Why Elders?


NOTE: If you are not a reader, we have an extensive series on this topic which is available in our ‘Message Archive” section. Even though it is audio it is NOT for the faint of heart. Back in those days the messages were nearly all an hour and a half long and were very, very detailed. This was necessary to bring our church out of a firmly entrenched tradition spanning many years into a scriptural view of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me first say that we are not a mainstream denomination church. Not that I dislike denominations in particular, it simply does not represent who we are as a church in any meaningful way.

Most people today are not familiar with Elder lead churches and those that are, typically believe they represent a main denomination like the  Eastern OrthodoxyRoman CatholicsAnglicans or  Methodists.

For nearly 20 years our “church” was a female led, single Pastor church which functioned like an odd conglomerate of a home church, run like a Baptist church with “Word of Faith”-like teachings which met in a home. Yes, we were a sight!

Around 2005 we began to re-examine our understanding of ‘Elders’. We did this because our church had elders, but much of what we did (I was one) didn’t seem to line up with what the New Testament taught about them.

One day, I was challenged on the stereo-typical idea of a “Pastor” in the Western world’s understanding of the role. I took the challenge fully confident that I would discover that we had been right all along. Wow was I surprised!

Not long into my studies I began to run into a real dilemma  – I could only find the word “Pastor” ONE TIME in my entire Bible and that was in Jeremiah 17:6 which is clearly before the church age. So I looked for the word “Pastors”, only to find that Jeremiah was the one place where the word “Pastors” was repetitively used as well and in which it meant NOTHING like what the western world typifies as the position, role and authority of a Pastor in a church.

The only other location of the word “Pastors” other than Jeremiah was in Ephesians 4:11,

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,”

While I was surely glad to find it in my New Testament, it seemed like a crazy small reference to what has become the predominate role of authority in the Christian church. This appeared to me to be little more than a footnote on a topic about which we have assigned volumes of unscriptural significance. I was getting upset!

As I studied further I found that the “concept” of “shepherding” God’s people enjoys a much stronger and well documented basis in Scripture. All such references of shepherding however, were attached to other and less familiar titles like….Bishop, Elder, Presbyter, Overseer, Ruler as well as our single referenced Pastor in Ephesians.

For sake of brevity and clarity our church has singled out the word ‘elder’ as the given title, as will I throughout the greatest portion of this article.

In the end I discovered several things which I will bullet point for you here, but which the study below illustrates in detail from the scriptures.

  • The New Testament Church didn’t seem to like titles that much. In fact the title “Apostle” was only used in order to convey authority and calling, but was NOT used in addressing people. No one, for example, referred to Paul as Apostle Paul. Even in the other letters and in Acts, Paul is simply called “Paul”. This is a practice to which I believe we should all return.
  • The terms used for “church leaders” were more focused on what they did than a set title could offer.
  • All church leaders where men – yes I said men – No I am not a bigot! I served under a female for 20 years and would still be doing so if I had not found what I did in the scriptures. In the end, I found the reason behind God’s decision on this matter and it changed my heart from angry to amazed as it will yours if you have ears to hear.
  • Elders became the local expression of God’s authority in the early church and were only answerable to Apostles of the first century due to their ecclesiastical authority given them by Christ Himself to bind and loose  (declare lawful or unlawful) doctrinal truths for the church which were to be binding on all successive generations. From the time of the last Apostle of the Lamb (those delegated with binding and loosening authority), elders have been THE established leaders in local assemblies.
  • Elders ALWAYS led churches as a group of co-equals in authority but with a wide range of giftings. NO CHURCH in the first century ever had a single elder leading an entire church – it simply did not exist! This distortion did not happen until the death of the last Apostle. Ironically, Protestants even in the original “charter” included the idea of a single “minister” amid a group of elders and deacons. Unwittingly this charter was creating a church polity which is not supported in scripture and through which modern protestants have returned to a hierarchy which is largely in step with the Catholic polity they were protesting.
  • Elders are NOT subject to the church, they lead the church. Each individual elder is in fact subject to the other elders and to verified accusations from the congregation brought to the elders concerning areas of sin or poor conduct.
  • Elders are given authority from God to provide a spiritual covering for those of the Lord’s sheep who He has entrusted to them. This is NOT a priesthood through which the congregation has access to God. Each true believer stands righteous and thoroughly equitted by total reliance upon the finished work of Christ. This however, does not negate God’s design for spiritual leadership in His church as clearly outlined in the New Testament scriptures.
  • Ultimately, elders both ARE and WILL BE held accountable to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ Himself for how they execute the duties and responsibilities of their office. As Peter put it,

