Elders and Deacons
Profile of an Elder (Qualifications) by Bryan Gibson
Shepherds of The Flock by Bryan Gibson
Qualities of a Good Deacon (Servant) by Bryan Gibson
Our Duties Toward the Elders by Bryan Gibson
An Example Procedure for Considering Elder Candidates by Dave Brown
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Profile of an Elder (Qualifications)
by Bryan Gibson
It is God’s will that elders be appointed in every local church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Various passages describe their qualifications and work. The purpose of this article is to pull a lot of that information together to create the following profile.
We’re talking about an elder, so obviously he cannot be a “novice” (NKJ) or a “new convert” (NAS). He has continued in the faith long enough to become “grounded and steadfast” (Colossians 1:23). One of the dangers in appointing someone who is not well grounded is that he could “become puffed up with pride” and “fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).
He is a “steward” of God’s flock (Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:3), so he must be trustworthy—one who has shown both the willingness and the ability to handle responsibility (1 Corinthians 4:2; 9:17; Colossians 1:25; Luke 16:10-12).
He is further described as a “bishop” or “overseer” (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2)—one who watches or looks out for the souls of his brethren (Hebrews 13:17); one who looks out for the good of all, and not just himself (Titus 1:7; Philippians 2:3-4). He has a sincere love for his brethren (Philippians 2:20), as evidenced by the hospitality he extends to them (1 Timothy 3:2). He lives by the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
He is also a “pastor” or “shepherd” (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2), and so he must have the knowledge and the ability to feed the flock (1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Peter 5:2; Jeremiah 3:15). He holds fast to what he has learned, refusing to teach or practice anything that is not according to sound doctrine. He is willing and able to refute those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9-11). He is ever watchful for wolves that might destroy the flock (Acts 20:29-31).
His ability to lead and care for others is exhibited in his home, where he and his wife have trained their children to be submissive, respectful, and above all, obedient to the Lord (1 Timothy 3:4-5; Titus 1:6).
He is a humble man, one who readily acknowledges his dependence on God and His word (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 5:5).
He is temperate, sober, self-controlled (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8), and so he is not given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:3), or to any other vice. His self-control can also been seen in how he deals with others. He doesn’t have to have things his way; he is “willing to yield” (James 3:17). He is strong and even sharp when he needs to be (Titus 1:14), but his general demeanor is one of gentleness (1 Timothy 3:3). He is not quick-tempered, or quarrelsome, and he is certainly not violent (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). He can be questioned without becoming contentious, and he can disagree without losing his cool (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
He is just and holy (Titus 1:8), so clearly His manner of life is different from the world around him (Romans 12:2). He has learned what the grace of God teaches: “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly...” (Titus 2:11-12). When he does sin, he penitently seeks forgiveness, because his goal is to be blameless—in the sight of others, but especially in the sight of God (Titus 2:11-12; Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 John 1:9).
He has his priorities in order. He does not love money or the things of this world (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:3). He loves what is good (Titus 1:8)—what will endure. He is more concerned with “laying hold” of eternal life than anything else (1 Timothy 6:10-12).
His faithfulness to the Lord is seen on a daily basis, making him a good example to Christians and non-Christians alike (1 Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 3:7).
Shepherds of The Flock
by Bryan Gibson
It is God’s will that elders be appointed in every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). When God talks about their work, He describes them as shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2-3). So let us look at some characteristics of a good shepherd, making sure that we apply these characteristics to the work of elders.
1. A good shepherd will make sure his flock is fed (Genesis 46:32: “…the men are shepherds, for their occupation has been to feed livestock…”).
Elders make sure the flock receives spiritual nourishment: “And I will give you shepherds…who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15). They can accomplish this in several ways. First, they can set a good example for the flock. “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Secondly, they can feed the flock through their own teaching. “Able (Apt) to teach” is one of the qualifications a man must meet in order to become an elder (1 Tim. 3:2). According to Titus 1:9, elders must hold fast to the faithful word, and “be able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Thirdly, they can ensure that others within the flock do some teaching, and that what they teach is the word of God.
2. A good shepherd watches over his flock (Luke 2:8: “…keeping watch over their flock by night”).
Here is what Paul said to a group of elders in Acts 20:28: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” “To all the flock”—elders have to watch out for every member, being careful that they show no partiality. Elders are called “overseers”, and there is a big difference between overseeing and overlooking. Elders must overSEE, because one day, they will have to give an account to God for how closely they’ve been watching (Hebrews 13:17).
3. A good shepherd will protect his flock (1 Samuel 17:34-35: Note how David protected his father’s sheep).
Shepherds who watch closely know when the flock is in danger, and will do what is necessary to protect them. This is exactly what Paul urged the Ephesian elders to do in Acts 20:28-31. Sometimes the whole flock may be threatened, perhaps by false teaching. At other times, it may be one or two individuals—ones who may be in danger of being lost to the love of money, the love of pleasure, peer pressure, etc. Whatever the threat may be, elders need to be prepared to protect God’s flock from danger.
