Summary: Deciding eldership and deaconship is not to be taken lightly: Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22 not to hastily select leaders. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others;
Have you ever felt unheard or as though you can’t find an ear to listen to your concerns? Have you ever left after speaking to someone feeling as though they didn’t hear a single word that you said? Israel had a problem with this as well. Moses had basically been given control of all the leadership duties after leaving the land of Egypt. He acted as judge, jury, lawyer, and many other positions. Soon his father-in-law, Jethro, brought to Moses Zipporah, Moses’ wife and their children. Moses soon took his seat early one morning to begin teaching the law to the people and acting as a judge in their arguments. He did this each and every day from early morning until late at night. Jethro saw this and noting how foolish this endeavor was, gave Moses some guidance. “You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me: I will give you counsel and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you , but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” With only one person handling all the issues of the community, it was impossible for everyone to be heard and for everyone to have input on how the system should work.
In Acts 6 we hear a similar cry from the Hellenistic Jews. “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.” The Hellenistic or Greek Jews needed their case to be heard and action to be taken to help care for their daily needs. So the apostles offer a bit of a compromise. “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” The apostles couldn’t give up their duties of preaching, teaching and prayer to “serve tables” and so the institution of what we now call a deacon was created.
When needs arise within the church we have two groups of men who should handle these needs; Elders and Deacons. Elders, otherwise known as shepherds, take care of the spiritual needs of the people through administration among other ways in which they watch over us. The Deacons on the other hand, take care of the physical needs of the church including everything from upkeep of the facilities to the shut-ins, widows, and even some of our own needs if they know about them. Today after the service you will have the chance to make a choice on whether or not the men that will be presented to you are worthy of holding the titles of Elder and Deacon. This choice is not to be taken lightly: Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22 not to hastily select leaders. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.” Do not just choose someone to be a leader of this church because if they fail, their failures are partly your fault for putting them into leadership positions. We must choose carefully who will lead us and take care of both our spiritual and physical needs. We will review the qualities of these men, both those in office and those looking to become part of the leadership team, that we must consider if we are to make a wise choice about who we put in authority over us.
Elders – 1 Timothy 3:1-7
I promised that one day I would cover this list more thoroughly so that we might have a better understanding of the qualities our leaders must possess. I would like to note first that in verse 2 of this chapter it says that an elder must have these qualities. The words used here do not leave any room for ambiguity about the personal requirements these men must fulfill. J. W. McGarvey divides these requirements into five categories.