Elders: May an Elder Serve with No Children? Analysis of the Analysis

Since I’m on hiatus, I’ve found myself reflecting on the last post quite a bit. And in reading through the comments, I noticed some patterns I thought might be worth mentioning.

First, no one said anything about the joke on the tee shirt: “Respect your elders -or- be eaten by bears,” citing to 2 Kings 2:24. Come on … don’t you elders have days when you want to hang a banner saying that over the pulpit?

Second, my post deals heavily with the Spirit’s work in selecting elders. I count only 3 out of 49 posts that explicitly reflect the view that it’s the Spirit who gifts and thereby selects elders.

I have a theory. A large portion of the Churches of Christ would deny that the Spirit gifts men for eldership — other than through the word. That segment would, of course, consider the passages dealing with the Spirit gifting men for the eldership to be irrelevant to the contemporary church as such gifting died shortly after the apostles.

Many of the rest of us are so used to being in Churches where at least some members take a word-only view that we’ve developed the habit of not speaking explicitly about the Spirit. We might speak in coded language — about “gifts” or “spiritual gifts” or even “God working,” but not “gifts of the Spirit.” It’s easier that way.

The problem this creates is to make us uncomfortable talking about the Spirit’s work in terms of the Spirit’s work being the Spirit’s work. We dance and edge around the issue. I mentioned the Spirit’s work in the post more than he was mentioned in 49 comments — 8 times to 3.

But the fact is that we can’t do serious hermeneutics if we pretend the Spirit wrote the Bible and then retired to the Old Deities Home. The interpretations that result from a word-only perspective are sometimes radically different from the interpretations that come from a Spirit-is-alive-and-active perspective. Indeed, the Spirit-is-retired perspective is one of the root causes of Church of Christ legalism — because you really need the Spirit in your thinking to fully understand why legalism is so wrong. (And the version of the indwelling doctrine that limits the Spirit’s work to our prayer life and forgiving our sins doesn’t really help us escape legalism much. We need to see that the Spirit works on our hearts and minds to transform us. It’s critically important to having sound doctrine.)

I posted this question because I think it’s a hard one — much harder than what if the elder’s wife dies or he has only one child or the child is adopted. You can get to one level of understanding by being merely legalistic — that is, no more legalistic than lawyers are. You see, lawyers — who are professional legalists — are trained to interpret documents by looking at the intention behind the document. The Alabama Supreme Court is fond of saying, “Intent is the pole star of construction!” — “construction” being the legal equivalent of exegesis.

Thus, even a lawyer — even a bad lawyer — wouldn’t argue that an adopted child doesn’t count. As we lawyers say (at least around here), that argument won’t “pass the red-faced test” — that is, even a hardened, tough lawyer couldn’t make that argument without blushing. Just so, the suggestion that an elder is disqualified because his wife died doesn’t pass the red-faced test, because the death of his wife doesn’t defeat the purpose of the requirement. “One-woman man” or “husband of one wife” deals with loyalty to his wife, not whether he outlived his wife.

I remember sitting in Batsell Barrett Baxter’s “Apostolic Church” class at Lipscomb, a required course taught by the head of the Bible department and the face of the Churches of Christ on the Herald of Truth television program. He asked the students, “How many of your parents have children?” Well, the question was kind of silly, you know, and everyone raised his hand. He then asked, “How many of your parents had only one child?” Most of the hands went down. He finally asked, “Why did you raise your hand for the first question if your parents only had one child? I said ‘children’ not ‘child’!” His point was made.

If the preacher announces, “The deacon over the children’s ministry would like to meet everyone who has children,” he’d expect to be understood as including those with just one child — and if someone took offense because he was excluded for having just one child, we’d look at him as emotionally unstable and a little bit kooky. Hence, it just doesn’t pass the red-faced test.

So those are, to me, fairly simple cases. They are matters of construction: what did Paul mean? And common sense gives the answer.

One does have to wonder what drives some good, church-going people to be more legalistic than the professional legalists, and the answer is, I think, fear. If you have a theology that damns you for any mistake at all, no matter how small or well-intentioned, you’re forced to take extreme positions in hopes of being “safe.” It’s the old saw, “Well, that’s well and good, but the safest approach is to deny the eldership to a man with just one child, just to be sure. You’re probably right, but do you want to bet your soul and the souls of all the other members here on your interpretation?” Thus, legalism can push us to some truly absurd positions — and deprive the church of desperately needed, God-given leadership.

