What is an Elder?
Definition of an Elder
Hebrew: zaqen: old, aged, ancient, elder, an aged man.
Greek: presbuteros: older, a senior, elder.
Webster's Dictionary: one that has authority by virtue of age and experience.
The word "elder" is not necessarily a title, but rather describes the office. Remember that this is an office, not a 5-fold gift ministry of an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, or Teacher. Neither is it a call of god, for an Elder is approved by the Spirit and appointed by men. Your Shepherd appoints you and therefore may also disappoint you.
Acts 14:21-23 -
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed (KJV).
An Elder is one whose ministry is that of oversight in his Church family. This ministry is described also in the office of a Bishop, yet separate from, for a Bishop has the oversight over the Church. An Elder functions in the administration of the Spirit as a leader in the Church, and by his or her example of the ministry of the Word and Spirit, and in their works of faith. An Elder is a member of the Body of Christ and is a representative of his brethren to God, and is a representative of God to his brethren, and is thereby in the place of intercession as a priest. An Elder is an older brother or sister in his or her Church family that he or she is a part of. An Elder is recognized in the Spirit as being an aged or mature one in Christ (not necessarily aged in chronological years). He or she is one that has been proved and been found faithful, and is anointed by the Holy Spirit, Who has worked within the frame of the Elder the needed measure of grace, love, understanding, wisdom, experience, knowledge, etc., to truly be a leader and an example in the House of God in word, deed, and truth.
Acts 20:17-28 KJV -
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which THE HOLY GHOST HAS MADE YOU OVERSEERS, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood.
There are no "Lone Rangers" in the Kingdom of God. No one, by an act of his own will, may receive this appointment unto himself. This is only by the approving of the Holy Spirit, Who will reveal this approval to the potential Elder's Shepherd, and will also be recognized and confirmed together with any other Elder in his church family. A potential Elder will also conduct himself, in his lifestyle, as an Elder before he or she is ordained. Through prayer and by the laying on of hands of his or her church leadership (the presbytery of Elders), the Elder is confirmed by the Holy Ghost and publicly established among his brethren.
QUALIFICATIONS OF AN ELDER
Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7 KJV
Please note once again that an Elder is an overseer whose ministry qualifications are similar to that of the office of a bishop, yet the Elder is not a Bishop for that is yet another appointed office. Yet the definition of the word "bishop" (superintendent, overseer, one who looks diligently to take the oversight) defines what an Elder does in his or her local church setting.
MUST BE BLAMELESS:
His lifestyle must not contradict this appointment, disqualifying himself as a leader.
THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE:
In some cultures a plurality of wives is legal and acceptable, but would hinder a potential elder by restricting his time and attention in performing his responsibilities in the church. Marriage exemplifies the relationship of Christ the husband, with the Church, His wife. The husband and his wife are one all things in Christ as joint heirs together in the same grace of life. The elder, if married, will portray a tangible example in the church of this Holy union.
ONE THAT RULES WELL HIS OWN HOUSE:
A child's behavior reflects their training and environment. An Elder must have faithful children (those in his own household), submitted with loving, reverential respect. Though their children may make mistakes, yet in time they prove to be obedient. evidence that the Elder knows how to care for the House of God.
BLAMELESS AS THE STEWARD OF GOD:
An elder walks in integrity in financial matters. He is consistently faithful to the new testament ministry of the giving of tithes and offerings in his local church. He is a wise administrator of his Lord's money in personal affairs and that of the church, that he nor the church may be blamed.
An Elder realizes that his own will, that which pleases him, cannot govern his life. He has been apprehended to delight in the will of the Lord and to live life as a bondservant to God.
NOT SOON ANGRY:
Not cranky and short-fused, not easily moved. He is not hasty in his heart to be angry, but according to the grace God gives him, he displays that same grace and mercy to others.
NOT GIVEN TO MUCH WINE:
He does not give himself to drink alcoholic beverages at any time. He knows that, according to the word, wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging and are not for kings or them that are honorable. For in doing so sound judgment and the ministry would be perverted in them and because of them. Therefore he does not knowingly give himself to any substance or non-prescriptive drug that will impair, intoxicate, injure, or diminish his capabilities or performance, understanding that his body is the temple of the Holy Spirit in which Christ desires to be glorified.
A disposition that is non-defensive. Not having an aggressive, quarrelsome, non-submissive, contentious attitude that is fond of fighting and arguing. The servant of the Lord must not strive.
NOT GIVEN TO FILTHY LUCRE:
An elder cannot be bought with money for he is already bought with the price of the blood of Jesus. His motives are pure. He is moved by what he can give, not what he can get. His delight is in the increase of Christ.
A LOVER OF HOSPITALITY:
An elder shows a gracious, friendly, and welcoming heart towards all his guests, whether they be friends or strangers, minister or layperson and sincerely takes pleasure in their fellowship in Christ and in serving them. He has the heart of the good Samaritan.
A LOVER OF GOOD MEN:
An elder is compassionate towards all men, yet disapproves of wickedness. He rejoices in that which conforms to the example of the goodness of God, as seen in Christ, and is a follower and promoter of that which is good. He is fond of them that follow the same path.
Sober minded. His mind is disciplined to think with the mind of Christ, a sound mature mind. He is alert to lies and deceptions that would poison his thoughts. He has the heart of a watchman. He is marked by his serious character. He has become a man and has put away childish behavior.
He exhibits the right blend of love, grace, discernment, and wisdom necessary in making right decisions or judgments without bias or favoritism with all parties involved, and stays free from a critical, condemning attitude. For every situation, he seeks only the heart and mind of the Lord, Who alone is the Just One and Who deals fairly with every person and in every circumstance.