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” ~ 1Peter 5:1-4

Below is nothing more than an largely unedited version of the outline we developed in our study on elders back in 2009.

Elders study notes:

Interchangeable words for Elders:

  • Presbytery – I Tim. 4:14
  • Bishops – Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7; I Peter 2:25
  • Overseer – Titus 1:6,7; Acts 20:28
  • Shepherd – I Peter 2:25

Immediately you may ask two questions:

  1. How do we know these all refer to the same office?
  2. Why not use one – single word, rather than so many for the same office?

Good questions!

As for question #1 – STUDY. These notes should help.

As for question #2 – We do the same thing.

Examples – Dad, father, papa, daddy, pa, pop, “my old man”…etc.

Are these terms confusing to you? Probably not.

Might they be confusing 2,000 years from now on another continent to people foreign to our language and culture? Probably so.

THERE’s your answer!

Furthermore, I think the early church attempted to steer away from stiff formalities. They did not want the focus to be so much on the one with the title as to the office they held.

Also, as you will see later in these notes, some of these titles (like those above for a father) are not so much intended to identify the technical office as it was to magnify a particular function within that office.

In our above example we have:

  • Father – a formal title of respect and honor.
  • Dad – still respectful, but more familiar. It magnifies the sense of “belonging to or with”.
  • Daddy – still the same guy, but indicates a level of abandonment to his strength and of holding him in intimate closeness of heart.
  • Old man – Far less respectful and can even be derisively used. However, based upon the relationship – esp. if between a father and son who work closely with each other among common friends – it can be simply a fun loving expression of endearment.

In scripture I will offer one further example:

  • Son – In the Greek, the word huios is used not to express the father or mother / son relationship so much. In fact, in some places it is used to express that the son has taken on the very heart, nature and character of his father. This word is never used of a mother/son relationship.

It is the word the Father used of Jesus – For to which of the angels did God ever say, “MY SON ART THOU: I HAVE THIS DAY BECOME THY FATHER;” and again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM, AND HE SHALL BE MY SON”? (Hebrews 1:5 WNT)

(So the relationship between the words listed above for elder  may not always be obvious to you an English speaking American 2000 years after they were originally written, but it was to those who spoke and read Greek.)

In I Peter 2:25For you were like sheep that kept going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

The words Shepherd and Overseer though joined by a conjunction are actually pointing out two predominate roles of the same office. The word Shepherd being the same word used for Pastor in Ephesians 4 (#G4166 – Poimen).

What the shepherd does and who they are – are synonymous. In fact, there are three words connected with this entire role of shepherding they are: Shepherd, Feed & Flock – ALL OF WHICH are derivations of the same Greek Word.

  • Shepherd – (#G4166 Poimen) Shepherd, one who generally cares for, watches over, provides for the welfare of their flock.
  • Feed – (#G4165 Poimaino) To Shepherd (the act of dong your job as a shepherd). To feed, care for, provide for in a spiritual sense.
  • Flock – (G#4168 Poimnion) In the New Testament this is only applied in the spiritual sense, and simply means – a flock.

Notice that the passage says “Shepherd AND Overseer”. The Word overseer is the Greek word episkopos #G1985 – and means – a superintendent, overseer or prefect.

