There are a lot of schools of thought in terms of how an elder is appointed in the assembly or the church. This topic in many places is taboo since there is a lot of ‘seniors' who exercise this authority since they feel it is their given right due to their age, wealth or family name. Statistically speaking, most of the elders these days in our assemblies are either the ones who have been there in the church for a very long time or have a lot of money and influence or are ‘bible teachers/evangelists'.
What I am going to do here is put out a thought, based on what I understand from the scriptures and then we can discuss or share different viewpoints on the topic. Of course, when I say this, I refer to the interpretation that is given in the scriptures. Some ‘masters of scriptural universe' might deem it wrong due to their understanding of some cryptic language that only they are aware of. But I would stand by what I present and say, it is a thought and we could have different lines of thought and opinion on the matter.
Now, in the new testament. Paul talks about two scenarios.
- Letter to Timothy: People step up to become elders/deacons
- Letter to Titus: Titus is tasked with appointing elders/deacons
If you look at both these scenarios and look at the book of Acts – you will see the ordaining of the elders were done by apostles or by ministers who had the hand of the apostles on them.
We understand that the foundation of the church was being built with them. As mentioned in Ephesians 2:20. Once the foundation as laid, it is now necessary for the building to start. And for the initial phase, it was necessary to have the apostles and ministers ordain the pattern on how the church is being made. This was also fulfilled.
Today we do not have anyone with those eligibility criteria's to ordain the elders. So ideally, there should not be any elder right? But that is not how it works. Because we know the church continues to grow and the building is far from complete. Therefore, there is always a need for a capable senior person led by the spirit to oversee and provide guidance.
I see it this way. The appointment of an elder should be done by all the members of the church if the person who is given the role fulfils all the criteriums that are mentioned in Timothy and Titus. If we look at Eph 4: 4-6. When there in oneness in everyone, the choice is not by achievements or merit. But by the spirit of God. The character is a very important trait when it comes to being an elder. You can't have someone who goes on an accusation and judgemental spree in word and mouth and has him pray that there is peace on all mankind. You also cannot have someone who has a considerable income and funds a lot of YMEF, Youth activities, camps, wall of the building, renovation etc. (Another set of irrelevant activities, which is another topic for discussion) but does not open his mouth to give grace in the church to become one as well. There are many such examples which we should be wary of.
I don't see any harm in someone wanting to become an elder. Of course in a church, some people do desire to be in that position because they feel capable. Then it is up to the church to decide if they are worthy or not. Therefore, by this understanding, it is not only the current elder who decide but the members as well. You need your entire normal body with all its functions to perform. And that body in its whole should live in Christ. Then choices and decisions are easier and made faster with no grave repercussions like what most of the churches today go through.