Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Church Leadership: Jesus Christ, Elders, and Deacons

Jesus is the Head of the Church:
Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. He loves her, died for her, sustains her, and will one day return for her. All authority has been given to Him (Matt. 28:18, Phil. 2:9-11). He has designed the church to be led by a plurality of elders who are biblically qualified to shepherd the flock of God. Alexander Strauch writes, “According to the New Testament, elders lead the church, teach and preach the Word, protect the church from false teachers, exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine, visit the sick and pray, and judge doctrinal issues. In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church.” (Biblical Eldership, 2003). This is clear and to the point. Elders are not to lord their authority over the flock; rather they are to lead by humble example (1 Peter 5:1-3).
An elder-led church means each elder equally shares authority and responsibility. In other words, there is not a culture of pastors and elders. Instead, the elders all function as pastors. However, there is not equal giftedness among elders. Biblical knowledge, background, leadership abilities, communication skills, etc along with other factors leads us to the principle function of “first among equals” as revealed in 1 Timothy 5:17. Peter functioned this way among the other apostles in the context of the early church.

Qualifications of Elder:
"If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders..." - 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Elders are broad overseers who must:
     - Know the Church (Pastor/Shepherd)
     - Feed the Church (Teach)
     - Lead the Church (Vision)
     - Protect the Church (Discipline)

A Snapshot of Elder Responsibilities from Acts 20:28
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with His own blood.” 

The book of Acts gives us an understanding of how deacons can effectively assist elders in ministry. Deacons hold the second-highest office in the church as they serve as helpers to the elders as caretakers of God’s people and in service to those in need. Scripture is clearer about the responsibilities and duties of the elders as overseers and shepherds than that of deacons. However, we can infer deacons handle church money, manage church systems, meet mercy needs, and will be trusted with intimate details of people’s lives. The specific qualifications of this office is found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. These qualifications are as follows: dignified, not double-tongued, not a drunkard, not greedy, sound doctrine and convictions, tested, blameless, not slanderers, sober-minded, faithful in all things, not a polygamist, and be good managers of home and family. The standard is high and impossible without the Holy Spirit. Yet, we know He is faithful and powerful to work in His people.

Deacons are focused specialists:
     - Facility Leaders
     - Community Group Leaders
     - Finance Leads (Income & Expense)
Responsibilities of both Elders and Deacons:
Maintain the required Scriptural criteria for Elder/Deacon 
Seek God’s will for the church 
Care for the church and seek its growth as disciples of Christ 
Teach and counsel from Scripture 
Be an example in fulfilling the responsibilities of church partners 
Guard against false teachers (elders)
Exercise church discipline when necessary in grace and love with the intentions of reconciliation and restoration (elders) 

How to Become an Elder at Advance Community Church (Gibsonia, PA):
1. Seek God intently regarding your potential call to this role.
2. If you’re married, make sure your wife is supportive.
3. Complete and submit the Elder Assessment. (30+ page document) 
4. Meet with existing elders (and another Acts 29 pastor).
5. Complete follow-up predatory "conditions". 
6. If elders approve, your name will go before the church for 2 weeks. This will give the congregation an opportunity to respond to your elder candidacy.  
7. If no significant issue arises, the elders will then welcome you into active service as an elder.

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