ELDERS

A.  WHAT IS AN ELDER?

a.  IN THE BIBLE, THREE KEY WORDS ARE USED TO DESCRIBE AN ELDER. WE ARE FIRST INTRODUCED TO THESE THREE TERMS IN (ACTS 20:17-31). ON A TRIP TO JERUSALEM, THE APOSTLE PAUL STOPPED IN TO SAY GOOD-BY TO HIS FRIENDS. HE HAD A FEELING THAT HE WAS GOING TO DIE SOON; SO HE TOLD HIS FRIENDS HE WOULD NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN AND CHARGED THEM WITH THEIR RESPONSIBILITY AS LEADERS OF THE CHURCH:

(1)  Since an elder is one who is older, a reasonable question to ask might be "how old is an elder to be?" The New Testament doesn't name a specific age. However, it does point out that an elder must be old enough to have proven himself to be a good manager of his family (1 Tim. 3:4), and (1 Tim. 3:6) says he must not be a new convert. Any further determinations of age requirements are based merely on speculation.

 B.   WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF ELDERS?

1.  ELDERS WATCH OVER THE SOULS OF THEIR FLOCK (HEB. 13:17 ASV)!

a.  LIKEWISE, ELDERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SOULS IN THE CHURCH. THEY KEEP WATCH OVER THEM MAKING SURE THAT EACH SOUL IS IN HARMONY WITH GOD AND HIS WORD.

b.  ELDERS ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR TAKING OUT THE TRASH, OR MAKING SURE THAT EDUCATIONAL SUPPLIES ARE STOCKED. ELDERS WATCH OVER OUR SOULS. THEIR PRIMARY DUTY IS SPIRITUAL OVERSIGHT.

2.  ELDERS FEED THE FLOCK (1 PET. 5:2 KJV Feed the flock)!

a.  GOD REQUIRES OF HIS SPIRITUAL SHEPHERDS THAT THEY FEED THEIR FLOCKS. IN FACT, ONE ABILITY THAT DISTINGUISHES AN ELDER FROM A DEACON IS THAT AN ELDER MUST BE "ABLE TO TEACH" (1 TIM. 3:2; TITUS 1:9).

b.  AN ELDER MUST PROVIDE THE CHURCH BODY WITH SOLID BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION. HE MUST FEED AND WATER THEM WITH THE WORD OF GOD.

c.  ELDERS FEED THEIR FLOCK IN MANY WAYS:

(1)  Sometimes, the elders themselves will teach a Bible class or deliver sermons to the people. However, it is not necessary that elders stand up in front of the Church to teach. They may teach one-on-one instead.

(2)  Sometimes, the elders ask the minister to teach on subjects that the Church body needs to hear. This is one way that the Elders feed their sheep.

3.  ELDERS CARE FOR THEIR FLOCK!

a.  ELDERS CARE FOR THEIR FLOCK BY VISITING AND PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO ARE SICK (JAM. 5:13-15).

b.  ALSO ELDERS CARE FOR THEIR FLOCK BY PROVIDING COUNSEL TO THOSE WHO ARE DOWNHEARTED (GAL. 6:2).

4.  ELDERS GUARD AND PROTECT THEIR FLOCK FROM FALSE TEACHING AND TEACHERS (ACTS 20:29-31)!

a.  LIKEWISE, ELDERS PROTECT THE CHURCH BODY FROM THE DANGERS OF FALSE TEACHING. THEY STAND UP AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS WHO PROMOTE THEIR ANTI-BIBLICAL DOCTRINES. THEY STAND UP FOR THE TRUTH IN LOVE!

5.  ELDERS ATTEMPT TO BRING BACK THE SHEEP THAT HAVE WANDERED FROM THE FLOCK (LK. 15:1-7; JAM. 5:19, 20)!

a.  LIKEWISE, WHEN CHRISTIANS WANDER AWAY FROM THE CHURCH, OR WANDER AWAY FROM THE LORD, ELDERS WILL DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO BRING THEM BACK. SOMETIMES, ELDERS MUST DISCIPLINE THEIR SHEEP WHO HAVE WANDERED INTO SIN. THEY LOVE THE SOULS OF PEOPLE SO MUCH THAT THEY WILL DO EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO BRING PEOPLE BACK TO THE LORD.