And so, to me, the question of whether an elder must be a parent is much harder. A man can prove his parenting skills with just one child. He can demonstrate his faithfulness to his wife even though she died after 30 years of marriage. He really can’t prove his parenting skills without children (absent some very unusual circumstances).

On the other hand, I take the passages that tell us that the Spirit gifts men to be elders very, very seriously. I believe the Spirit really does that. And I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard the arguments the other way, and I find them very unpersuasive. And if the Spirit really is active in giving gifts of leadership, we have to contend with such passages as –

(1Co 12:18-21 NIV)  18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?  20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

That sure sounds like a very specific instruction not to reject the giftedness that comes from God. If we have a man who gives every evidence — after careful examination — of being gifted for the eldership, how do we say no — to the Spirit?

(Rom 12:6-8 NIV) 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

If God gifts someone with leadership, we are to “let him govern diligently.” Again, how do we say no?

Now, there are various ways that we might reconcile the teachings regarding the Spirit and the lists found in Titus and 1 Timothy — but they have to be reconciled. It’s useless to simply declare that “the Spirit inspired it and we must obey it!” True, but the Spirit inspired all the passages. And until you’ve fit them together into a united whole, you’re looking at an incomplete puzzle. And if you insist that this or the other passage is the final, ultimate answer while ignoring the other passages, well, you’re only revealing your prejudices.

We all know the passages. Demanding adherence to only the passages that suit your training or your preacher school notes or the convenience of the moment or your favorite choice for elder while ignoring contrary passages is to impose your will on the scriptures rather than submitting your will to the scriptures. It’s not persuasive, and it’s not healthy.

No, the serious student considers all the passages and seeks the truth that is reflected in them all. And that’s often seriously hard work. Sometimes you have to dig out the Greek and the concordances. Sometimes you need to study the thoughts of scholars to see what they have to add.

That leaves us struggling with putting the pieces together — and recognizing that we might just be in error when we get done, because it’s hard and we just might get it wrong. Indeed, who hasn’t reached one conclusion about the Scriptures only to change his mind later? And what’s to say it won’t happen again?

But exegesis done in fear is always bad exegesis. Good exegesis is done with the heart of God — a heart filled with love and grace. Thus, it’s when I put the fear of error behind me that I’m least likely to err — if I pursue God’s word with an intense passion for God’s truth. I have to be running toward God’s truth, not away from God’s wrath, to find the deepest truths.

(1Jo 4:18 NIV)  18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

(Rom 8:15 ESV)  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

(2Ti 1:6-7 ESV)  6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,  7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Avatar of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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31 Responses to Elders: May an Elder Serve with No Children? Analysis of the Analysis

  1. Alan says:

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    First, no one said anything about the joke on the tee shirt: “Respect your elders -or- be eaten by bears,” citing to 2 Kings 2:24. Come on … don’t you elders have days when you want to hang a banner saying that over the pulpit?

    Actually I did ask where I could buy that T-shirt! Sept 21, 10:49am

    Second, my post deals heavily with the Spirit’s work in selecting elders. I count only 3 out of 49 posts that explicitly reflect the view that it’s the Spirit who gifts and thereby selects elders.

    Maybe I missed the point. After the bit on the Holy Spirit (which I found quite uncontroversial), you asked if the absence of children is an absolute disqualifier. IMO that steered the conversation in a certain direction.

    While the Holy Spirit does indeed give gifts to people, it is still left up to us to recognize which people those are, so we can appoint them. (That’s really the question that was left to us in the post.) So the Holy Spirit gave us the instructions (especially Titus 1, 1 Tim 3) on how to recognize them. Certainly we also need to pray for wisdom (which God promises he will give) in the selection. But that wisdom will work with the scriptures, and will *never* contradict them.

    A person with all the gifts cited in those passages (and all the character traits) is qualified and should be appointed. A person with all but one is not qualified, no matter how impressed we are with the gifts he does possess. Minus one means something is missing.

  2. laymond says:

    Picking leaders/ servants I don’t believe it can be denied that the first “Elders” of the church were “The Twelve Apostles” picked by Jesus himself, but the replacements have been picked by man.

