the weblog of Alan Knox


Posted by on Sep 25, 2009 in elders, office | 8 comments

Two years ago, I wrote a seven part series on Elders (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7). Unfortunately, I think many Christians understand elders/pastors/bishop more from their cultural definitions than from scriptural definitions and examples. Below I’ve re-published the conclusion of this series, along with links to the other posts in the series.


Elders (Part 7) – Conclusion

In this series, I’ve suggested that Scripture does not hold elders to a higher standard of character, leadership, teaching, shepherding, or oversight. Also, I’ve suggested that Scripture does not add any responsibilities to elders in these areas above the responsibilities of all believers. Instead, I’ve suggested that, according to Scripture, all believers have the same responsibilities in these areas.

Does this mean that elders are unscriptural? Does this mean that elders are unimportant?

No. Elders are both scriptural and important. Scripture teaches that the church in Jerusalem had elders. Scripture teaches that Paul appointed elders in the cities that he visited. Scripture teaches that Paul told Timothy and Titus how to recognize elders. James and Peter both expected elders in the various churches to whom they wrote.

Elders are scriptural and important. When we recognize elders, we should recognize those who best exemplify the character, leadership, teaching, shepherding, and oversight required of all followers of Jesus Christ. When we think of people who are best following Jesus Christ and who are best serving other people, elders are the ones we should think about. When we want to see a flesh-and-blood example of what it means to live for Christ here and now, elders should be our best examples. These are the people who point us toward maturity in Jesus Christ – not toward themselves. When we need help in understanding something, or when we need assistance, or when we need comfort, or when we need exhortation, or even when we need correction, we should think of elders – not because they alone are responsible in these areas, but because we have observed how they live in obedience to Christ in these areas.

Again, this does not mean that elders are more responsible. It means that elders have demonstrated that they are more faithful in obeying Christ the way that all believers should obey Christ. However, elders who recognize that it is important for all followers of Jesus Christ to live this kind of obedient life will not always respond to requests for help from other believers. Instead, they will recognize that it is necessary that other believers have opportunities to demonstrate their character, to lead, to teach, to shepherd, and to oversee. Thus, elders who are interested in maturing all believers toward Christ will often defer an opportunity to serve to other believers, because those elders know that it is more important for the other believers to grow in maturity than it is for the elders themselves to do something, even if the elders might do it better.

In many contexts, people believe that elders lead best when they are visible and vocal. However, this is not necessarily true. Yes, there are times when mature believers (any mature believer, not just elders) should make themselves seen and heard in order to protect the gospel (not to protect our pet doctrines, but to protect the gospel). I have personally never been in one of these situations. I believe that they are rare, but the situation could come up. However, for the most part, I believe that elders demonstrate their maturity and Christlikeness most when they are not seen and not heard but are instead serving in obscurity by leading, teaching, shepherding, and overseeing in ways that demonstrate the humility and gentleness of the Spirit of Christ. If someone must be “in the limelight” – if they must be noticed – if they must be the main speaker – if they must make their opinion known – then it could be that this person is not demonstrating the character of Christ – who humbled himself taking the form of a servant – and reliance upon God, but is instead revealing a character of pride and self-dependence.

I recognize that there are serious implications of my views concerning elders. I hope to discuss many of these implications. However, I also want to give you an opportunity to discuss these implications. So, for the conclusion of this series, I am asking you – my readers – to help us understand the implications. Later, I will publish another post in order to discuss these various implications. Here are my questions for you:

1. Am I missing something in my understanding of elders?
2. What are the implications of this view of elders?


Series on Elders
1. Elders (Part 1) – Introduction
2. Elders (Part 2) – Character
3. Elders (Part 3) – Leadership
4. Elders (Part 4) – Teaching
5. Elders (Part 5) – Shepherding
6. Elders (Part 6) – Overseeing
7. Elders (Part 7) – Conclusion


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-25-2009

    good series brother!

  2. 9-25-2009

    “Also, I’ve suggested that Scripture does not add any responsibilities to elders in these areas above the responsibilities of all believers. Instead, I’ve suggested that, according to Scripture, all believers have the same responsibilities in these areas.”

