I have been preaching the gospel for more than 10 years now. During this time only 2 of them was spent under the leadership and guidance of an eldership. I have been a Christian for 21 years, beyond the 2 years as a preacher, I have only spent a few months under the guidance and leadership of an eldership. It seems, especially with smaller churches, that elders are infrequent at best and most likely just a rare occurrence. This leads me to ask, are elders really needed? After all numerous churches are functioning without them. Some are even growing without them. The simple answer to this question is yes. Yes they are needed. But let us learn what the scripture teach.
Elders are the God given leaders of the local church. Paul told the elders in Acts 20:28 ďBe on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.Ē Appointing elders in churches was not Paulís idea or Peterís idea or even the collection of ďwise menísĒ ideas. God had determined that elders were to be appointed in every church (Acts 14:23). Any church functioning without Godís appointed leaders has one of two issues. Either the men of the church are not qualified (of which there technically can be a whole slew of reasons this is the case) or the church would rather not have scriptural leadership.
Paul also taught that a church without elders is incomplete. ďFor 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 (Titus 1:5).Ē Having elders was of such great importance to the church that Paul left Titus on Crete. Notice I said on and not in. Crete was an island. Once left one could not just join a Caravan to move on. He was left behind. Titus would have no reasonable means of escape if things turned sour (as it did for Paul in Thessalonica). Having an eldership in every city, every church was the of great importance. So long as a church continues to function without an eldership the church continues to be incomplete.
Paul continued to teach about the need for elders when he wrote to the Ephesians. ďAnd He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).Ē Pastors are elders according to I Pet. 5 and not preachers (or evangelists). Paul tells us why God appointed elders, why churches were lacking without elders. They were given so that the church could be properly equipped for the work of service. Elders are to be leaders in hospitality (Titus 1:8). While others can do such things, the elders were also not to be young in faith so that when others looked up to them they were seeing someone exemplifying godly aspects in all manners of their life. Furthermore, were given to help teach. They are there so that we all can come to be a better knowledge of the Son of God. Again, other men can do teaching, but elders were the ones that are supposed to be leaders in this regard. They should have enough knowledge in the word to determine whether or not someone is teaching the truth. Elders were also given for the purpose of maintaining unity. When younger Christians who do not have full knowledge of the truth or weak Christians who are more interested in their opinions and traditions are permitted to have equal say as if the church is a democracy unity is tough to build or even maintain. But when two or more men are appointed to lead this church that have already proven that they are not immature they lead a church to be united under God without the influence of the unlearned in a menís business meeting.
As you can see there are many reasons why a church needs an eldership. It is needed because it is Godís prescribed leadership for the church. It is needed because without it we are missing a key ingredient to the well being of the church. And elders provided to us things that the young and weak Christians simply cannot So with this in mind, what does this mean this church needed to do?
Being a church without elders we should be reminded that we are incomplete. This does not mean that we should rush off and appoint those who are not qualified for the work. It does however mean that we need to seriously consider why we donít have elders.
Do we not have an eldership because of a lack of concern? Do we really belive this church is incomplete without them? How would you answer God for your reasons for not making this a priority? Are we not strived enough to grow elders? If so, this is a failure by the church, parents, and local preacher. And yes brethren we all would share some of the blame. Paul was appointing elders in under 2 years. To argue that it take a long time is to ignore the biblical pattern. Elders donít accidentally happen, they are grown through a good teaching program by the church, by godly parents, and by the local teachers and preachers. If we arenít doing this, what will our excuse be?
Grinnell church of Christ
Website design by Blythe Data Recovery & Computer Repair, LLC
Do We Really Need Elders?
Volume 4 Issue 7