On Sunday, April 18 we will meet for supper @ 5
and have discussion after supper around the following
proposed constitutional revisions concerning elder leadership.
Please carefully read over this, mark it up, and bring questions with you.
For the Calvary Baptist Church
Q > Why are we leading our church to adopt elder ministry and to revise our constitution accordingly?
A > Because the Head of the Church clearly teaches us, in His Holy Scriptures, that this is the way He wants His Church to be led.
See: Acts 6.1-7; 11.27-30; 14.19-23; 15.1-7, 22-23; 16.4-5; 21.17-19; 20.17-32
1 Timothy 3.1-16; 4.11-16; 5.17-22
Titus 1; Hebrews 13; James 5.13-18; 1 Peter 5
Therefore, here is the recommended constitutional revision for our prayerful consideration. Please read this through carefully. Examine it in light of God’s Word. Write down questions, comments, or clarifications. Bring this with you to our discussion meeting on April 18 @ 5 PM. We will share supper together and afterward discuss this document.
The Leadership of the Calvary Baptist Church
SECTION 1. GENERAL STATEMENT
Jesus Christ alone is Head of His church (Col. 1:18). He has ordained that local churches should be governed by Himself through leaders whom He appoints (Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11) and who are endowed by His Spirit with the graces and gifts needed to accomplish their work (I Cor. 15:9-10). Because Christ appoints church leaders, they have authority (II Cor. 13:10) and their authority is limited by Him in the Scriptures (I Cor. 14:36-38; III John 9). There are two kinds of church leaders: elders and deacons (Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:1-13). Beside these two ministries the Scriptures acknowledge no leader which continues in the church today (Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:1-13). Elders are called: “bishops” (meaning “overseers”) because they are charged with the oversight of the assembly (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2); “pastors” because they shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:28); and “rulers” because they govern and care for the church of God (I Tim. 3:4; Heb. 13:17, 24).
It is the duty of the church to seek and discover among its members those to whom Christ our Lord has imparted the necessary graces and gifts for this ministry (Acts 6:3), and after formally recognizing them by unified acceptance (Acts 6:5-6), to set them apart by united prayer (Acts 6:6), and then to submit to their authority (Lk. 10:16; John. 13:20; Heb. 13:17; I Pet. 5:5).
SECTION 2. GENERAL PREREQUISITES
I. All leaders of this church must be members of it.
II. Any individual set apart to one of these offices must be able conscientiously to affirm his agreement with the church’s Confession of Faith and Constitution. If he should at any time move from this position, he would be under spiritual and moral obligation immediately to make that fact known to the elders in an orderly manner.
III. While we acknowledge the valuable gifts which God has given women and the valuable assistance they may render to the leaders of the church (Rom. 16:1-6; Phil. 4:3; I Tim. 3:11), the Bible prohibits women from holding either the office of deacon or elder in the church (I Cor. 14:33b-35; I Tim. 2:8-15; 3:1-7). Women, therefore, shall not be nominated, elected, or ordained to either of these positions in the church. It is also contrary to Scripture for any woman to exercise headship or leadership in a formal meeting of the whole church either by leading in prayer, conducting the worship, reading the Scripture, leading the singing, administering the sacraments, or ministering the Word of God (I Cor. 14:33b-35; I Tim. 2:8-15). Since it is also a violation of the Scriptures for a woman to exercise authority over a man in spiritual things outside a meeting of the whole church, no woman shall be appointed to a teaching or authoritative function in a ministry of the church where adult men would be regularly under her ministry. Nevertheless, we acknowledge and encourage the valuable gifts and assistance of women: in the formal instruction of children and other women (Titus 2:3-5), in edifying conversation with women and men (I Cor. 11:5; Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:1-4; I Tim. 5:9-10) and in assisting the deacons with the diaconal and especially the benevolent ministries of the church.
