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Sunday, August 20, 2017 am                                                Church 2017 Index

 

THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH 2017
Leaders (3) – Elders
What are the qualities of an elder?

 

We are in the midst of a brief (and concise) study of leaders in the Lord’s church.  We have begun examining elders by noting their appointed role and last week by noting what their work is.   Today, we want to briefly note the qualifications (or qualities) necessary for one to be appointed and serve as an elder.  This will involve 2 lessons considering the importance of this subject.  

This is not an easy subject as we notice qualities, some of which have a degree of subjective interpretation.  Many congregations struggle with appointing elders based upon what Paul told Timothy and Titus.   Churches have divided, preachers have been fired, brethren have behaved badly in dealing with these issues and congregations have remained without elders rather than deal with it.  But, as we have seen, it is God’s desire that there be elders overseeing the congregation (cf. Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5, etc.).

 I.                     Thoughts About Appointing Godly Men

a.       They NEED to be qualified. But just because it is God’s desire that every congregation have elders doesn’t mean that we appoint whoever we want, or maybe the best we have.  If a congregation does not have elders, they ought to be diligently and honestly working toward that end.   We need to appoint men who meet God’s standard.  They must be qualified

b.       The qualifications are important and needed.  When we seek to appoint (more) elders, we need to consider these qualities.  There are some who interpret the qualities loosely (i.e. some reason if none [plurality] qualified, then we appoint the best we have with the hopes they grow into these qualities; some see them as mere suggestions that would be nice in an ideal environment, but not necessary; others actually believe we don’t need elders today [relegated to an office like apostles and prophets]). 
Others, demand perfection with every qualification, so no one meets the standard. In such situations, well qualified leaders are prevented from serving and the church suffers in its decision-making process.  Sadly, sometimes this is what one who is unqualified but desires to run the church wants (e.g. Diotrophes – 3 John 9-11)

c.        What standard should we consider? 
Obviously, the Bible gives us a standard! There are 2 passages that we are going to examine.  With humility and objectivity, let us weigh the qualities that are mentioned.  We should also be careful to not bind where the Bible has not bound, nor loose where the Bible has not loosed (hence we appeal to our study of authority).
Considering that they are human, they are going to be flawed.  But it is obvious that these are men whose character rises above that of the average member.  After all, they are leading the Lord’s people.  They are watching out for our souls and the purity of the church (Hebrews 13:17, cf. Acts 20:28-30, etc.) 
My thoughts are that as we consider these qualifications, they need to be high, but not impossible!

d.       Most qualities are typical of the Christian life – with the exception of the family qualifications (and even those should be our goal as they apply), every quality addresses the character of every Christian.  We should ALL be working toward these.  Imagine what a congregation would be like if every member fully developed the qualities we are about to study to the best of their ability. 

 II.                   The Qualifications - foundational

a.       The Bible gives us qualifications that we need to consider.  These qualifications are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.   In this lesson, we will begin examining these qualities.

b.       He Must be a man! – He is to be the “husband of one wife”.  This is an issue today.   

c.        Desire

                                                   i.      1 Timothy 3:1 – a man has to be willing to serve.  1 Peter 5:2 speaks of these overseers serving, “not by compulsion, but willingly”.

                                                 ii.      Desire does NOT necessarily mean he is craving the office (that is often how unqualified men work their way into the position), but there needs to be a genuine willingness to do the work and deal with concerns and problems. 
If this desire is not there, chances are he will not fully devote himself to the task.

                                                iii.      BUT, desires must be brought into check.

1.       In considering desires let it first be noted that not ALL can or will qualify.  It is my hope that we will see this is an exclusive office for only the highest of character.   So while desire has to be there first, it is not enough!  If you are NOT qualified to serve as an elder, it does not make you any less of a Christian NOR does it mean you cannot be the best at whatever you do in service to Him.

2.       Some desire the office for selfish reasons.  There are some who crave the office so much, they are willing to do just about anything to get it (compromise the standards, politic, etc.)  IF so, they have no business serving.  In time, their goals will do more harm than good for the congregation.

3.       Some do NOT desire the office for selfish reasons. If you are qualified (and you know it) and you refuse to serve are you really using all your talents for God?  Some know that at times it is a thankless job and thus they don’t want it.  But is any work for God too burdensome considering all that He has done for us? (cf. 1 John 5:3, Luke 17:10 – ware are unprofitable.  We have done what was our duty to do.)  James 4:17 warns that if we know to do good and do not do it, it is sin.

                                                iv.      What about reluctance?
 A little reluctance can be a good thing.  Moses was reluctant to deliver Israel from Egypt at first. 
So was Jeremiah – (Jer. 1:6).    Sometimes, a little reluctance demonstrates an understanding of the gravity of the office, a necessary quality in properly serving.  Just do NOT let that reluctance be permanent.  IF you have things you feel that you need to develop a little more, WORK ON THEM!  After an appropriate amount of time there are bigger problems than the reluctance.
If you truly love your brethren, you will overcome your reluctance and be willing to serve.

                                                  v.      ALSO, don’t set your own standard so high that you cannot achieve it.  This is of course, with an understanding of the qualifications (i.e. some must realize they can never serve and accept it).

                                                vi.      A final thought: There is a shortage of godly elders in the Lord’s Church throughout the world.  One reason for this has to do with desire (or the lack thereof).  I speak not only about the now, but early in life when such ought to be one of our young men’s spiritual goals and the young ladies ought to be looking down the path of being godly wives of elders.

 

These are some of the underlying qualities for one to be appointed and serve as an elder.   Let us strive to ensure that our leaders ARE of the caliber God expects, and then follow them.  More next week on his qualities.