“Four things to think on regarding Elders”
First Published: March 11, 2008
Today, I want to consider with you the task of the elder, and how you might go about discerning it in a man. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, the Apostle Paul tells his protege, the young pastor Timothy: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul is telling Timothy to seek out and find and disciple and equip elders, who will themselves in turn seek out and disciple other people in the church.
Notice that these elders, are to be pastors, shepherds, who are reliable or faithful and who are willing and able to teach and disciple others. This is the same thing Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:2 “an overseer [meaning an elder, guide, shepherd, pastor] must be . . . able to teach.” That is, the fundamental thing that an elder must have the desire and ability to do, is to teach, to disciple. To teach the faith, the gospel, the Bible. To edify the flock with the word of life. To equip the saints for the work of service.
So how do you know whether a man has this desire and ability? How would you identify such a person? Well, here are a few ideas (several of them borrowed from my good friend Thabiti Anyabwile, who has written a great series on elders).
1. Note those men who are regularly in attendance at the church’s services (Sunday morning, Sunday evening and at the Mid-week Bible Study and Prayer Meeting), as well as Sunday School, and who are otherwise actively involved in the ministry of the church. Start with those who already show an active commitment to the ministry and who will be models of that commitment to the body.
2. Note the men who already appear to be shepherding members of the church yet without the title “elder” or “pastor.” Who are the men that care for others by visiting or practicing hospitality, giving counsel (being often sought after by others), and who participate in the teaching ministry of the church.
3. Note those men who show respect and trust in the present leadership of our elders, who work to understand the directions leadership pursue, who ask good/appropriate questions in appropriate settings, who avoid creating confusion or dissension in private and in public.
4. Note those men who have evidenced this desire over time. Don’t hesitate to ask a man whether he desires to teach and disciple others as an elder in the church. Ask him how long he has had this desire. What kindled it in him at first. And since in our church the teaching of the elders must be in accord with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, ask him about his study and understanding of, and commitment to, the theology of the Westminster Standards.
More soon. Your friend,