For the last several week, the church has been talking about elders. Yesterday, we nominated four more men to be recognized as elders. Over the next few weeks, the church will officially recognize some or all of these men.
How should a church recognize or appoint elders? That’s a good question, isn’t it? There are many different answers to this question, depending perhaps upon your background, tradition, and interpretation of certain passages of Scripture.
I don’t think there is one way for a church to recognize or appoint elders. I don’t think Scripture gives us a specific set of steps or rules to follow in finding elders. However, I do think there are certain guidlines that Scripture gives us.
First, we should recognize that it is actually the Holy Spirit that appoints elders (Acts 20:28). I wrote about this in detail in a post called “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” In fact, I would say that this is the most important point in the recognition of elders.
Also, we should acknowledge that individuals should recognize their own “appointment” as elders, perhaps through a desire to take care of (“oversee”) people (1 Timothy 3:1). While a person may be disobeying God in refusing to be recognized as an elder (since the Holy Spirit actually “appoints” them), the person should be given the right to accept or deny that recognition.
Finally, the church should recognize that the Holy Spirit has appointed someone as an elder in order to care for the church. Church leaders can certainly help with this, but it is also the responsibility of the whole church.
We have known the four men that the church is considering as elders for several years.Â We have had opportunities to learn from their teaching and to examine their service to others. We know whether or not they practice hospitality and if they are faithful husbands and good fathers.
In fact, we know these men well enough that we know that they are not perfect. We know their strengths and their weaknesses. We know where they are continuing to grow in maturity. We know how God is working in their lives, and we know how God is using them in the lives of other people.
I have been part of churches who have hired pastors before. Usually, the church knows very little about the person that is being recognized or appointed as an elder (pastor). They usually only know whether or not the person can teach (preach) because the person has taught once or twice. They may have an opportunity to ask questions, but they have not had an opportunity to actually observe and learn from the person’s life. The process we are going through now is completely different.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we have all the answers. I’m not suggesting that we won’t make mistakes. We could recognize and appoint someone who the Holy Spirit has not appointed. There are obviously other ways to recognize or appoint an elder other than the process that we’re going through.
So, I’m not encouraging anyone to change the way that they’re currently recognizing their elders and to begin to recognize elders the way we do it.
I do hope, however, that people will begin to think seriously about the people who they recognize or appoint as elders. Do we really know them? Can we recognize how God is already using them? Do we know if they are hospitable or good fathers? Do we know how they react to conflict? Do we know whether or not they are servants?
If we do not know these things about them, then how can we recognize whether or not the Holy Spirit as appointed them as elders?
If we an