    Act 1:15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)
    Act 1:16 Men [and] brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
    Act 1:17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

    Some question the authority of Peter to do this, but it seems right to me the authority was given in ,
    Mat 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

    yes I believe the Church was given that authority as well. Elder-ship is not necessarily “a gift” it is a calling (by brothers) to servitude. As Paul said you become a slave to righteousness .

    As Mat. 18:18 gives authority, the following scripture gives reason. for Peter’s action.

    Act 1:20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
    Act 1:21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
    Act 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

    This also is qualified in Mat 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

    So by reason we know Jesus wanted twelve apostles.

    Some say Paul was the twelfth apostle picked by Jesus, but as we can plainly see, Acts 1:22 excludes Paul from that post.

    Act 1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
    Act 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all [men], shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
    Act 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

    They prayed for the Lord to weigh on their heart in the final decision, but they had in reality already picked the replacement, by choosing two contestants from many. In actuality choosing elders and preachers is left to the members of the church, yes many things are taken in to account, and those things are weighed by the heart, the heart of the congregation. I don’t see any of the limitations placed on elder candidates by Paul, in the replacing of the “first Elder” that was replaced.

  3. Grizz says:

    Alan,

    The tenor of what you wrote is agreeable to me. I do have a concern, though. The letters to Timothy and Titus tell us what to look for in order to recognize the giftedness of the kind of men who should be appointed elders. But who is it that is qualified to look for those traits Paul discusses? In his letters, the obvious person would be the evangelists, Timothy and Titus. Is that the way you do it in the congregation you frequent?

    Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (Acts 14:23), and Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders (Titus 1:5) and instructed Timothy about the qualities to look for among those who desired to be an ‘overseer’, which we all would likely agree is the work of elders Ephesians 3:1-7). All of these were functioning as either apostles or evangelists. And in none of these cases did the congregation appoint the elders.

    Another thing, Alan…who judges there to be enough evidence to support the view that any particular person who has their heart set on the work is actually gifted by God for that work? Is it the person who appoints them? Is it someone else?

    The apostles, in Acts 6, asked the congregation to choose seven men with certain qualities of life and giftedness from God to serve in a particular ministry. Then the apostles appointed those men to the work. In Acts 13 we have Paul and Barnabas, two men chosen by the Holy Spirit to be sent out from that congregation to spread the gospel (i.e., plant churches). In Acts 14 those same two go back and appoint elders in the places they had gone. Paul later writes letters to two of the men who had accompanied him on some of his journeys and instructs one of them to appoint elders on the island of Crete, while telling the other what to look for among those whose hearts were set on becoming overseers. In ALL of these cases we have elders appointed by apostles/evangelists.

    Where have you seen this practiced?

    Grizz

  4. Grizz says:

    Jay,

    It seems to me that while surpassing the legalists (lawyers) in legalism, we have overlooked not just one, but TWO sets of people who were chosen by the Holy Spirit (not just gifted, though they were that, too): the elders to be appointed AND the evangelists/apostles (ones sent) who were to appoint them.

    If we do not trust the Holy Spirit to actively give individuals like ourselves gifts, it is even more true that we do not trust the Holy Spirit to give other individuals gifts to appoint leaders among us. I see a lot of folks that do not believe the Holy Spirit has given them anything special (a gift) that the HS did not give to everyone else equally. And they look with the utmost suspicion at anyone who might claim otherwise. They ‘might’ allow that God has chosen some who are more talented than others at particular things, but they balk when anyone tries to call a particular person ‘gifted by the Holy Spirit’ in their presence.

    Jesus did not tell the apostles they had earned their Phd’s in Applied Discipleship and that they should write books or assemble notebooks to outline the ins and outs of establishing a new movement. (But we sometimes act like that is exactly what He dd.)

    Jesus told the disciples to follow Him. Then after they followed Him for a few years, He told them to GO MAKE DISCIPLES. And when they asked what if they forgot what to say, Jesus told them the Holy Spirit would remind them of His teaching and give them the words to say. He did not give them an outline of relevant Old Testament scrolls to consult or quote. He gave them the Holy Spirit. And that is how the apostles passed it on to the earliest Christians and groups of Christians … the Holy Spirit would gift some in prophecy and others in evangelism and others in other ways and ALL of them would need one another to “git ‘er done!”

    So why is it we keep choosing methods and programs that neither Jesus nor His apostles ever used?

    And why is it we look sideways at anyone who dares to imagine the Holy Spirit is not locked away in a book the way Satan and his angels would some day be locked away in a pit?

