Summary: A properly functioning eldership provides plurality in leadership, unity of purpose and a system of checks & balances. Biblical eldership is kingdom government & ultimately it’s about understanding & becoming the person God wants each of us to be.
Biblical Eldership: The Government of God
Intro.: It’s not always easy to be objective about the structure and government of the New Testament Church. We are influenced by the teaching we’ve had. So it’s often difficult to approach the subject with an open mind. But, we need to seriously examine the scriptures to confirm that our practice conforms to the pattern of God. Jesus established the church, He is building it according to His will and He alone has the right to govern it. The NT pattern of Church government is eldership.
READ: Acts 14:23, “Paul & Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church &, with prayer & fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust”
I. Jesus is the Head Elder
A. Jesus is the absolute Head of the Church, He established it & it belongs to Him
NOTE: Anything with more than one head is a monster
1. He has complete authority over it - READ: Ephesians 1:22-23 & 5:23
2. He didn’t say that He would build a denomination or a parachurch ministry
3. He said that He would build His church.
B. So, what does it take to become members of His church?
II. Jesus governs His church through delegated authority
A. The 5-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 are collectively known as elders
B. The eldership represents Christ’s delegated authority for governance and order
NOTE: The apostle Peter referred to himself as a fellow elder - READ:I Peter 5:1-3 “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.
C. There are three Greek words that describe the role of an elder
1. Proistemi – to preside, to be over, to rule
a. To rule by position, as in the father being the head of the family.
b. 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct[proistemi] the affairs of the
church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching”
2. Hegeomai – to lead, to govern, to judge and to have rule over
a. This word is used in the understanding of a general leading an army
NOTE: Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders [hegeomai] and submit to them. 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”.
3. Poimaino – to tend as a shepherd – Ref. I Peter 5:2
D. In addition to ruling, elders also have a responsibility to teach
1. This teaching encompasses 4 areas
a. Exhortation - Challenging and encouraging the church
b. Counsel - Giving advise, guidance or direction according to God’s Word.
c. Admonition - With a pure heart, giving warnings or correction as needed
d. Revelation - Uncovering & teaching truth & God’s will for the church
III. The Purpose of Eldership Ministry
A. One main purpose for eldership ministry is to provide plurality of leadership
1. Mainly because no one person can do everything
2. If too few people are doing too much of the work, it results in:
a. Discouragement, confusion, ineffectiveness and burnout
NOTE: The clearest teaching on this concept can be found in Exodus 18:18-23 “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
B. Jethro’s counsel is as timely today as it was 4,000 years ago
Concl.: A properly functioning eldership provides not only plurality in leadership but complete unity of purpose, which are both essential.