WHAT IS AN ELDER?
An elder is a man who meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 and leads the congregation by teaching the Word (1 Tim. 3:2), praying for the sheep (James 5:14), and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:2).
An elder must watch over the flock. He must instruct all the sheep, strengthen the weak ones, guard the vulnerable ones, rebuke the obstinate ones, and bear with the difficult ones (2 Tim. 2:24-25; Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:14). An elder watches over the members of the church as one who will give an account to God (Heb. 13:17)
In the New Testament, local churches consistently have a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23, 20:17; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Jas. 5:14). Christ, the Chief Shepherd, means to care for his flock through a number of godly men who together teach, guard, guide, protect, and love the sheep. This means that every local church, following the leadership of their pastor, should look out for men who are already doing the work of an elder and appoint them to the office.
At Village Church, this is what all elders will agree to do for the church:
WHY APPOINT ELDERS?
We have a major desire to be as close to a New Testament church as possible and all New Testament churches appointed elders. Below are several texts that show us this. Whenever a church was planted, it was planted with a plurality of elders.
With that being said, if we trust God’s words, we should be sure to trust His methods. We need to appoint elders to be biblically agreeable and practically functional.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AS A CHURCH MEMBER IN THIS?
1. Watch their lives.
An elder’s life is to be characterized by maturity or at the very least the trajectory of maturity. The fact that they are to be above reproach communicates not the need for perfection but for a mature progress in godliness that is free from ongoing sins that would undermine his ministry.
Watching must be clarified. It would be an unhealthy context if church members felt commissioned to serve as investigators, deputized to walk behind their elders and look for potential reasons to remove them. This is not the type of watching the Bible commands. Instead, the context for watching is built into the community life of the church whereby members learn and are instructed by the manner of life of their elders.
There are many examples where the leader’s life is to serve as an example for the rest of the church (Hebrews 13:7, 1 Peter 5:3 especially; but also: 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7,9). It is a benefit for the church member to spend time with their shepherds so they can watch, learn, and emulate.
2. Watch their doctrine.
Members must also watch the elders’ doctrine. Doctrine is simply another word for teaching. At first this might seem overwhelming: How can I be in a position to evaluate an elder’s teaching?
We should not think of this in terms of having to know as much about the Bible and theology as the elder. Rather, evaluate their faithfulness to teach the truth that binds you together as a church. Historically this category of accountability has to do with ensuring the pastors are teaching consistent with the Bible, with the heart of it being the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can disagree on some issues but never on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The church members should regularly evaluate the teaching ministry of the church to ensure it is maintaining the biblical standards. (Acts 17:11, Philippians 1:27, Galatians 1:6–9)
Much like the evaluation of life, the watching of doctrine is not so much the work of a private investigator but of an invested and engaged member who loves the truth of Scripture and labors for it to be faithfully proclaimed.
3. In Christ, trust them.
In a healthy church, the relationship between elders and church members is characterized by trust. Both members and elders extend trust to one another knowing full well they are fallen, sinners who need grace. Members should love God and his Word so much that they love, respect, and honor those who faithfully teach it to them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17; Heb. 13:7). In this healthy relationship, there is a willingness to obey and submit to the elders’ teaching and leadership (Hebrews 13:17).
A healthy church will also realize that there is another leader above the local church elders; the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church (Col. 1:18). We all do our part to pay attention to what is being taught and how we all are living. This loving intimacy can only be achieved when we set aside ourselves, and together, put forward the agenda of Christ in his church.