Elders: God’s Servant Leaders for HIS Church…
“Elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poimen) all refer to the same man; overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders. The terms identify who these men are: spiritually mature [elder]; what they do: manage and govern [overseer]; how they carry this out: by feeding, protecting and caring for [shepherd].
These terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to bid them farewell. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino] the church of God.”
1Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkopeo] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”
Seeking Harmony and Unanimity, Always a Plurality…
The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.
The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4; 21:18).
The biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained and called elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its witness and work to bring glory, honor and praise to God.
Elders: What are Their Duties and Responsibilities…
2Timothy 4:5 says, …”discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
There must be clearly stated responsibilities and duties given in the Scriptures, if they are to be carried out.
1Timothy 3:2; 2Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:9 Preach [proclaim the Word] and Teach [interpret the Word through accurate exegesis – critical explanation] and application
2Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:5 *Acts 14:23 Affirm, appoint, and set apart other men who meet the qualifications of elder [1Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9] to oversee and care for the flock.
1Timothy 3:5 Take care of God’s Church.
1Thessalonians 4:1-2; 5:12; 1Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7, 17 Instruct [warn] God’s people as to how they should live; direct the affairs of the Church, lead by example, with authority.
*Acts 4:32-35 (apostles); 11:29-30 (elders now in place) Manage and oversee the receiving and distribution of monetary gifts [offerings, contributions, donations] given to the Church.
Acts 15:6, 19-20; 16:4-5 As a plurality, determine church polity… God has designed biblical leadership and submission within the Church to that leadership. Clearly, the apostles and elders were responsible for setting doctrine and practice according to God’s will, resulting in the people being strengthened in their faith, and living out their Christianity in a manner that caused unbelievers to give glory to God by believing in Christ and coming into the family of God (cf. 1Pet 2:11-12).
Acts 20:28-31 Guard and protect God’s people. Notice (v. 28), Paul is speaking to the “elders” and to them he clearly says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit [God] has made you overseers.” Then Paul commands these elders/overseers to be “shepherds” of the church of God.
1Peter 5:1-4 Protect, feed, lead and care for God’s people, while setting an example for them to follow. This gives a clear picture that these leaders are to be spiritually mature (elders), good managers (overseers), who care for the flock (shepherds).
So, what are Elders to be doing? What duties and responsibilities do Elders have in God’s Church?
Preach & Teach God’s Word [1Tim 3:2; 2Tim 4:1-4; Titus 1:9]
Appoint other elders [2Tim 2:2; Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23]
Direct the affairs of the church [1Thess 4:1-2; 5:12; 1Tim 5:17; Heb 13:7, 17]
Oversee the finances of the church [Acts 4:32-35; 11:29-30]
Determine and manage church government [Acts 15:6, 19-20; 16:4-5]
Guard, protect, lead and feed the church [Acts 20:28-31; 1Peter 5:1-4]