Summary: Although many church events and ministries are organized informally, God has appointed two kinds of official, recognized leadership for the local church: shepherds and servants, also known as Elders and Deacons (including deaconesses).
Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses
1. Every church is different in some way when it comes to dividing up responsibilities.
2. The little church in the suburbs suddenly stopped buying from its regular office supply dealer. So, the dealer telephoned Deacon Brown to ask why. "I'll tell you why," shouted Deacon Brown. "Our church ordered some pencils from you to be used in the pews for visitors to register." "Well, interrupted the dealer, "didn't you receive them yet?" "Oh, we received them all right," replied Deacon Brown. "However, you sent us some golf pencils...each stamped with the words, `Play Golf Next Sunday.'" [source: http://www.jokebuddha.com]
3. To the unchurched, words like deacon or elder are mysterious term. The mystique is even worse with a non-denominational church like ours. Many people cannot accept the idea of a local church with its lay officers and members choosing its pastor. They think that some sort of mysterious “them” appointed me.
4. Although I am not anti-denominational, I do enjoy the freedom that comes from a simple, Biblical structure. God’s structure for the individual church is an ancient one: shepherds and servants. Philippians 1:1, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons…”
Main Idea: Although many church events and ministries are organized informally, God has appointed two kinds of official, recognized leadership for the local church: shepherds and servants, also known as Elders and Deacons (including deaconesses).
I. The ELDERS Are Shepherds or OVERSEERS (1-7)
A. All kinds of people shepherd, but official SHEPHERDS have authority
B. “Elders" may have originally implied ELDERLY men, but that idea faded before New Testament times
1. This drives the word consistency police crazy.
2. Word origins do not define words; e.g., Thor’s Day for Thursday
3. Timothy was perhaps 35 years old, yet he was above and appointing elders
• During the mishnaic period the name zaken ("elder") was reserved for scholars, and particularly members of the Sanhedrin... The title was regarded as equivalent to a sage, and was unconnected with age…Kid. 32b.[source•: http:// www.jewishvirtual library. org]
4. Generally speaking, age helps men become wiser and more knowledge of Scripture, yet a young godly man who knows and lives the Word is better suited than a seasoned man who know little of the Word…
Psalm 119:99-100, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.”
Elders need wisdom: they pray for your needs, deal with conflicts, handle problems, manage church finances, determining what ministries take place here, seek God’s direction for our church, try to keep everyone working together to God’s honor.
C. The man we call “pastor” is a SPECIALIZED elder (I Timothy 5:17-18)
D. Elders shepherd and oversee (MANAGE) a church
I Peter 5:1-2a, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…”
Titus 1:5, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—“
E. Elders should WANT to be elders (1)
1. Although times can get tough, it is generally a joy to serve
2. On the other hand, it is a great responsibility, none of us feel worthy
F. The summary qualification for serving as an elder: above REPROACH
— Not without fault, but not extreme ones —
— Elders should serve as models for the other men in the church —
1. Husband of but one wife
b. Not polygamous
2. Sober minded (take spiritual things seriously; church attendance, prayer, Bible study, evangelism, missions, growing as a disciple, )
3. Self-controlled: sensible, not impulsive
6. Able to teach (not needed for deacon)
7. Not given to drunkenness
8. Not violent but gentle
9. Not quarrelsome (no chip on shoulder)
10. Not money hungry
11. Proven relational management skills in his own family [unlike business]
12. Not be a new believer (danger of pride)
13. Having a good reputation with community, the workplace, etc.
G. Two realities: all elders are imperfect, no GUARANTEES —improving odds
Application: We live in an age when people are unrealistically demanding of those in authority; pray for the elders, encourage them, and realize they are dealing with everyone’s opinions, agendas, and viewpoints. Respect and encourage them.
II. The Servants are the DEACONS and the DEACONESSES (8-13)
A. All kinds of people serve, but a church needs OFFICIAL servants
1. Elders are told what to do (shepherd, oversee), deacons are not
2. Deacons perhaps have the greatest flexibility in ministry...as needed