A Plurality of Elders to Lead the Church
Every organization has some kind of governing structure or it would not be able to function. The difference between the governing structure in a true church is that God has determined the specific jobs and qualifications needed to fill them. There are two church offices: elders and deacons. Each office has a distinct role. Elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. Deacons see to the circumstances of the church and needs of the people. I will talk more about deacons in a separate article.
We understand the Bible to use the terms “elders,” “pastors,” and “bishops” interchangeably. so we understand the role of elders through everything Scriptures says about each of these offices. First, an elder is not someone elected by popular vote, but called to office by God. The best way to understand this is that a true elder demonstrates his gifts to the church before the church decides to accept him. No church should ever confirm someone to the office of elder who is not biblically qualified and cannot demonstrate evidence of God’s call to serve through actions and lifestyle.
What are the qualifications of an elder? We find these qualifications mainly in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus in the New Testament. First, an elder is to be a man (1 Tim 3). This is not a condemnation of women, but it is a clear requirement of God’s Word. Men and women are created equally, but assigned different jobs. We will talk about the important roles of women in the church in time. Second, an elder must know the Scriptures. This does not mean he must have memorized the Bible, but he must study and know the Scriptures and let them govern his thoughts and actions. Third, he must govern his own affairs and family well. A qualified elder is a man who can demonstrate to the church by his actions and words that he is called by God to office. Fourth, an elder cares for the church spiritually and works to build up the body. Building up the body is done through prayer, evangelism, teaching, and ruling well.
No elder is perfect. No one elder has every spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12). Scripture tells us that everyone in the body has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to build up the church. This is just as true of elders as it is of church members. Some elders have great hearts for evangelism. Others are prayer warriors. Still others are teachers. Still others have strengths in administration. Every elder has some mix of gifts that make his service a gift to the church. Because different men have different gifts, the church needs several elders to provide proper care. The apostles in Jerusalem were a council of leaders who prayed and taught God’s Word, determining the right way for the Christian church to proceed. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to raise up elders (plural) in each church.
Every church should be led by a group of elders whose gifts work together. Here at the Valley Remnant, our plan is to seek men gifted to the office of elder to present to the body for acceptance as leaders. It is important to note that elders are not superpowers: the body of baptized believers who are members of the church accept or reject men as elders. The existing elders may recommend new ones, but cannot appoint them to office. The church may decide to remove a man from the office if he is no longer functioning as a gift to the church.
A critical job for our body over the next few months is to pray for God to help us discern those qualified for the office of elder, as well as the office of deacon. One of the first acts our body will perform when it officially constitutes as a church is to vote to accept its new elders. This is a critical task to ensure the church functions well to the glory of God.