SECTION 3. ELDERS
I. The Authority of the Eldership
A. The Ground of Their Authority: The Scriptures
The Head of the church (Col. 1:18), through His apostles (Eph. 2:20; I John. 4:6), has given to His church the Scriptures as an infallible and unchanging rule of practice (Matt. 20:28; I Cor. 7:17; Col. 4:16; II Thess. 2:15; 3:14; I Tim. 3:14-15), unto which all church leaders are always bound (I Cor. 14:36-38). Where the Scriptures give explicit or implicit direction to the church on a topic, this direction is never to be negated or contradicted. When no regulative word from Christ is given, church leaders are subject to the general principles of Scripture and to the light and order displayed in creation (I Cor. 11:13-14; 14:40).
B. The Limits of Their Authority
The Word of God defines the limits and boundaries of the authority of church officers and of the congregation.
The eldership as a body is authorized and responsible to give comprehensive oversight to the church (Acts 20:17-35; I Peter 5:1-2), including the preaching and teaching of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20- 21,27; Titus 1:9); the watching out for the welfare of the soul of every member of the church (Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:28; I Thess. 2:11; Heb. 13:17); and the directing of the church in all its tasks by setting general policy and by making specific decisions (I Tim. 3:4-5; Heb. 13:17; I Peter 5:1-2). Nonetheless, the elders must exercise this authority with sensitivity to the consensus of the congregation (Ezek. 34:4; I Tim. 3:4-5; I Pet. 3:7) in the posture of servants and examples to the congregation (Matt. 20:25-28; I Pet. 5:3). Therefore, the elders should seek the advice and support of the congregation respecting any major endeavor or large expenditure and should be willing to yield to the congregation when appropriate (Acts 19:30; 21:11-14). Furthermore, the Lord has ordained that congregational approval or voting is mandatory in the recognition and confirmation of church officers (Acts 6:1f; 14:21-23) and the exercise of the most serious acts of church discipline, namely suspension and excommunication (I Cor. 5:4-5; II Thess. 3:14).
II. Plurality of Elders
A. The Scriptures clearly teach that there should be a plurality of elders in each local church (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5). Therefore, the church should endeavor to discover and then formally to recognize all the men whom the Holy Spirit has endowed with the requisite graces and gifts, but only such men.
B. Absence of a Plurality of Elders—This Constitution assumes, and the norms of biblical church order require, that a plurality of elders oversee this local church. (Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5). Therefore, if there does not exist a plurality of elders in office; and this lack cannot in a timely way be supplied, the remaining elder (or the deacons, if there are no elders) shall seek the temporary oversight of the pastors of a trusted sister church holding as its doctrinal standard the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. The purposes of such an arrangement are to provide pastoral care and leadership in the recognition of the norm of a plurality of elders.
When an eldership meeting this requirement and willing to undertake these responsibilities is located, the church shall within a reasonable period of time officially place itself under this eldership. If the church has a remaining elder, this eldership shall function as his fellow elders. This action shall be taken by a written ballot at a properly called meeting of the church. A three-quarters majority of those present and voting is necessary for such an action. The recognition of the oversight of such an eldership shall be confirmed (or failing a three quarters majority withdrawn) in the same way at the annual meeting of the church in succeeding years. When a plurality of resident elders is raised up, the oversight arrangement here described, which is admittedly abnormal, shall immediately cease.
III. The Equality and Diversity of Elders
The elders are all equal in office and authority (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17), but diverse in gift and function. Each elder must be “able to teach” and be engaged in private instruction and admonition and in the administration and government of the church (Acts 20:28; I Tim. 5:17). However, some will be more experienced, involved, and proficient than others in executing various dimensions of the pastoral office, and in view of the God-given diversity of gifts, some should be more engaged in formal and public preaching and teaching than others (I Tim. 5:17). In view of this diversity of gifts as well as the numerous and grave responsibilities of the office, it is highly desirable that at least one elder should devote himself full-time to the work of the ministry and the oversight of the church as his calling in life. The church is responsible to give adequate financial support to elders who labor in the Word, while others of the elders fulfill the office as they maintain an ordinary vocation (Acts 18:3-5; I Cor. 9:9-11; I Tim 5:17-18).
