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What are Elders?

ELDERS

The New Testament speaks of elders as being those in the church who have been appointed to exercise authority over the church as shepherds or overseers (Acts 20:28; I Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:5). They are men who must meet the qualifications listed in I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and I Peter 5:1-4. The role of elder is limited to men (I Timothy 2:12-14) and is characterized in terms of spiritual leadership. Elders are appointed by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 20:28 and I Timothy 3:1).  They are to set an example of genuine faith before the church and they will be held accountable for those they care for (Hebrews 13:17). As spiritual leaders, they oversee the doctrine and teaching of the church; they act as shepherds in caring for the spiritual well being of God’s flock; they are responsible for administration of the sacraments and for the exercise of church discipline.

 

QUALIFICATIONS

The qualifications for being an elder are found in I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and I Peter 5:1-4. It should be noted that the qualities mentioned in these texts are not optional, nor are they character traits elders are merely to aspire to. The Lord says through the apostles that these are qualities that must be in a man’s life before he can be appointed to the office of elder. The well-being and growth of the church is dependent upon godly men who meet these minimal requirements. The qualifications are as follows:

  • He must be above reproach and blameless (he is not open to blame, rebuke or censure; he has positively unimpeachable integrity).
  •   He must be the husband of one wife (he is not a flirt or a philanderer; he has been faithful to his wife, if he is married).
  • He must be temperate (he exercises restraint; he is not excessive in any personal conduct).
  • He must be self-controlled (he is not controlled by emotions or circumstances).
  • He must be respectable (he has earned the respect or esteem of others; he is someone who is a good role model).
  • He must be hospitable (welcomes guests warmly; reach out to strangers).
  • He must be able to teach (not that he has to be a gifted teacher, but he must be able to cause others to learn; he must be able to impart biblical knowledge or skills so others learn).
  • He must not be given to much wine (he cannot be a heavy drinker, nor a drunkard; nor can he be given to mind-altering substances.
  • He must not be violent, but gentle (he must not display physical force or undue mental or emotional force; nor can he be severe or harsh. Rather, he must be considerate, kind, amiable, patient, and non-combative. Note: Titus I includes here the idea of not being quick-tempered).
  • He must not be quarrelsome (he must not be characterized by angry    disputes, disagreements, or arguments. He must not be belligerent).
  • He must not be a lover of money (he is not driven by the desire to accumulate wealth or material things. Peter says, not greedy for money. He is not devoted to or controlled by money).
  • He must manage his own family well (he must be the leader in his own home; he must be meeting the needs of his own family well. He directs and manages the affairs of his household well).
  • He must see that his children obey him with the proper respect (his children obey him, because they love and respect him, not because they fear him. In Titus, Paul says that an elder’s children must be believer and must not be open to the charge of being wild).
  • He must not be a recent convert (he must not be a novice; he needs to have some experience as a Christian, able to discern truth from error and be mature beyond the basics – Heb. 5:11-14).
  • He must have a good reputation with outsiders (those outside of the church see this man with a positive estimation. He is generally thought well of as a Christian).
  • He must not be overbearing (he must not be domineering in his manner; nor should he be arrogant).
  • He must not be pursuing dishonest gain (in all of his affairs, he must be a man of integrity and conduct all his business with the highest biblical ethics).
  • He must love what is good (he delights in what is good, honorable, and praiseworthy; he takes no pleasure in the deeds of darkness).
  • He must be upright (he must be morally respectable and honorable; he lives according to the rules of the Kingdom of God).
  • He must be holy (there must be about him the evidence that he is set apart from the world and dedicated to the Lord; he is not conformed to the ways of the world).
  • He must be disciplined (he has trained himself well to adhere to the priorities of the Christian life; he maintains daily practices of Bible reading/study and prayer).
  • He must hold to the truth so that he can encourage others and refute opponents (he must have a firm grip on the great doctrines of the faith; he must be able to discern true from false doctrine; he must be able to articulate those great truths of the Bible so that others can be encouraged and opponents can be silenced).
  • He must be willing and eager to serve (he must not be conscripted or forced; he must demonstrate a joyful availability to the task; he must aspire to shepherd the people of God).
  • He must be an example (he must be the kind of person the Lord would want His children to pattern their lives after).

Other qualifications

  • In addition to the biblical qualifications listed above, elders at WCC must serve as a deacon for at least one year prior to being nominated as an elder.
  • A man may be nominated to the office of elder by anyone in the congregation and, if he has completed his year service as a deacon, he will be examined by the current elders. If he passes the examination, his name will be presented to the congregation as a nominee to the office of elder two weeks prior to an officially called meeting for an election.
  • An elder must receive at least 75% approval in the election.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • As the shepherds of the congregation elders have the responsibility of overseeing the doctrine and teaching of the church. They must approve curriculum for Sunday school, small group Bible studies and all other teaching activities.
  • They must act as shepherds of the congregation by knowing the condition of the members of WCC and actively extending pastoral care by visitation, prayer, discipleship, teaching and discipline.
  • Elders at WCC will be assigned a smaller 'flock' within the Flock. That is, they will be charged with the specific oversight of a group of 10-20 families for whom they will exercise more personal pastoral care.
  • Elders will also have the responsibility of administering the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. If willing and available, elders may preach when the church is assembled on Sunday mornings for worship.


EXPECTATIONS

  • Maintain a personal walk with the Lord and the character qualifications as set forth in I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9 and I Peter 5:1-7.
  • Maintain personal oversight of a group of 10-20 families, contacting them monthly, visiting them in their home a least once a year, and exercising pastoral care as needed (visitation when sick or ill; admonition when one is straying or caught in sin; etc).
  • He must notify the elders if he has any change of position with regards to the doctrinal statement of WCC or the Philosophy of Ministry.
  • Be faithful in attendance at worship services (75%).
  • Be involved and faithful in attending Sunday school.
  • Meet twice monthly to pray for the church and to discuss the welfare and direction of WCC.
  • Attend all all-church functions.