This is the same word used in I Peter 5:2, when Peter tells the Elders to take the “oversight” (because it refers to the action or work of an overseer. So this word is in its verb form – #G1983 episkopeo) and to FEED (#G4165) the Flock (#G4168).

This is the most obvious place where the scriptures reveal that the job of an elder, pastor, bishop, presbyter, overseer, ruler are all the same office. However, there is one more reference of particular note found in Acts 20 where Paul calls together the Elders of the church of Ephesus. He tells them in verse 28,

“Pay attention to yourselves and to the entire flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to be shepherds of God’s church, which He acquired with His Own blood.”

Not to get off topic, but this verse establishes many things.

  1. Elders are to PAY ATTENTION to themselves and the ENTIRE FLOCK.
  2. The Flock is under their care and oversight as Shepherds.
  3. They are ordained by the Holy Spirit (indicating that when Paul left Titus in Crete to ordain elders in every city – that the Holy Spirit was the One Who lead Titus in this duty even as the Apostles and Elders were led by the Holy Spirit to ordain Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:2)
  4. The local assembly belongs to God NOT the shepherds – they are acting on His behalf.

So, in order to put this all together I want us to look a little more exhaustively at these words.

After having conducted a study over the course of 9 months I could have addressed this on my own, but I thought it better to refer to an expert in Biblical Greek. The Greek dictionary I reference treatment of this word is so comprehensive and well written, I thought it wise to simply quote from its work. Not to mention it carries more authority in that Dr. Spiros Zodhiates is an emenantly qualified Greek-American Bible scholar, a recognized authority on the Greek New Testament, a published author of 200 English works and 82 Greek works most of which were in-depth word-by-word commentaries on the books of the New Testament including the one I am directly quoting from, namely ‘The Complete Word Study Disctionary.*

This is the entire entry on the word ‘episkopos‘ which is #G1985 in the Strong’s numbering system.

In the NT, #G1985 (episkopos) is used of officers in the local churches, overseers, superintendents. The epískopoi (Acts 20:28), are charged with exercising watchful care over God’s church (cf. 1Peter 5:2). In Phil. 1:1 the title “elders” (presbúteroi [G4245]), is used in place of epískopoi and are mentioned along with the deacons (diákonoi [G1249]). In 1Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:5, Titus 1:7, an elder denotes the dignity of the office, and epískopos, bishop or overseer, denotes its authority and duties (cf. 1Peter 2:25; 1Peter 5:1-2, 1Peter 5:4).

In the NT, bishop (epískopos) and elder (presbúteros) are two names for the same official, which implies that the official function of episcopacy or eldership existed from NT times (see Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28). Bishops and elders are never joined together in contrast to bishops and deacons, which are separate classes of officials. In Phil. 1:1, the translation uses the def. art. before bishops and deacons, but in the Greek there is no art.:

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with bishops and deacons.”

Reference is made here to those saints who were functioning as overseers (bishops) and those who were functioning as servants (deacons).

If elders were a separate order of individuals governing the local church, why would they be left out?

1 Timothy refers to bishops and deacons (1Tim. 3:2, 1Tim. 3:8), giving the qualifications of both. It makes no mention of elders, even though 1Tim. 5:17 expressly refers to them, indicating that there certainly were elders at Ephesus (who had been there according to Acts 20:17 for some time).

In Titus 1:5, we have elders, but Paul continues to describe the characteristics of an elder by referring to a bishop (Titus 1:7). The bishops described to Timothy (1Tim. 3:2), the elders of 1Tim. 5:17, and those of 1Peter 5:2, have the same pastoral functions as the elders of Acts 20:17 (cf. Acts 20:28, where they are called bishops).

Similarly, in Titus 1:5, the elders are used synonymously with the bishops as being engaged in the pastoral duty of teaching (Titus 1:9).

It is evident that same persons are called bishops and elders (Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5, Titus 1:7). As we have already pointed out, an elder denotes the dignity of the office, and a bishop (or overseer) denotes the duties and authority of the office.

