We want to start the process of ordaining elders, which is a big step for us. To have our own board of elders is to become fully independent.
Members of Emmanuel are asked to nominate elder candidates. The Operation Board will review the nominations. The nominees will go through a pretty seriously elder-training program, and in December, at our Congregational Meeting, you will elect our first elders.
I recognize this topic might be as exciting as the one on membership and church discipline, but I ask you to listen:
I want to preach on elders and deacons today because this is a very important step for us as a church. I want to explain the roles and qualifications of an elder and deacon so you can make appropriate nominations.
I want to us to look to the Bible on what the church is supposed to be like; to understand and appreciate how God designed the church: celebrate and embrace the values built in to this governing system.
1 Timothy I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man
In our denomination, this means that we do not ordain women (deacon or elder)
Early church, probably didn’t have seminary trained, denominationally ordained full-time paid pastors. There was no such thing as a paid pastoral staff. How were the early churches run?
The reason I left you in
They had elders. Paul’s instruction was that elders were appointed in every church.
Don’t think so much about some old men at your parents’ church. I want you to imagine Paul in the first century. Think back to a Jewish/Greek world. Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders for the church.
This points us to the first function of an elder
1. to govern, lead
one of the qualifications of an elder is that he must manage his own household well
we won’t go through the arguments, but the NT uses the terms elder, bishop, overseer interchangeably—it’s the same office.
Overseer: someone who look over the church; the guy in charge.
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers (1 Peter 5:2)
They have the responsibility (authority) of overseeing the church: leading, protecting, shepherding the church.
2. to shepherd
but this 1 Peter 5 passage implies a second function: to shepherd
It is not just a ruling, governing role. It is a shepherding, caring role.
Let’s continue with this 1 Pe 5 and get a sense of what an elder is like
1 Peter 5:2-5
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
willing and eager to serve
not lording it over the members, but setting an example
you are to be shepherds under the Chief Shepherd
You get a warm, caring, serving sense. That comes out in other passages
Paul gives instructions to the elders from Ephesus
Acts 20:28, 35
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers . . . In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
The picture is not that we have these elders sitting in a board room making decisions for the church. Rather, the picture in the NT is that the elders were pastoring/shepherding the church: helping the weak, praying for the sick, shepherding God’s flock.
There is one more specific role: to teach
1 Timothy 5:17
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
there is the leading/governing role, “directing the affairs of the church”
and there is a particular role of preaching and teaching. Some of the elders have this particular function.
In the PCA, we have what we call “ruling elders” and “teaching elders.” Pastors/preachers are called TE. Both are considered elders.
This has some rather important implications
TE are elders work together with the other elders. It is not Pastors over Elders over Deacons. [diagram] Rather it is TE and RE in teamwork in pastoring, leading, caring for the church. A great strength of the PCA: not just pastors, but lay elders as well.
Again, I’d like to us to think about the days of Paul when there weren’t seminary trained, full-time pastors. There were just elders, and some of them had the gift to preach/teach. But all the elders worked together in overseeing the church.
RE are essentially lay-pastors who don’t have to preach. As we nominate elders, we are selecting people to take on the pastoring, the oversight, the ruling of the church.
Let me flesh out these 3 roles with some instructions from the Book of Church Order (the PCA rule book), and my own input on what I see at Emmanuel
exercise government and discipline
be a visionary, to help us forge our next steps as we continue to develop
have discernment, to help gauge the pulse and needs of our people
have influence, the leadership to transform our values, culture and practices
be a good team player, board of elders by definition is a team of elders
guard the doctrine and morals of the church
Although some elders have the specific role of preaching/teaching, Paul lists as one of the qualifications that an elder must be an apt teacher (1 Tim 3:2, Titus 1:9)
In Acts 20, Paul urges the elders of Ephesus to protect the church from false and dangerous doctrine.
have a solid grasp of Scripture
have a foundational understanding of Reformed theology
visit people, especially the sick
instruct the ignorant
comfort the mourner (John Kang’s father)
nourish and guard the children of the church
set a worthy example to the flock by their zeal to evangelize and disciple
have shown themselves to be good small group leaders
disciple future leaders
Now let me pause and say, there is no perfect elder. Even the pastors we have now lack some of these areas to different degrees. This is the ideal, this is what we are called to do as elders. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for respectable.
The defining chapter for Deacons is Acts 6. Certain widows were getting overlooked in the distribution of food. The Apostles realized the job was getting too big for them, and so they appointed 12 men to take the job so that they could devote themselves to the prayer and the ministry of the word.
There are two main roles of the deacons
1. Ministers of mercy
They are a group of men set aside for the specific work of helping to care for these widows. We can extend that principle of mercy and include other roles:
help people in times of crisis (grief, hospitalization, depression)
to help those in need, the sick, those in distress
feed the hungry (real financial difficulties)
raise and distribute financial aid (tsunami relief, AIDS relief, QV families in special needs)
to develop liberality among the members, devise effective methods of collecting the gifts of the people and distribute those gifts
free the elders so they could focus on the word and prayer
Structured into the church is a safety net against distraction, an intentional priority
Under this heading, deacons can do almost anything so that the elders can keep a more spiritual focus.
care for the property of the church (building, vans, sound equipment, kitchen, etc.)
