This is a continuation of a previous post, if you haven’t read Biblical Church Leadership I suggest you first read it to make sure completely understand the context of this post.
Today we will examine the elder.
I believe there are two positions in church leadership biblically, elders and deacons. These are the only two titles used like a position. Elder, overseer or bishop and pastor are all used interchangeably several times in the scripture.
“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders (presbyteros) in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer (episkopos) is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” Titus 1:5-7 NIV
This passage shows the relation between elders and overseers, the words are being used interchangeably with no differentiation between them in qualification or responsibility.
“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. …Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Episkopos). Be shepherds (poimaino[vi]) of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:17, 28 NIV
This passage shows the connection between the overseers and pastors or shepherds, this is one of the only uses of the term shepherd or pastor out side of Ephesians 4:11.
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. I Peter 5:1-4
Again Peter is using several words to describe the different aspects of one position, the Elder. Other than these uses of pastor or shepherd, which are the same term in the original language, Jesus uses the word a few times within an analogy of a shepherding relationship. (I.e. Matt 9:36, Matt 25:32 and references to himself as the great Shepherd)
Taken from I Tim and Titus
- A man – masculine leader
- Above reproach – without any character defect
- Able to teach – effective Bible communicator
- Not a new convert – mature Christian
- Husband of one wife – one-woman man, sexually pure
- Has obedient children – successful father
- Manages family well – provides for, leads, organizes, loves
- Temperate – mentally and emotionally stable
- Self-controlled – disciplined life of sound decision-making
- Not given to drunkenness – without addictions
- Not a lover of money – financially content and upright
- Respectable – worth following and imitating
- Hospitable – welcomes strangers, especially non-Christians for evangelism
- Not violent – even-tempered
- Gentle – kind, gracious, loving
- Not contentious – peaceable, not quarrelsome/divisive
- Good reputation with outsiders – respected by non-Christians
- Prayer and Scripture study (Acts 6:4)
- Ruling/leading the church (1 Timothy 5:17)
- Managing the church (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
- Caring for people in the church (1 Peter 5:2-5)
- Giving account to God for the church (Hebrews 13:17)
- Living exemplary lives (Hebrews 13:7)
- Rightly using the authority God has given them (Acts 20:28)
- Teaching the Bible correctly (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2)
- Preaching (1 Timothy 5:17)
- Praying for the sick (James 5:13-15)
- Teaching sound doctrine and refuting false teachings (Titus 1:9)
- Working hard (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
- Rightly using money and power (1 Peter 5:1-3)
- Protecting the church from false teachers (Acts 20:17-31)
Today we have simply replaced the term Elder with Pastor and I don’t have a problem with that in and of itself but it connotes certain ideas on our culture that are not necessarily biblical, such as the idea of a single Senior Pastor which will be discussed in more detail later.
[vi] from 4166 (poimen); to tend as a shepherd (or figurative supervisor) :- feed (cattle), rule.-Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary