Considerations When Determining Men Who Possess The Qualifications To Be Elders

      The following is a brief summation of the lessons presented on leadership in the fall of 1997.   For outlines of those lessons, follow links to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 sermons.

      1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 were not intended to become "check lists" for elder qualifications. Neither scripture included these basic, critical qualifications:

    1. The quality and nature of the man's faith.
    2. The man's love for people, and how he demonstrates his love.
    3. The man's love for the congregation (a shepherd must love the sheep).
    4. His possessing and demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23).
    5. His possessing and demonstrating the Christian graces (1 Peter 1:5-8).

      1 Timothy 3 gives the profile of the kind of man qualified to be a shepherd in the urban church of the huge city of Ephesus. This city was a business and religious center with a population of 250,000 people. It was a wealthy, sophisticated city with a significant degree of cultural development.

      This congregation already had elders--some good, some evil. They needed more elders. They did not need just to add some men. They needed to add a particular type of Christian man. His profile: he is respected for his mature spiritual character. His values stress the spiritual, not the material. He is a family man who knows how to love and work with people. He is not deceived by unspiritual thinking. The urban community respects him.

      Titus 1 gives a profile of the kind of man qualified to shepherd one of the congregations on the island of Crete. People living there had an earned reputation for evil. They were known for greed, violence, and earthiness. They were self-indulgent people who loved money. Christian shepherds needed to be devoted to God's work (not selfish ambitions); to loving good (not honoring evil); to being upright (not being devious); and to being holy (not being sensuous and earthly).

      1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 stress this essential understanding: spiritual leadership in a congregation provides shepherding while addressing the real needs of the congregation in the context of its "real world" situation.

      In 1 Peter 5:1-5, Peter, an elder, gives a charge to other elders. As an elder, he walked in their sandals, he actually saw Jesus' sufferings, and he understood the eternal destination. Peter focused them on their responsibility. Their primary responsibility: shepherd the sheep (or take care of the Christians). Remember: sheep are hard to care for. (1) Exercise oversight, (2) do it because you want to do it, (3) lead by example, (4) do not lord it over them (or do not lead by using power and control).

      Selecting men to be elders (entrusting them with leadership within the congregation) is the most critical moment in the life of a congregation. That decision affects the health and future of the congregation more than any other single leadership decision. Too many help make that decision while having little understanding of the spiritual concerns or responsibilities involved. The biblical selection of elders should never become (1) a popularity contest, (2) a reward for successful business accomplishments, (3) a political campaign, (4) a contest between factions within a congregation, or (5) "a good business decision" that chooses someone who "knows how to make business decisions and handle money."

      The real issue: who has the spiritual ability to capably shepherd this congregation? Who has the spiritual maturity, the Christ-like personality, and the compassionate disposition that will enable this man to be an inspirational guide? Who can encourage us as we serve and follow Jesus Christ? Who (1) would I turn to in the moment of crisis, (2) would I trust to be of help when I am struggling, (3) would spiritually "carry me on his shoulder" when I was too discouraged or too weary to continue on?

      The central consideration: The central consideration does not focus on questions and issues that concern real estate and finances. The central consideration focuses on ministering to souls--souls that are troubled, or discouraged, or weak, or tempted, or deceived, or misguided, or fallen, or energetic, or motivated, or purpose driven, or developing and maturing. The central consideration focuses on people, not on things.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Handout, 26 April 1998

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