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# 01003 :  Elders - Who are they?
Dear Readers:

The scenario described above by the ‘assemblymember’and others is not an isolated issue. (Please read the thread initiated by ‘assemblymember’- “Using Assembly Name” for the context. This is a continuation of that discussion, under different title, since the focus has shifted a little). Anyone who had been with the Assemblies for a while could testify to this. Sometime or other we all had similar experiences or heard of it. I believe the majority of the church problems revolve around the leadership or lack of it. I am at a loss how to address this issue within the framework of this site because it is a very complex one. So, I am trying to address only bits and pieces of it, otherwise it would become a book in itself. Also, please note that I am addressing this from the perspective of someone from North America, an expatriate.


Post by : tomj  View Profile    since : 22 Nov 2006

Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 22 Nov 2006 10:26:38 AM Close

Generally speaking, the Brethren churches in India, particularly in Kerala, failed in this area. (I am not sure about Andhra Paradesh and other places in India. UK also had this trend) Most of us misinterpreted the verse ‘the Holy Spirit made you overseers’; Acts 20:28. We were told from childhood on, that the Holy Spirit mysteriously empowers some people as elders and they will remain ‘visible but invisible’ and they should not publicly claim to be elders or others should not identify them as elders! A strange teaching, indeed! The verse simply means that the Holy Spirit is the One who is equipping a person for this position – a person’s own effort is not what qualifies an elder.

How can an ‘invisible elder’ be – above reproach, the husband of one wife etc.? How can a sick person ask the ‘invisible elder’ to come and pray? Our churches should have elders who are recognized publicly and everyone in the congregation must be able to say so and so and so are the elders of this local church. Also, when an elder steps away for some reason it should be communicated to the congregation. A public recognition of every elder would hold the elders mutually accountable among themselves, to the congregation and the congregation to the elders. God demands such check and balance.

Again, the NT doesn’t tell us how exactly the process of recognizing the elders should be. But when we are serious about following the pattern set for us we could be able to do it. I believe God would be pleased to have His pattern at work and care less for the process as long as it is within reason. At a later time I could suggest some practical ways, but it might not be applicable in very situation. But one thing should happen – If you like to remain as a local congregation; you should aim to have multiple elders and deacons. This applies to congregations everywhere. The Holy Spirit would not give the churches a pattern they cannot follow after.


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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 22 Nov 2006 10:27:57 AM Close

I am making these suggestions based on my practical experience and not necessarily based on the explicit teachings as far as the particulars of it. If you were to ask me, show me the chapter and verse, I wouldn’t be able to show it to you.

Here we have a small Indian gathering with no recognized elders. One person or two who initiated the meeting is/ are unofficially acting as leaders/ elders. I am making these recommendations to the ‘current leaders’.

1.The church should realize the need for having the proper leadership (multiple elders and possibly deacons). A study on church government would be beneficial.

2.The current ‘leaders’ should evaluate themselves against the criteria we see in Titus 1: 5-10 & 1 Tim 3. I know few elders, who would do this periodically, evaluate themselves and being evaluated by others in the congregation. The basis of evaluation is strictly on the guidelines of Titus 1 & 1Tim 3.

3.May be at the ‘New Year’s Eve’ meeting (if you have one) or the first Sunday of the new year, you as a leader take the initiative and read those passages and tell the congregation that you have evaluated yourself based on these and found to be eligible to serve as an elder. Make sure your wife and children (if applicable) are in full agreement with your desire to serve as an elder. If you are able to do it, I believe it would be from the Holy Spirit and He would lead the congregation also to see you as one of the elders. Do it every year, and it will be reminder for you and your congregation.


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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 22 Nov 2006 10:30:24 AM Close

4.If you happened to be the only ‘elder’ at your congregation, you might as well fast and pray that God would raise someone else to join you as a fellow elder. Have the congregation do the same. One man leadership is detrimental and unbiblical. This prayer should be of top priority and let everyone know that.

5.Even after much prayer, you do not see proper, biblical leadership; you seek counsel from other godly men, whether you should continue the way you are. May be the Holy Spirit is removing the ‘lamp-stand’ from where it is! It is better to yield to the biblical mandates and govern the church as the ‘Lord of the Church’ wants, than being rebellious and disobedient and bring calamity upon oneself, just as Saul did. Anytime someone feels he is no longer able to function as effective as he should be, for whatever reasons, he should not continue in that office. I have personal experience with some elders who stepped aside based on such self-evaluation.

6.Once such leadership is in place, spiritual matters are to be handled by the elders and not by the ‘men’s meeting’. There is no place for such a meeting in the Bible. Other things can be handled by the deacons or in some cases other committees, depending on the magnitude and scope of it. I wouldn’t recommend few men taking a decision to mortgage the building; it is something that needs to be brought to the whole congregation, because it is a financial commitment by each member.

(Let me conclude it here for now. There are several other issues I havn't touched)


Tom J

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Reply by : observer   View Profile   Since : 22 Nov 2006 4:25:11 PM Close
Thanks Tom J, for your valuable thoughts.
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Reply by : babugeorge01   View Profile   Since : 23 Nov 2006 2:20:08 AM Close
While ALL Assemblies believe that the Holy Ghost makes elders (Acts 20:28), MOST Assemblies struggle with RECOGNIZING / IDENTIFYING / SELECTING / ORDAINING elders (for want of a proper word that would not be misunderstood).

We agree that the qualities listed in 1 Tim 3, and Titus 1 are expected of all believers, not just elders. So obviously one cannot RECOGNIZE elders exclusively on those qualities. That I believe is only a SELF CHECK for those already elders.

The Scriptures are NOT SILENT on the RECOGNIZING of elders. Consider the following verses, and see the common thread here…

(1 of 4)

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Reply by : babugeorge01   View Profile   Since : 23 Nov 2006 2:20:38 AM Close
1 Thess 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to KNOW them which LABOUR among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you

1 Cor 16:17, 18 I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have REFRESHED MY SPIRIT and yours: therefore ACKNOWLEDGE ye them that are such.

Phil 2:25 – 29 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in LABOUR, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that MINISTERED to my wants… Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and HOLD SUCH IN REPUTATION

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who LABOUR in the word and doctrine.

Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

(2 of 4)

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Reply by : babugeorge01   View Profile   Since : 23 Nov 2006 2:21:42 AM Close
Clearly we see that it is those that LABOUR in the church who are RECOGNIZED as elders. Obviously, the church checks SUCH persons against 1Tim 3, and Titus 1 before doing so.

I believe the Holy Spirit appoints elders (Acts 20:28), equips them with suitable gifts (Eph 4:11). Among such people, some DO NOT labor in the church. Some others DO (eg Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Timothy, Titus, etc).

I believe this LABOURING in the church is what God uses as TRAINING. (not a BTh from a seminary)

I believe this LABOURING is the only way we can RECOGNIZE whom God has appointed as elders.

A word on LABOUR in the church. It includes
intercessory prayer for the saints (Acts 6:4),
ministering to the needs of the saints from the Word of God (Acts 6:4),
teaching / feeding the church spiritual instruction (Eph 4:11, 1 Pet 5:2),
visiting / encouraging / refreshing the saints (1 Cor 16:18),
sometimes physical helps (Phil 2:25)

(3 of 4)

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Reply by : babugeorge01   View Profile   Since : 23 Nov 2006 2:23:50 AM Close
Moses had 40 years experience as a leader to over 6 million Hebrews. When it’s time to depart, he does not rely on his experience in choosing his successor. He does not even venture into such a thing.

Numbers 27:15-17 And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, SET A MAN over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no SHEPHERD.

And VIOLA!! God chooses Joshua, one who had LABOURED WITH MOSES 40 years!!

Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always LABOURING fervently for you in prayers, … For I bear him record, that he hath a great ZEAL FOR YOU…

2 Cor 8:16 But thanks be to God, which put the same EARNEST CARE into the heart of Titus FOR YOU

Phil 2:19-20 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you… For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally CARE FOR YOUR STATE.

Let us dispel this MYTH that the Bible is SILENT on RECOGNIZING elders.

(4 of 4)

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Reply by : babugeorge01   View Profile   Since : 23 Nov 2006 2:29:21 AM Close
CORRECTION: Moses had 40 years experience as a leader to over SIX LAC Hebrews (not 6 million)
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Reply by : thomasdelhi   View Profile   Since : 30 Nov 2006 6:09:13 AM Close
One small question

If an assembly do not have any elder but only one pastor who started the assembly then how should one go about it?

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 30 Nov 2006 9:45:45 AM Close
Dear thomasdelhi,

Your question raises several other questions -

What form of church government (CG) this place is teaching?

What form of CG. the congregation is accustomed to?

How serious are the leader & congregation in following the NT pattern of CG.?

I wouldn't recommend a new person walking into an established place with improper CG pattern, and try to persuade them to change the pattern and create division. Unless you can agree with the form of CG, do not join such a place and keep praying that the Lord would guide you to another place. But while you are there, be content and support the leader(ship), and never be part of creating division.

But if there is a study on the NT form of CG. and there are discussions or you are asked to teach on, by all means, be bold and teach the truth. Otherwise, I wouldn't introduce this subject and raise controversy and destroy the peace, even if I am asked to speak there ocassionally.

As long as I choose to attend a particular local church my primary responsibility is to submit to the current leadership. If I cannot stand the leadership, seek some other place try to be content there.

Just an (un)related thought- Something I have been studying lately;

The Lord is teaching; Matt 6:12 "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors". I wonder how many of us can boldly pray this (or live out this prayer) today?

Tom J

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Reply by : johnmiller   View Profile   Since : 30 Nov 2006 12:41:48 PM Close
Dear brethren,

The point made by Tomj is very important. I have witnessed, sadly on more than one occasion, persons joining a local company where there was a good spirit and the enjoyment of Christian worship and fellowship, and in a very short time seeking to introduce changes which they thought were necessary. The result in every case was disaster! Personal feeling arose, divisions appeared and some became discouraged to the point of leaving.

If I were to need to join another fellowship for some reason, I would carefully find out everything about the way that company did things before committing myself. It would be very wrong for me as a newcomer to seek to impose my ideas about church administration etc. on an existing fellowship.

Your brother in Christ,


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Reply by : moses2006   View Profile   Since : 30 Nov 2006 1:06:54 PM Close
Bro Babugeorge,

Thanks for your post regarding how elders are publicly recognized, as those who visibly labour in the church. If we really had such people in the churches today, there would not be any dispute as to who should be the church elder. Also people in the church would more willingly submit to an elder who actually labours in the areas that you have pointed out.
Sadly, people are elders for all the wrong reasons today and by consequence, not respected. Thank you brother for the insight.

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Reply by : thomasdelhi   View Profile   Since : 30 Nov 2006 10:30:13 PM Close
Br. Tom and John,

thanks for the reply. I agree with you.

Other than one man leadership this fellowship looks ok.


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Reply by : sudheer1   View Profile   Since : 6 Dec 2006 10:35:10 PM Close
hi one more Question related to elders responcibility

Recently church received a letter from other assembly regarding spl meetings.

Assembly elders doesnt announced about it because the assembly is not in line with the thaughts of their assembly.

Can Elders do so or We just read as "We received mail from so and so assembly regarding the Spl meetings"

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Reply by : sudheer1   View Profile   Since : 6 Dec 2006 10:35:57 PM Close
what I mean is

Letter is to the Elders or to the Assembly??

IF it is the assembly we need to read it if it is to the elders it is their decision

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Reply by : nelnob1   View Profile   Since : 6 Dec 2006 11:03:03 PM Close
Dear bretheren in christ,

Elders who are they, using assembly name, there are several thread reagrding elders going on , and thier responsibilites. First of all as the word of God exhorts he is ordained by God, and is made visible to the brethren by the scriptural qualification.