The Apostles did not introduce distinct officials to be their successors, such as bishops. Churches were governed by a council of elders.

In Titus 1:5, it is apparent that the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete as a nonresident apostolic delegate to set in order things that were amiss. For the prominent and local administration of the church on the island of Crete, Paul asks Titus to appoint elders in every city. In this verse, the word translated “ordain” is katastḗsēs, the aor. subjunctive of kathístēmi (G2525), to constitute, designate, appoint. He was not acting as a bishop but as an apostolic delegate appointing elders who in verse 7 are called bishops. These bishops were elders of local churches who together comprised presbyteries (presbutérion [G4244], council of elders) each superintending area churches.

The term bishop denotes a superior or inspector, but tells us nothing of what he supervises or inspects. It may be buildings, or business, or men. In the NT, it means an overseer of men in reference to their spiritual life, and is closely connected with the idea of shepherding.

1Peter 2:25 refers to Jesus Christ as “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” This indicates that He who is the shepherd is also the overseer of the entire flock.

To the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17), Paul commands “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock [poímnion {G4168}], over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers [episkópous] to feed [poimaínei, aor. act. inf. of poimaínō {G4165}, to shepherd] the church of God, which He hath purchased with His Own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Only once in the NT is shepherd or pastor [poimḗn {G4166}] used of Christian ministers (Eph. 4:11), and it is in conjunction with teachers. (The expression “pastors and teachers” is governed by one article and probably represents a single class of people, teachers, of which pastors are a specialized class.)

The word “pastor,” however, is used of Christ (Heb. 13:20; 1Peter 2:25; 1Peter 5:4 [cf. John 10:11, John 10:14]).

The term epískopos, overseer or bishop, having been used of Christ as “the overseer of souls,” would be naturally used of those of His ministers who in a special way continued in this work; and it is more probable that the Christian use of the title arose in this way rather than being adopted in imitation of the secular epískopos in a city.

Neither bishops, elders, nor deacons appear in the lists of ministers and ministerial gifts in Rom. 12:6-8, Eph. 4:11, or 1Cor. 12:28-30. This, however, does not prove that Paul did not know or care about such officials. Where such officials existed, they were as yet only local ministers, and there was no need to mention them in speaking of gifts to the church as a whole.

Timothy and Titus were not appointed monarchical bishops. They were temporary delegates or representatives of Paul in Ephesus or in Crete. They became unwitting forerunners of the monarchical bishops which came around after the death of the apostles but they were NOT the first examples of them.

Neither is it probable that the “angels” of the Seven Churches (Rev. 1-3) be regarded as the bishops of those churches.

That James was the monarchical bishop of the church in Jerusalem is mere conjecture, as is also true of the elder in the epistle of 3 John. There is no instance of the monarchical episcopate in the NT. It was established in Asia Minor before A.D. 100 and had become widespread in Christendom by A.D. 150. Furthermore, it has no basis in the teaching or the practice of the early church.

Bishops and elders have the same referent, the ordination of one applies to the other.

In Acts 14:23 we find that it was the Apostles themselves who ordained (cheirotonéō [G5500], laying on or stretching hands over) elders in each church.

The elders in Crete were appointed by Titus (Titus 1:5), and, apparently, the bishops at Ephesus by Timothy in like manner, though 1Tim. 5:22 does not seem to be especially concerned with the matter.

They were formally instituted at the designation of the apostolic delegates without necessarily excluding popular confirmation. The elders were already attached to the Apostle, even in the conveyance of special gifts.

Paul thus writes to Timothy, Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by [diá {G1223}, through] prophecy [i.e., authoritative declaration], with [metá {G3326}, accompanied by] the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (elders)” (1Tim. 4:14).

2Tim. 1:6 refers to the gift of God in Timothy and speaks of it as being in him “by the putting on of my hands.” Here the prep. is diá, meaning “through”, as in 1Tim. 4:14.