4. A good shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11).
Laying down one’s life includes much more than literally dying for someone (see 1 John 3:16-18). The idea here is that elders must be dedicated to the flock, willing to sacrifice time, energy, etc., to make sure the flock is cared for. Elders need to have the same attitude expressed by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:15: “I will spend and be spent for your souls.”
5. A good shepherd knows which sheep are sick, or weak, or hurting, and is prepared to help them.
This was one area in which the shepherds of Israel failed: “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken…” (Ezekiel 34:4). In just about every “flock,” there will be sheep who require special care, due to their delicate condition—“comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Nursing these precious souls back to health will take some effort, but it will be effort well spent.
6. A good shepherd will seek those who are lost (Luke 15:4-7; Ezekiel 34:6).
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). One lost sheep is too many—every effort should be made to bring him back to the fold. Even if one is impenitent and has to be withdrawn from (1 Corinthians 5: 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14), effort should still be made to restore him (2 Thessalonians 3:15). Remember, at one time were all “like sheep going astray” (1 Peter 2:25; Isaiah 53:6). Think about how much effort the “chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4) spent to bring us back.
Qualities of a Good Deacon (Servant)
by Bryan Gibson
The word deacon in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word diakonos. The basic meaning of this word is servant. To better understand the work of deacons, let’s look at two things: the qualities of a good servant, and the things that should motivate a servant.
Because he is truly humble, he will “look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). His concern is not “to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45). In other words, he has the mind of a servant, which is really the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11).
He is willing to take orders (“obey those who rule over you, and be submissive”—Hebrews 13:17). Included in the definition of diakonos is this thought: “one who executes the commands of another…” (Thayer). As a specially appointed servant of the church, he will be assigned tasks by the elders. He should be eager and willing to perform these tasks.
He will promptly and faithfully carry out all his duties (Acts 12:25; Colossians 4:17), even those that might seem to be unimportant (“he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much”—Luke 16:10). A good servant can be trusted to get the job done and done right (notice the kind of men appointed to duties in Nehemiah 7:1-2; 13:13). Some people are good at getting a job started, but have a hard time finishing it. A faithful servant will complete his work (2 Corinthians 8:11), even if it involves personal sacrifice (example of Epaphroditus—Philippians 2:25-30; example of Paul—Romans 15:25; Acts 24:17; Acts 20:22-24; 21:10-14).
Because he is not “wise in his own opinion” (Romans 12:16), he works well with others. He understands and applies the command, “be submissive to one another” (1 Peter 5:5).
He looks to God for the strength to perform his work (“if anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies”—1 Peter 4:11).
A good servant will be motivated by…
- A desire to please God, not men (Matthew 6:1-18—Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for doing their good deeds to be seen by men).
- The good he can do his brethren, not only in the specific things he does, but also in the example he sets. With diligent, zealous service, a deacon can stir up others to be more zealous (“your zeal has stirred up the majority”—2 Corinthians 9:1-2).
- The knowledge that when he ministers to his brethren, he is ministering to Christ (“inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”—Matthew 25:34-46).
- By the good he can do for himself (“for those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith…”—1 Timothy 3:13).
- By the reward he will receive from the Lord for faithful service (“God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister”—Hebrews 6:10).
Our Duties Toward the Elders
by Bryan Gibson
NOTE: This is just an outline study, which means you need to do some further study on your own. Look up the passages cited to more fully understand the points made in the outline.
I. Attitudes Toward the Elders
A. “Recognize” them (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
1. NAS, NIV: “appreciate”
2. Thayer: “to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to...”
B. “Esteem them very highly in love” (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
1. The reason given: “for their work’s sake.”
C. Exhort them as fathers (1 Timothy 5:1).
1. The above passage likely refers to older men in general, but would certainly apply to elders.
2. Approach them with love and respect, as a child would his own father.
D. Count some “worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
1. This applies to those who “rule well...especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.”
2. Based on the quotation in v. 18, this honor could include financial support.
E. Do not rush to judgment (1 Timothy 5:19).
1. Do not listen to an accusation against them, unless there is proof—“two or three witnesses.”
2. This admonition is easy enough to follow—if we have the proper regard for them.
3. If the accusation can be proven—“those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all,
that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
II. Conduct Toward the Elders
A. Make their job enjoyable (Hebrews 13:17).
1. Constant complaining will certainly not make it enjoyable.
2. Israelites made life miserable for Moses with their envy of his authority, and constant complaining.
B. Be at peace (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
1. This admonition comes at the end of a passage dealing with our duties toward elders.
2. This is one way to make their task enjoyable. Envy, strife, and division will do the opposite.
C. Obey them; be submissive to them (Hebrews 13:17).
1. You may not agree with every decision, but unless it causes you to sin, your responsibility is clear.
2. To rebel against them is to rebel against God.
3. Keep in mind—these men were made overseers by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).
D. Imitate them (Hebrews 13:7).
1. These men have demonstrated maturity, or else they wouldn’t have been appointed.
2. They are “examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3), and so their example should be imitated,
in so far as they are imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
E. Call them when in need (James 5:14).
1. Note where the responsibility to call is placed—on those who are sick.
In other words, don’t wait to be called.
