A Note on Biblical Terms:
Elders in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are a fact of life. In some cases they are there because people grow old enough to be elders. In other cases, they are present because certain ones have been appointed to leadership. The term seems to have significant overlap with the position of pastor/shepherd and that of overseers. It seems that all pastors are elders. It would also seem that all elders have pastoring/shepherding and oversight functions. But not all elders are teachers, though pastors must teach. The purpose of this study is not to re-construct leadership polity, but rather to notice what Scripture teaches about the functioning of church leaders, known as elders, overseers and pastors.
I will add a note after each selected text reference, with the verse following on the next line.
Acts 14:23 – emphasis on carefulness of selection
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church (acc. to church), with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Acts 20:17 – multiple elders, though it is possible there are also multiple congregations
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.
1Tim. 4:14 – carefulness in setting apart young leadership
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
1Tim. 5:17 – not all elders preach and teach; also, the translation “rule” is unfortunate. A better translation would be “lead.” Elders are not kings; they are leaders.
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
Titus 1:5 -
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town (acc. to town) as I directed you—
The main point of this lesson is to emphasize the need for church leadership, and for a kind of church leadership that is pointedly involved in the lives of people. Church leaders must lead by example, but example alone is not leadership. Therefore, I have zeroed in on the use of “rebuke, reprove” as one of the functions of church leadership (Titus especially helps us here). Certainly there are a whole array of pastoral functions when dealing with people. Rebuking is only one of the them. But it is certainly one of them.
Selected verses using “rebuke”
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.
But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
John 16:8 – we rebuke now, to save from rebuke on the Day of Judgment
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
1. We will not meet the leadership challenge without meeting the prayer challenge. (Cf the previous post on the church's direction and enablement.)
2. We live in a world that tends toward disorder, especially spirit and soul disorder. Christian maturity will not happen on its own. Leadership is needed.
3. Faithful and willing men who meet the qualifications for church leadership are increasingly rare.
4. Honest confrontation is not inconsistent with a loving and caring Christianity.
5. One should notice what things are not included in the Bible’s description of the roles of elders/overseers/pastors.