    We look at rules and structures never taught by Jesus and see order. What does HE see? Chaos?

    We look at what Jesus gave the apostles and recoil. What does HE do when HE sees what we give to one another?

    God have mercy on me and on my brethren to open our eyes,

    Grizz

  5. Dan Smith says:

    Is it possible that rather than “qualifications” Paul showed “characteristics” of leaders to be recogized. I believe this is the case since the two laundry lists are different. Thus, the congregation would ask: Is he married? Only one wife. Does he have children? In subjection. Is he known in the community? Of good repute. Such questions MIGHT result in a batchelor being recognized as an elder.

  6. Alan says:

    Hi Grizz,

    In our congregation the evangelist and other elders propose new elders to the church and request their feedback. Based on that feedback the existing elders and evangelist decide whether to appoint, and if so the elders and evangelist appoint the new elder.

    In Acts 6 the congregation chose the men to manage the daily distribution to widows (probably deacons).

    In Titus, the evangelist went to multiple congregations in different towns and appointed elders. It must have been difficult for him to know which men in each town were “blameless” and so the congregation must have been involved in some way, but the scriptures don’t give us those details. (Similarly in Acts 14:23).

    In 1 Tim 3, a man had to be tested prior to being appointed as a deacon. He transitions from talking about elders to deacons by saying “likewise” which suggests that the teachings about deacons likewise apply to elders, so perhaps there is a testing phase for appointing elders. That could provide support for a congregation giving feedback about the man prior to appointment.

  7. Alabama John says:

    Where is the authorization for a church business meeting instead of an Eldership?
    When we get away from what is written we get farther and father away.
    To be scriptural, if we don’t have elders for a particular church location, it should close and the members attend another or several others right down the road that do have elders.
    It has always amazed me that using the requirements we use today here in Alabama, Paul was able to appoint elders in every CITY.
    I think we could do that easily in every CITY, but not in every congregation.
    The , all men come and we’ll all perform the job of elder, when asked about, it does not meet the “red faced test” Jay speaks about.
    Also, there is the official Elder position and the unqualified one.
    In many churches there are men and women that would never be accepted as Elders or leaders of any OFFICIAL kind bercause of something in their past that do the work of an Elder and Angel of the Lord with no title.
    So be it, what does a title get you anyway?
    its the satisfaction of serving the Lord that we all are after anyway isn’t it!

  8. Grizz says:

    Alan,

    We often get into a hurry when we find a congregation without elders. We have to hurry up and get it straightened out. But we find none of that in Paul’s letter to Titus. Of course it would take time to get to know whether a man is blameless or not. It would take some time to consider ALL of the qualities Paul told him to look for in men to appoint in each city. Why hurry the process?

    The problems that needed straightening out are detailed after the description of qualities that will be needed – almost as if to justify the particular choice of qualities Paul told Titus to look to find. And the problems were such that it would take a man of Titus’ quality (in Paul’s judgment) to set these things straight.

    Would you ask congregations that had been severely misled and confused (as Paul describes the ones on Crete) to tell you who was trustworthy and who was not? I doubt it. I certainly would not. I would take my time and establish what I was told by the members I met. I would take time to know what was true and who were the ones who, as Paul wrote, were the “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” I would certainly NOT want to be so hasty as to just take the word of those who had been influenced by these men, and I would try to avoid leaving such an important work (appointing elders) to people who were seeking an advantage in the selection.

    Paul did not tell Titus to ask the congregations to choose elders. He did not ask Timothy to do that, either. Why do you suppose Paul refrained from writing that? Could it be because Paul did not intend to say that?

    Paul told Titus what to look for and appoint elders in every CITY. Particularly because of the ulterior agendas Paul describes, he tells Titus to do the appointing. And Paul told Timothy what to look for among those who desired to become overseers in Ephesus. He did not tell Timothy to pass it along to the congregation, but rather told him to pass it along to other faithful men who would faithfully teach others also. So the task of appointing fell to men like Timothy … men trained for the work by Timothy and who would also teach others.

    You mention the rather novel idea that the word “likewise” flows both ways – as Paul used it from overseers to deacons, and – as you see it from deacons to elders. Still, I can deal with that. I do not see it as Paul’s intention, but it does not affect the meaning significantly, in my view.