This was the primary ordination of Timothy by the Apostle Paul. When, however, the non-local ministry of such men as Timothy and Titus died out, the local council of elders (the presbytery) would act alone in the institution of local elders or bishops and also deacons.

The biblical evidence is that in the institution of local officers of a church, there was first designation and then institution by prayer with its symbolic accompaniments of laying on of hands and fasting. Thus, the local function was by popular election while the non-local function, such as that held by Barnabas and Paul, was purely by the will of the Holy Spirit as indicated by Acts 13:2, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

The duties of elders and bishops:

General superintendents. In Act 20:28, referring to the elders of verse seventeen and to the bishops of verse twenty- eight, Paul says, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock.” This indicates a mutual superintendence among the elders and an overseeing of the entire flock. The word here is poímnion (G4168), the entire group of believers. What follows in this verse indicates the supremacy of the call of the Holy Spirit to such an office, “over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The verb translated “hath made you” is étheto, 2d aor. mid. indic. 3d person of títhēmi (G5087), to place, set.

Above everything, it was the Holy Spirit, not the church, placing these men into office. Their duty was the general care of the flock, especially, though not exclusively, teaching the word of God. While elders must be apt to teach, not all will do this as their primary ministry. There seems to be a distinction made in favor of those elders who labor in word and teaching as expressed in 1Tim. 5:17, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.” The words translated as “that rule well” is proestṓtes, perf. part. of proḯstēmi (G4291), to stand before.

These had earned this position of standing over others because of their teaching. The part. indicates that these are not new elders, but those who have been in good standing for some time and have distinguished themselves by their example and teaching. Such deserve double honor.

This has reference to any elder who exercises any duty, even other than that of the teaching and the ministry of the word, of which ample evidence is given to us by the word málista (G3122), especially.

There may be elders who have excelled among other elders in services other than the ministry of the word, but those who labor in the word especially deserve or are counted worthy of double honor. Undoubtedly, reference is here to the teaching elders with the expression “they who labor in the word and doctrine.” The exact translation is,

“Those who are laboring in word [perhaps gospel preaching, evangelism] and teaching [catechizing, expositing].” (a.t.)

In Titus 1:9, the work of the bishop is designated as holding fast the faithful or trustworthy word according to the accepted doctrine. The bishop is described as a man who can refute false doctrine and exhort or comfort (parakaléō [G3870]) through the teaching of sound doctrine even those who are opposed to that doctrine. He is a man who must reprove those who speak in contradiction to sound doctrine. In 1Peter 5:2, the command is “feed the flock.” The word is poimánate, aor. imper. of poimaínō (G4165), to shepherd, pastor. It takes in all the activities of shepherding and especially feeding (bóskō [G1006]) the flock. The elders are to give all-around care for the flock as well as to teach them. In 1Tim. 3:5, we read, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” The verb translated “rule” in this verse, as well as in 1Tim. 3:4, is proḯstēmi (G4291), to lead, rule. In 1Tim. 3:3, the bishop is said to rule over his family well, and that manner of ruler-ship is understood in verse five. The word which is translated “take care of” is epimelḗsetai, fut. of epimeléomai (G1959), to show concern over. This word indicates a general care of the church of God and not simply preaching.

1Cor. 12:28 uses two words which indicate two of the gifts which are necessary in a local church, namely kubernḗseis (pl. of kubérnēsis [G2941]), governments, and antilḗmpseis (pl. of antílēmpsis [G484]), helps, which must refer to the functions of local elders.

In Eph. 4:11, we find that the Lord Jesus also gave the gifts of pastors and teachers which means pastors whose ability and special function is to preach. These can do the best job of preaching and teaching only if there are other elders in the local congregation who fill the other functions which meet the variety of needs of the flock.

In 1Thess. 5:12, Paul asks that those who labor and rule in the Lord must be loved especially for their work.

In Rom.12:6-8, Paul gives the different ministries for which the gifts are given and one of them is that of teaching.

