the weblog of Alan Knox

Elders at the gates

Posted by on Mar 16, 2011 in blog links, elders, service | 4 comments

Elders at the gates

Felicity at “Simply Church” continues writing about leadership from a simple/organic church perspective in her post “What about elders and deacons?

Given our recent discussions on my blog (specifically my post “Ministers in Scripture“), I thought my readers might be interested in Felicity’s post as well.

She begins with this:

The problem with words is that they change in meaning over the years. I would love for the word,”church,” to never be used because the word itself conjures up a building with a spire, or a denomination, or a meeting. But the word is Scriptural, and we can learn to use it rightly.

The same is true with words like elders and deacons. The words are Scriptural, but their meaning has become obscured by centuries of tradition.

The word for elder, “presbuteros” literally means an older person, someone who is more mature. He keeps an eye on (oversees) what is going on in the churches. The word for deacon, “diakonos” means servant.

In the remainder of the post, Felicity suggests that “elders” and “deacons” had more of a regional or city-wide function in Scripture. There are some indications that she is correct; but, of course, the church had a regional or city-wide identity in Scripture as well.

What do you think?

(By the way, does anyone know where I got the title of this post? I’m not looking for a specific Scripture reference.)


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

  1. 3-16-2011

    If they “oversaw” and “served” the local church (meaning the church in a locality), then yes, they did so serving the entire church in the locality (city, etc.). Simple enough.

    The problem we have of considering this today is that we place a tad too much weight on identifying the local church in our own business/legal terms. “We 60 people here in cityville have incorporated as a separate church, first baptist church.” “We 78 people here in cityville have incorporated as a separate church, first assembly of God,” etc, etc. forty times over. Do we think this matters to God? I mean, besides His disdain for divisions. Do we think He sees 40 churches in Cityville? Or does God see “the church in Cityville?” (Albeit divided, fighting, and competing.)

    So, what doesn’t work is when we wrongly leave the church in a locality broken into 40 or 50 “separate” “local” (legal) churches, and then want rightly understood local elders and deacons to oversee this collective of separate churches. (Or an even worse invention, “local” apostles, prophets and evangelists doing so.)

  2. 3-17-2011


    Yes. In some ways, it is going to be impossible for us to understand and “live out” what we read about in Scripture because of our local divisions.


  3. 3-20-2011

    This is just simply in reference to your question at the end of your post that reads, “(By the way, does anyone know where I got the title of this post? I’m not looking for a specific Scripture reference.)” It would be my humble guess that you are intimating maybe Gen. 19:1, which is implying that Lot was an elder in Sodom. Why would Lot want to be an elder of a perverted system? Or you may be referencing Prov. 31:23, or Lam. 5:14 with the emphasis on the latter being that the TRUE elders are gone from the city gate. But you are also well read and well versed and didactically minded ~ so you may be referring to Nelson Kloosterman’s treatise entitled “Elders at the Gates.” I would guess the latter after further thought.

  4. 3-21-2011


    I wasn’t referring to any of those passages specifically. Instead, I was referring to the practice of the community meeting “at the gates” along with the older people (“elders”) in order to make decisions. Some authors suggest that this practice led to the synagogue.