Titus 1

5For 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:
6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
8But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.
1 Timothy 5
1Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren
17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

The above said verses in itself has all the qulaities a elder should pertain.

Lets not get confused by the elders who by the virtue of financial assets gets prominence in the assemblies, pray for them as a member of the flock.

Yours in Christ

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Reply by : kjmathai   View Profile   Since : 20 Dec 2006 4:35:18 AM Close
Dear Brother in Christ
I will suggest to visit and read the 'Spiritual Articles' on 'Ordination of Overseers'. A good article written on the subject of discussion - Elders/Overseers and their ordination.

If you have any comments on it please register and provide your it through online discussion forum for 'Pastors, Evangilist.... available on

Yours in Christ

K.James Mathai

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Reply by : ajayjameson   View Profile   Since : 1 Nov 2007 9:17:17 AM Close
From the begining of Bible God appointed some people for his ministry. Moses refferd Joshua, Smuel anninted David , Paul appointed Timothy.

In New testament itself we are seeing appointment of Elders and Decons by Appostles.
The main duty of Thimothy was to appoint Elders.We are seeing there Paul orderd Thimothy to appoint Elders city by city (church by church)This is the Appostles model.
In Bible we see the people who are not select there leaders nor elders of that church.Appostles deciding the Elders of the Church. If we study Ephesians 4.11 ,we can see the 5 gifts are existing today.Till the completion of the church. So Appostles will decide Elders. Appointment of elders is deffinite factor of Bible.
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Reply by : lemuelraj   View Profile   Since : 1 Nov 2007 10:05:27 PM Close
Eph 4:11 says the Lord GAVE 4 kinds (not 5) of people to the church for edification. "Pastors AND teachers" in just one kind. This passage DOES NOT tell us that apostles are there NOW. When Paul wrote it, there were apostles. Eph 2:20 talks about the foundation of the apostles. Paul laid the foundation, and told us to BUILD THEREUPON. There are no apostles today, and all those claim to be apostles are FALSE APOSTLES, Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Moses LemuelRaj

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Reply by : tomj   View Profile   Since : 20 May 2008 12:17:12 PM Close
Bringing this thread forward.. since there are some discussions regarding Elders.

Tom J

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Reply by : asdpoilkj   View Profile   Since : 20 May 2008 7:41:42 PM Close
I am trying to touch upon a very sensitive and highly controversial subject with an interest to go deep into it by sharing my views and reading others' views without involving in any criticism of any Group/Sect/Church for the simple reason that all the saved children of God are part of the heavenly Church.

Babugeorge quoted few very impressive verses for study. I was reading these verses and the thing that immediately struck me was that it was not the congregation that chose elders in any part of Scriptures, but it was from the Lord through a leader, who was already leading the chldren of God. He quoted about Moses's leadership and was wonderstruck that God chose Joshua as leader for Israel. Can we go through those details and find who actually gave Joshua to be the leader over Israel. The Scriptures show that it was the Lord appointed him. Moses told Isaelites that the Lord will set a man over the congregation. Let us now read:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; (Numbers 27:18)

Here we read that Moses was asked to lay his hands upon Joshua, who was chosen by the Lord.

If we read in New Testament: Acts 14:30 is the first verse where we specifically read about 'elders'. Although we read about 'elders' in many verses even before this, from Matthew onward upto Acts 4th, 6th, and in few more chapters, Acts 14:30 speaks about the 'elders', where the sense is clearly spelt out as the aged persons. In Acts 14:23 the word, 'elders' appears, and the Scriptures say that they were 'ordained'. The word 'ordained' is used in ecclesiastic sense to denote setting certain believers by appointment and by the imposition of hands.

And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)

The word, 'ordained' in verb form denotes" 'stretching/laying on of hands'. Paul and Barnabas did this while appointing 'elders'.

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