OceanSide church of Christ
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Part of the series: CHURCH ORGANIZATION
THE WORK OF AN ELDER
Victor M. Eskew
A. There are numerous positions in the body of Christ: elder, deacon, preacher, and teacher.
B. These are not just positions; they are works.
1. Paul to Timothy, a preacher (II Tim. 4:5)
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
2. In like manner, the office of an elder involves work (I Tim. 3:1).
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
C. In this lesson, we want to discuss “The Work of An Elder.”
1. Those who are being submitted for elders at OceanSide need to understand the work involved in the position.
2. Present elders need to be reminded of their duties.
3. Members need to know what those who are over them are supposed to be doing.
I. ELDERS ARE TO OVERSEE THE FLOCK
A. Two times this responsibility is specifically stated of elders in the Bible.
1. Acts 20:28a
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.
2. I Peter 5:1-2a
The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof…
3. NOTE: The Greek word is episkopos. It is also translated by the word “bishop” in reference to elders (I Tim. 3:1-2; Tit. 1:5, 7)
1. Literally: from two Greek words meaning “to peer over”
2. Strong: superintendent
3. Thayer: a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done are done rightly (responsibilities, resources, freedom, and accountability)
C. Another term used of elders is “steward.”
1. Titus 1:7a
For a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God…
a. Strong (3623): a house distributor (that is, manager), or overseer
1) The manager of a household or household affairs, especially a steward, manager, superintendent
2) One to whom the household or proprietor has intrusted:
a) The management of his affairs
b) The care of receipts and expenditures
c) The duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant
3. Two points:
a. This word notes his position as an overseer.
b. It also emphasizes his accountability to Jesus Christ as the owner of the church (Acts 20:28). The bishops of the local church need to remember that Jesus is also referred to as a Bishop in I Peter 2:25.
D. The important thing here is that the elders “over” see.
1. All the affairs of the church must be on the table in their view.
2. If they become too involved in one or two things, they could miss other things that are supposed to be watching over (e.g., money matters, specific committees, or a particular work).
II. ELDERS ARE TO WATCH FOR SOULS
A. Hebrews 13:17
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
B. Definition of “watch:”
1. Strong (69): to be sleepless, keep awake
2. Thayer: to be sleepless, keep awake, watch
3. This duty was to be first manifested in their home (I Tim. 3:4-5)
One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity, (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
a. His obligation is to “take care” of the church of God.
b. How do we know he can do this? Because he took care of his own house.
C. The elder is viewed as being positioned over the local congregation and watching every member thereof. He is not to sleep on his watch.
1. Faithfulness or unfaithfulness
2. Proper use of talents
3. Sin in one’s life
4. Predators from without and within
5. Fulfilling one’s responsibilities in the proper fashion
D. To do this, elders must have systems in place:
1. Attendance check
2. Active visitation program
3. Active deacons
4. Church discipline
E. Again, the Hebrew penman notes that elders will give account of how well they watch for the souls of the members (Heb. 13:17).
III. ELDES ARE TO SHEPHERD THE FLOCK
A. The Greek word for this duty is “poimen.” It is translated “to feed” in Acts 20:28 and “feed” in I Peter 5:2.
B. The definition:
1. Strong (4165): to tend as a shepherd
a. To feed, to tend the flock, keep sheep
b. To rule, govern, nourish…to supply the requisites for the soul’s need
C. There are numerous duties encompassed in the role of shepherding:
1. They must know their sheep (John 10:2-3a).
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name…
a. Elders need to know every member.
b. New elders will have to spend much time at first getting to know every member of the body.
2. They are to lead the sheep (John 10:3b).
…and he leadeth them out.
a. The sheep are not to be out in front.
b. The shepherd has the vision. He knows where he wants the flock to go and he leads them in that direction.
3. They feed the flock (I Pet. 5:2a).
Feed the flock of God which is among you…
a. The food should be the pure, unadulterated Word of God.
b. Bible classes, the pulpit, gospel meetings, the bulletin, all need to be filled with the Word of God. Sheep must eat.
4. They are to seek the lost sheep (Luke 15:4).
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
a. Note the words, “If he lose one of them.”
b. Go after that which is lost.
“What can be the meaning of this parable, unless it be that when a disciple strays away from the path of duty, the very first obligation of the shepherd, rising above all the obligations at that moment due to the faithful brethren is to go and hunt up, and try to win back, the wanderer? He is to leave the ninety and nine, even in the wilderness, and go. If a congrega-tion were assembled on the Lord’s day for worship, and the Elders, upon looking over their faces, were to miss one, and ascertain that he was absent in some gay company, or at home in an ill humor, or about to start out for the day on a pleasure excursion, would they be pressing the teaching of this parable too far, should one of them immediately leave the house of God, and go to bring in that person? How much joy it would create among the saints on earth, and among the angels of heaven, if such a thing were done successfully and often! Should anyone, however, be unwilling to press the analogy to this extent, he must still admit that the nearest possible approach to this degree of vigilance can alone meet full the demands of the shepherd’s duty.
Such reflections make is very painful to look abroad at the well known condition of many congregations – the sheep scattered far and wide through the wilderness and shepherds eating and drinking, or asleep on the ground. Oh, that we have some Jeremiah to lift up his voice against the unfaithful shepherds of the flock of God!
A Treatise on the Eldership, J.W. McGarvey (1870), pp. 34-35
5. They are to protect the flock.
a. David protected his sheep from the lion and the bear (I Sam. 17:37).
b. The shepherds of the local congregation are to protect the sheep from the false teachers (Tit. 1:9).
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
D. In the OT book of Ezekiel, the shepherds who failed to fulfill their duties were reprimanded severely by God (Ezek. 34:2-10).
E. In I Peter 5:4, we learn once again that the elders are accountable for their shepherding. The Chief Shepherd shall appear and there will be a reckoning with Him. Remember: He is the good shepherd (John 10:11).
IV. ELDERS ARE TO LABOR IN WORD AND DOCTRINE
A. I Timothy 5:17
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in word and doctrine.
a. Strong (2872): to feel fatigue, by implication to work hard
b. Thayer: to grow weary, tired, exhausted, to labor with wearisome effort
2. Here, Paul says that their labor is to be in word and doctrine.
a. Elders are to be diligent students of the Word of God (Eccl. 12:12).
…and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
b. After laboring in the Word, they are to teach it to others (I Thess. 5:12).
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.
B. This duty is also hinted at in the qualifications of elders. They are supposed to be “apt to teach” (I Tim. 3:2). This means they are to be skillful in teaching. To do this, they must be students of the Word.
C. When one studies church history and beyond, he reads of the writings of uninspired men in the Second Century who are called “Church Fathers.”
1. Clement of Rome – bishop of Rome
2. Irenaeus – bishop of Lugdunum (Gaul)
3. Polycarp – bishop of Smyrna
4. Ignatius – bishop of Antioch
5. Papias – bishop of Hierapolis
V. ELDERS ARE TO BE EXAMPLES
A. Two verses:
1. I Peter 5:3
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
2. Hebrews 13:7
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
B. Their character and behavior are to be such that the members of the local congregation can pattern their lives after them. Those who do should be able to follow them into heaven.
A. The eldership is a work. It is a strenuous and difficult task.
B. The primary focus of an elder should be upon the members in their care and on the Word of God.
C. Elderships are not:
2. Boards of Directors
3. Investment Groups
4. Figure Heads
5. Political figures
D. Elders are Holy Spirit selected men who desire to shepherd the local flock under the oversight of the Chief Shepherd.