In Heb. 13:7, Heb. 13:17, Heb. 13:24, they are called hēgoúmenoi (pres. part. of hēgéomai [G2233], to lead), leaders. Thus the elders or bishops must have leadership gifts.

In Acts 15:6, we find that the Apostles (the non-local leaders) and the elders gathered together to discuss the teaching of those who taught the heresy of the Pharisees, demanding that believers be circumcised. When Paul and others were received in Jerusalem, it was not only by James but also by all the elders (Acts 21:18). The cooperation of the elders with the apostles is also indicated in 1Tim. 4:14.

A distinct function of bishops or elders is teaching: “apt to teach” or capable of teaching (1Tim. 3:2); “they who labor in the word and doctrine” (1Tim. 5:17). Titus 1:9 refers to both teaching and counseling as well as exhortation.

Pastoral care.

This includes visiting the sick (James 5:14) and offering hospitality and caring for the poor (1Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8).

Syn.: presbúteros (G4245), elder; poimḗn (G4166), shepherd; diákonos (G1249), minister.

Description of an Elder:

Elders take the oversight of a local assembly of believers, by appointment by God.

Though they are called rulers – they are not to be confused with the same term often used in the Gospels for rulers – those were the rulers of the Jews- the Chief magistrates and did not stand in a comparable office to the Elders in a Church assembly. In the Hellenized Jewish religion of Jesus & the disciple’s days, they had appointed rulers (or chief magistrates) who where separate from elders [see Acts 4:5, 4:8].

The members of the Jewish Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, generally (Acts 24:1). One of the classes of members to which the chief priest and the scribes and the elders belonged (Matt. 26:57). More often, however, the group is mentioned as the chief priests and the scribes and the elders (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 26:3; Matt. 27:41; Mark 8:31; Mark 11:27; Mark 14:43, Mark 14:53; Mark 15:1; Lk. 9:22; Lk. 20:1); also chief priests and elders, in the pl. (Matt. 21:23; Matt. 26:47, Matt. 26:59; Matt. 27:1, Matt. 27:3, Matt. 27:12, Matt. 27:20; Matt. 28:11-12; Lk. 22:52; Acts 4:23; Acts 23:14; Acts 25:15); the elders and the scribes (Acts 6:12); the rulers (árchontes [G758]) of the people and the elders of Israel (Acts 4:5, Acts 4:8).

The elders of Christian churches (also known as presbyters due to the Greek word translate as elder – presbuteros), to whom was committed the direction and government of individual churches, and is a Greek word which is equal to epískopos (G1985), overseer, bishop (Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:2, Acts 15:4, Acts 15:6, Acts 15:22-23; Acts 16:4; Acts 20:17 [cf. Acts 20:28]; Acts 21:18; 1Tim. 5:17; Titus  1:5; James 5:14; 1Peter 5:1). In the sing., presbúteros (1Tim. 5:19; II Jn. 1:1; III Jn. 1:1)

How they become Elders

By ordination (being appointed) – Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5

Qualification of:

  • I Tim. 3:1-7
  • Titus 1:6-9

Responsibilities of:

  • They received provisions from other churches on behalf of the assembly – Acts 11:30

(In this passage Paul was still being called Saul. He and Barnabas where still deacons at this point – they were not appointed Apostles until Acts 13:2 – the book of acts is a historical narrative and therefore lists events in chronoloical sequence.)

  • Settling disputes – particularly concerning doctrine – Acts 15:2-21.

NOTE: It seems to be suggested that matters of doctrine, once agreed upon by the Apostles and elders would be presented to church assembly, prior to commissioning the propagation of such doctrine to other assemblies. This is eluded to by the sudden inclusion of the approval of the WHOLE CHURCH to send letters back by Paul & Barnabas – Acts 15:22.

  • To judiciously determine and ordain doctrine or decrees (G1378 dogma) as lawful or unlawful to preach – Acts 16:4
  • The ones to whom visitors and messengers come with words or instructions. They are the ones within a local assembly who meets with, and gives and receives instructions from others outside of the local assembly on behalf of the local assembly – Acts 20:17

It is uncertain whether or not the Apostles who where sent out from a local assembly reported back to the apostles of that area or the elders or both.

