Jeff Lawrence

Am I Ready to be an Elder?

Over many decades serving in the church - I've seen it go wrong more than right. Elders are a sacred office within the church with weighty qualifications. They are shepherds, not CEO's. We don't need more business professionals, we need humble servants. The Church is in desperate need of qualified & sanctified leaders committed to scriptural precepts

Am I Ready to be an Elder? Jeffglawrence

The role of an elder within the church is a sacred and weighty calling. It is not a position to be taken lightly or pursued casually. The biblical qualifications for elders are extensive, and the commitment required is profound. In many ways, this sacred office demands a level of spiritual maturity, dedication, and humility that sets it apart from other forms of leadership within the church. So, how can one discern if they are ready to step into this role? Let’s explore the key considerations and qualifications for becoming an elder.

The Sacred Office of Elder

The New Testament outlines the role of elders with great specificity. Elders, also referred to as overseers or shepherds, are entrusted with the spiritual oversight and care of the church. This is not a role that should be entered into lightly. The Apostle Paul, in his letters to Timothy and Titus, provides a detailed list of qualifications for elders, emphasizing character, capability, and commitment.

Qualifications for Elders:

  1. Above Reproach: Elders must lead by example, demonstrating integrity, biblical obedience, faithfulness to all, and moral uprightness.
  2. Husband of One Wife: This speaks to marital faithfulness and sexual purity.
  3. Temperate and Self-Controlled: Elders should be sober-minded and disciplined in their behavior.  They are not given to anger, slander or gossip.
  4. Respectable and Hospitable: They must be approachable and willing to serve others.  They must have empathy and compassion for the congregation.
  5. Able to Teach: While not all elders need to be preachers, they must be able to communicate sound doctrine effectively.
  6. Not Given to Drunkenness or Violence: Elders should exhibit self-control and peaceable behavior.  They should not be given to vulgar speech or fits of anger.
  7. Not a Lover of Money: Their motives should be pure, free from the love of financial gain.
  8. Manages His Own Family Well: An elder’s ability to lead his household reflects his potential to lead the church.  His children should walk in faithfulness.
  9. Not a Recent Convert: Spiritual maturity and experience are crucial to effective eldership.
  10. Good Reputation with Outsiders: Their character should be consistent both inside and outside the church.

The Commitment is High

Becoming an elder is not merely a title; it is a profound commitment to serve the body of Christ. This commitment entails not only a readiness to lead but also a willingness to be led, to grow, and to be accountable. Elders should undergo extensive training and mentorship. A minimum of a year under the guidance of qualified elders can provide invaluable insight and experience. This period allows for growth in understanding the complexities and responsibilities of the role.

Elders Are Not CEOs

In contemporary church structures, there is a temptation to run the church like a business, with elders functioning as a board of directors and the lead pastor as the CEO. This model, however, is fundamentally flawed when applied to the spiritual and communal nature of the church. The church is not a corporation; it is the body of Christ. Elders should not operate with a corporate mindset but with a servant’s heart.

Jesus modeled a servant leadership structure, placing Himself at the bottom, serving up. Elders are called to lead in the same way, with humility and grace. They are to serve the congregation, prioritize the spiritual well-being of its members, and lead by example. This approach contrasts sharply with a business model, which often emphasizes authority, control, and efficiency over relational and spiritual growth.

Approach with Humility and Grace

The office of elder should never be aspired to out of personal ambition or desire for power. Instead, it should be approached with great humility and a sense of divine calling. Those considering this role must examine their motives carefully, ensuring they are aligned with God’s will and not personal gain or recognition.

It is essential to recognize the gravity of the responsibility. Elders who are unqualified, untrained, and unprepared can cause significant harm to the church. Poor leadership can lead to conflict, division, and spiritual harm within the congregation and staff. Therefore, rigorous training, ongoing education, and accountability are crucial to maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of church leadership.

Elders and Pastors: A Biblical Perspective

In the New Testament, the terms elder, overseer, and pastor are often used interchangeably, highlighting the shared responsibility of spiritual leadership and care. Elders are pastors in the sense that they are shepherds of the flock, tasked with guiding, teaching, and protecting the church community. This understanding underscores the importance of viewing eldership not merely as a governance role but as a pastoral one, deeply rooted in caring for the spiritual health of the congregation.

There’s a lot at stake

The role of an elder is one of the most significant and demanding callings within the church. It requires a deep commitment to spiritual growth, a servant’s heart, and a readiness to lead with humility and integrity. Those considering this sacred office must undergo thorough training and mentorship, ensuring they are well-prepared to meet the challenges and responsibilities ahead.

As we hold our elders to high standards, we honor the profound trust placed in them by the church. Let us strive to support and equip our leaders, recognizing the vital role they play in nurturing and guiding the body of Christ. Only then can we ensure that our churches are led with wisdom, compassion, and a steadfast commitment to God’s will.

 

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