Why Elders are Essential
Biblical Eldership: The Calling, The Character, The Congregation
- The Calling of Elders (1 Timothy 3:1)
Noble- Fine personal qualities, or high moral value
Task- An honorable work with great demands.
Desire- To aim toward and stretch ones self forward to grasp. This is the same desire Paul alludes to in Philippians 3:11-12 when he talks about obtaining the goal and pressing on toward the goal in Christ Jesus.
In the New Testament, the church leaders are given four titles.
- Overseers (or Bishops)
- Pastors (or Shepherds)
* Elders and Overseers are used interchangeably: Acts 20:17, 28, Titus 1:5, 7 & 1 Peter 5:1-2
* Elders and Pastors represent the same role: 1 Peter 5:1-3, Ephesians 4:11, I Timothy 3:2
Elders are given the same tasks as Pastors: Shepherding and Teaching
Why is a Biblical structure and terminology important?
* It bases church authority on the Bible and not human wisdom. It is dangerous to base a church leadership structure on a current secular model. A “whatever works” mentality lifts man-centered wisdom above God’s.
* It allows the congregation to know what is expected from their leadership. The Biblical terminology clearly outlines the Biblical expectations.
* It requires the elders to live up to the Biblical qualifications of leadership. Once the Bible is not the basis for qualifying leaders for ministry, the entire selection process becomes completely subjective.
The Four Primary Duties of an Elder:
- A Leader– Humble, servant leadership does not demand respect, but earns it by being an example to the church.
1 Timothy 4:12 and 1 Peter 5:2-3.
- A Shepherd– Jesus is the “chief Shepherd” and elders serve as under-shepherds. The shepherd must protect the flock, attend to the needs of those in the congregation and care for God’s church. Acts 20:28-29, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 The Greek word “care for” used in 1 Timothy is only used two other times in the New Testament- both times Jesus used the word to describe how the “Good Samaritan” had compassion on the injured Jew by cleaning and binding His wounds.
- A Teacher– An elder must be able to teach God’s Word 1 Timothy 3:2 To give both Biblical instruction and to rebuke those who oppose the truth of the Gospel.
- An Equipper– An elder must be one who equips others to preach, teach, and do the work of the ministry. 2 Timothy 2:22 and Ephesians 4:11-12
- The Character of Elders (1 Timothy 3:2-7)
The qualifications for Eldership can be broken into 3 categories: Situational, Family, and Moral Qualifications.
* Desire to serve (1 Timothy 3:1) (the desire to serve as an elder is something that must be present)
* Able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:9) (it is one of the primary duties of an elder)
* Not a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:6) (pride, sin issues, and lack of understanding)
* Well thought of by outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7) (non-believers should have a healthy respect for the kind of life he lives- If unbelievers do not respect those in leadership, they will likely not attend the church or become turned off to the Gospel in general)
* The husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6) (We understand and interpret this scripture to mean that an elder must be a “one woman man.” In other words, he is not to be engaged in an improper relationship either emotionally or physically with a woman other than his wife.
* Manage his own household well (1 Timothy 3:4-5, Titus 1:6) (An elder should be leading his children toward a respectful and obedient lifestyle in Christ. While each child must spiritually respond to God on a personal level, it is the role of the Father to be the spiritual leader of his home.)
* Above Reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6) (Not perfect, but free from blemishes of character or glaring moral weakness.)
* Sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:2) (Ability to think clearly, make well thought out decisions and maintain emotional maturity in the midst of pressures and problems in ministry.)
* Self-controlled (1 Timothy 3:2) (Prudent, disciplined and discreet)
* Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2) (Worthy of respect)
* Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8) (Willing to build relationships with people outside of the service.)
* Gentle (1 Timothy 3:3) (Kind, gracious and patient with others, especially when he has been wronged)
* A lover of good (Titus 1:8) (Willing to help people and seek their good.)
* Upright (Titus 1:8) (Lives in obedience to God’s Word.)
* Holy (Titus 1:8) (Set apart to God in order to obey His will.)
* Disciplined (Titus 1:8) (A life of discipline reflects a dedication to obedience to God.)
* Not a drunkard (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) (One who abuses alcohol or drinks in excess.)
* Not violent (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) (One who resists the temptation to resort to physical or verbal retaliation, but with a peaceful spirit seeks to resolve conflict through prayer and humility.)
