2 Timothy 1:5 informs us why Paul left Timothy in Crete, “…that thou mayest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”
It is the design of God that every congregation should have elders. No congregation is complete or “set in order” without elders and deacons.
Honor God’s Qualifications
Unfortunately, in their desire to have elders, many congregations have ignored the qualifications as set forth in scripture in order for men to serve as elders. So many times men have been selected because of “outward externals” such as being well educated, financially successful, a long established member, well liked, etc., and not because they meet the qualifications as set forth in the Bible. In such cases, God does not accept them, although they have been “selected” and “appointed.”
There is no question that as goes the eldership, so goes the church. Whether or not a congregation remains faithful too the Lord depends to a great degree on the eldership.
I know of no area that has a greater impact on the church now and in the future than the selection of elders and deacons.
The principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-8) certainly has application in the realm of leadership. If the wrong men are placed in leadership, the consequences will be devastating for the cause of Christ!
This is why it is such a crucial matter, and if not handled according to the Scriptures, strife and division will occur. As guardians of the flock, “overseers” (Acts 20:28) have the awesome responsibility of:
- Instructing the church (Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:2)
- Defending the faith (Titus 1:9, Jude 3)
- Ruling the church (1 Timothy 5:17), but not as “lords over God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3)
- Admonishing brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
- Watching (1 Timothy 3:2)
- Setting the proper example (1 Timothy 5:3)
Not just anyone can serve as an elder. God has given the qualifications for those desiring the work of an elder (1Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11).
As one studies the qualifications, he must immediately notice the emphatic “must” in 1Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7. Therefore, it is essential that one “must” meet every qualification, not just a few, if he is to serve as an elder.
“The Constituent Element Argument”
Many have tried “The Constituent Element Argument” which basically states that all of the parts make up the whole. Thus, the argument is that no one man possesses all of the qualifications, but all those desiring the office of an elder make up the total qualifications. This simply is not true!
It is true that one man may be stronger in some areas than others. Nevertheless, he “must” meet each qualification if he is to serve the Lord as one of the shepherds of the flock!
It must be pointed out that being an elder is not a title to be worn, but a work to be performed. If one does not understand this, he has no business being appointed an elder. Men who have a Diotrephes attitude, (“the church boss” 3 John 8-10), should never be appointed as elders.
The Work of Deacons
Deacons play a valuable role in the Lord’s work as well. They are special servants assigned duties, thus relieving the elders so that they (the elders) can be about the work of tending the flock.
Deacons are not “Jr. Elders.” Neither do they possess authority as elders. Many have been erroneously taught that elders are over the spiritual and deacons are over the physical, but this is simply not true. As “overseers”, elders are over all of the work. Deacons can assist elders in whatever capacity the elders deem necessary e.g. physical plant, finances, restoring members, teaching, etc.
Those desiring the work of a deacon “must” also meet every qualification set forth in the Bible (1Timothy 3:8-13).
Without question, deacons help the church function as God intended. Of their work Paul says, “For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).
Like elders, deacons must understand that being a deacon is not a title to be worn, but a work to be performed.
Whether or not the church of Christ remains true to the Lord will be largely determined by the elders.
There is not a more grave responsibility than that of serving as an elder. This is why if one does not have the intent of carrying out the responsibilities God assigned to elders they should not accept the position. Bear in mind, there will be a special accounting elders must give at the Day of Judgment (Hebrews 13:17). Fortunate, indeed, are congregations who have scripturally qualified elders!