- Congregational involvement at the beginning, not the middle or the end.
- Elders come from the congregation and the congregation will be under their rule. The congregation should have a say in who will be over it. The congregation must be willing to be led by the Elders.
- The congregation, not one person or a few persons, provide fuller and more diverse input on who is qualified or not.
- When the congregation had no Elders, the Evangelist did select who he wanted and say to the congregation, “here are your choices.” The congregation had first say. Once there are Elders in the congregation, the same principle should work.
- If the congregation is not involved in the beginning, the congregation will view any part given it later as a fait accomplis. If a few people do the selecting, and then the private testing (to save embarrassment, etc), and then do the putting forward of names, trouble will not be avoided if there is to be trouble:
- The diverse congregation may reject the person that the few have selected and tested.
- The diverse congregation may feel there is partiality being shown if other qualified persons were not considered. This spells trouble.
- There is no clean and trouble free method. Let the congregation put forward the names of all they believe to be qualified. Unqualified persons will be culled out through the testing period.
- Examples of the New Testament pattern.
- Selection of an Apostle. The selection of an Apostle to replace Judas. When it came time to replace Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus, it says that 120 or Christians were assembled and after hearing the qualifications for the one to be an Apostles, it says, “23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias (Acts 1:23).
- Once the qualifications were put forward the people put forward the names.
- Selection of Deacons. When the church in Jerusalem was experiencing problems because some of the widows were being neglected, the Apostles said, “So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, ‘We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.” (Acts 6:2,3)
- Peoples New Testament says, “Look ye out. Be it noted that the church was called upon to choose these men. The apostles did not assume the right. There is no warrant here for pope or bishops assuming the right.
- Once the qualifications were set forth, the people put forward the names.
- One author writes that while there isn’t concrete rules on the process, congegational selection is the wisest. “The congregation is under obligation to honor and obey the overseers selected (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Therefore, the congregation needs to be involved in the selection of men it feels it can follow and defer to in matters of faith and judgment. Several of the qualifications for a bishop can best be assessed by a broader number of local saints, rather than by one preacher or a few existing elders. This approach also can help produce a stronger eldership. Elders may be tempted only to select other men with similar personality types, avoiding men who might actually bring new strengths to the eldership.”1
- The congregational involvement in the beginning helps the present Leadership to consider a broader range of qualified nominees that they might otherwise do.
- By first selecting and giving the congregation the list of people they may consider, some who are qualified may be left of consideration.
- Selection of representatives from Jerusalem. When the church in Jerusalem was sending a delegation to the Gentile churches to clarify what was required of them, it says, “22 Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas.” (Acts 15:22)
- NASB, “then it seemed good” to not only the apostles and elders, but to the whole congregation. This does not refer to the final outcome, but to the choosing of the men. “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch” Acts 15:22, NASB
- In Acts 14 where the Apostles appointed Elders in every city does not give details about the whole process. In Acts 20 where the Elders were chosen by the Holy Spirit does not negate the process of the congregation. As the congregation and the Holy Spirit was involved in the selection of the Apostle in Acts 1, so it is reasonable to think that the Elders from Ephesus were selected by the congregation. Whether Apostles are laying hands on the Elders or whether the Holy Spirit is ultimately behind it all, the congregational involvement is not circumvented.
- The process of selecting and appointing Elders.
- Prayer. In appointing Elders, Paul says to Timothy “do not be hasty in laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourselves pure” 1 Timothy 5:22.
- Seeking guidance from God’s Word with a study for the entire congregation on the qualifications.
- Putting forward names, congregational involvement. Lay out the qualifications and ask for names who qualify to be put forward. Remind the congregation that this is first step and no guarantee that the person will be appointed.
- Congregational putting forward of names avoids favoritism. “Choose from all qualified men” is different from “choose from the list we give you.”
- If the Deacons and the replacement of Judas and representatives from the congregation were denominationally selected, wisdom says it is a good pattern to follow for selecting Elders.
- Howard Norton has a helpful step by step guide on selecting and appointing Elders. Step 8 says, “Based on the timetable, the Elder Selection Committee begins to request nominations to the eldership from the congregation. A printed nomination form is a helpful tool for everyone concerned. This form should include the biblical qualifications for the eldership and enough space for members to write names of their nominees. Common sense would indicate that only those who have already been performing shepherding tasks should be appointed to the eldership. Beware of those who have never shown a concern for the flock who suddenly want to be appointed to the eldership.
- This is not a vote. Leaders are not democratically chosen, something that would become the undoing of the church.Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons.
- Testing, 1 Timothy 3:10. If tested is needed for potential Deacons, it is needed for Shepherds. Once names are put forward, the individuals are approached privately to see whether they meet the first qualification, to “desire” to serve.
- Appointment. After the period of testing with more congregational input, then the qualified men are installed.
1. “Choosing Elders” http://allanturner.com/magazine/archives/rm1106/Blackaby016.html2. Appointing Elders in a church that has none. http://www.hu.edu/ICF/ResourcePDF/AppointingElders.pdf
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Categories: selection of elders