    The thing that stands out here is that it is NOT the character of the children of the deacon that qualifies their father to serve, but it is the quality of care he gives to his children. Not that they are great kids, but that he is a good father.

    And when you look at Titus 1 closely, the case can be made that the elders’ children are being described as faithful to their fathers, and not necessarily as having yet a faith of their own. (Are the hornets beginning to stir now?) The case can be made that the children are expected to respect and be faithful to their father – that is, they respond well to his leadership in the home.

    I have probably stirred things enough with that, so …think about it and let me know what you think…

    Grizz

  9. Grizz says:

    Alabama John,

    I agree with you about “business meetings” – with or without elders. Assign a man a job to do and then tell him he has to satisfy the congregation’s expectations instead of the parameters of the assignment and you set him up to fail. If you want to assign someone a task, trust him to complete it. Be clear. Be concise. And then be done with it. It is his responsibility before God now.

    Neither elders nor the congregation are called to be micro-managers of the deacons. They have been tested and proven faithful already. Their assignments are not tests. They do not get assigned until they pass the test phase. So either trust them when you assign them or else do not assign them. They may need advice, but they no longer need authority from you to do the thing. THEY were assigned … NOT the elders, and NOT the congregation. If they ask your help, give as asked. Do NOT, however, expect to have the right to be anything less than supportive and submissive in cooperation with them. Just because you help does NOT make it your assignment. So trust them and follow their lead.

    The elders have other responsibilities to tend to. The preacher has other responsibilities to tend to. Let the deacons and deaconnesses serve. As servants of God they need your trust. And they need you to give them room to fail sometimes, too – just the same as God gives you that room.

    Just a few bonus thoughts…

    Grizz

  10. I have said many times that I would rather see a church with no elders than a church with the wrong kind of elders. I fear that too many times we invest elders with a sort of papal authority that the Scripture does not countenance.

    Jerry

  11. To the best of my knowledge, there as, to this point in the history of mankind, only one occasion when:

    (1) The church had been established within the last (about) 30 years
    (2) Ditto #1 about the availability of Holy Spirit guidance and indwelling the church
    (3) Elders were being appointed in the church for the very first time, ever.
    (4) There were no written “how to” instructions or guidelines for the individual churches. (no Internet, either)
    (5) There was no past experience for the congregation to draw from – positive or negative.
    (6) There were no “local” ministers on staff at the churches. Preachers circulated among congregations.
    (7) Most (all?) congregations did not yet have members who were spiritually experienced enough to make decisions about who would be elders or deacons for the very first time., ever..
    (8) If the authority of the gospel were to be passed to the next stage (to the churches), authority had to be set up in the local churches asap and it had to be done right, or else that congregation might not survive (and some didn’t – Rev 1-3).
    (9) All of the churches (outside of Jerusalem and Antioch) were becoming established about the same time.
    (10) There was no traditional hermeneutic to “enforce.” (CENI hadn’t been invented, yet.)

    Unless God has to recycle the church as it is today and start all over (!), these conditions will not happen again. Unless these conditions are recreated, how is it relevant that Timothy, Titus, Paul, and Barnabas appointed the elders in newly established churches for the first time, ever, instead of the members and the then-leaders of the congregation? How can we bind ourselves to something that hasn’t existed for 2000 years? To do so is “pseudo-enlightened legalism.”

    Preachers or ministers today who compare themselves to Timothy or Titus in appointing elders in the congregation in which they are domiciled is laughable.

    Looking for little irrelevant details is one thing (I do it all the time) but making a doctrine out of them is another. The real castle is standing behind me, but I don’t notice it because I am too busy building my own castle out of the sand. And carefully choosing each piece of sand so that its shape fits my pattern.

    The church will rise no higher than its leaders.

    “Jerusalem, we have a problem.”

  12. abasnar says:

    Maybe off topic: But the elders in many churches are in the back-row anyhow, because almost all teaching comes from the pulpit minister. I know of one elder who resigned from eldership to be free to do the work of an elder …

  13. Alexander,
    I also once knew an elder who talked about resigning so he could work with young people. I talked him out of it by pointing out that working with youth was an important part of shepherding the flock.
    Jerry

  14. Alan says:

    Grizz wrote:

    And when you look at Titus 1 closely, the case can be made that the elders’ children are being described as faithful to their fathers, and not necessarily as having yet a faith of their own. (Are the hornets beginning to stir now?) The case can be made that the children are expected to respect and be faithful to their father – that is, they respond well to his leadership in the home.

