Wisdom. Leadership. Guidance.
The Bible talks about six roles that an elder should fill. Here are a few to consider:
1) Teaches biblical truth. (Galatians 6:6; I Timothy 5:17; Titus 1:9)
Jesus told his disciples to do 2 things: make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) and to teach those disciples to obey God’s commands (Matthew 28:20)
2) Behaves like Jesus. (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6; I Thessalonians 2:10-12; I Peter 5:1-4)
Actions speak louder than words. The Bible emphasizes over and over the importance of demonstrating Christ-like qualities like purity in speech, life, love and faith. (I Timothy 4:12)
His life looks like Christ’s because he pursues righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (I Timothy 4:12)
He should demonstrate the fruit of the spirit in his life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)
3) Makes sure the church teaches truth. (I Corinthians 15:1-8; Titus 1:9)
Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “be on guard” regarding those who would “arise and distort the truth.” (Acts 20:28-31)
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul says that elders should “be able to teach.” (I Timothy 3:2) In his second letter, he said they should demonstrate the “fruit of the spirit” while confronting people who are making mistakes about doctrine. (II Timothy 2:23-26 and Ephesians 4:15)
Titus 3:10-11 says, “Warn a person once, then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”
4) Disciplines unruly believers. (Galatians 6:1-2; I Corinthians 5; Titus 3:10)
Elders are responsible for helping church members follow Jesus. Sometimes, this means having hard conversations. It can mean: warning, intervening, dealing with personal offenses and more.
5) Oversees financial matters. (Acts 11:29-30; II Thessalonians 3:10-12)
The first reference to elders actually talks about financial responsibility. This means adopting and overseeing a yearly budget that reflects the priorities of the church so that the church uses its resources wisely and effectively in carrying out its mission- making and growing followers of Jesus Christ.
6) Prays for sick people. (James 5:13-16)
James tells us to ask the elders for prayer when we need physical, psychological and spiritual healing in our lives. This responsibility suggests that the elders know the members of their church personally, that they sincerely care for them and that they can maintain confidentiality when they need to.
The Bible says yes. In I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, you can find lists of qualifications for being an elder:
-has a good reputation in – and outside the church
-is a moral and faithful “one-woman” man
-shows balance in words and action
-is prudent / self-controlled
-is a good role model
-able to teach
-is not given to drunkenness
-is not addicted to substances
-is not a self-centered or controlling person
-is not quick tempered
-is not an abusive person
-is gentle (a sensitive, kind and loving person)
-is not materialistic
-manages his own household well
-pursues godly activities
-is wise, discerning, non prejudiced, and fair
-is devout (holy and righteous)
-is not a new Christian
Every church has a slightly different methodology. The apostles appointed the first elders in Acts 14:23. Paul asked Titus to ordain elders in Titus 1:5.
Somewhere along the line, churches started voting, but there isn’t any biblical support for that model.
At The Hills Church, we pray for the future elders of our church first. We ask God to help us find men who fit the characteristics we see in the Bible.
Then we nominate men from each campus who reflect these characteristics. The current elders look at all the nominations. They pray and fast, and they ask the men nominated who are the most qualified to do the same before ordaining them before the church.
There is no direct biblical reference for how many elders there should be or how they should be organized.
At The Hills Church, the eldership consists of: a board of directors and an operating committee. The board of directors is another name for the general eldership and includes all currently active elders. The operating committee is selected by the board of directors for a three-year term and is comprised of elders representing each campus, plus the executive and teaching minister.
The operating committee is the “business” side of leading the church. They sign most contracts, hire staff, approve spending, and other similar tasks.
All elders pray, encourage and guide church members.
There are three synonyms in the New Testament for the men who acted as spiritual leaders in the local church.
All three of these describe one basic job: giving overall direction to the church.
Elders (presbuteros): Literally means “one who is older.” In the early years of Christianity, spiritual leaders in local churches were usually called “elders.”
(Acts 11:29-30; 14:23; 15:2-6; 16:4 and James 5:14)
Overseers (episkopos): Literally means “one who looks after.” As Paul and his fellow missionaries started churches in areas with lots of non-Jews, spiritual leaders were eventually called “overseers” or “bishops.”
(1 Timothy 3:1-2)
Pastors (poimaino): Literally means “shepherd” or “one who feeds and cares for sheep.”