Eldership is one of the key functions in the local church.
Eldership can be life-giving or oppressive and controlling. In order for people to grow and flourish in a local church, they need strong leadership with a clear vision and direction, with the ability to love people and understand that they are called to lead and tend the flock that God gave them.
Below are some scriptures pertaining to the office of an elder.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self- controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
“Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.” (1 Timothy 3:1-8)
Let’s look at verse 1. Here we see that leadership is a privilege: it is a noble thing to be in God’s leadership. In verse 8 we see that there are not two different standards for elders and deacons. It says, “Deacons, likewise ….” It’s not as if the elders are the main guys and then there is a little tier down and another tier down—it says,
“Deacons, likewise ….” It is a standard for the whole Church.
“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.” (Titus 1:5-10)
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.”
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way.” (Hebrews 13:7-8, 17- 18)
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow- elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4)
“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.’ ”
“ ‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:17-19, 25-28)
There are three wonderful words in this text: in verse 17 it is “elders”; in verse 28 it is “overseers”; and in verse 28b it is “shepherds.” All three of these words refer to the same office and each of these in themselves is deserving of a Bible study in itself. We cannot expound on each here unfortunately, but each of these have an express purpose to be fulfilled as an elder and aspects of each should be present in a growing capacity in those appointed as elders in the local church.
The origins of these three words in the Greek are:
• Presbuteros—from where we get our word “presbytery.”
• Episcopos—which often gets translated to “bishop.”
• Poimen—which means“shepherd.”
We have material available to go into an I depth study of the office of Elder, and if you are interested please contact our office for more information.