When it comes to elders the topic that always comes up is qualifications. We talk qualifications because we do Bible things Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names…so you need biblical authorization for picking the right kind of people. So we go to Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 for qualifications.
We obsess over how an elder gets in and who gets but we are missing two very important things:
First, we miss who it is who actually appoints elders, in the Bible. It wasn’t other elders, it was the minister or apostle. In Acts 14:23 it is Paul and Barnabas (apostles) who appointed elders. In Titus 1:5, Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders. Although not elders, we see deacons appointed in Acts 6 by the recommendation of the congregation, not the apostles. The congregation recommended and the apostles appointed them to serve.
There aren’t any instances of elders selecting other elders. If it is in there, I missed it. And yet, that is the process that we use in our churches. We obsess over the qualification but we don’t obsess over their actual process.
Second, I don’t find much conversations or study on the passages that talk about elders AFTER they get the position rather than before.
We get the idea that they should be teachers (1 Tim 5:17).
Elders can be reproved before the congregation for sinning (1 Tim 5:20)
They are to help the sick (James 5:14).
In one of the most important passages, 1 Peter 5:1-4, we learn this,
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
Elders follow the example of the Chief Elder, Jesus. The church is under their care. They must serve willingly, don’t keep doing it if you are worn out…instead, eager to serve. Not lording it over the congregation. They are to be an example to the congregation. They receive special honor when Jesus returns.
I have seen far more concern that the qualifications are followed than that the characteristics are followed. How about you?
If you are looking for elders, don’t try to find people successful in the world but people successful in kingdom business. Worldly success won’t work in shepherding. It will backfire.
If we just followed the Bible more thoroughly in these matters, churches would be a lot healthier. Instead we have a model where there is BOTH no honor for elders and no reproof. And no one can operate healthily in such a system for more than a short while before things get out of balance.