Summary: Elders are not models of perfection, yet the church does have a responsibility towards them.
Central Church of Christ
December 3, 2000
AN ELDER IS A MAN
There is no doubt that to be an elder is to be in a position of great influence, great responsibility, with great demands. It isn’t just any man who is willing to serve in this way. It isn’t just any man who should.
Most people do not realize the many pressures that are associated with being an elder – on both him and his family. There are decisions to be made which require a degree of wisdom. There are difficult actions that must be taken at times. There are obligations placed upon an elder by Scripture that are not placed upon other Christians.
Today we want to look at four ideas / concepts relating to being an elder as the scriptures describe. An elder is a man!
I. SOME MEN HAVE THE GIFT OF BEING AN ELDER
A. Pastors, in New Testament terminology, are the elders (shepherds) of the flock – not the preachers! Ephesians 4:11-13 Why does God give people the spiritual gifts that they have?
*To prepare God’s people for works of service
*To help us reach unity in faith / knowledge of Jesus.
*To build us up in maturity.
B. The word “pastor” is from a word that means Shepherd. In this sense the elders are to watch over the flock – the church. Jesus is the ultimate example of shepherding.
II. SOME MEN ACCEPT THE DUTIES OF BEING AN ELDER (Hebrews 13:17)
A. Notice what the Hebrew writer stated about the elders:
*Obey and submit. Being an elder sometimes demands a judgment in a matter that is not revealed by scripture. The spiritual health of the congregation is always a top concern for the elders.
*They keep watch over you. They are mindful of trends in the life-cycle of the congregation. They are concerned when there are issues that threaten the unity of the Body. They are prayerful when there are hurts and needs.
*They give an account for what they do. Elders that neglect their work, or that allow sin and division to cause problems in the church will answer to the Lord. Being an elder involves a grave responsibility. Our duty: Make their work a joy, not a burden.
III. SOME MEN HAVE THE QUALITIES OF AN ELDER
A. Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus in order to instruct them on how to set things in order in the churches where they ministered. As a part of that instruction they were to appoint men to the eldership.
C. These qualities involve some judgment on the part of Christians – they are not as specific as they may seem at first. We should see them as being generally the right kind of men for the job.
*Men who are of good moral character. (Not a drunkard or one pursuing dishonest gain, good reputation, etc.)
*Men who are of good family character. (one wife, children who are not disobedient, believers)
*Men who are of good personal character. (not quick tempered, hospitable, holy)
There is no one man on earth who fully has each of those characteristics! These qualities reflect the kind of man needed for the job! Some require a level of judgment:
*“Above Reproach…Blameless” – is this true of anyone? To what extent? How far back into this man’s life are you going to go? Does the elder-selection process give the church permission to dig every skeleton out of a man’s closet?
* “Able to teach” – does that mean … in the Bible class…or on an individual basis? Or by example?
*“Husband of one wife” – how do you interpret?
-Cannot be a polygamist
-Cannot be widowed and remarried
-Cannot be divorced and remarried
-Cannot be married and widowed
*“A man whose children believe” Does that mean ALL of his children … some…most? Does that mean that they are baptized believers – Christians – or that they are simply believers? “Faithful” (KJV) – to him or to the Lord?
When you make your judgments in these matters, you need to understand that this is your own personal judgment – and you have a right to it…but there are
other ways to see it. How will a congregation know? The current elders are
given the charge to oversee the flock…care for it…it is their duty to make these judgments on an informed basis.
D. These qualifications are not a check list so much as they are guides to help us have the right kind of man to serve the church as shepherd. Do you think these two passages list EVERY quality an elder is to have? These qualities also apply to the deacon, with very few exceptions.