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.

    It’s true the Bible was written by men. However, the Bible was inspired by God and the workbook wasn’t. Of course my daughter did the right thing by coming to me and if we had had elders she could have come to me and the elders could have been informed and handled anything that might have been a problem. We never said anything or thought anything else about it. What if my daughter had not had me to ask about it? She may not have had church elders to ask about it but she had me. Elders may have gotten an explanation from the teacher we didn’t consider or think about. But little things like that need to be handled quickly and appropriately and that way little things won’t pile up and create a big thing. Remember Acts 18:24-26 Apollos was mighty in the scriptures but he only knew of the baptism of John. Aquilla and Priscilla took him aside and taught him “the way of God more accurately”. You see folks even the mighty might need some help sometimes and might need admonished or rebuked or disciplined even. The Church needs elders at each congregation. And there are every day events that can pop up that show us why God’s providence is better than our so called wisdom. He saw the need for Church leadership and gave us instructions for who qualifies.


  Also if you’ll notice, a congregation without elders seem to dump everything on the preacher’s lap. Preachers do play a role in leadership and by their qualification in the knowledge of scriptures they understand why. A lot of preachers earn their keep by their devotion to studying the scriptures and preparing sermons. The whole oracles of God are not simply 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 as some denominations might claim. And the gospel of Christ do not end there or else this topic of elders and Titus chapter 1 wouldn’t really matter now would it? The gospel of Christ, the good news, begins with what Paul taught them in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 but as Paul said he “delivered to you first of all that which I received”. Christ’s death and resurrection is not all that Paul received but it was the first things he received. He also received on his way to Damascus instructions on what he needed to do to wash away his sins. At some time Paul received instructions to pass on to Titus on appointing elders in every city in Crete and who qualified for Titus to appoint. Remember we cannot ignore this because if we believe Christ we believe Paul. Keep in mind 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 when someone points out the scriptures in “red” are what counts.  

 In Titus 1:1-9 Paul lays out the qualification Titus is to look for in the men he was to appoint. Verses 10-16 Paul explains to Titus why there is a need for what is lacking, which was elders. In verse 10 Paul says to begin with; “For there are many insubordinate…,” Paul says in verse 1; “whose mouths must be stopped”. And elders job would to be watchful for the insubordinate and idle talkers and deceivers etc. The elders were to “rebuke them sharply”. So we can see, that’s too much to lay on one man, the preacher, who’s job is to preach the word. Congregations should not expect the preacher to be the only one in the role of sheepherder, or to visit the sick and infirmed, check on the missing, make sure the grass is cut and the insurance is paid. And a congregation should not expect “men’s business meetings” to be done behind closed doors and leave the women out of the loop. I understand by the scriptures women are disqualified from eldership and do not have authority over the men in the assembled congregation. 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul is talking about “Authority” over the men. He’s not saying keep the women under foot and he’s not saying that they have no right to know what’s going on in the “man cave office”. Paul’s letter to Timothy is for women and men to read, we are all one in Christ. Galatians 3:28. Christian women understand this and that this is the way God established to workings of the Church. Women are not slaves, they are fellow workers in Christ. They have a role in the Church and like me they are not qualified to be elders. Although women are not the overseers of the Church and in the Church do not have leadership roles doesn’t mean the men of the congregation should treat women as if the business of the congregation is not their business too.


 There is one qualification of an elder in 1st Timothy 3:1 that I would mildly disagree with the majority interpretation, but not to the point of quarreling over. Paul says, “If a man desire the office of bishop, he desires a good work”. Most contend the desiring is a qualification. I see it as Paul simply saying If you want to be a bishop, here’s what you need to make sure your life matches up with to be qualified. Paul didn’t tell Titus to find men who desire to be elders in Crete then list the other qualifications they must meet. The Young’s Literal says if a man “longs for” the office. It proceeds in verse 2 “it behoveth therefore”, then lists the qualifications. Some men may not think much about it as they grow and are raising their family and meeting all the qualifications but simply haven’t desired or longed for the office of elder or given it a whole lot of attention. His fellow worker might have given it his thoughts for years and longs for it but is simply not approached because the other man has not mentioned his desire or lack thereof. If a congregation has at least two men who meet the qualifications one desires the office the other hasn’t thought much of it, I do believe if he was approached by the church he would take on the duty because if he meets the qualifications listed after verse 1 his desire is the good of the church and not “lordship” anyway. I see verse1 as this. Say a congregation already has two elders and another man desires or longs for that office. Then he must meet these requirements. If he doesn’t and can’t fix whatever the obstacle is, then he doesn’t meet the standard laid out by God. I do not see the “long for” or “desire for the office of bishop” as the first listed requirement. But like I said, I’m a minority opinion and I “digest” and don’t argue the point.

  Congregations have enough problems to deal with. Each congregation needs elders to oversee all of us and keep us in the green grass and from gossiping and causing strife and make sure we hear and teach and preach sound doctrine. And it is each one of our duty to make sure ourselves we are being taught sound doctrine. 1 Timothy 5:19 says we are not to even receive an accusation against an elder unless it’s before two or three witnesses. That means we shouldn’t even entertain any kind of gossip against an overseer of the Church. But if it’s between witnesses then in verse 20 take it before the church and them that have sinned rebuke before the church.

 To wrap this up read Titus chapter 1. Even if a married man with children doesn’t want to be an elder of the church he should meet all of those qualifications anyway as a Christian.

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