48 Question 1

Church leadership is so important, but often misunderstood.  In 1 Timothy 3, and in Titus 1, we are given much instruction regarding the qualifications and work of the elders.  Let’s read Titus 1:4-9, “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:  If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;  Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”  In this portion we see the words ‘elders’ and ‘bishop’ being interchanged, which shows they refer to the same work and person.  In every place that we read about the work of elders in a local church, they are always mentioned in the plural sense.

What are elders?  They are the ones with a true heart for the health of the local church.  The very word, elder, shows that they are men of age.  As we read in 1 Timothy 3:6, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”  As we read from Titus, these elders have the experience of marriage and raising children, they are men of self-control.  They are hospitable, or lovers of people.  They are taught from the Word of God and are faithful to the things they have learned.

The work of an elder is taught plainly in 1 Peter 5:1-3 which says, “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.”  Notice that the work here is to feed, or nourish the local church.  The elders will not seek to lord over the Lord’s people, but will take the oversight.  As a shepherd keeps his eyes on the sheep, the elders watch out to identify and minister to the needs of those among them.

How does one serve in the capacity of an elder in the local church?  First, he must have the desire to serve as we read in 1 Timothy 3:1, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”  Notice that it is the work that he desires, not the office.  So many like to have the title, but are not willing to do the work.  Not so with the true elder, his heart is to be a servant among the Lord’s people.

Secondly, one must meet the strict qualifications that we just read about in Titus, chapter one.  These qualifications are from the Lord and must be followed if we are to have proper leadership.

Thirdly, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to give this work to men with willing hearts and the proper qualifications.  Let’s look at the language of Acts 20:28 where the Apostle Paul is addressing the elders from Ephesus.  He says, “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.”

While we can appreciate good ministry that comes from the pulpit, we need to realize that so much more is needed.  The typical church services will take only three or four hours each week.  That is just not enough time to meet the needs of the Lord’s people.  The true elders that are appointed by the Holy Spirit to serve will normally keep themselves busy throughout the week.  They will visit people in their homes, in the hospitals, and in the nursing homes.  By the example they set, they will encourage their fellow believers to follow the Lord, to show love one to another, and to be students of the Word of God.

We all share in the privilege and responsibility of ministering to each other’s needs.  Do you love the Lord?  Then, feed His sheep as we read in John 21:15-17, “So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said unto him, Feed my lambs. He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said unto him, Feed my sheep. He said unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Do you love me? And he said unto him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep.”  We look to the elders the Lord has put among us to set good examples, but ministering to the local church was never intended to be the work of one, or two, or three people.  It is the work of the entire assembly, or church, to minister to one another.  We read in 1 Peter 4:10, “As every man has received a gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”