IV. The Number of Elders and Length of Term
Though a plurality of elders is the New Testament norm for every church, the New Testament does not specify the number of elders each church should have, nor does it dictate the length of an elder’s term of office. One truly called to this office is usually called to it for life. He is a gift of Christ to the church, and the gifts of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). Only when an elder fails to meet the necessary qualifications for his office does he disqualify himself from being an elder.
V. The Qualification of Elders
Anyone considered for the office of an elder must evidence to God’s people the personal, domestic, and ministerial qualifications that are set forth in the Scriptures (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Any man called to this office must be able conscientiously to affirm his agreement with our Confession of Faith and the Constitution of the church. Should he at any time move from this position, he is under spiritual and moral obligation to make this fact known to the church.
VI. The Appointment of Elders
A. General Statement. The appointment of Elders and Deacons is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. He has ordained, however, that each local church exercise the responsibility of recognizing those whom He is appointing to be Elders and Deacons in that particular church. Elders and Deacons are ordained, or appointed, to office by the laying on of hands by the Eldership (Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14). This is an expression of approval for which the Elders are responsible (1 Tim. 5:22). Therefore, each officer must have the approval, not only of the church as a whole, but of the Eldership in particular. The Lord’s appointment of an individual to either of these offices is recognized by means of that individual’s possession of those graces and gifts required by Scripture for the particular office and his own conviction that the Lord is calling him to minister in that office (1 Tim. 3:1-7). The recognition of officers is a matter of such importance that it should never be pursued without much prayerful waiting upon God, an honest perusal of the relevant passages of Scripture, and a frank evaluation of those who are being considered. Each member of the church has a spiritual responsibility to be intelligently informed regarding these matters.
B. Procedure of Appointment. The recognition of those whom the Lord has appointed to bear office in this church is executed in three steps: nomination, election and, ordination.
1. Nomination. Nominations to either office are made by the Eldership. At least once every year at the annual business meeting an advisory ballot shall be taken. On this ballot every voting member may write the name of any male member(s) and the office for which he believes that member to be qualified. Those men named by twenty-five percent or more of the members will then be considered by the Elders. If the Elders agree that the nominees are suitable, they will be notified and asked whether they will accept the nomination.
2. Election. Any church meeting for the election of officers shall be announced on four consecutive Lord’s Days previous to its being held. The nominees shall be separately discussed and voted upon. During the discussion the nominee under consideration and members of his immediate family shall leave the presence of the assembly. The scriptural qualifications shall be read and expounded, and the nominee’s qualifications openly discussed in the fear of God and with due respect for the reputation of the nominee. Concerning the vote, the church should seek unity of mind, but should such unity not be fully realized, no fewer than three-fourths of those ballots cast shall be required for election. This vote shall take place by written ballot subsequent to a full and free discussion oriented to the relevant scriptural passages.
3. Ordination. Following the election of an officer there shall be a portion of a regular worship service set aside at which time the officer shall be ordained by the laying on of the hands of the Eldership. This solemn act should always be accompanied by the special prayers of the whole church (Acts 13:1-3). The laying on of the Elders’ hands shall signify their approval of an officer-elect.
4. Chairmanship. The Elders shall choose one from their number to serve as chairman of their meetings. The Deacons shall do the same.
In all matters dealing with the life of the church of the living God, we must go to His authority on earth, His Holy Scriptures. We must give careful, serious attention to what He is saying in His Word concerning elders and their place in the life of His church. I encourage you, dear brothers, and sisters who are the Calvary Baptist Church, to start searching His Word for His instructions to us concerning elders.
