Biblical Eldership: Who, What, Why?

As a follower of Christ you are a part of His body, the church, and together we are all responsible for building up His church. How are you to build it? Jesus commands you to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Paul tells you to speak the truth in love so that the church will become mature (Eph. 4:13-16). Peter calls you to use your gifts to serve each other (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Pet. 4:10). Jude says build yourselves up in the faith (Jude 20-21). As believers we are all called to build up the body of Christ, His Church.

Then there is another group in the church called “elders.”  An elder is on the same level ground with every other believer before Jesus Christ, having the same and yet added responsibilities. In the New Testament elders are also referred as pastors or overseers. So, biblically, an elder is a pastor is an overseer and according to the New Testament, elders are responsible for the primary leadership and oversight of a church. Elders are called to lead the church (1 Tim. 5-7; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1-2), teach and preach God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9), protect the church from false teachers (Acts 20:17-31), exhort and admonish the church in sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim 3:13-17; 1Titus 1:9), visit the sick and pray (James 5:14; Acts 6:4), and judge doctrinal issues (Acts 15:6). In biblical vocabulary, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church.

What are the qualifications of an elder? In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, we are given one quality related to skill – “the ability to teach.” One quality related to the amount of time a man has been a Christian – “not a recent convert.” Then all the other qualifications are related to character – “he must be above reproach, sexually pure, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard or user of other mind-altering substances, not violent, not quarrelsome, gentle, not greedy, manages their family well, not a new convert, and thought well of by those outside the church.” The interesting thing about these qualities is that they are not unique to elders. They are demanded for elders but they are also expected for every other believer in the  church. As D.A. Carson once said, “the list of qualifications for elders is remarkable for being unremarkable.” Of course elders are not perfect in the above qualifications but when we fall short and sin we confess and repent and turn from that sin because our standard is perfection (Mat. 5:48). The Holy Spirit, you the church and fellow elders are our accountability (1 Tim. 5:19-20).

Serving as an elder at GCT is an immense privilege and responsibility because it carries an eternal weight. The responsibilities seem overwhelming and even impossible at times but the love that the elders have for GCT and for the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, sustain and energize the call as elder/pastor/overseer. We also know that, as elders, each one of us will be held accountable before the Lord for how we have shepherded His church (Heb. 13:17). At the same time, we also embrace the promise that “when the chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4).

This Sunday we will introduce Bob Highet as a new elder for your prayerful consideration as we seek to fill the elder vacancy from David Love’s departure to pastor Pineland Church.

See you Sunday, building up the body together: Steve

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