* Not quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3) (Not one who is seeking to start arguments that can lead to disunity.)
* Not a lover of money (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) (Free from the love and controlling influence of money.)
* Not arrogant (Titus 1:7) (Pride and authority can make a dangerous combination. Humble, servant leadership is Essential in ministry)
* Not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7) (Like God, godly leaders should be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8))
- The Congregation and the Elders (Hebrews 13:17)
There is a sense of weight to this… the congregation is held accountable to the elders and God, the elders are held accountable to God and the congregation.
“Leaders”- word picture of the “primary shoot of a plant.”
Elders have Authority
* Elders have Limited Authority
The Congregation has Authority
New Testament teaching leans toward the autonomy of the local church congregation for many important decisions:
– Selecting Leaders (Acts 1:23, 6:2-3)
– Sending missionaries (Acts 13:3, 14:27)
– Church discipline (Matthew 18:17)
The Elders are in a position of leadership and should be given freedom to lead. It is their role to bring important decisions before the church on such matters as the addition of a new elder, the affirmation of the annual budget, or a change to the constitution or bylaws of the church.
Essential Elder Covenant
It is indeed a noble calling to aspire to the role of an Elder. As Elders, we recognize that we bear a greater level of responsibility as spiritual leaders at Essential church.
We have a great responsibility for the care and spiritual wellbeing of the congregation at Essential.
- I commit to pray for the congregation regularly.
- I commit to model a lifestyle worth of the Gospel.
- I commit to serve the congregation sacrificially.
- I commit to lead the congregation with courage, humility and wisdom.
We have a great responsibility to serve as a plurality of Elders at Essential; loving one another, listening to one other, learning from one another in submission to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.
- I will pray for you and your family.
- I will support and encourage you in your walk with Christ.
- I will be a safe place for you to share your fears, hopes and dreams – without judgment and criticism.
- I will meet regularly for prayer, Bible study and discussion.
- I will seek your approval/agreement on any people or organizational changes.
- I will speak the truth in love.
- I will seek to know you as a person.
- I will strive to reconcile our differences quickly and privately in a Biblical manner.
- I will trust the one of us who has to lead an area of ministry.
- I will support the decisions that we make as Elders.
- I will maintain confidentiality.
Day 11 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn away from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9)
“Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you.” By all accounts, Joshua (and Caleb) were the bravest of all the Israelites. Yet, even these courageous warriors and men of God were vulnerable to experiencing moments of fear, doubt and discouragement. Whenever you find yourself in those moments, you must be reminded of the reality that “God is with you” (Immanuel). I know that in my life I have to stop and remember this fact and I have to take time to remember that God is not only “with” me, but He is also “for” me. If God is “for us” than who or what can be against us? As we meditate on that truth, we find that in the inner recesses of our soul that there remains a reservoir of courage that begins to flood our spirit again. The reality of the presence of God in our lives is the well from which our courage to face difficult situations springs up in our lives.
- Reflect on the truth that God is “with you” today. How does that change the way you face your fears?
- Reflect on the truth that God is “for you” today. How does that change the way you face your foes?
Day 10 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn away from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9)
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.” God commands us to be strong and courageous! This is not a pep-rally in which God is hoping He might get Joshua psyched up, but a COMMAND. A command with the same weight as, “Do not murder,” or “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” It is not optional and it is not limited to Joshua. God commands all of us (who are leaders in our own area of influence) to “be strong and courageous.” What if each of us were to take this command seriously? Would our churches be different? Our schools? Our towns? Our nation? As believers, our strength and courage should cause us to stand out and draw unbelievers to God. There is a generation of young people today who are lost, hurting, and scared that are looking for someone in this world to show them how to be strong and courageous in the midst of their world that is crashing around them. Are we as believers promoting a spirit of fear (fear of the world, evil influences, Satan) or one of “power, love, and self-discipline?” (2 Timothy 1:7) When faced with the unfamiliar and overwhelming aspects of life, our natural response is to hide in fear. However, when we people see someone with true God-inspired courage and strength they are drawn to it and will follow.
- How is God COMMANDING you to be “strong and courageous” today at work or school or with friends and family?
- Will you commit to “be strong and courageous” no matter what it costs you today? Remember that God has not given you “a spirit of fear.”
Day 9 “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn away from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7-9)
- Who gets the credit of any success you may experience in life?
- Does your faith in God inspire you to work hard?