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THE WORK OF ELDERS

Victor M. Eskew

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A.    When we think of work

1.      We think of something that requires time, talent, effort, sacrifice, and energy.

2.      We think of the investment of oneself into an important endeavor.

3.      We think of the opposite of rest and relaxation.

 

B.      In the Lord’s church one of the positions is an elder.

1.      It is also referred to as presbyter, pastor, shepherd, bishop, and overseer.

2.      It is a position that involves work.

a.      I Timothy 3:1

 

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

 

b.      I Timothy 5:17

 

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in word and doctrine.

 

C.     When we think of elders, we usually focus on their qualifications.

1.      These are extremely important.

2.      If a person does not meet the God-given qualifications in I Timothy 3:1-6 and Titus 1:5-9, he cannot serve as overseer of the congregation.

 

D.    But, it is also very important that any man who desires to be an elder understand exactly what the job requires.

1.      It is not a figure-head position.

2.      It is not a title that is supposed to bring admiration from others.

3.      The position of an elder involves work, hard work.

 

E.      In this lesson, we will only be looking at the broad responsibilities that elders have.

 

I.       SELF-EXAMINATION

 

A.    Before an elder fulfills any other duty, he must first give heed to himself.

 

B.      Paul’s command to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:28)

 

Take heed unto thyself…

 

1.      Take heed

a.      Strong (4337):  to hold the mind (G3563 implied) towards, that is, pay attention to, be cautious about, apply oneself to, adhere to:

b.      Thayer:  bring near, turn the mind to, be attentive to, give attention to, devote thought and effort to

2.      Self should be our first and foremost consideration when it comes to salvation.

 

C.     Questions elders can ask themselves:

1.      Am I thinking right?

2.      Am I speaking right?

3.      Am I behaving right?

4.      Do I have the right attitude?

5.      Do I have the right motivations?

6.      Where do I need to improve?

7.      Can I honestly ask members of the church to follow my example?

 

D.    A flaw in a leader WILL HINDER his ability to lead.

 

II.                OVERSIGHT

 

A.    Two verses:

1.      Acts 20:28

 

Take heed therefore unto 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.

 

2.      I Peter 5:1-2

 

The elders which are among you I exhort, whom 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 there, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

 

B.      Definition:  oversight

1.      Strong (1983):  oversee                      :- look diligently

2.      Thayer:  to look upon, inspect, oversee, look after, care for

3.      Vine:  to look upon, exercising oversight

 

C.     The elders are “over” the flock.

1.      The elders have the charge of the “big picture.”

2.      They are the ones who overlook EVERY aspect of the Lord’s work.

3.      They cannot be and are not expected to be intricately involved in every minute detail of the work, but they oversee it.

a.      If they get down too deeply into every little aspect of the work, then they are not able to oversee. 

b.      If they are deep into every aspect of the work, they might miss something that could negatively impact the church.

c.       If they are down deep into the work, they might get too focused on one thing and neglect other things that could be beneficial to the church.

d.      If they are deeply involved in the work, they can hinder the work that others should be doing (ex., deacons).

4.      NOTE:  Some elders have a difficult time letting go of some control. 

a.      They love control.

b.      They do not trust others.

c.       They do not truly understand the nature of their work as overseers.

 

III.             DELEGATION

 

A.    Definition:  to commit power and functions to another as an agent.

 

B.      Elders cannot be everywhere, doing everything.   They must delegate tasks and responsibilities to others.

 

C.     Examples:

1.      Moses was taught this lesson by Jethro, his father-in-law (Exo. 18:13-26).

a.      Summary

1)      The weight upon Moses (Exo. 18:13)

2)      The words of Jethro (Exo. 18:14-23)

3)      The willingness of Moses (Exo. 18:24-26)

b.      Three verses of importance:

1)      Assessment (Exo. 18:17)

 

And Moses father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest it not good.

 

2)      Advice (Exo. 18:21-22a)

 

Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness:  and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:  and let them judge the people at all seasons…

 

3)      Advantages (Exo. 18:23)

 

If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace.

 

2.      The apostles delegate responsibilities involving serving tables in Acts 6:1-7

a.      Summary

1)      The Situation (Acts 6:1).

2)      The Solution (Acts 6:2-4)

3)      The Submission (Acts 6:5-6)

4)      The Significance (Acts 6:7)

b.      Two verses:

1)      Awareness (Acts 6:2-3)

 

Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven man of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we appoint over this business.

 

2)      Advancement (Acts 6:7)

 

And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient unto the faith.

 

D.    Thoughts about delegation:

1.      It involves letting go of some power.

2.      Delegation is not the loss of complete control.  Those delegated to are still responsible to the elders.

3.      Qualified, talented, and trusted men must be the ones to whom power is delegated.

4.      Delegation frees up time to do other things.

5.      There will be times when those delegated to will not fulfill their trust.

 

 

IV.             STUDENT

 

A.    The word “elder” indicates a man who is older.

 

B.      Paul tells us that one of the qualifications of an elder is:  “…not a novice…” (I Tim. 3:6).

 

C.     His maturity in Christ, however, does not relieve him of his obligation to be a diligent student of God’s Word.

1.      Two qualifications that indicate he is a student of God’s Word.

a.      A qualification of an elder is that he should be “apt to teach” (I Tim. 3:2).  The word “apt” means “skillful in teaching.”  NOTE:  A person cannot teach what he does not know.

b.      To Titus, Paul set forth this qualification of an elder:  “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught…” (Tit. 1:9).

2.      In I Timothy 5:17, Paul notes that elders should be laboring in word and doctrine.

 

D.    Elders need to constantly find ways to increase their knowledge of God’s Word.

1.      Personal Bible study

2.      Additional classes

3.      Workshops and seminars

4.      Reading of good books

5.      Teaching on a regular basis

 

V.                STEWARD

 

A.    A steward is one who is entrusted with the goods of another person.

 

B.      One of the things God established is the local congregation of His people.

1.      Not only did He establish the local church, but he also authorized the organization of that body.

2.      He placed elders over the local congregation as the leaders.

a.      Acts 14:23

 

And when they had ordained them elders in every church…

 

b.      Titus 1:5

 

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.

 

3.      Peter, writing to elders, exhorted them saying:  “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” (I Pet. 5:2).                     

a.      The word “feed” is poimaino” which means “to shepherd.

b.      Notice he told them they were to shepherd the flock which was among them.

c.       They have a specific group of people that have been entrusted to their care.

d.      They are stewards over these individuals (See Heb. 13:17).

 

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:  for they watch for your souls…

 

 

 

 

4.      This is one of the most sobering works of an elder.

a.      The Bible exhorts steward to be faithful (I Cor. 4:2).

b.      Elders understand that they will give an account for every soul that is put into their trust (Heb. 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…

 

CONCLUSION

 

A.    These are four broad works of elders.

 

B.      To accomplish these tasks will require a lot of effort and time on their part.

 

C.     Every time I contemplate, study, and speak on the responsibilities of elders I tremble. 

 

D.    In our next study, we will look at the more detailed aspect of an elder’s responsibilities.