6.  ELDERS EQUIP THEIR FLOCK FOR WORKS OF SERVICE (EPH. 4:11, 12)!

a.  ELDERS MUST NOT AND CANNOT DO ALL OF THE CHURCH WORK. THE ONLY WAY FOR THE CHURCH BODY TO FUNCTION PROPERLY IS FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN TO BE INVOLVED IN THE WORK OF THE LORD.

b.  ELDERS, LIKE PREACHERS AND TEACHERS, STRIVE TO EQUIP EACH MEMBER FOR MINISTRY. THEY HELP PEOPLE DISCOVER THEIR SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND TALENTS AND GUIDE THEM INTO A MINISTRY.

C.  WHAT ARE SOMETHING'S THAT ELDERS SHOULD NOT DO?

1.  ELDERS SHOULD NOT LORD OVER THE CHURCH (1 PET. 5:3)!

a.  GOD HAS GIVEN ELDERS THE TASK TO OVERSEE AND RULE IN THE CHURCH (1 TIM. 5:17 NASV; HEB. 13:17).

b.  HOWEVER, AS THEY RULE AND LEAD, THEY MUST NOT LORD OVER THE CHURCH.

2.  ELDERS SHOULD NOT STRIVE TO MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS!

a.  THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT ELDERS MAKE MANY DECISIONS. THEY MAKE A LOT OF DECISIONS ON SPIRITUAL MATTERS (ACTS 16:4) WHICH GOD'S PEOPLE MUST FOLLOW.

b.  HOWEVER, GOOD ELDERS WILL BE WISE ENOUGH TO REALIZE THAT THEY DO NOT MAKE ALL THE DECISIONS. SOME DECISIONS SHOULD BE MADE BY THE WHOLE CHURCH BODY (ACTS 6:1-7; 1:15-26; 15:22).

c.  EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP LISTENS TO IT'S PEOPLE AND INVOLVES THEM ON SOME OF THE CHURCH DECISIONS.

3.  ELDERS SHOULD NOT NEGLECT THEIR OWN FAMILIES WHILE SERVING THEIR CHURCH FAMILIES!

a.  THE ROLE OF AN ELDER IS A VERY DEMANDING POSITION. IT IS A TWENTY-FOUR HOUR A DAY SEVEN DAY A WEEK MINISTRY.

b.  FOR ELDERS TO BE SUCCESSFUL, THEY MUST BALANCE THEIR PRIORITIES. THEY MUST PUT GOD FIRST, THEIR FAMILIES SECOND, AND THEIR CHURCH FAMILIES THIRD. AN ELDER MUST NEVER PUT HIS CHURCH FAMILY AHEAD OF HIS OWN FAMILY. TO ACCOMPLISH THIS, SOMETIMES AN ELDER MUST SAY NO TO TASKS OR PEOPLE THAT WOULD INTERFERE WITH HIS FAMILY COMMITMENTS. AN ELDER MUST SPEND TIME SHEPHERDING THE CHURCH FLOCK, BUT HE MUST ALSO SPEND TIME SHEPHERDING HIS FLOCK AT HOME.

4.  ELDERS MUST NOT BECOME ARROGANT OR CONCEITED (1 TIM. 3:6; ROM. 11:20)!

a.  ONCE ELDERS ARE APPOINTED, ONE OF THE WORST MISTAKES THEY CAN MAKE IS TO BECOME ARROGANT, CONCEITED, TO THINK TOO HIGHLY OF THEMSELVES OR ASSUME AUTHORITY THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE. PEOPLE WILL NOT FOLLOW ARROGANT MEN. THEY WILL NOT FOLLOW MEN WHO THINK THEY ARE PERFECT. THEY WILL NOT FOLLOW MEN WHO THINK THAT THEY ARE NEVER WRONG.

b.  ELDERS ARE TO BE HUMBLE (PHIL. 2:5-8; ROM. 12:3) AND LOVING MEN (1 JN. 4:19-21), AND WHEN THEY EXHIBIT THESE CHARACTER TRAITS, PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW THEM AND WILL FORGIVE THEM WHEN THEY MAKE MISTAKES.

D.  WHAT ARE THE CHURCHES DUTIES TOWARD ELDERS?

1.  THE CHURCH MUST SUBMIT, AND OBEY THEIR ELDERS (HEB. 13:17)!

a.  BRETHREN, THE CHURCH IS UNDER THE LORD'S AUTHORITY AND THE ELDER'S RULE AND OVERSIGHT.

b.  WHEN THE ELDERS LEAD EFFECTIVELY AND SCRIPTURALLY, THE PEOPLE MUST SUBMIT, AND OBEY THEIR LEADERSHIP.

c.  IF THE ELDERS ARE FOLLOWING THE WORD OF GOD, WE MUST SUPPORT THEM AND BACK THEM 100%. IF WE DO NOT SUPPORT THEM, WE VIOLATE A COMMAND. VIOLATING A COMMAND IS A SIN!

d.  AS OUR SHEPHERDS, WE ARE TO FOLLOW THEM AND IMITATE THEIR FAITH (HEB. 13:7).