    Titus 1:6 says children must be “pista” (Strongs #4103). We have a multitude of examples of that word’s use in scripture. Over and over again, when it refers to a person, it is obvious the meaning is that the person is a Christian. That’s pretty strong evidence of how the word was understood. The idea that it means something different doesn’t come from scripture but from a desire to appoint an elder whose children aren’t Christians.

  15. Alan says:

    abasnar wrote:

    Maybe off topic: But the elders in many churches are in the back-row anyhow, because almost all teaching comes from the pulpit minister. I know of one elder who resigned from eldership to be free to do the work of an elder …

    In some churches, maybe the elders are “apt to teach” but they’re not very likely to. Ok I stole that from somewhere but I forget where ;-)

    A man who is not “apt to teach” is not qualified to be an elder. Teaching the scriptures is a primary responsibility of an elder.

  16. Grizz says:

    Alan,

    Despite your oblique accusation that I “desire to appoint an elder whose children aren’t Christians,” I am not looking to invent something new. Perhaps you should do a word study on pistis and pisteuo and then ammend your claim. The word does not only mean believer in the way it is used most often. Sometimes it can be understood that way, but sometimes is not definitive for ALL times. Context matters, as does a firm grasp of Greek usages.

    I am not a Greek scholar, but I can dig fairly deep into the meanings with tools I have in Logos Bible Study software. The new Logos 4 original language study helps are amazing in how they can assemble for you comprehensive word studies in ways most Lexical writers could once only do with thousands of hours of investigation and painstaking morphology reviews from translators’ notes … and it can do it in just seconds. You still have to read it but the gathering of the relevant info is more comprehensive and in-depth than most average persons with some Greek (a few years of college work) can hope to accomplish without electronic searching and comparative analysis tools.

    So, again, beware of assigning motives to someone until you have done the research.

    Also, if your elders are not teaching, perhaps you should study with them the meaning of the word for ‘apt’ until you have revealed all of its facets. Not only capable, but likely to be found doing it is a good beginning, but do not stop there, either. Just a suggestion…

    I recommend Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. It delves into poimenan in ways that many others do not. Lynn Anderson has a couple of decent books on this subject, too – or so I have heard. I have not yet read them. I have them on my to-be-read list.

    Blessings,

    Grizz

  17. abasnar says:

    A man who is not “apt to teach” is not qualified to be an elder. Teaching the scriptures is a primary responsibility of an elder.

    Exactly, Alan … I would not desire to become an elder, if my service were only about “church business”, and the teaching were done by some “pulpit minister”.

    Alexander

  18. laymond says:

    “I would not desire to become an elder, if my service were only about “church business”,”

    Act 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

    Alex, who do you think is deciding “church business” here, and who do you think will “Teach” the multitudes?

    Church business is exactly why we need “Elders” and I believe the word elder carries the meaning it implies. when a young man stands for “elder-ship” he is not doing less than demeaning the older men in the congregation. The word “elder ” comes from the Jewish religion, meaning the older men .
    a term of rank or office
    .a) among the Jews

    1) members of the great council or Sanhedrin (because in early times the rulers of the people, judges, etc., were selected from elderly men)

    2) of those who in separate cities managed public affairs and administered justice

    b) among the Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches) The NT uses the term bishop, elders, and presbyters interchangeably

    c) the twenty four members of the heavenly Sanhedrin or court seated on thrones around the throne of God

  19. abasnar says:

    OK, a better definition:

    Under “Church business” I understand such decisions as building proigramms, carpets, finances, “serving the tables”, …

    Acts 15 was a meeting to decide on an important doctrinal issue in order to teach the congregations unanimously. That’s a very important part of an eldership’s service.

    The elder I mentioned above who resigned from his office was frustrated by having to deal with issues like which kind of carpet should be bought … the eldership was being kept busy with such stuff and not doing the work of elders very efficiently. That’s why he resigned to be free to do the work of an elder.

    I think it’s the elders who should do most of the preaching and teaching in church, that’s one of their main tasks they are called to do. For a lot of these “earthly matters” deacons should be appointed.

    Alexander

  20. laymond says:

    I agree an elder’s job should not be reduced to decorations.
    But it should be to the elders to decide how best to disperse the collections. If they decide it is best to use deacons great, but deacons in my opinion should be accountable to the “elders” . I think it might be best if deacons were appointed by the elders. (without in put from the congregation) we should trust the men we select as elders.

