Expectations of Elders
The Necessity of Elders
It is not only fitting, but biblically mandated, that the local church be governed by a plurality of elders. Elders were found in the earliest New Testament churches (Acts 11:30, 15:22, 20:17; Philippians 1:1; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1) and the Apostle Paul appointed elders or instructed the appointment of elders in the local church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
The Honor of Eldership
Serving as an elder is a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). Elders are worthy of honor and respect (Hebrews 13:7, 17) and ought to be esteemed highly in love because of their work in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12). The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17). Moreover, it is appropriate that those in the church who sow spiritual seed reap a material harvest for their labors (1 Corinthians 9:11; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:18).
The Desire for Eldership
While it is true that the aspiration to eldership should not be from selfish ambition (Galatians 5:20), desire plays a legitimate part in being appointed an elder. Where there is a desire, truly generated by the Spirit, to lead and love the people of God as an elder, this desire is not only acceptable, but commendable (1 Timothy 3:1). In fact, those who shepherd God’s flock must do so not under compulsion, but because they are willing and eager to serve (1 Peter 5:2).
The Qualifications for Elders
The requirements for elders, for the most part, are no different than God’s requirements for any Christian, except that God calls an elder to be a distinguished example of the Christ-likeness to which he (God) calls all Christians.
Elders must be of excellent virtue in relation to God. They must hold firmly to scriptural truths (1 Timothy 3:9; Titus 1:9), be upright and holy (Titus 1:8), able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17; Titus 1:9), above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 9; Titus 1:6), not a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:6), and a lover of what is good (Titus 1:8).
Elders must be of excellent virtue in relation to others. They should not be quarrelsome (1 Timothy 3:3), nor overbearing (Titus 1:7), nor haughty in their position (1 Peter 5:3), nor a pursuer of dishonest gain (1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2), nor violent but gentle (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). They must be respectable (1 Timothy 3:2, 8), hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8), eager to serve (1 Peter 5:2), have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7), and be examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
Elders must be of excellent virtue in relation to themselves. They should not be quick-tempered (Titus 1:7), nor given to drunkenness (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7), nor in love with money (1 Timothy 3:3). They must be disciplined (Titus 1:8), sober-minded (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). They must manage their family well (1 Timothy 3:4, 12; Titus 1:16) and have obedient children (1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6).
The Duties for Elders
Elders are to direct the affairs of the church (1 Timothy 3:5, 5:17; Titus 1:7). This will include decision making (Acts 15), prayer (Acts 6:4), and general oversight (Acts 20:28). They supervise the membership of the church and maintain watch over the conduct of church members (BCO 1.I.1. sec. 8).
Elders are to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2; Jude 12). They must guard the church from error (Acts 20:28-31; BCO 1.I.1. sec. 8) and attend to the needs of the sheep (James 5:14; BCO 1.I.5. sec. 3). They are to guard the sacraments from being profaned (BCO 1.I.1. sec. 8) and exercise loving discipline when necessary (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5; BCO 1.I.5. sec. 4).
Elders are to instruct the people of God (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17; Titus 1:9; Acts 6:2; Ephesians 4:12-13). They build up the church in right doctrine and sound teaching and make certain what is preached is in accord with the Scriptures (BCO 1.I.1. sec. 8).
Expectations of Deacons
The Meaning of the Term Deacon
The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word diakonos. This term usually has the meaning servant, and in particular, table server. The term is used twenty-nine times in the New Testament in a variety of ways, but always in connection with serving, service, or servanthood.
Qualifications for Deacon
Deacons are to display the character of Christ, just as any believer in Jesus should do. Scripture does, however, go on to provide specific qualities that deacons should clearly manifest in their lives. The paramount concern when choosing a deacon is to choose someone who is “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The rest of the qualities a deacon is to possess are enumerated in 1 Timothy 3:8-12. The passage follows:
“8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.”
In the local church, deacons are to be members of spiritual commitment, exemplary life, compassionate spirit, and sound judgment who are honorable, genuine, authentic, temperate, and blameless in all areas of life. In addition, they must be content with a simple lifestyle, have deep convictions concerning the faith, and display excellent virtue in relation to their family (faithful to their spouse and able to manage their children).
Responsibilities of Deacons
The office of the deacon exists to serve the body. By so doing, deacons relieve elders of certain duties and pressures that would divert elders from the ministry of the word and prayer, and the visionary oversight of the church. In general, deacons should be ready to assist the elders of the church in any “service” that would support and promote the ministry of the word.
Specifically, deacons are called to the ministry of mercy, service, and outreach. This includes, but is not limited to, ministries which care for the building and grounds; provide practical assistance in job-hunting, housing matters, legal-aid, and child-care; serve and minister to the sick, poor, hurt, distressed and helpless; visit and comfort those in material need; provide aid to the victims of abuse and disaster; express social concerns of the church; oversee and carry out work that is concerned with the redemption of creation; and direct the attention of the church towards service and ministry both in the church and in the world.
Deacons are to receive and distribute the contributions of the congregation, giving personal attention and care to the whole benevolence program of the church. They are to have charge of all gifts and should exercise careful stewardship of all funds, goods, and properties of the congregation. In all of their duties, deacons are to exercise their gifts to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service in order to build up the body of Christ.