    This is such a crucial point: and one that is difficult for many to understand. Too many (and I was in this group) are mere pew sitters, leaving ministry to the professionals and the elected. Eph 4:15-16 seems to indicate that maturation only happens when all members are functioning.

    Of course, the perpetual question arises: how to shift the paradigm? Probably the long, slow process of teaching a modeling.

  3. 9-25-2009

    Joe (JR),

    Thanks for reading again. 🙂


    Yes, you’re absolutely right. According to Eph 4:16, the church will only build itself up in love (and in maturity toward Christlikeness) when every part of the church is working together, like the muscles and ligaments of our physical bodies work together.

    How do we shift the paradigm? I think it takes changes on the parts of the elders (leaders) and non-leaders together. The elders must be willing stop doing everything, and the non-leaders must be willing to start working.


  4. 9-25-2009


    Having been in an elder for fifty years I am in thorough agreement with what you have written.

    NO HUMAN BEING is adequate to be an elder as defined by the accepted culturally correct interpretation. We have been deceiving ourselves for far too long and it is time those who argue for the status quo (however that is defined) to wake up!

    I am confident of this, most of the tasks traditionally accepted as those of elders are, from a Biblical point of view, to be the function of the WHOLE congregation, including the elder/s (pastor/s), and with his/her/their leadership.

  5. 9-25-2009

    Elder: “But Alaaaan, inactive pew sitters were so much easier to keep calm and quieeeet! Waaaah.”

    Pew Sitter: “Huh? What?”

    Bill: We got a loooong, looooong row to hoe.

    Lord, make the way straight.

  6. 9-25-2009

    Aussie John,

    You said, “I am confident of this, most of the tasks traditionally accepted as those of elders are, from a Biblical point of view, to be the function of the WHOLE congregation, including the elder/s (pastor/s), and with his/her/their leadership.” Well, fine… you just summarized a 7-part series in one sentence. All that work for nothing. 🙂


    I’ve seen the Lord do amazing things in the area of the work of all believers. He is our only hope.


  7. 9-29-2009

    Dang – 7 part series? I need an evening to read and digest I think.


  8. 9-30-2009

    The sad but true realization that traditional Christianity continues to ignore is that there is NO scriptural basis for the clergy (elders/pastors/bishops) vs. the laity (pew-warmer, chair-sitter, lay-person) structuring of our current-day faith communities.

    It was understood by ancient Israel that there was the Levitical priestly caste vs the common Hebrew. That was God’s way then. It was as well understood by Gentile religious people that perhaps God made some of their people to be spiritually strong and the priest/prophet/leader caste system evolved before and continues to this day after the Levitical priesthood came into being.

    BUT . . . the the Son of God, the Living Word of God, Jesus, the High Priest came, served, died and was resurrected — and intercedes even now for ALL sinners.

    By faith we now see and know via the Spirit of Truth and the Living Word of God that the Levitical Priesthood ENDED with Jesus’ perfect Priest/Prophet/Leader work of sacrificial salvation.

    As well, all other Gentile-based or pagan-born systems of religious worship to the gods or the god — are empty, ineffective ritual and DEAD tradition. These systems of religious behavior vaunt themselves up before the Holy One in blind and stubborn fleshly defiance and ignorance of God’s new Temple, God’s new Church, and God’s Son. They are a dangerous alternative to Christ alone.

    How dare we go quietly along with any error that lifts one man above the other? How dare we call any man our leader? How dare we say we serve the Lord by bowing before any pulpit?

    We are the temple! We are the Church! Christ is the ONLY Head!

    God forgive us — for our not functioning as His Body.

    God forgive us — for not honoring our Head, the Lord Jesus.

    We are all to be functioning saints; priests and warriors, bringing in the kingdom of God, being raised by the Spirit into elders among the flock. We are all equal before God — all His children by faith.

    God respects none of our traditions, none of our whitened steeples, none of our well-hewn pulpits nor any of our cherished post-Levitical, post-Hellenistic, post-Catholic, post-Protestant, post-religious vanities.

    He is only looking for His Son in our midst.

    The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.

    May God deliver us from our oh so comfortable idolatry to religion and may He deliver all its blinded servants.