  21. Alan says:

    Grizz write:

    Despite your oblique accusation that I “desire to appoint an elder whose children aren’t Christians,” I am not looking to invent something new. Perhaps you should do a word study on pistis and pisteuo and then ammend your claim.

    Grizz this is not personal. I have done a quite extensive word study on this topic, and I stated my finding in my previous comment. It’s not even close. The scriptural evidence for what was meant by pista in the context of the first century church is overwhelming.

  22. Charles McLean says:

    Lamond’s idea that one of the elders’ functions should be that of financial management illustrates just how far we have moved from spiritual shepherds for spiritual sheep to a board of directors for a 501c(3) corporation. Where there is more immediate concern about what happens to this week’s offering than about what happens to sheep #100– and let’s face it, most elders’ meetings lean that way– then we have replaced personal care and protection with an accounting department.

    Most sadly, I suspect that many folks would look at their elders and given the choice between having Joe the Elder guide their spiritual lives or letting him handle the church checkbook, well, they’d take Door Number Two.

    OTOH, I really appreciate Jay holding forth on the idea of the church in the city and elders in that city. We do not often enough hear this construct from people who already have responsibility for the sheep.

  23. laymond says:

    Charles as amazed as some people are when they find out that we don’t live in the first century, and we don’t attend a first century church, it is time we faced up to it.
    If Jesus were to return, to stay for awhile, do you think he would ride a donkey down the interstate, or maybe ride in a pickup truck, not to draw attention., do you think we should collect money and hand deliver it to those who are in need.
    I believe I heard somewhere that Jesus even had a banker, in the person of Judas.

  24. Alabama John says:

    laymond,
    and bankers haven’t changed all that much!

  25. Laymond wrote:

    I think it might be best if deacons were appointed by the elders. (without in put from the congregation) we should trust the men we select as elders.

    If the seven in Acts 6 were deacons (and I believe the preponderance of the evidence suggests they were), then even the apostles did not select the deacons, but rather appointed those whom the church selected when the apostles told them to “Look you out from among you seven men… whom we will appoint to this work.”

    It is dangerous when the elders start thinking that the eldership is a self-perpetuating body – and that they should make major decisions without the entire congregation having an opportunity to make input. How they get that input will vary from church to church – but get it they should.

    Otherwise, the eldership becomes an oligarchy that rules the church – and it is out of this situation that elders tend to become lords over the flock of God.

    Jerry

  26. Grizz says:

    Great points, Jerry.

    The whole ‘business meeting’ concept is one that is foreign to family relationships in general. Mom and Dad do not have business meetings. They certainly discuss what is needed by the family, but not as it relates to any financial goals. In fact it often happens that a family makes decisions in spite of financial goals and not subservient to those goals…even when those decisions they make have an impact on financial goals. Why? Because the family comes first, before the money. God will provide what we need as we need it, usually far more abundantly than our barest needs demand.

    Elders are appointed to serve. It is a work. It is not a pass-time or an event. It is a privilege and not a presiding. We do not have a new kind of Sanhedrin, nor do we need one. We have sheep who need a shepherd to lay down across the doorway to the sheepfold and stand guard to protect them from wolves. We sheep need someone who will spread the salve over our wounds and calm us when we get unsettled. We need someone more concerned about our spiritual development than they are about collections and distributions.

    Even when we might think we are beginning to ‘get it,’ we find ourselves back to acting as though the family of God is a business. Those old habits are hard to break away from. Members leave and we casually write it off to personality differences, though we would never imagine acting that way in our own families.

    Alan,

    When you encounter the word pisits in any of its various forms in scripture, how do you know to whom the belief is directed? How do you know where the trust is being placed? Is it not by context?

    The law handed down to Moses, sometimes referred to as ‘our tutor, to bring us to Christ,’ states that children must obey their parents in the Lord and goes on to promise that faithful children will enjoy certain blessings. To whom does the Law say they should be faithful? To God? Look again. The Law is clear that a child is to honor his parents (which does honor God, after all) in order to be considered a faithful child.

    Now how does that relate to a Christian who is not under the Law? If our tutor has done its job well, it prepares us to consider this question of children being faithful. And I believe the Law has done its job well, if we would but listen to what it teaches us so that Christ can have His way in us.