In this case, Paul & Barnabas came to James (who is only referred to in scripture as an Apostle – never as a Pastor or an Elder – though he could probably been considered in this capacity) and the elders where present.

It is unclear if the elder JUST HAPPENED to be there or if that was one of the groups to who they were particularly seeking to address with the success of thier mission of carrying decrees to the Gentiles. – Acts 21:18

  • To rule or administrate- I Tim. 5:17,18

“Elders who handle their duties well should be considered worthy of (deemed entitled to) double compensation, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox while it is treading out grain,” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

Titus 1:7

“Because an Overseer is God’s administrator, he must be blameless. He must not be arrogant or irritable. He must not drink too much, be a violent person, or use shameful ways to make money.” – ISV

  • Pray for the sick – James 5:14
    • Sub note – Obviously the elders need to maintain a high level of personal trust in God in order to meet out this commission. Their personal relationship to Him must be deep, sincere and abiding – not fluctuating from day to day – “No Novice”. Furthermore they must be those who by study, careful reflection and sincere diligence to their office have given themselves up for the people – loving them and allowing themselves to be convinced and steered by the Love God has for them as HIS SHEEP. I know of no other way in which a person in a church could come to the elders at a moment’s notice, requiring prayer in absolute trust for healing and it be successful. God sees through pretension and shallow illusions to due diligence. This passage offer us no hope that prayers from such individuals or of such a faithless sort will have any improving effect on this sick member of the church.
  • Feed the local flock – I Peter 5:2
  • Take the oversight voluntarily/willingly – NOT BY CONSTRAINT orUNDER COMPULSION – I Peter 5:2.
    • Not FOR money, but willingly – I Peter 5:2
  • Do not rule in a manner which domineers them or seeks to subdue them, as dictatorial and overbearing persons. Not bossy. Not as Masters over what belongs to God, knowing He has placed them within your care.
  • Set an example which can be followed by those committed to your care. (i.e. –2Thess. 3:7  “For you yourselves know that it is your duty to follow our example. There was no disorder in our lives among you, nor did we eat any one’s bread without paying for it, but we laboured and toiled, working hard night and day in order not to be a burden to any of you. This was not because we had not a claim upon you, but it arose from a desire to set you an example–for you to imitate us.
  • Be humble to and with those under your charge – 1Peter 5:5.

“In a similar way, you young people must be submissive to the elders. All of you must put on the apron of humility before one another, because “God opposes the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble.”

Assemblies responsibilities towards:

I Thess. 5:12, 13,

“Brothers, we beg you to love, show respect for, care for and take interest in those who weary themselves in labor among you and have the oversight concerning you in the Lord and admonish and warn you, approving of them in your hearts and showing your appreciation for their example and oversight.

Hold them in the highest regard and deserving of love for the sake of their work, and be at peace amoung yourselves.”

1Timothy 5:19-22,

“Never entertain an accusation against an Elder except on the evidence of two of three witnesses. Those who persist in sin reprove in the presence of all, so that it may also be a warning to the rest. I solemnly call upon you, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels, to carry out these instructions of mine without prejudice, and to do nothing from partiality. Do not ordain any one hastily; and do not be a partaker in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.”

2Thess. 3:7,

“For you yourselves know that it is your duty to follow our example.

1Peter 5:5,

“In a similar way, you young people must be submissive to the elders. All of you must put on the apron of humility before one another, because “God opposes the arrogant, but gives grace to the humble.”

Other points of interest:

Unless the word is used in reference to an Apostle, I have found NO references to a single elder operating alone in an assembly. However, even the Apostles where commissioned by Christ to go out by twos, Paul & Barnabas being a prominent example. So it is questionable whether even the Apostle/Elders ever operated alone.

