OceanSide church of Christ
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A COHESIVE, CONFIDENTIAL UNIT
Victor M. Eskew
The Bible refers to God as “the only wise God in I Timothy 1:17 and Jude 25. His wisdom far exceeds the wisdom of man. In fact, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (I Cor. 1:25). Anything God does manifests His infinite wisdom. Man may not understand God’s wisdom Man may doubt God’s wisdom. But, man’s ignorance and misunderstanding do no negate the wisdom of God in all of His words, actions, and legislation.
God’s wisdom has established a group of men known as an eldership to be over the local congregation as its overseers. While at Miletus, Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus. When they came to him, he spoke to them what some refer to as his “Farewell Address.” In his message to them, he reminded them of their responsibility as elders. “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
This group of men known as the eldership is not understood by many in the denominational world. They speak of their preachers as “pastors,” a term reserved for the elders of the local congregation in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11; Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-2). Fortunately, those in the churches of Christ are very familiar with the concept. However, from time to time, we need to be reminded of certain things about the eldership. In this article we want to discuss the eldership as a cohesive, confidential unit.
First, the eldership is a unit. It is a single entity that is composed of two or more individuals. Specifically, the eldership consists of Christian men who have met the qualifications of the office found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. These men do not operate independently. On their own, elders have no authority. The authority resides in the unit known as the eldership.
Second, the eldership should be a cohesive unit. Cohesive means that all of the elders work as one. Within the eldership, there should never be one elder who decides this or that. There should never be just one elder who does this or that. One elder should not shift the burden of decision-making on the other elders leaving himself in the clear. One elder should not shift blame to the other elders.
Two points are important here. One, elders should present a united front to the local congregation. They are one. They rise together, and they fall together. The eldership makes decisions together. When things are presented to the congregation, it should be said: “The eldership has decided…” One did not decide. One was not left out of the decision-making process. They all decided. They come forth from the conference room as one. This is where their strength lies.
Two, when elders are united the congregation develops a deep trust in the eldership. They know the elders are one. They know the elders have one another’s backs. They know that the word of the eldership is the final word. All of the member may not agree with the decision of the eldership, but they appreciate that they are one. They do not see weakness. They see strength.
Third, the eldership needs to be a very confidential unit. In their meetings, the elders may have differences of opinions on various matters. Sometimes their discussions can be very passionate. As they come to their decisions, some may yield to the others in order to come to an agreement. Once the meeting is over, the elders become one. They are all in agreement. Anything that was discussed in the meeting is confidential. The multiple positions of the elders while in the conference room are never discussed with the congregation. Elders need to keep this information confidential from their wives as well. There does not need to be any leaks of information to the congregation from anyone.
The confidentiality of the eldership is essential to the unity of the congregation. The moment the church knows that the leaders are divided among themselves, the church begins to take sides. Each elder begins to be pulled toward his “position” rather than being able to stand with the decision of the eldership. This writer knows of churches where information from the elders’ meetings was leaked to the church. This information caused division to the point that the church split. Had the information remained confidential, it would have been easier for the church to remain united. Elders, even small matters can create problems if the members of the church are aware of what goes on in your confidential meetings. Never think that this is just a small matter. You may find yourself in the midst of a big split.
In the New Testament, Peter is the only person who specifically refers to himself as “an elder” (I Pet. 5:1). Every other time elders are mentioned, they are mentioned as a unit, a plurality of men who make up the eldership. The following are a few examples: 1) “Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:30); 2) “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (Acts 15:6); 3) “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17); 4) “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James, and all the elders were present (Acts 21:18); and 5) “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Tit. 1:5).
Each individual elder renders a great service to the church. But, an elder does not function as an independent leader of the local congregation (See III John 9-10). He works with the other elders as a unit. This unit must remain cohesive and confidential. Elderships that maintain these things are a blessing to the church.