The Ministry of Elders

What is a New Testament elder? An elder is a God-appointed, scripturally-qualified man that occupies one of the two offices in a New Testament church. Based on the above Scripture references, Scripture indicates that some churches had a multiplicity or plurality of elders and deacons.

What is an elder’s function? An elder’s function is communicated through synonymous Bible words describing an elder’s ministry. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated five different ways in the AV:

The Ministry of the 21st Century Elder

Episkopos (bishop, overseer)

  refers to his function

poimen (shepherd, pastor)

  refers to his function

presbuteros (elder)

  refers to his stature, spiritual maturity

Are there distinctions among elders? Yes. 1 Timothy 5:17 conveys that all elders rule, but some also labor in the Word and doctrine.

Are all our elders of equal authority? We recognize that there are leaders among the leaders. This was true of the apostolic company, in Old Testament Israel, in the angelic company, and even in the Godhead. Those elders laboring in the Word and doctrine typically have the most authority. For example, among the elders at the church at Ephesus, there was one elder clearly given leadership (Timothy), and among the elders at Crete, Titus was the primary leader.

Who is eligible for the office of elder? We use both scripturally-qualified full-time pastors and laymen in this office. We do not restrict laymen from this office, because in the New Testament, we see Paul appointing laymen to the office.

Is our church an "elder run" church? No, our polity is congregational. Again, we base our practice on an observation of the New Testament church. We believe the ultimate decision-making rests with the people. In Acts 6:3, we see the congregation choosing deacon leadership. In Acts 15:22-23, we see the church leadership and the congregation agreeing and speaking with one voice. In Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, we see the congregation acting as one in the practice of church discipline.

Elder Resources