2.  THE CHURCH MUST REALIZE THAT ELDERS ARE NOT PERFECT AND THEY WILL MAKE MISTAKES!

a.  THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT WE ALL SIN AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD (ROM. 3:23). OUR ELDERS WILL MAKE MISTAKES. AND WHEN THEY DO, WE MUST FORGIVE THEM AND CONTINUE TO TRUST AND FOLLOW THEIR LEADERSHIP.

3.  THE CHURCH MUST BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT CRITICIZING AND DISCIPLINING THEIR ELDERS (1 TIM. 5:19, 20)!

a.  ELDERS ARE NOT EXEMPT FROM SIN, FAULTS, AND MISTAKES. BUT THEY ARE OFTEN CRITICIZED FOR THE WRONG REASONS--MINOR IMPERFECTIONS, FAILURE TO MEET SOMEONE'S EXPECTATIONS, PERSONALITY CLASHES. THUS PAUL SAID THAT ACCUSATIONS SHOULD NOT EVEN BE HEARD AGAINST ELDERS UNLESS TWO OR THREE WITNESSES CONFIRM THEM.

b.  BEFORE CONFRONTING AND DISCIPLINING AN ELDER, YOU MUST HAVE AT LEAST TWO WITNESSES WHO AGREE ABOUT THE SITUATION AND HAVE BIBLICAL REASONS FOR IT.

c.  IN THE OLD TESTAMENT IT WAS VERY DANGEROUS TO CRITICIZE GOD'S LEADERS WITHOUT BIBLICAL REASONS.

(1)  Since Miriam mocked Moses because he had a Cushite wife, she was stricken with leprosy (Num. 12).

(2)  Since Korah and his followers led the people of Israel to rebel against Moses' leadership, they were swallowed by the earth (Num. 16).

d.  BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE AN ELDER, YOU BETTER MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE BIBLICAL REASONS.

4.  THE CHURCH MUST HONOR AND APPRECIATE THEIR ELDERS (1 THESS. 5:12, 13; NASV)!

a.  HOW CAN WE APPRECIATE AND SHOW RESPECT TO OUR ELDERS? WE CAN EXPRESS OUR APPRECIATION, TELL THEM HOW WE HAVE BEEN HELPED BY THEIR LEADERSHIP AND TEACHING, AND THANK THEM FOR THEIR MINISTRY. REMEMBER THAT THEY NEED OUR SUPPORT AND LOVE.

E.  WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY BIBLICAL QUALITIES OR QUALIFICATIONS OF ELDERS?

1.  BEING AN ELDER IS A MATTER OF THE HEART (1 TIM. 3:1).

2.  BEING AN ELDER IS A MATTER OF QUALIFICATION (1 TIM. 3:1-7 & TITUS 1:5-9).

 F.   HERE ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS THAT ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND.

1.  "ABOVE REPROACH (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:2; TITUS 1:6, 7).

2.  "NOT ADDICTED TO WINE (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:3; TITUS 1:7).

3.  "THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:2 & TITUS 1:6).

4.  "HAVING CHILDREN WHO BELIEVE (NASV)" (TITUS 1:6).

Here is one big reason why I hold to this view:

5.  "KEEPING HIS CHILDREN UNDER CONTROL WITH ALL DIGNITY (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:4) & HAVING CHILDREN WHO BELIEVE NOT DISSIPATION OR REBELLION (NASV)" (TITUS 1:6).

6.  "ONE WHO MANAGES HIS OWN HOUSEHOLD WELL (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:4).

 G.   HERE ARE SOME BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERS & DEACON'S WIVES.

1.  "DIGNIFIED (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:11).

2.  "NOT MALICIOUS GOSSIPS (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:11).

3.  "TEMPERATE (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:11).

4.  "FAITHFUL IN ALL THINGS (NASV)" (1 TIMOTHY 3:11).

5.  "PRACTICAL OR COMMONS SENSE CHARACTERISTICS"

H.  CAN A CHURCH HAVE JUST ONE ELDER?

I.  WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL PROCESS IN APPOINTING ELDERS?

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