Here are some references for you to start reading and giving careful attention to:
1 Timothy 3.1-16
Hebrews 13.7, 17
1 Peter 5.1-11
2 John 1.1
3 John 1.1
“Elders” Summary for the Calvary Baptist Church
For 4 weeks we searched the Scriptures concerning elder leadership in the church.
Here is a summary of what we learned:
Definition: “An elder is a man who:
1. meets the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9,
2. is recognized by his congregation as an elder,
3. and leads the congregation by teaching the Word (1 Tim. 3:2), praying for the sheep (Jas. 5:14), and overseeing the affairs of the church (1 Pet. 5:2).” (9marks.org)
“Biblically, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.” (gracechurch.org)
“There are five, distinguishing features of a New Testament, Christian eldership: pastoral leadership, shared leadership, male leadership, qualified leadership, servant leadership.” (biblicaleldership.com)
Summary of Acts: 6.1-7 11.27-30 14.19-23 15.1-7, 22-23 16.4-5 21.17-19 20.17-32
* Every use of the word elder in Acts is plural: “elders”. Our Lord, the Head of the church, instructs us that He wants His church to be cared for by a group of godly men, called “elders.”
* In the apostolic church there was a separation of duties among those chosen to lead and serve the church.
* The apostles appointed, chose, ordained elders in the churches.
* The apostles and elders worked together to resolve doctrinal disputes that confronted the church.
* One result of the ministry of the apostles and elders was: “the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.
* Elders are spiritually mature, godly men who are to oversee and shepherd (pastor) the church.
Summary of James 5.13-18:
* In the early church Elders were given specific instructions by the Holy Spirit to serve the church by praying for the sick in the church.
Summary of 1 Timothy 3.1-16:
* It is good for men to aspire, to desire the office of an overseer.
* Elders, pastors, overseers are to be men.
* An overseer is a pastor, is an elder.
* There are detailed qualifications for an overseers, pastors, elders.
Summary of 1 Timothy 4.11-16:
* There was an elder council or group of elders in the church Timothy was part of.
Summary of 1 Timothy 5.17-22:
* Elders are to lead the church.
* Some elders “work at preaching and teaching.”
* An accusation against an elder is serious and should only be accepted on the basis of 2 or 3 witnesses.
* Elders who continue in sin are to be rebuked before the entire church.
Summary of Titus:
* God the Holy Spirit instructed Titus, through the apostle Paul, to appoint elders in every city on the island of Crete.
* He calls them “elders” in v 5 and “the overseer” in v 7.
* Our Lord gives detailed, specific qualifications for those He appoints to serve His Church as pastors, elders, and overseers.
Summary of Hebrews 13:
* Our Lord instructs His people to remember, to consider and to imitate those who lead you.
* Our Lord instructs His church to obey and submit to your leaders.
Summary of Revelation:
* In Revelation when referring to elders, they are surrounding the throne of our God and are involved in His worship and His purposes being carried out on the earth.
* In the letters of 2nd & 3rd John, the Apostle John refers to himself as “the elder.”
Summary of 1 Peter 5:
* Elders are given to the church to care for, support, and assist the people of God in their suffering and trials.
* Elders are commanded to pastor (shepherd) the flock of God.
* Elders are to oversee the church.
* How elders are to serve: 3 negatives & 3 positives.
* A wonderful promise to the elders.
(This section is taken from www.biblicaleldership.com.)
1. Biblical Eldership is Eldership by the Book.
The reason we call this “biblical eldership” is that the view of eldership presented here honestly and accurately represents the biblical teaching of eldership.
2. Biblical Eldership is Pastoral Eldership.
Both apostles Paul and Peter use shepherd-sheep imagery when defining the work of the elders. Thus biblical elders are shepherd (pastor) elders.
3. Biblical Eldership is Biblically Qualified Eldership.
Biblical elders are required to meet certain moral and spiritual qualifications, as well as, be able to teach sound doctrine and protect the church from false teachers.
