Partnership One With Another
Chapter 4 EldersThe
concept of leadership in the church is best typified by Joshua as he
stood before the people of Israel and reminded them of God's
faithfulness. He took a personal stand for God. He said, "As for me and
my house, we will serve the Lord."
Within the nation of
Israel, there were many different kinds of leaders. In the Old
Testament, the governmental dominion over the people of God changed
The one constant throughout the history of the
people of God in the Old Testament and the Gospel period is the Elder.
An Elder in the Old Testament was a head of a household. He was the
organizer and respected spokesman for the family.
It is no
accident that the body of Christ is called the "family of God" and that
all the churches in the New Testament are "household churches."
the Old Testament a tribe was made up of many households. Each
household had their Elder. Each tribe had an Elder that was called a
Jesus Christ is the head. Each household church has an
Elder. Jesus Christ the "Head" leads by love and example. An Elder
leads by love and example.
There is a stark contrast between
the world's concept of leadership and the way of an Elder. The world's
way is understood in the Greek word katakurieuontes which is translated
"ruler" and means to "exercise dominion" over a group of lesser
The way of an Elder is that of a loving head of
the household, and is understood in the Greek word proistemi. Proistemi
is also translated rule, but means to "care for" or "maintain." An
Elder lovingly looks over and cares for his household. He does not
exercise dominion over them, but instead, by love, leads by example.
In the New Testament the Elder is also called a shepherd and the household a flock.
are several passages in the New Testament that define the role of an
Elder. The first that we are going to look at is in Acts 20. Paul calls
the Elders of the household churches, in the area of Ephesus, together
to say good-bye and to exhort them to continue to stand for God. His
instructions to Elders are: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and
to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you
overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his
own blood." Acts 20:28
A close examination of this verse is very revealing. Let's look at some of the key words:
Overseer episkopos to see over
To feed poimaino to shepherd
Flock poimnion flock of sheep
Made etheto placed
Elder is a shepherd. He is to do the work of a shepherd and feed and
care for the flock that the Holy Spirit has placed him in.
also gave instructions to the Elders: "The elders which are among you I
exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of
Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed
the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not
by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready
mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples
to the flock." I Peter 5:1-3
Let's once again look at some key words:
Elders presbuteros Elder (old)
Oversight episkopos overseeing
Lords katakurieuo exercise dominion
Ensamples tupos pattern
an understanding of the key words in Acts 20:28 and I Peter 5:1-3, we
can see that they way of an Elder is not the way of the world: "The
Elders that are among you, Shepherd the flock which you are in,
overseeing willingly, not by constraint; not exercising dominion over
them, but becoming a pattern for the flock." This is how an elder
leads. By example.
Another particularly revealing Bible
passage is I Timothy 5:17,18: "Let the elders that rule well be counted
worthy of double honour, especially they who labor in the word and
doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that
treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." I
Key words in these verses are:
presbuteros Elders, older
maintain, care for
Counted Worthy axioo to deem entitled
value, money paid
examining these three passages of scripture we can understand the role
of an Elder in the church. By biblical definition, an Elder is a head
of a household. Each local fellowship is a household in the family of
God. This is why in I Timothy 3:5, the word tells us that "if a man
know not how to care for his own house, how shall he take care of the
Church of God?"
The Elder is exhorted to shepherd the flock
that the Holy Spirit has placed him in. A shepherd does not rule by
coercion or force, but instead, leads by loving example, caring for the
flock. What is a shepherd (Elder) to feed his flock? The word of
God. He must teach. Be it by formal teaching methods or by example of
godly living, he is always teaching.
A shepherd protects the
flock from "wolves" that are sent to divide, rip, tear, and destroy the
household. He is to constantly oversee the church to be aware of needs,
and opportunities to help someone to grow and produce fruit.
Elder is to be respected by the flock. He is entitled to drink the milk
of the flock that he shepherds. An Elder that labors in the word should
be deemed entitled to double pay. (Financial support from the flock
that he shepherds. The ox that treads out the corn is not muzzled, but
is allowed to eat of the grain that it works to produce. That ox is not
allowed to wander over to the next household and eat out of their
granary. The ox must be fed from the household he serves. A muzzled ox
will soon starve to death, and produce no profit.
In the word
of God the word "elder" is synonymous with "bishop, "overseer", and
"shepherd". Each of these words is descriptive of the functions of the
Jesus Christ is the head of the body which is the
family of God. Each household that is a part of the family has at least
one Elder that functions as the head of the household. Each member of
the household should be a bond slave to God, and be busy ministering
the gift to one another.
Link to Chapter 5 By Neil Tolman