This series of lessons introduces you to vision, mission, and strategy of Genesis Church. In “Experiencing Leadership” you will be introduced to the basics of elders and their biblical roles and responsibilities.
Take your Bible and turn to 1 Timothy 3:1 and you will also want to have an outline handy as well. We are in a series of messages looking at some key elements that help Genesis Church be a place for growth and ministry.
- Last week we looked at Experiencing Love and the five aspects of love. Here at Genesis we want to help you to receive love from God, to express love to God, to express love to others, to receive love from others, and to love yourself.
- This week we are looking at Experiencing Leadership and some key truths about elders and what they are to do.
Why do you need to know this? If you understand what the Bible says about eldership and leadership in the church I believe several blessing can occur in your life.
- The first blessing: You will know what to expect and not expect from the elders. One of the frustrating things in life is not receiving what you expected to receive. If the elders are leading based on what the Bible says and your expectation are on what the Bible says then our ministry and your expectations will agree.
- The second blessing: You will be able to help the church remain unified. A lot of disunity and conflict in a church is over who makes the decisions and who actually leads the church. Understanding the role, ministry, and authority of the elders as a church body will help protect the unity.
- The third blessing: You will have greater confidence in the leadership of the church. If a church has a biblical process of selecting elders based on the biblical qualifications of elders and provide solid training of the elders and if the elders are doing their job then you can have great confidence that they are seeking God and His will regarding the overall direction and protection of the church body.
- The fourth blessing: You will grow in greater understanding of the doctrine of church government. I know that it doesn’t sound exciting, but it is necessary. The Bible has many major doctrines. Some of these are the doctrine of God, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of salvation. Included in the list of major doctrines is the doctrine of the church. Within that doctrine is the doctrine of church government, which answers the questions: “Who leads the church?” When you are studying the subject of elders you are also studying the doctrine of the church.
- The fifth blessing: You will have greater insight in how to pray for the elders. The more you understand what the Bible says about elders the better you can pray for elders of your church.
We cannot look at everything about elders in the Bible in 30 minutes, but I do want you to see how elders are supposed to take care of God’s church. We are told in 1 Timothy 3:1, “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position” (NLT).
- The position of elder is “an honorable position.” Some translations describe this as a “fine work” or “noble task.” It is one that should not be taken lightly. It is a position of leadership that is appointed by the Holy Spirit. The reason this is “an honorable position” is because the elder has the responsibility of preaching and teaching the gospel, teaching the great truths of God’s Word, defending the faith, protecting the church, and helping others reach maturity in Christ. It is a position of leadership where one oversees, manages and guides a local group of believers. An elder is charged with feeding God’s church whom He paid a high price for.
- Notice the Bible says, “If someone aspires to be an elder.” Aspiring or desiring to be an elder is a good thing, but let me give you some caution here. Not everyone who “aspires to be an elder” will be an elder. After this statement in verse 1 God Word’s then gives a list of qualifications to look for in an elder.
- Then in verse 5 we are told the responsibility of an elder is to “take care of God’s church” (NLT). Here is where I want to spend our time this morning. How do elders do this? How does a group of godly men who have been given the position of elder take care of God’s church? God’s Word gives elders a lot of direction and wisdom when it comes to taking care of God’s people.
Let’s take a few minutes today and get familiar with some things God says about the function and responsibility of an elder.
Elders take care of God’s church by leading it
First, elders take care of God’s church by leading it. Eldership is God’s way of guiding a local church. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.
- In 1 Timothy 5:17 we read, “The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of an ample honorarium” (HCSB). The expectation of elders is that they lead. They discuss leadership issues for the church. They make leadership decision on behalf of the church body. Sometimes these leadership issues deal with doctrine and other times they deal with method of ministry.
- In 1 Peter 5:3 elders are given some instructions about how to lead which says, “Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example” (NLT). Elders are to practice what they preach. I like what Jeramie Rinne had to say about this in his book on Elders, “Being an example is the antidote to being a bully. When elders live and love like Jesus, they aren’t known for being arrogant or domineering. Instead, they possess a Jesus-shaped humility that gives them a moral authority to which the church willingly defers. Elders must lead by example if they hope to lead at all” (Rinne, 104).
- Then in Hebrews 13:17 we read, “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit” (NLT). This is not talking about obeying your spiritual leaders like if you were in a cult. This is spiritual leadership when it comes to the matters of church, biblical counsel, and godly advice. This is not talking about some weird blind crazy obedience. It’s the type of obedience you would give a teacher or a coach.
There are times where a local church needs to address an issue regarding a doctrinal matter or matter of method when it comes to ministry. Elders are to have key roles in those decisions.
