Qualifications of Elders
Titus 1:5-9 “5 For 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, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
Not just any man can serve as an elder—they must be qualified to do so.
Role of Elders
Simply put, a church elder is a man called by God to be an overseer and should be trained and tested before being appointed by the eldership.
Ephesians 4:11 NLT “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.”
Church elders should be primarily trained through the local church to meet the qualifications and duties of an elder. Theological and doctrinal training would be very helpful but not a pre-requisite; however, they should know the Word and also know how to apply it. Potential elders should feel called to ministry. Elders are synonymously called overseers. An overseer is one who is gifted in one or more of the Grace Gifts (Five Fold Ministry), and has authority in the church like a shepherd herds his flock. An elder shepherds the flock under his care.
So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. (Acts 20:28).
Elders should be appointed slowly, only once they have proven themselves and after much prayer, followed by the leading of the Holy Spirit. They should be removed quickly if necessary.
Men who display the fruits of an elder may be approached to see if they have felt a call to eldership. Some nominate themselves in response to a perceived call from God. After the nomination process, the leadership should begin a formal process of testing this perceived call. Ideal candidates for eldership will generally be doing the work of an elder without recognition before being appointed. If someone is not actively involved in the Church and has proven himself, he should not be considered. Often Churches appoint faithful men to eldership who have not proven themselves in ministry and are not called. This means that the Church will not function properly and growth will suffer. Strife and other problems arise. Often elders are raised up and sent out. This is very healthy if it is helping to fulfill the call on their lives.
Who should be trained as elders?
Those called by God to serve as an elder (Acts 20:28). As the church, we simply confirm God’s call. The candidate can be assessed by examining his family, financial giving to the church, performance at work, relationship with people outside the church, service in the church, spiritual gifts, ministry passions, attitude toward authority, work ethic, leadership gifts, humility, and anything and everything else related to his conversion, calling, character, courage, and competency.
The importance of eldership
The issue of which men should lead the church as elders is of extreme seriousness. Why? Simple. The reputation of the gospel in the community and the health of the church is dependent upon godly, qualified men who keep in step with Jesus, and who can lead the church to do likewise.
We encourage local churches to train the men called to serve as elders. If we fail as elders to train the next generation, then there won’t be a next generation. Your church will die if men are not trained to be responsible, loving leaders in their families and in the church.
Here are some very important areas that elders need to be strong in:
1 Tim. 2:8 “In every place of worship I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up, free from anger and controversy “
Modeling Christ-like service
Matt. 20:26-28 “But amoung you it will be different, whoever wants to be a leader amoung you must be servant”
1 Peter 5:2 “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Care for them willingly not grudgingly, not for what you can get out of it, for you are willing to serve God.”
And being practically responsible in their homes, as well as in the workplace (1 Tim. 3:4-7).
The duties of Elders
Elders are asked to do many things:
Pray and study Scripture “Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” (Acts of the Apostles 6:4 NLT)
Lead the church
1 Timothy 5:7 NLT “Give these instructions to the church so that no one will be open to criticism.”
Manage the church
1 Timothy 3:4 NLT “He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him.”
Ministry is teamwork. Elders need to appoint others to help them do what God has called them to do. This also develops followers into leaders.
Care for people in the church
1 Peter 5:2-5 NLT “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. “
Give account to God for the church
Hebrews 13:17 NLT “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.”
Live exemplary lives
Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.”
Rightly use the authority God has given them
So, guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. Acts 20:28 NLT
Teach the Bible correctly
So, an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 1 Timothy 3:2 NLT
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17 NLT
Pray for the sick
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:13-14 NLT
Teach sound doctrine and refute false teachings
He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to
encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.”Titus 1:9 NLT
Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 NLT
Rightly use money and power
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. 1 Peter 5:1-5 NLT
Protect the church from false teachers
But when we landed at Miletus, he sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet him. When they arrived, he declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears. I have endured the trials that came to me from the plots of the Jews. I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus— the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. So, guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood —over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you, night and day, and my many tears for you”. Acts of the Apostles 20:17-31 NLT
Discipline unrepentant Christians
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 NLT
Obey all the laws of the land
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:1-7 NLT
Develop other leaders and teachers
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT
Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT
Whereas the Bible charges elders with the tasks of teaching and leading the church, the deacons’ role is more service-oriented. That is, they are to care for the physical or temporal concerns of the church. By handling such matters, deacons free up the elders to focus on shepherding and the spiritual needs of the congregation.
Yet even though deacons are not the congregation’s spiritual leaders, they are still leaders in the Church, and their character is of utmost importance, which is why deacons should be examined and held to the biblical qualifications laid down in 1 Timothy 3. Sometimes pastors are over-cautious in appointing leaders. This is counterproductive. As a leader, you will be let down.
People you trust will break your trust. You will miss it. Remember you are still human even while being led by the Holy Spirit, and so are the people God sends you. Life is full of risk. No matter how well you prepare you will still make mistakes. If God has called you to do something specific you need to be bold and take a step in Faith. Learn to operate in God’s timing, not yours or anyone else’s.
The table below is a summary of the character requirements mentioned in 1 Timothy 3; 1-16 and Titus 1: 5-9
SELF CONTROL ELDER HOSPITABLE ELDER ABLE TO TEACH ELDER NOT VIOLENT BUT GENTLE ELDER NOT QUARRELSOME ELDER NOT A LOVER OF MONEY ELDER NOT A RECENT CONVERT ELDER HAS A GOOD REPUTATION ELDER WITH OUTSIDERS NOT OVERBEARING ELDER NOT QUICK-TEMPERED ELDER LOVES WHAT IS GOOD ELDER UPRIGHT, HOLY ELDER DISCIPLINED ELDER ABOVE REPROACH, BLAMELESS ELDER, DEACON HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE ELDER, DEACON TEMPERATE ELDER, DEACON RESPECTABLE ELDER, DEACON NOT GIVEN TO DRUNKENNESS ELDER, DEACON MANAGES HIS FAMILY WELL ELDER, DEACON SEES THAT HIS CHILDREN OBEY HIM ELDER, DEACON DOES NOT PURSUE DISHONEST GAIN ELDER, DEACON HOLDS TO THE TRUTH ELDER, DEACON SINCERE DEACON TESTED DEACON