Examples of Apostle/Elders used in the singular:

The Apostle Peter referred to himself as an elder in I Peter 5:1,

The elders who are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, . . . – Webster

Notice he is addressing the elders (plural) and calls himself an elder.

The Weymouth translation offers some further insight:

“So I exhort the Elders among you–I who am their fellow Elder. . .”.

Notice that he lists himself as one of the fellow-elders and not a superior breed of elder like a “Head-elder” or “Arch-Bishop” – just a fellow elder.

Weymouth astutely derives this wording from the Greek word used here which is sumpresbuteros G4850, which is essentially the word presbuteros with the prefix sun(G4862) meaning together with – so taken together they mean “an elder together with you” rather than a chief elder who presides over you as you preside over the assembly.

It is also interesting that Jesus called (invited) him into this capacity one the sea shore after His resurrection. The problem is that it is obscured by language we would not traditionally think of as representing an elder, but once you understand the intended meaning of Jesus’ words – His commission to Peter becomes clear.

“This was now the third occasion on which Jesus showed Himself to the disciples after He had risen from among the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love [agape] Me more than these others do?”

“Yes, Master,” was his answer; “you know that you are dear to me.”

“Then feed my lambs,” replied Jesus.

Again a second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love [agape] Me?”

“Yes, Master,” he said, “you know that you are dear to me.”

“Then be a shepherd to my sheep,” He said.

A third time Jesus put the question: “Simon, son of John, am I dear to you [phileo]– are you fond of Me and share in my affections and interests] ?”

It grieved Peter that Jesus asked him the third time, “Am I dear to you?”

“Master,” he replied, “you know everything, you can see that you are dear to me.”

“Then feed my much-loved sheep,” said Jesus.” – (John 21:14-17) – Weymouth

Rather than offering a lengthy exposition on this passage, I will quote it to you again from Wuest, who does a great job of blending an explanation of the individual words by way of translation,

“Then when they had breakfast, Jesus says to Simon Peter,

‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you have a love for me called out of your heart by My preciousness to you, a devotional love that impels you to sacrifice yourself for me? Do you consider Me more precious and thus love Me more than these [fish]?’

He says to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, as for You, You know positively that I have an emotional fondness for You.’

He says to him, ‘Be feeding My little lambs.’

He says to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you have a love for me called out of your heart by My preciousness to you, a devotional love that impels you to sacrifice yourself for me? Do you consider Me more precious and thus love Me more than these [fish]?’

He says to Him, ‘Yes, Lord. As for You, You know positively that I have a friendly feeling for You.’

He said to him, ‘Be shepherding My sheep.’

He says to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you have friendly feeling and affection for me?’

Peter was grieved that He said to him the third time, Do you have a friendly feeling and affection for Me? And he said to Him, ‘Lord, as for You, all thinigs you know positively. You know from experience that I have a friendly feeling and affection for You.’

Jesus says to him, ‘Be feeding My sheep.’

If this does not show that Peter – even though an Apostle, was also to be an elder – I do not know what would.

In Jesus’ statement He was calling Peter out – now that Peter had been forgiven his verbal denial of Christ, and his wounds of disassociating himself from Christ had begun to heal – Jesus encourages him that his calling is to come out of himself and love and give himself up entirely to the interests of his Lord and His sheep.

In His statement Jesus masterfully outlines the responsibilities and duties of an elder in three simple statements – they amount to:

  1. Have oversight and manage My flock at large.
  2. Feed and care affectionately for My little, young and tender-hearted lambs.
  3. Feed and care for My maturing sheep.

In the Johannine epistles 2 & 3, John calls himself an elder (singular).

He wrote in II Jn. “to the elect lady and her children.” which there is not a scholar today who has any idea who this is referring to unless “the elect lady” is Jerusalem (Israel) and the children are the Jewish converts to Christ.

In III Jn. John addressed a close friend, “The elder to his dear friend Gaius…”.

All other usages are in the plural which is evidenced by the other references listed above.

*About The Complete Word Study Dictionary

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Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!