Elders in Congregational Life

by glen H. Jones

Unlike some other denominations, such as the Presbyterians, few Baptist churches have church officers called elders. Newton shows from history and from Scripture that a plurality of elders is the pattern for a New Testament church. To illustrate his contention, Newton quotes from English, American, and Southern Baptist historical documents. These documents clearly show that many Baptist churches have espoused the position of elder.

Three Greek words are used to identify the spiritual leaders in a New Testament church. The first word, presbteros, translates "elder." Epskopos, the second word, is translated "overseer." The final word, poimé\n, is our English word "pastor" or "shepherd." Poimé\n is usually in the verb form and indicates the elder is to shepherd those under his care. These three Greek terms are used synonymously and interchangeably. "Elder" signifies spiritual maturity; "overseer" indicates one who leads and directs the church; while "pastor" suggests feeding and nurturing the flock that is under his care.

Newton shows that the New Testament pattern is always a plurality of elders. Scripture does not specify the number of elders a church should have. The assumption is that the number will depend on the number of believers in the church. A plurality of elders divides the responsibilities within the church. One elder (pastor) does not have to wear all the hats in the church, just as one person cannot be an "expert" in preaching, administration, counseling, and teaching.

Elders are selected for their spirituality and their strength in one or more of the spiritual gifts needed in the church. Elders must insure that teaching within the church meets the test of New Testament orthodoxy and must guard the flock from going astray. They are not to berate and mistreat those that are under their care. The author gives a brief study of three New Testament passages that touch on the subject of elders: Acts 20:17-31; Hebrews 13:17-19; and I Peter 5:1-5.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad