The CEO of Eskom has an enormous task, more so because the office is controlled by politics. He is stepping down next month due to the lack of political support needed for the job. He might not have been an engineer but was suitably and ably qualified to do the task at hand, if he received the necessary support … and this support included that of the employees and contractors. The stories of sabotage abounds. The same is true of poor workmanship and overpriced, undersupplied contracts. Any leader requires the support of the investors, staff, contractors and suppliers if he is to lead the company to profitability and growth. The exact same is true in the Church. We have taken a long time to journey through leadership, from the creation of man (male) and his role in the marriage and home leading to his role in the Church. Although not an exhaustive study, we are now ready to consider:
Ac 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church. We come to “elders”.
1Ti 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Just as deacons have required qualifications, so do elders.
1) Trustworthy saying. It would appear that which is trustworthy as a saying might have been a summary of what would have been said of synagogue or business leaders. Trustworthy implies “reliable”. It was used of a person who was skilled in using a weapon, but when used of people it is associated with skill in relationships and service. We can see how this applies to “elders”. The word “saying” refers to “evaluation” and “enumeration”. The saying can be called to memory (enumerate) and assessed (evaluate). There are about 5 “trustworthy sayings” in the New Testament. Each time it is associated with salvation in Jesus … and only here does it refer to men to work with people saved through Jesus.
2) The role of elder is a noble task … If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
(1) To … “sets his heart on” … means “to reach out to heaven”. In other words, with all his heart, this is the only thing in life that makes sense … and he is ready, willing and available to do it. But note, it does not imply that because Paul has taught that women cannot fulfil this role, any man can be an overseer.
(2) The word … “overseer” may also be interpreted as “watcher, elder, bishop, presbuteros (presbyter), pastor or shepherd. Although the Bible implies a plurality of elders for Church Leadership, the Presbyterians use two categories to distinguish between those who rule the congregation as overseeing the spiritual care of the Church and those who teach the congregation, which includes all elders overseeing the spiritual education of the congregation. This does not mean a ruling elder may not teach. It means the teaching elder’s main function is to educate the flock in the Word.
(3) The man who sets his whole heart on being an elder, “desires a noble task”. What is this noble task? Look at:
Mk 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
To be first means to be prominent, like a leader. Jesus says such a person must be “last” and by last He qualifies it’s meaning … as a servant … and a servant of all. The Twelve were the ones He would appoint as apostles … the elders of the Church … and they needed to be servants! The other two servant leader passages are …
Mt 20:25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jn 13:12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Where the former passage speaks of sacrificial leadership, the latter speaks of being prepared to do the most menial task. Before we may consider the qualifications we need to deal with the attitude related to the task. Being an elder, either as a ruling elder … a council member … or a teaching elder as in the pastor teacher, the task is hard work, requiring dedication, commitment and willingness to do the task … which is the role of being a servant for the Lord Jesus to those washed in His blood. This is not a school teacher dishing out information or a company manager calling the shots. It is servant leadership … sacrificing progress in society, business or amongst peers to further the greater cause, which is the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a high office with huge responsibilities because souls live forever and those belonging to Jesus need the best care and protection. Just like the CEO of Eskom needs the full support of all the role players in and associated with the company … so the teaching elder as well as the eldership need the full support of the congregation to make their task easier. Never forget the elders fight a spiritual war for the benefit of the souls of the Body of Christ!
Father, graciously grant to the elders of all Churches who are true to the Bible and Gospel every resource enabling them to serve You faithfully for the benefit of Your people. Amen.