Church Eldership - Requirements & Responsibilities
Based upon the text of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.
- Leadership in General
- Teachers need to understand what they are talking about before making confident assertions. (1 Tim 1:7)
- Authority over men must be exercised by men (1 Tim 2:12)
- An “overseer” or “God’s steward” (1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:7-9) must be:
- Above reproach
- Able to teach
- Not a drunkard
- Gentle and self-controlled (not violent, quarrelsome, or quick-tempered)
- Not a lover of money or greedy for gain
- A good manager of his household (particularly as evidenced by his family)
- A mature Christian (not recently converted)
- Of a good reputation to the world
Several of the requirements listed above come with implied responsibility:
- He must be able to teach, and be informed as to what he teaches. This allows for authoritative teaching instead of vain discussion. (1 Tim 1:7) This implies the responsibility of studying scripture, spending time in prayer and meditation, and seeking truth and wisdom through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- Many of the requirements deal with lifestyle and social conduct. Being “above reproach” and having a good reputation is a responsibility, as it requires some degree of maintenance. This requirement, along with the others that deal with specific lifestyle choices, is not a “checkbox” requirement. It is an ongoing standard for personal conduct.
- From a social/civic perspective, he should not be a stranger to his community. He should be engaged at least to the point of establishing a solid reputation.
- Spiritually, an elder also has the responsibility of providing an example, both to the church and to outsiders, of a redeemed, sanctified life.
- Timothy is told to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim 4:12)
- Titus is told to “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned…” (Titus 2:8)
- There are two caveats to this responsibility.
- First, an elder is not expected to be perfect or without failure. All God’s people, including elders, are imperfect and broken. Elders will still sin and make mistakes; being above reproach does not mean hiding or covering up failure. However, it does mean they should exemplify humility and repentance, allowing God’s perfect grace, forgiveness, and redemptive power to take center stage in every circumstance
- Secondly, this responsibility is not unique to an elder. It is a core element to any Christian’s life. That said, leadership does add scrutiny and magnification to a man’s life, so he should be prepared for that.
Paul also mentions some other specific expectations for Timothy and Titus:
- Preach the word. (2 Tim 4:2)
- This is a straightforward responsibility and can be as simple as proclaiming exactly what is written.
- Preaching the word means sharing the gospel with unbelievers, as well as preaching it as a reminder to those who do believe.
- Give instruction in sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9, 2:1)
- The ability to do this comes from holding “firm to the trustworthy word as taught.”
- This may include helping others understand the nuances and implications of scripture, following its themes, and drawing conclusions based on a thorough understanding of the word as a whole.
- Provide practical guidance and training in holy living.
- This includes guidelines for behavior at home and family life. (Titus 2:1-6)
- This includes guidelines for civic and social life. (Titus 3:1-2)
- Be ready at all times (in season and out of season). (2 Tim 4:2) Ready for what?
- Ready for the Holy Spirit
- Ready for questions
- Ready for opposition
- Ready for Christ’s return
- Ready for “every good work.” (Titus 3:1)
- Reprove, rebuke, and exhort.
- As much as he must teach sound doctrine, he must “also rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9)
- This is to be done “with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)
- Correction must only be done with the intention of building people up and strengthening their faith, not to humiliate or tear them down. Titus 1:13 says to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith…” revealing the motivation behind rebuke.
- This is to be done with authority; he must stand his ground. (Titus 2:15)