Church: 9 Marks of a New Testament Church: Leadership: Elders

The Bible gives the church some room to figure out how to tactically implement God’s way of leadership, but it does not give us much room on the character of it’s leaders. 

A word about the tactics

I don’t want to spend time on the tactics of implementing elders in a local church that is Southern Baptist. However, a word about some tactics is not completely irrelevant. 

I learned early on that “the resources are in the harvest”. The finances and the human resources are in the harvest of the kingdom of God. 

We exercise congregational leadership by the fact that no leader in TRC from elder on to volunteer is brought in from outside. They are TRC people, priests of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit, called to be part of the local church on the mission of the Great Commission, and therefore perfectly capable of filling the roles God has given us to fill. 

Jesus gave the APEST giftings of his very person, as the head of the body, to his body, to grow his body up into himself and he issues the call of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 for leaders to model and to lead this work in the world on mission.

The Character of the Aspiring Leader

NOTE: I’ve attached notes from a sermon preached in the past. They are quite extensive and worth your study. 

Overseer (episkopos) and Elder (presbyteros) are often used interchangeably in the New Testament, and Pastor (poimenas) is referred to as a portion of the function of the oversight and leadership (see 1 Peter 5:2). 

The word “overseer” is used in our text today, and we want you to see that they are used interchangeably. 

NOTE: I, personally, no longer agree with my own “learning point” in the attached sermon I preached many years ago, that “pastor” is synonymous with “elder” and “overseer”. 

I don’t want to amend my work so as to make it appear that I’ve always thought that, so I leave it alone, but want you to know. 

It’s transparent, honest, and hopefully evidence I grow as a human, disciple, and scholar. 

What are the characteristics God requires?

  1. Elders WANT to be an elder. 1 Timothy 3:1
    1. Aspires – exerts effort
      1. Elder was not a position of prestige. Rather it was a position that was equated with the one being willing to die first. 
      2. The effort exerted was clearly a passionate pursuit of something beyond this life. 
    2. Elders have a holy self-starting personality that takes initiative. 
    3. Elders have a high work capacity and are not easily overwhelmed due to the a holy “want to”.
    4. This kind of aspiration is noble. 

NOTE: The first word of verse 2 is “must” in its original language. This highlights the critical nature of these qualifications. 

The “must” does NOT mean that a man can never make a mistake or be pushed into a frustrated response. It DOES mean that these characteristics are to be the bent of their lives. 

  1. Elders must have godly character as their hallmark. 1 Timothy 3:2-3; Titus 1:7-8
    1. Above reproach is the banner over the godly character of an elder.
      1. Literally, this means that an elder is not deserving of rebuke.
      2. Above reproach looks like righteous and holy behavior. 
        1. One woman man v. 2
          1. This is qualitative, not quantitative. 
        2. Sober-minded v. 2
          1. A  mind free from obstructive thinking. 
            1. A person not sober-minded may go after things and not finish them whereas a sober-minded person will consider the cost before beginning something. 
        3. Self-controlled (fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:23) v. 2
          1. Self-disciplined. 
        4. Respectable v. 2
          1. This refers to being orderly and well behaved as observed by others. 
          2. The elder has a sense of protocol. 
        5. Hospitable v. 2
          1. This can be manifested in many ways. 
          2. Literally welcoming strangers to themselves. 
          3. An elder must have an eye for those outside who need to get inside. 
        6. Able to teach v. 2
          1. Able to explain God’s word NOT entertain with their words. 
            1. Dr. Craig Blomberg….
        7. Not addicted to wine/not a drunkard v. 3
          1. Not lingering beside wine is a literal rendering. 
          2. At Corinth they were getting drunk at gatherings of the church over the Lord’s Supper. 
          3. Drunkenness was an ancient blight for the church as she grew out of dark places, and the elder is to not be given over to such. 
        8. Not violent but gentle v. 3
        9. Not quarrelsome v. 3
          1. The idea here is NOT never arguing over things that are worth arguing over. The idea is what Paul had in mind when instructing Timothy not to quarrel about worthless myths.
            1. Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. – 2 Timothy 2:14
          2. Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
          3. Speaking hard things in a hard way is not quarrelsome. 
          4. Quarrelsomeness is being given to constant contention and full of drama. 
          5. Titus 3:10-11 (ESV) As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
            1. Obeying Scripture and demanding others obey God’s word is not being quarrelsome. It’s called leading. 
          6. A MISUNDERSTANDING OF THIS CHARACTER TRAIT HAS BEEN USED TO ALLOW ALL MANNER OF EITHER ORGANIZATIONAL BREAKDOWNS OR THEOLOGICAL BREAKDOWNS BECAUSE AN ELDER IS TAUGHT THEY SHOULD NEVER FIGHT OVER ANYTHING. 
        10. Not a lover of money v. 3
  1. Elders must lead their families well. V. 4-5; Titus 1:6
    1. Manages his physical home well.
    2. Manages his family well.
  1. Elders must be established Christians with a stellar reputation outside the church. 1 Timothy 3:6

How do we make application of these truths?

  1. We limit the role of elder to men. Ephesians 5:22-6:4; 1 Timothy 2:12
    1. We suffer here from broken categories of feminism and hyper-masculinity. 
    2. We suffer from two very broken categories of “liberal” and “conservative”. 
    3. Many who polarize in these have not even read their bible through once much less wrestled through hard ethical questions such as men and women’s roles in a fallen world inside of a kingdom that is restoring and becoming new. 
    4. Male eldership does NOT mean women should not be teaching.
    5. Male eldership does NOT mean women should not have leadership roles.
    6. Male eldership simply recognizes the basic building block of human flourishing in the home, the created order that God himself set up for optimal life in the garden before sin. 
    7. Jesus, desiring to model the restoring of that model, chose the 12 apostles as men to set that building block in place for the oversight of church leadership.
    8. Men, just know that because you are a man does not make you a leader by default.
    9. Your default is passivity, and if you don’t fight it, you are not worthy of leadership. 
    10. Men often get positions of leadership just because and they flounder in them because they’ve not had the sinful default of passivity wrenched out of them. 
  2. We want to lean into the biblical notion that the resources are in the harvest, so men, if you have this noble desire and you believe you meet the character qualifications, come see me, and we’ll begin testing that out.
  3. Give thanks that the Lord has given us what we need when we need it to continue the work. 
  4. Pray:
  1. Ezekiel 36:37-38 (ESV) Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock. 38 Like the flock for sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
    1. Increase our people. Increase our leaders from one side to the other. 
    2. Increase our holiness.
    3. Increase our sending. 

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