So You Aspire to the Office of an Elder…

So You Aspire to the Office of an Elder…

*This is part 1 of a 2 part series….

I remember growing up in a home where my parents taught me to “respect my elders.”  As I grew older, I understand why that was so very important.  However, as I became a believer and started to study through the Word of God, I came across the term “elder” in Scripture.  As I studied the two offices of the local church, I learned that deacons serve and elders lead.  However, the title “elder” is in reference to pastor rather than a class of elderly people in the congregation.

As a pastor, I now have a true appreciation for both offices of the church recognized by the Word of God which are elder and deacon.  The elders (most commonly known as pastors) lead the church with visionary oversight and teach the Word of God while deacons carry out the service needs of the church.  As a lead pastor in the church I serve, I can testify to the need for multiple overseers (pastors) in the church.  That is the pattern that we see laid out for us in the Word – each church having multiple elders who oversee and lead the church through the Word of God.  However, if a man came to my office and told me he was aspiring to the office of an elder, I would observe several areas of his life before moving toward laying hands on him publicly and recognizing him as a pastor in the church.

In a conversation that I had on Facebook with several people concerning this issue, I asked the following question:  “If a man in your church approached you and said he had a desire for the office of elder (pastor) – what three areas of his life would you observe before moving forward?”  I received the following answers:

Chris Williams Family, business, social
Looking for the evidence of a call to holiness, integrity, and faithfulness in all three as a start 🙂

Jared Moore ‎1) Whether he meets the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3. 2) Whether he’s already trying to shepherd folks in your church and/or outside. 3) A friendly dinner or two with him and his family to discern their thoughts, and his managing of his household.

Brad Walker ‎1. Character (meeting qualifications of 1 Tim. 3. & Titus) and reputation
2. Giftedness and desire to teach 3. Right Doctrine

Wayne Bray I would begin by asking him, what makes him desire the position? While Paul does word it in this way in 1 Tim chapter 3, the vast majority of biblical examples of the calling are God seeking out the man, not the man seeking out God. I’ve got to admit, though I desire the position of pastor today, I did not desire it the day God called me. I don’t see the calling to pastor as something someone “decides” they want to do. Having said that, I would still counsel the brother in regards to the calling because God does eventually place this desire to obey His calling. For me, it’s important which came first – the personal desire of man or the divine calling of God?  Second, I would confirm salvation experience. While this might be assumed by us many times, I have seen and heard far too many pastors who are obviously preaching a different gospel than that of Christ. Many preachers today preach a gospel that has NO power to save. Therefore, a man’s “desire” to be a pastor doesn’t make him saved. Third, I would get into the issues mentioned above by everyone else. These are all listed as qualifications, but we need be extremely careful we not choose 1 or 2 as a litmus test. Far too many men are deemed qualified by churches simply b/c he meets their favorite qualification. They might overlook other deficiencies that are just as important to the calling of God. No man is truly “qualified,” and the man who approaches this issue as if he is personally qualified (w/o the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Spirit) to serve in this capacity, should be shown the door.

Brad Warren after examining his marriage and children, his history of service already in his local church, and his command of basic doctrine….I’d try to talk him out of it! If he persists, then we may have something

Kevin Cuthbertson Brad Warren hit on what I would have added to the conversation. Many want to lead who have never desired to serve. I don’t believe you are ready to do the first if you have not been doing the second. If a person seems gifted to lead yet is not active in the service of the church, then he is not disqualified….but I would say postponed. Likewise, does he have a grasp of the Scriptures. Elders are set apart by their ability to teach. Sure this means that their lifestyle shows forth the gospel but do they have an understanding of the story of redemption and are they able to clearly communicate that.

As I considered the words of my pastor friends and my fellow pastor – Kevin Cuthbertson, I agree that the qualifications laid out for us in the Word (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) are the foundation to this decision.  As we expand on what we see in the qualifications, we may also look at several other areas that are directly connected.  My response to a man who walked into my office claiming he has a calling on his life to be an elder would begin with a close examination of the following areas of his life (both spiritual and practical).
  • How trustworthy is this man in the eyes of people?
  • How faithful is this man to his wife?
  • What is this man’s character like?
  • How faithful is he to the local church?
  • How involved is he in ministry areas?
  • How is he skilled in teaching the Word?
  • Is this man a self-controlled man?
  • How is his reputation in the community?
  • How does the man handle money?
  • How faithful is he to his family?
  • How long has he been a believer?

Part II of this post will be an explanation of why these areas are extremely important for any man who aspires to the office of an elder!

Mark Dever writes, “An elder is simply a man of exemplary, Christlike character who is able to lead God’s people by teaching them God’s Word in a way that profits them spiritually.”

For His glory!

Pastor Josh Buice