2. Yes, elders should be watching, but they can’t always know every need.
F. Pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
1. Elders may not be specifically in view in this passage, but if it is proper to pray for rulers in general,
it should be more so for those who rule over the flock, for those who watch for our souls.
An Example Procedure for Considering Elder Candidates
by Dave Brown
The only organization of the church is that of elders and deacons (defined in other articles under this topic), and that is on the local level. There is no organization for the universal church, which consists of all saved individuals from all time.
There is no procedure given for the selection of either elders or deacons in the local church. The closest example that we have is that of Acts 6, but it is impossible to tell whether this was an appointment of deacons or if these were just men appointed to address the particular problem at hand. To the extent possible the example of Acts 6 should be followed, but it is not a very definitive procedure.
The purpose of this article is to address there reality that: some procedure will be applied! It can be given thought and wisdom ahead of time, or it can be remembered with regret after the fact as the usual result of making things up as you go along.
Whether it is thought out in wisdom or just blundered into by default, the question is not whether or not there will be a procedure. It is just a question of whether or not the procedure will be both effective in getting the elders appointed, or whether it will be subject to (perhaps quite legitimate) criticism and will result in discord if not division.
What is given below is a rather detailed procedure. It is absolutely NOT the intent to make this into some kind of a church procedure – such would be adding to God’s word, and that is sin (Revelation 22:18-20). The details are given merely as suggestions that might stimulate the thoughts for even better procedures. No one procedure will suit all local churches.
It has been the author’s experience that there is no other issue in the church that has caused as many and as deep-seated problems as the appointment of elders and deacons. In those cases in which we have seen it work without turmoil the following was the case:
- A procedure was clearly worked out either by the elders or, in the absence of elders, the men of the congregation,
- This procedure was subject to debate with the understanding that once the procedure was decided upon, it would be implemented and that everyone involved would stand by the results. That is, at that point there would be no bickering about the results or the procedure.
- That being the case, debate was encouraged up front to refine the procedure to be sure that it met with everyone’s satisfaction. In other words, if there was going to be discussion and debate, it would be before the fact, not afterward with its inevitable lasting effects. Thus, there should be agreement that once the procedure works its way through, there will be no argument or disagreement about who is appointed.
- The procedure was NOT implemented until full agreement of it details was attained.
Again, please not that this is not an attempt to bind a creed or anything of the sort. Because of the lack of scriptural directives in this regard, Christians are forced to make decisions with regard not only the selection of elders, but with regard to the procedure that is employed in this selection process. This being the case we should all recognize that there is not one ideal perfect procedure. God expects us to use the principles that He has provided us in the New Testament in accomplishing this task. This is just (hopefully) an orderly way of moving forward (1 Cor. 14:40).
We also feel that it is best that the procedure be a written one so that there will be no misunderstanding of its details. What follows is an example that is probably far too detailed for most groups. We would hope that it would not be adopted per se, but would be modified to what is most workable in your local congregation. It assumes that there are no current elders, and it is for the appointment of elders. It should easily be modified to accommodate situations where elders are present, or for that matter, the selection of deacons.
EXAMPLE SPECIFICATION OF THE PROCEDURE
[Note that items underlined and bold in italics should be replaced by items that are applicable to the local church that might be using or modifying this example. Items in brackets are comments on the procedure.]
What appears below is the procedure for considering elders which was adopted during the regular business meeting on date. Note first that the Bible, while instructing us to appoint elders if more than one man is qualified, does not give us a procedure for the actual appointment process. However, the command necessarily implies that some procedure be applied. Thus, it is left to us to determine the process which is most expedient for us.
A failure to agree to a procedure before actually going forward with the process has been the cause of great dissension in many churches. Philippians 2:3 states that we should “each count the other better than ourselves,” and thus subject ourselves to each other on such matters of judgment. This does not mean to blindly follow along. However, when a procedure which seems reasonable to everyone has been adopted by the congregation, it would be wrong to murmur about it later on. Due consideration was given to this procedure in two separate meetings, and it is the judgment of the men that this is the procedure that should now be followed. The following procedure was adopted:
1. Survey those who meet the “biological” qualifications to determine if the process should even continue. [This should probably be accomplished at this point, and if so, the date of this accomplishment can go here.] It was found that at least two men were willing to have their names put forward for consideration [one would be sufficient in a church that already has elders].
