The Role of Elders at New Hope Church
The New Testament identifies elders as the primary leadership and oversight of a local church.
They provide spiritual nurture and protection for the local church.
In his book Biblical Eldership, Alexander Strauch outlines the biblical texts:
“Elders lead the church [1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1–2], teach and preach the Word [1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9],
protect the church from false teachers [Acts 20:17, 28–31],
exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine [1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:13–17; Titus 1:9],
visit the sick and pray [James 5:14; Acts 6:4], and judge doctrinal issues [Acts 15:6].
In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church”.
Lay elders and vocational pastors do not necessarily serve in the same way.
In 1 Timothy 5:17 Paul offers some nuanced distinction in terms of focus and role: “
Let the elders who rule well. be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”
Paul is not saying some elders will not teach at all; he makes it pretty clear elsewhere that elders need to be able to teach. But he seems to expect some elders will be particularly devoted to teaching and give more time to it. The context of this verse is clear that the “double honor” due to elders “who labor in preaching and teaching” refers primarily (maybe even exclusively) to the pay they will receive for their labor. Some elders give their time primarily to the work of ministry and so need to be financially supported. Lay elders do not, but their fundamental character as under-shepherds of the flock of God is shared.
An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified people who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. This is the pattern seen throughout the New Testament that each local church is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders.
For example, Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5).
James told his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14).
When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23).
In 1 Timothy, Paul referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where he addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts explains there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; 15:2, 4; 21:18).
It can be tempting to let our American culture commend majority rule with a nod towards democracy. Another option is for the pastor to run the show. But nowhere in Scripture do we find a church ruled by majority rule or by a single pastor.
Draft Constitution as it relates to elders
Section 4 – Elders
A. General Statement:
In its operation, the church will be led by a group of Godly believers called Governing Elders. These shall be people in whose lives the working of the Holy Spirit is evident, who have met the qualifications given in the Scriptures. The totality of elders shall constitute the General Council of Elders who are commissioned to govern the church under the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:4). The General Council of Elders shall prayerfully seek unanimous agreement in all matters since we believe the Holy Spirit guides with a oneness of mind (Acts 15:1-29; Philippians 2:1-2). Refer to C-9 for definition of General Elder.
B. Qualifications of Elders: Qualifications of elders are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
1. Fidelity – This means marital faithfulness (literally “a one-woman man”) in mind, heart and body as well as commitment to care, love, and show interest in one’s spouse.
2. Self-mastery – This is the power to control impulses, actions, and emotions. In Greek the words suggest being clear-headed, sensible/disciplined, and respectable.
3. Hospitable – enjoy having guests in his home and to love strangers.
4. Teaching ability
5. Not a heavy drinker
6. Temperament – not violent, gentle, not quarrelsome
7. Biblical attitude toward money
8. Godly home life
9. Spiritual maturity
10. Positive outside reputation
C. Selection of Elders: Selection will be made on the basis of Scriptural qualifications.
1. Initial Ordination of Elders – Those initially selected and approved by the pastoral team and the congregation shall be ordained as elders to serve in this local body. This ordination shall follow the teaching of Scripture concerning the visible “laying on of the hands of the presbytery.”
2. Appointment of Elders – A minimum number of three (3) elders must serve at all times. To become an elder, the person being considered for such a position must in this order:
a) Meet all of the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.
b) Be approved by the unanimous vote of the existing Governing Elders.
c) Receive affirmation by the congregation.
Together these elders form a shepherding team.
3. Removal of Elders – Any Elder may be dismissed by the unanimous vote of the Governing Elders excluding the one being removed. Such decision does not have to be presented to the congregation for ratification. Such a decision of the Governing Elders must be announced to the congregation without necessarily revealing the reason.
4. Elder Meetings – The time and place of all meetings of the Governing Elders shall be set by the elders. Time for prayer and fasting shall be provided prior to major decisions. A meeting shall require a 75% quorum. Unanimity should be sought diligently and should be expected to be reached. In rare exceptions where unanimity is not reached, the issue will be tabled until a later date and God’s will sought through prayer and/or fasting.
5. Lead Elder – The Lead Elder will be determined by a unanimous agreement of the Governing Elders. In case of his inability to attend or to execute his duty the Lead Elder will appoint his substitute from among the Governing Elders. Should the Lead Elder decide to step down from that position, the selection of the new Lead Elder becomes the responsibility of the Governing Elders.
6. New Elders – New Elders will be added to the Governing Elders by the Governing Elders themselves. Input will be sought and received from any church member. The Governing Elders will review all nominations. Final elder selection will be presented to the church body for affirmation.
7. Accountability – The General Council of Elders is a self-disciplining body with members accountable to one another (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Timothy 5:19-20). Each elder is under the oversight of the Governing Elders and subject to both formative and corrective discipline as are all members of the church. Not only must each elder hold himself accountable to his fellow elders, but also to the totality of the congregation, and above all to the Lord as they will one day appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, as will all believers (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
8. Communication – The Governing Elders shall, no less frequently than quarterly, make a written report to the congregation of major actions taken. The financial reports of the church shall be included in the elders’ report.
9. Tenure of Service – No limit is placed upon the time that an elder may serve. The emphasis is that each one serves and not just attends meetings. Each one must be active to remain an elder. An elder may resign his position as Governing Elder. His resignation should be presented to the Governing Elders, at that time the Governing Elder will be referred to as a General Elder. A General Elder may be defined as an inactive Governing Elder.
D. Responsibilities of Governing Elders
1. Exercise leadership over the church, the flock of God (Acts 20:28; John 21:15-17).
2. Show consistent study and teaching of the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Titus 1:9).
3. Be good managers or stewards of God over their God-given ministry (Titus 1:7).
4. Help those in need (Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22).
5. Give diligent labor, caring leadership, and guided counsel in the Word (1 Thessalonians 5:12; Romans 12:9; 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 5:17; Hebrews 13:7).
6. Exercise pastoral care that includes overseeing the visiting of the sick when needed (James 5:14) and hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
7. Minister at communion, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.