The Biblical Responsibilities of An Elder
The rich experiences of old wise men played critical roles in societies and religious communities in the early days, providing guidance. The idea of elders, thus, predates the Church.
An elder is one who is full of wisdom, and wields great influence (positive) within the body of Christ (or a local church). The elders bring their rich wisdom in resolving issues, guiding church decisions, and providing checks and balances.
Though their roles, through history, have changed or evolved, elders still play pivotal roles in the church of Christ today.
What is the role of an elder?
Elders’ roles are diverse. Their responsibilities and services develop continuously as challenges emerge. Here are some of the roles listed:
- Provide Leadership (Nums.11:16)
- Acts as Judge and Jury (Deut. 22:15-18)
- Perform Representative roles (Lev.4:15)
- Acts as King makers (Judges 11:11 2Sam.5:3)
- Acts as Decision makers and counselors (Jud. 21:16, Ruth 4:11, 1Pet. 5:5)
- Provide Oversight (1 Tim 5:17, Titus 1:7, Exo.3:16, 4:6)
- Teach and Preach the Word (1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 4:2, Titus 1:9)
- Exhort and Admonish saints in sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:13, 2 Tim 3:13-17)
- Protect the Church from false doctrines (Acts 20:17)
- Encourage and Intercede for the sick and weak (James 5:14)
Where does the name Elder Originate from?
It originates from the word “zaqen” in Hebrew which means old or aged or ancient and greater. Another word from elder is senior (Strong’s Concordance).
What does it mean to be an elder?
It means to be well advanced in aged so as to provide experiential counsel and leadership to the younger ones in a bid to curtail their mistakes in the journey of faith and life.
There is no particular age mentioned in scriptures to be an elder. Yet, the first instance mentioned in scripture was in Exodus 3:16 when they were referred to as the ‘elders of Israel’, i.e. elderly ones.
What is the Difference between a pastor and elder?
The major difference is the functions. While the pastor ministers to a congregation, he is also accountable to the elders, while the elders perform oversight functions and counsel.
These roles, as described above, are results of changes we’ve witnessed in church advancement over the years. However, the scripture does not exactly differentiate pastors from elders.
This is because, as John Piper puts it, “elders are encouraged in the “pastoral” duties of overseeing and shepherding. In 1 Peter 5:1-2, elders are exhorted to “shepherd” the flock of God that is in their charge, which is the role of a pastor.”
Also, while the pastor could be young or old, the elders must be old.
Who are the Elders In the Old Testament?
These were the mature teachers and tribal leaders (Exodus 3:16).
- The 70 elders (Exodus 24:1)
- Elders of Israel (Leviticus 9:11).
- Elders of Midian (Numbers 22:4).
- Elders of Moab (Numbers 22:7).
- Elders of the city (Deuteronomy 22:18).
What are the requirements to be an elder?
- Must be advanced in age
- Possess unquestionable integrity
- Irreproachable or no cause for shame
- Husband of one wife
- Well behaved and godly children
- Not open to accusation of being loose on morals or conduct or unruly and disorderly. (Tit. 1:6)
No church exists successfully without a formidable team of old wise people, who are filled with the Holy Spirit and are knowledgeable in God’s word. We must give attention to this office, and give a prominent place in church leadership and organization.
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