In the BCO, the role is described like this: “The office is one of sympathy and service . . . it expresses also the communion of saints, especially in their helping one another in time of need.”
At Emmanuel, things have been a little blurry because we up to this point did not have elders. Many of our deacons functioned like elders—leadership, shepherding, etc.
our Congregational Team has acted like our deacon board
helping to run the church (worship committee, kitchen committee, web/multimedia, newsletter)
Qualifications (1 Tim 3, Titus 1)
a blameless and respectable life
apt to teach
not given to drunkenness or violence or quarrels
not a lover of money
manages his own household well
not a young Christian
good reputation with those outside of the church
a blameless and respectable life
not greedy for money
not given to drunkenness
manages his own household well
wife of noble character
character, a holy and blameless lifestyle
free from vices: drunkenness, greed, violence, quarreling
manages household well: good marriage, good parenting
able to teach
not a young Christian (tempted with pride)
reputation with those outside the church
hospitable, shepherding role
not young, not too quickly given this kind of responsibility; not going to be tempted with pride
bears the reputation of the church
wife of noble character
wives probably help with the diaconal roles
Consider how God has designed the church. Consider what kind of values are woven into the very structure of a Church.
1. Authority and Submission
Christ has ordained that some elders be given the responsibility and authority to lead and govern the church. The reverse side of that is that the members are called to submit to that authority.
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
God did not design the church to be a completely egalitarian, democratic system. There is a structure of authority.
I fear that too many of us have seen the abuse of this authority, that in the name of pastoral or session authority, some leaders overstepped their bounds.
Yet I do want to point out that the church was designed to have leaders and followers. To become a member is to acknowledge the authority of the elders and to submit to it.
I suspect in our society, it is too easy to disregard the leadership of the church. People live as they please, consider the work of the church optional.
Elders should not shrink back from taking charge and doing what needs to be done, and members should not abandon their leaders but instead support and empower them.
2. Shepherding Care and Biblical Teaching
That’s what a church is supposed to do. The role of elders is to care for the flock.
Today, much of that is done through small groups, but elders must take responsibility.
Most of understand this part, this is what a church is supposed to be about.
Personally, there is where I want to focus: shepherding and teaching
3. Word and Prayer
There is a clear priority of the Word and prayer.
I was so encouraged with some emails this week, people starting prayer meetings!
NJ, Center City, Upper Darby/Cityline, DE, NW suburbs
Woven into our structure of the church is the ministry of compassion and mercy. Churches are to be place where people find grace, kindness, mercy.
It’s interesting that the early church did not form a education department/a youth ministry, a welcoming committee or a choir or worship team—they formed a mercy ministry.
We’re doing some of this
QV, Lighthouse, Tae Ho
Tsunami donations (last Sunday today), AIDS donations
And you’ve been good. This needs to grow, become a greater part of our culture.
5. Lay Role Models & Leaders
I recognize that 99% of us probably aren’t really thinking too seriously about being a deacon or elder. However, let me urge you—the church of Jesus is in great need of people like this.
God has designed the church to have such men, that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s not enough to have a pastor, we need a team of elders and deacons.
Everyone has been given gifts to serve together on the team.
But God has ordained that elders and deacons be corporately affirmed and publicly recognized, to take on certain responsibilities, leadership and are called to live exemplary lives.
The development of the church in our generation is dependent upon the quality of spiritual leaders/servants. We need a generation of deacons and elders to rise to the task of serving the church and building the kingdom.
One thing I’ve learned from other PCA churches is the value of elders. The only models I’ve really seen is where the pastor pretty much is the one-man hero. Everyone follows him. And I certainly recognize the importance of the pastor, but one pastor does not make a healthy church.
I’ve now seen churches where it godly and passionate elders who love the Lord and love the church, serve and pray and lead the church side by side with the pastors. They bring experiences, passions, perspective and gifts that most pastors do not have, and the church is so much strong for having them on the team.
We over-estimate the pastor and underestimate the lay people.
Not just elders; It is in having a solid, empowered, mobilized godly laity that makes a healthy church. (This is one reason why I’m so encouraged by the different local prayer meetings that have sprung up—all initiated by lay people, not staff).
The next step for Emmanuel is not in hiring more pastors, but in developing and empowering our lay leadership: in having godly elders and deacons, in having godly small group leaders and committeeheads.
The church is in need of godly members to step up: men and women.
In regard to deacons and elders, God is looking for proven, mature, wise, caring and godly men to step up to the task.
6. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ
This message can have a legalistic flavor: be better! Step up!
Let me take a step back and say that the church is all about Jesus.
Jesus bought the church with his blood. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is purifying the church. Jesus loves His church. God has gifted some to be deacons and elders and given those men to the church.
The church of Jesus will not and cannot fail, for she belongs to God.
We’re just trying to follow Him, to be faithful to Him, to do things the way He would have us to do. This is going to take a team effort—we all have to agree that this is the kind of church we want to be, we need to do our part.
Pray for future elders, deacons.
Pray for our church.