The Need For Elders In The Church
The topic of elders in a church, usually comes up more often in congregations who doesn’t have any. What are elders, why are they needed, who qualifies to be an elder. In this article I will try to stick to those three questions although there are many more that come up with the topic of elders.
What are elders?
I’ll be using the NKJV mostly if not in all of this article. In the context of the term “church” or “congregation” the word “Elder” is defined as “A leader or senior figure in a group”. The term “Elder” is also used interchangeably with the terms “Bishop” and “Pastor”. 1 Peter 5:1-3 uses the term “Elder” They are told to “Shepherd the flock of God and be examples to the flock. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 uses the term “Bishop” listing the qualifications of one who would take care of the house of God. Ephesians 4:11 uses the most common term “Pastor”. In these modern times “Pastor” is probably the most common and probably the most misused and misapplied.
Although it is true a pastor can be an elder or bishop they do not necessarily have to be the same thing. You can understand the world’s confusion on this when they look around and see scripturally unqualified people claiming to be “Pastor” or “Bishop” so and so. “Pastor” John Hagee for example is an adulterer who left his first wife and children and married his secretary of his original congregation and started a whole new “church” which has grown into a mega-ministry. As referenced above, 1st Timothy 3 is very clear on the qualifications of anyone claiming to be a leader of a church that’s supposed to belong to Christ. I’m not simply picking on John Hagee either. There are thousands just like him who are supposed to lead by example. As Paul told Timothy, if a man cannot run his own household well, how can the church expect him to oversee the church he is appointed to oversee? Suppose a young couple goes to their elder or pastor and the man says he wants to divorce his wife and marry another woman and start a new family? What is John Hagee or someone like him going to say? Will he read from Matthew 5 or Matthew 19? Probably not because he will have judged himself!
I can’t think of a better time in Church history that we see the need for qualified church elders, or overseers or pastors or bishops which either term you prefer. Especially in this nation of the United States the divorce rate is high. The nation’s immorality, violence, broken families, gender confusion, sexual perversion and so called churches headed into the abyss to appease the world rather than to shine as lights to expose the darkness of the world and it’s ungodly cultures. Ephesians 5:11 tells us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them.” Yet today “churches” are debating on same sex marriage, women pastors and elders, and voting on leadership positions. Nowhere in the scriptures do we read that the Church is a democracy or a representative republic like the Southern Baptist Convention. We have a King and He gave us the scriptures as our guide and we didn’t get to vote on it. Acts 2:30
If you’ve ever assembled with a church without elders, and I’m sure many of you have especially my friends, you know how it goes. There are a few who step up and do some work and every so often have a “business meeting” with the men. Personally I would have always preferred the “business meeting” be with the whole church assembly in the auditorium. I have attended these meetings where topics would come up that I couldn’t imagine why we needed to have everyone involved when we all knew who would take care of it anyway. That would be the one with the “ladder” so to speak. I’ve been in “business meetings” where I was personally being admonished on something that could have saved a lot of hurt feelings if I had been confronted with personally. I remember some Christian ladies coming to me and asking me would I bring up something in our next “men’s business meeting” that we were doing during services that would make them feel more comfortable if we could change it. It was a simple request and to this day I regret I didn’t bring it up. It was a change the “men” had made before and these ladies wanted to change it back. I was too afraid I’d “stir it up” so I never brought it up. Looking back, I should have. And it was an event I could have dumped it in an elders lap and they could have talked about it between themselves and the ladies and at least assured the ladies they were heard and not ignored.
Another example is my daughter came to me and said her teacher told her the Bible was written by men and sometimes they might be wrong. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but there was a statement in her class workbook that seemed to contradict the scripture’s description. My daughter agreed with me, the workbook can be wrong but not the scriptures.