4. Biblical Eldership is Spirit-appointed Eldership.
Biblical elders must be Spirit-appointed, not self-appointed.
5. Biblical Eldership is Pastoral Oversight of the Local Church by a Plurality of Qualified Elders.
As 1 Timothy 5:17-18 demonstrates, the plurality of elders entails both equality of authority and diversity of giftedness, knowledge, and experience.
The two preeminent apostles, Paul and Peter, directly exhort the local church elders to shepherd (or pastor) God’s flock. They assign the task of shepherding/pastoring the local church to no other group or single person, but to the elders. As keepers of sheep, shepherd elders protect, feed, lead, and care for God’s flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2). Thus we can confidently affirm that the Scriptures teach that the pastoral oversight of the local church is the responsibility of the church elders.
Jesus Christ gave the church plurality of leadership. Jesus Christ our Lord did not appoint one man to lead his Church, but a team of twelve men to lead and teach his Church.
Although the elders are to act jointly as a council and share equally the authority and responsibility for the leadership of the church, all elders are not equal in their giftedness, biblical knowledge, leadership ability, experience, and dedication. So both equality and diversity exists within the eldership: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Tim. 5:17, 18). The advantage of equality and diversity within the eldership is the functional, gift-based diversity within the eldership team without creating a superior office over the eldership.
The Scripture informs us that before choosing the twelve apostles, Jesus Christ spent the entire night in prayer with his Father (Luke 6:12). These twelve men were God the Father’s choice. Jesus’ choice of male apostles was based on divine principles and guidance, not human traditions or cowardly accommodation to local Jewish customs.
The biblical pattern of male leadership of the local church continues throughout the New Testament Scriptures. The apostle Paul especially makes this point emphatic in 1 Timothy 2:11-3:5, when listing the qualifications for overseers/elders and the differing roles of men and women in the gathered congregation.
Although male pastoral leadership of the local church is completely out-of-line with 21-century popular beliefs and practices, an honest interpreter of Scripture must allow the Scripture’s teaching precedence over secular society’s philosophy.
A biblical eldership requires biblically qualified elders. The New Testament provides more instruction concerning the qualifications for eldership than on any other aspect of eldership. The scriptural requirements for elders can be divided into three broad categories: (1) the moral and spiritual character of an elder, (2) teaching and leading abilities, and (3) Spirit-given motivation to serve as a pastor elder (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28).
Christlike elders are to be servant leaders, not rulers or dictators. Christ’s principles of brotherly community, love, humility, and servanthood are at the very heart of Christian leadership.
Like the servant Christ, elders are to sacrifice their time and energy for the good of others. Only elders who are loving, humble servants can genuinely manifest the incomparable life of Jesus Christ to their congregations and a watching world.
The humble-servant character of the eldership does not imply, however, an absence of authority. It demonstrates how Christian leadership authority is to be exercised in Christ’s Church.
Importance of This Subject?
1. God’s Word Teaches Pastoral Eldership.
Many of our church problems are the result of outright disobedience to the clear instructions of Scripture.
2. Biblical Eldership Promotes the True Nature of the New Testament Church.
The church is the family of God, and thus its leadership structure should harmonize with and promote the family nature of the church.
3. Biblical Eldership Provides the Leaders of the Church with Genuine Accountability.
Because of our beliefs in the realities of sin, human depravity, and Satan, we should require that people in positions of authority within the church have genuine peer accountability.
4. Biblical Eldership Provides True Peer Relationships.
Having true peer relationships within the leadership body of elders, sharpens, balances, comforts, protects, and strengthens the elders themselves.
5. Biblical Eldership Provides More Balanced Pastoral Care for the Church.
Each elder contributes his own wisdom, perspective, knowledge, and experience to group decision making and the care of God’s people. This provides the local church with a more balanced leadership body, and protects the church from one person’s extremes and imbalances.
Please return later for more info about elder ministry in our church.