At a time when church leaders have adopted our Western culture and sometime act more like a board of directors, barking down orders from above, it is good to see our elders preaching. Our church structure is so influenced by the community and country we live in, it is wise to take a step back and see what God--not our society-- has to say about leadership.
Though elder is the name we have settled on, it is just one of the terms God inspired the writers of the New Testament to use when referring to these individuals. Bishop is more of the traditional term, but one that seems to have evolved from its original meaning as religion became more hierarchal. Pastor is one that our culture has shifted to meaning the person who usually preaches and takes care of the day to day; however, that is a shift made by man, not derived from the scriptures where it refers to what we call elders. The term elder is one that was brought over from the Old Testament, with the concept being the older--and thus wiser-- individuals of a community. But the term I like the most is overseer: the original Greek just seems to fit the nature of the task at hand.
I like the way both Paul and Peter refer to the task of the overseer. As Paul is talking with the elders of the church in Ephesus, he tells them to be overseers, shepherds of the church that Jesus shed His blood for (Acts 20:28). In his first letter, Peter similarly calls them to be shepherds of God’s flock (1Peter 5:2). This idea of a shepherd, the one who cares for, who lives among the sheep is one that seems to go to the heart of what God desired when He set up the idea of those who would care for His people on this earth.
Paul again talks about the qualities these individuals should have when he writes to evangelists Timothy and Titus about appointing men to serve in this capacity (1Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Often these passages have been used to create a check list of disqualification to keep someone from serving in this way. Check, check, check, oh nope, they’re disqualified. And though God did inspire Paul to write this list, I use the word “qualities” when referring to these passages. It is not a marker to pass in order to complete the list as one would a course outline to complete their degree in school, or a promotion standard that must be reached to move on. They are qualities that are shown from a lifetime of serving, allowing one to minister in this capacity.
I encourage you to check out the passages mentioned above. Look at the qualities that these men are called to have. And then pray for them. Yes, pray. It is much easier to find fault, to criticize, to talk about them or others for that matter. But I challenge you to look at the verses, understand what they are called to do, how they are called to live, the responsibility they assume when serving in this way and then. . . pray for them. Pray for them because they have to give account for their decisions, their leadership (Hebrews 13:17). And when you go to that passage in Hebrews, don’t stop halfway through, but make sure you read all of it.
Praying for our elders,