2. Resolve the procedure to be applied and to be sure that all members understand it. This process was started on date and concluded at the date meeting, and this document is the result of that effort.
3. A coordinating group has been appointed strictly to facilitate the process. (For example, they will serve to count the forms that will be submitted, thus preventing any chance for embarrassment or intimidation.) Those selected to serve on this coordinating group were considered to be men known and respected by all of the church, but who are not being considered for the eldership. The membership of this coordinating group is (alphabetically): NAMES, recommended at least three.
4. Various lessons on elders, love and church organization will be presented and the procedure which we have adopted will be presented so that there is no confusion about what we are doing and how it is planned to be accomplished.
5. The coordinating group will solicit names from the church. This is consistent with Acts 6 where the apostles asked the church to select out men “from among yourselves.” While Acts 6 is not considered to be binding, it provides a good guide and is felt to be good judgment in this case. This will be done as follows:
a) Forms will be prepared and distributed, one form per member:
- The forms will contain the scriptures that give the qualifications, and a place for signature.
- The form will indicate that the person submitting the form has checked with the individual being nominated and has been assure that given the opportunity, he will be willing to serve.
- Forms that are not signed will not be considered.
- All members of college age and above wishing to participate will be included;
- Those who do not feel knowledgeable should excuse themselves from participating and they will not be compelled to participate;
- Those submitting names should submit all that they feel are qualified.
b) Forms will be distributed on Sunday, date and shortly thereafter,
c) Forms will be collected on or before Sunday, date:
- Special provisions can be made for those out of town;
- The broadest possible input will be sought.
Placing a name into consideration does not constitute the appointing of this individual, only his being put forward for consideration. However, this is a serious part of the process in which everyone should give careful consideration.
6. The coordinating group will collect the forms and meet. They will exclude any who do not meet “biological” qualifications. Anyone not receiving at least number recommendations to be put forward from the congregation will not be considered further. If a plurality of men do not receive this number or more recommendations, then the process will terminate at this point.
7. The coordinating group will report its results to the regular business meeting to resolve any irregularities or problems. If everything proceeds smoothly, the men under consideration will be announced shortly after that meeting. These men will be checked one further time before this to be sure that they still wish to be considered.
It is important to point out at the outset that any of the men may elect at any time to withdraw their name from consideration without having to reveal the reason for this publicly. This is because that, despite a person meeting all of the qualifications given, if he does not feel that he has the support of the congregation, or if for any other reason he sees some problem with his serving, he should withdraw and there should be no negative implications regarding that decision.
8. Once those under consideration are announced, there will be a time (e.g., one-month) period during which they will be on call to the congregation to answer any questions and entertain any concerns. These men will make themselves available to talk at the building several times (at least one night per week) during the period of this month. Discussions during this time period may be on any subject, and they do not have to be confined to objections about a candidate’s qualifications. These will be individual confidential discussions unless it is otherwise agreed by all. It is important that the spirit of Matthew 18 be observed, and all who enter into this process should observe the following from Matthew 18: if you have a problem with a given candidate, these objections should be communicated to as few other people as possible (read Mt. 18:15-17). Ideally, and if at all possible, go to the candidate and discuss this with him alone. Alternatively, if someone who feels uncomfortable about going alone, they may take one of the coordinating group members with them. Under no circumstances should any objection be aired throughout the congregation at this point.
9. At the designated business meeting each of the candidates will report to the men his desire to withdraw or continue in the process.
10. Shortly after this meeting the group of men who remain will be announced. There should be no speculation about any reasons for those who have withdrawn their names at this point.
11. If some member believes that a candidate should have withdrawn himself but did not at this point, that person will submit, in writing, the specific reason for this to the coordinating group (and to them alone). Such a complaint will not be received if the individual submitting it has not already discussed the issue in question with the candidate (Step 8). No anonymous accusations will be read or given any consideration at all. All must be signed, and the coordinating group might contact this person further for clarification. Two weeks will be allowed for such input, so the deadline for such will be date. This time might be extended if circumstances warrant it.
12. If any written complaints are received, the coordinating group will contact the candidate against whom it is made, and they will do all that they can to mediate the issue between the parties that are involved. The candidate will be given the opportunity at this point to withdraw his name from consideration without any further disclosure of the complaint (again, this is consistent with the spirit of Mt. 18); alternatively, the one issuing the objection may withdraw the complaint.
13. The results of the process to this point will be reported at the regular business meeting. If there is are more than one men for whom no written objections have been received, they will be accepted for future appointment. Any outstanding objections will be also be handled by the men at this time.
14. If the process is successful these men will be appointed as elders on a first day of the week assembly shortly after these meetings and once any other remaining issues are resolved.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?
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