One who wholly devotes his life as a living sacrifice unto the Lord. Obvious through his separation from the evil that is in the world and of his separation unto God. He is led by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of this life. He follows the Lamb wherever and however He leads him and he loves not his life unto the death. This is manifested by the Spirit of Holiness present upon his life.
He exercises self-control. He shows restraint in appetites and desires through moderation. He is calm, unhurried, and is not given to shows of excessive or extreme displays of emotion. He possesses stability in Christ, yet remains flexible to His leading.
HOLDING FAST THE FAITHFUL WORD:
An elder is rooted in loyalty and consistency in his relationship with the Father. He is established in sound doctrine. His life shows full support and confidence in the Word which he has been taught, being convinced by the Spirit of truth and through his Shepherd's example and preaching of the life of Christ. He has proven and learned to believe and to trust the Word from the mouth of his Pastoral leader.
An elder is alert, awake, and watchful in the Spirit. He remains Spiritually prepared through his daily communion with the Holy Spirit. He is given to prayer and intercession and meets regularly with the Lord. He stays vigorous and roused with a fresh anointing each day.
OF GOOD BEHAVIOR:
One who lives an order life in the Spirit. He is regulated and governed by the life of Christ, His doctrine and His Kingdom. He is submitted to divine authority. He is a good follower and therefore will make a good leader.
APT TO TEACH:
He possess good communication abilities. He is able to express and/or teach the Word through revelation coupled with experience. He is a good instructor because he has first been instructed. He doesn't desire to be seen of men, but desires truth in their inward parts.
Longsuffering. He has great endurance in hardships and times of straitens and afflictions. He keeps a joyful expectation in adverse circumstances having learned both to be abased and to abound, but in all things therewith be content and wait patiently for the end of the Lord, Who is working all things together for good. He exhibits this patience with all men, but especially with his brethren, waiting for Christ to be formed in them and appear. He has the patience of the Spirit working in his frame.
NOT A BRAWLER:
Peaceable. A tangible peace is realized when in the presence of an elder. He is at peace with God, he lives in peace and is a peacemaker. He is meek, mild, and of a gentle, kind disposition.
An elder is not controlled by the love of money which is the root of all evil. He resists worldly fame and fortune and is submitted to the Lord Who gives him richly all things to enjoy. His heart is after God, not the blessings. He is not jealous of his neighbor's prosperity. He is at rest and does not want, because the Lord is his shepherd.
NOT A NOVICE:
Not newly planted or a young convert. One newly planted has not yet proven or processed by the winepress of the word and spirit of the House and cannot yet handle the office. A young convert is not yet mature and will be inflated with pride. He must first fall on the Rock and be broken and submit to the processing of the Lord to become the leader that God desires.
HE MUST HAVE A GOOD REPORT:
He must have an honorable reputation with those outside of the church. He may have enemies, but their respect should not be an issue, that he, nor the church, may be unjustly held in reproach.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF AN ELDER
Before we proceed with this section, let it be noted that not all elders function as a 5-fold ministry gift of an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, or Teacher, but all who do function in the 5-fold ministry are to be honored as elders. Yet without being appointed to the office in their local church family, then he or she may not function in the delegated authority of an elder in that church family. Elders give oversight and leadership in the church. There are many needs in the church and therefore a diversity of administration to be fulfilled. The job description of one elder may differ from another, but there are common qualifications and responsibilities that are shared by each one.
Please read the following verses:
Acts 20:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, 1 Timothy 5:17-19, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4, James 5:14-15.
FEED THE FLOCK:
Tend to the church as a shepherd does for his sheep. Be a faithful and wise servant giving proper nourishment to the flock, that will cause growth to full age. The Chief Shepherd lovingly cares for His sheep and an elder will reflect His nurturing of the sheepfold.
TAKE THE OVERSIGHT:
Oversee the flock as a caring parent does his children. Not because it is necessary and compulsory, but willingly and joyfully from the heart, receiving it as an honor to be chosen by God to do so.
BE AN EXAMPLE:
Be an living example fro the sheep to follow, rather than demanding obedience by a heavy ruling hand. Remember these are the sheep of His pasture, it is His inheritance, not the elder's. Our Father's children will imitate the influence of the example before them, just like natural children do their parents.
It is the responsibility of an elder to caution, war, and sometimes mildly rebuke and reprove those in his care. The heart in it is to bring awareness of impending danger to the one missing the mark and to put them in mind to follow the right way. This is accomplished out of love in the spirit of meekness, bringing restoration and forgiveness.
WATCH FOR THEIR SOULS:
An elder is accountable to the Lord to watch for the souls given to his charge. As a Watchman he is vigilant to speak the word into their hearts and to cover their lives with a blanket of prayer and intercession.
LABOR IN THE WORD AND DOCTRINE:
An elder labors in the Word and doctrine of the House by being faithful to put into practice every word that proceeding from the mouth of God. He or she prepares the Word in their hearts being always ready to serve fresh bread for the people of the Lord.
PRAY FOR THE SICK:
An elder by virtue of his appointment and anointing of power from the Holy Spirit, prays for the sick, and the prayer of faith, that is responding to the faith of the one who is sick, brings healing from the Lord.
THE IDENTITY OF THE ELDER
1 Peter 2:25 - For we were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the SHEPHERD and BISHOP of your souls.
1 Peter 5:1-4 (KJV) - the elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the CHIEF SHEPHERD shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Chief Elder, Shepherd and Bishop of our sours. Therefore every elder realizes he is not that One, but is a vessel by which "The Elder" expresses Himself. It is of the utmost necessity for every elder to be identified in Him that Christ may take the oversight and give the leadership and example in the church. Praise God!