    Of course, in the COC we barely give any credence to anything in the Law, practically speaking. (Is it just me or do you also hear the hornets stirring?)

    God help us to act as family together, and not to act like a ‘business.’ Acting like a business is killing the family relationships.

    Grizz

  27. Alan says:

    Grizz wrote:

    The law handed down to Moses, sometimes referred to as ‘our tutor, to bring us to Christ,’ states that children must obey their parents in the Lord and goes on to promise that faithful children will enjoy certain blessings. To whom does the Law say they should be faithful? To God? Look again. The Law is clear that a child is to honor his parents (which does honor God, after all) in order to be considered a faithful child.

    The LXX does not use Gk pistos to refer to a child’s relationship to parents. And from the beginning of the church onward, in every NT usage of pistos in reference to a person, it is referring to a Christian. Check it out.

  28. Grizz says:

    Alan,

    Why are you so eager to dismiss the scriptures BEFORE the the beginning of the church? You dismiss all of what Jesus said in the gospels by doing that.

    Could it be because Jesus often used pistos to refer to ones who were faithful to their rulers, masters, friends, and not just faithful to God?

    Curious,

    Grizz

  29. Alan says:

    Grizz wrote:

    Why are you so eager to dismiss the scriptures BEFORE the the beginning of the church? You dismiss all of what Jesus said in the gospels by doing that.
    Could it be because Jesus often used pistos to refer to ones who were faithful to their rulers, masters, friends, and not just faithful to God?

    Grizz, the personal edge on your comments can sometimes be a bit painful to the recipient.

    Titus was written 20 years or more after the start of the church. The letter must be understood in that context. What was a “believer” in the context of the NT church? The word took on a special meaning after the resurrection. It’s pretty obvious to me from how it is used in Acts and in the letters.

  30. laymond says:

    “God help us to act as family together, and not to act like a ‘business.’ Acting like a business is killing the family relationships.”

    Grizz If the occasion were to arise in your family, where one of your kids needed braces for their teeth, and another just fell and broke their arm, and there was a limited amount of cash, who would decide how it would be used, would the children get a vote, it is doubtful, since you are the elder of the family, I bet you would decide. That is what I am saying an elder should be able to do, decide where best the limited money should be spent. Somebody has to do it.

  31. Grizz says:

    Alan,

    As for the personal edge on my comments, I will work harder on that. I own the comments that I make, for good or ill. I own them with conviction. It does not mean I am not teachable, but does mean that it takes more than a little effort to move me. Unfortunately I do not always pick up on how much effort someone is making or has made before posting.

    If it seems I am asking hard questions, that is intentional. If it seems I am attacking you and not just questioning what you said/wrote, then that is NOT intentional. If it seems I missed the gist of what you said, please try again. I am trying to wrap my mind around your thoughts and I come from a very different place – which goes for what you say about my posts also, and I understand that. And for what it is worth, your comments about ‘pistis’ after the beginning of the church seems to hold up to initial scrutiny. I hope to look at that a bit more when I get my computer system back up to speed after some glitches over the weekend. So thanks for your comments in that regard.

    Laymond,

    Someone wrote that they consider the apostles to have been the first elders, in function at least – or something to that effect. I would counter that such a view flies in the face of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in the 4th chapter of that letter. In that passage Paul makes no less distinction between apostles and elders than it does between elders and evangelists. Just saying …

    One thing we DO learn from Acts 6 and what happened there is that when you have a ministry that demands your focus, you will need help handling another ministry that is already having problems. Putting out fires will consume as much time as you allow it. It is better to appoint a (some) deacon(s) to be accountable for distribution of assets rather than to neglect another ministry. Elders were never intended to be treasurers. That is a position that even a marginal leader can handle adequately, as Judas aptly illustrates. An elder occupied with counting and accounting for money matters will not make a good sentry to protect the flock. Divided focus makes a poor sentry. Elders are watchmen for the community of believers, to sound the alarm and protect the flock from those who threaten it. They are field medics to care for the wounded, which there will be if and when we engage the world effectively. Personally, I find more about the role of an elder in John 10 than I do in any of Paul’s letters. And that is only the pastoral function of their role.

    In any case, making financial decisions should be done in accord with the vision the leaders are pursuing, but is not a primary function of leadership… in my view, for whatever that is worth.

    Blessings,

    Grizz

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