Tomorrow night’s Discipleship Group will cover the second part of a 6 part series on Church Leadership. It will center on an aspect of Church leadership which has given me much angst. Namely, that of recognizing and appointing elders. There is little in the New Testament on the actual process of appointing elders, and in fact only two mentions of it. Those are Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5.
These examples show that in one case, the appointment of elders followed disciple making (which includes evangelism) Acts 14:21-23:
After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
In the other case, Titus was delegated to “appoint” elders by Paul. 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”
Again, we can extrapolate very little on the process of appointing elders from these two verses. We can however know more about the characteristics of elders from these passages:
1 Timothy 3: ”It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
Titus 1: ” For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
It is important to distinguish the qualifications of and elder and the recognition and appointment of an elder. They are two different things. Certainly and elder must have those qualifications. For the purposes of this post, I will not ask my normal 3 questions, but these eleven:
1. Are Elders to be appointed in the Church today? What is the biblical justification for your answer?
2. What did is mean to “appoint” and Elder? What should it mean today?
3. Does the appointment of elders justify the modern-day church’s practice of ordination?
4. Are elders to be appointed only by Apostles or their delegates?
5. Is Eldership an “office?”
6. Is Eldership a “position?”
7. Is it ok for a man to want to (aspire to) (desire) (seek out) the role of an Elder?
8. How does one get to be the kind of leader spoken of in Hebrews 13:17?
9. Since there is no biblically justifiable leadership hierarchy in the New Testament Church, how do we define words like “obey,” “submit,” “oversee,” “lead,” “take charge,” and “rule.”
10. Are Elders still needed for special circumstances such as praying for the sick (James 5:14), shepherding the sheep (1 Peter 5:1,2), and protecting them from wolves (Acts 20:28,29)?
11. Can the process of the selection of elders in the Old Testament be used as a model for the New Testament Church? Are Old Testament Elders and New Testament Elders the same species?
In answering these questions, try to avoid what some would call “good and necessary consequence” from logical conclusions. I come from a strong Presbyterian background and I have been steeped in the logical exaggeration on the role of, recognition of, and the appointing of Elders.