Elders take care of God’s church by teaching it
Second, elders take care of God’s church by teaching it. Eldership is God’s way of instructing the church. God designed His church to be led by men who are able to teach the Word of God. Elders are not the only teachers in the church, but teaching is a significant responsibility that God has given them. Two important thoughts here:
- Number one, the ability to teach God’s Word is a requirement to be an elder. The qualifications of an elder are listed in 1 Timothy 3. According to verse 2 an elder “must be able to teach” (NLT). This is not referring to teaching mathematics, gardening, English, or mechanics. The elder must have the ability and skill to teach God’s truth. They must be able to explain the Word of God to others.
- Number two, the elder must have a solid grasp of God’s Word. His understanding and ability to use the Word is above normal. In Titus 1 we are given some more qualifications regarding an elder and in verse 9 we are told, “He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong” (NLT). Here’s what this means.
- The Bible says the elder “must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught.” This means he has a strong conviction that what is in the Bible is true. He believes it wholeheartedly. To the elder there is no doubt that the Bible is accurate and divine and fully inspired by God. He is convinced of the truth He teaches.
- The Bible says the elder should “be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching.” This means he is able to take God’s truth about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, heaven, hell, marriage, life, death or any other subject in the Bible and encourage and motivate others to live for God or at least to seriously consider following what Christ has to say.
- The Bible says the elder should be able to “show those who oppose it where they are wrong.” When someone is believing something that’s not Biblical or teaching something that is not biblically true the elders must be able to oppose with Biblical logic and Biblical reasoning.
The bottom line is this, eldership is one of God’s ways of teaching His truth to His people. God wants godly mature men leading and overseeing the teaching ministry of the church.
Before we move on let me add that everyone who has the spiritual gift of teaching is not an elder and you don’t have to be an elder to have the spiritual gift teaching. There are many believers who God has equipped with the gift of teaching His word that have no desire to be an elder but are excellent teachers of His word.
Elders take care of God’s church by shepherding it
Third, elders take care of God’s church by shepherding it. Eldership is one way God demonstrates His love toward the church. Look at Acts 20:28, “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – His church, purchased with His own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders” (NLT). One of the roles of the elder is to “shepherd God’s flock.”
- As shepherds, elders are to “guard” God’s flock. An elder’s job is to protect the flock from false teaching and spiritual weirdos. There are people and powers that attempt to draw people away from sound teaching and understanding of God’s Word. One of our roles is to “guard God’s people” from bad theology.
- As shepherds, elders are to “feed” God’s flock. This goes back to teaching and explaining God’s Word. One of the primary roles of elders is teaching God’s truth to the flock of God. Part of feeding the flock includes Sunday teaching, teaching and discussion in Life Groups, recommending books or resources to help you learn, trips to conferences, and offering seminars on important subjects in the future. This feeding will include teaching on major doctrines like God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, the Church, Salvation, Heaven, Hell, and Spiritual Warfare. Also this feeding may address what the Bible says about life issues such as marriage, parenting, living single, financial management, dealing with various emotions, and relationship issues. It could also include teaching through a book in the Bible.
Part of shepherding includes guarding and feeding.
Elders take care of God’s church with a plurality of pastors
Fourth, elders take care of God’s church with a plurality of pastors. God’s way of leading, teaching, shepherding, and protecting His church has never been through one man. It’s always been with a plurality of elders. When the New Testament describes actual elders functioning in churches, it speaks about them in the plural. Let’s take a brief scan of the scriptures on this. Notice that multiple elders lead each individual church.
- Acts 14:23, “Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust” (NLT). I want you to notice that it was Paul and Barnabas who appointed elders [plural] in every church. There was no church wide voting process.
- Acts 15:4, “When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders” (NLT). Again, plural.
- Acts 20:17, “But when we landed at Miletus, he [Paul] sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet him” (NLT). Notice the plurality of elders.
- Philippians 1:1, “This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons” (NLT). Just as a church would have a plurality of deacons they were to have a plurality of elders.
- Titus 1:5, “I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you” (NLT). Having elders in the church was so important that Paul left Titus behind in order to appoint elders.
- James 5:14, “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord” (NLT).
Do you see the pattern? Again and again we find elders (plural) in each church (singular). Each congregation had its own pastoral squad. It is an elementary observation, but it makes all the difference when you put it into action. Having an elder team is extremely significant for sustainable shepherding, leading, and guarding of the flock.
- An Elder team provides different skills and different emphasis.
- An Elder team shares the responsibilities.
- An Elder team makes the local congregation healthier and stronger in the long run.
What do you personally do with this type of information? All application can fall into three major categories. Application is applied to what you think, feel, and do.
- This lesson helps you to think right thoughts about church leaders. Biblical truth allows you to think truth. Now you can think more correctly about the responsibilities of elders and the plurality of those elders.
- This lesson helps you to feel right about the elders. This means you can have confidence that Genesis Church will be led by a plurality of godly men who are seeking God’s will for us as a church.
- This lesson helps you to do something for the church and the Elders. That action is prayer. Take these responsibilities of leading, teaching, and shepherding and pray for us when you think about us. We are not perfect, we make mistakes, and we don’t always do things the best way. We are learning and growing like you. We need you to pray for us.