMBRACE:
" We will have a Biblical leadership model for a church our size and age.
" The potential for many Christians to raise up and serve in ways they have never served before.
" The opportunity for many skills and points-of-view to be incorporated in how our church is run.
" Reliance on God as we go down this track for the first time.


BACK TO ARTICLES
© 2004-2008 Rolan Monje. All Rights Reserved.