Dear Springs of Grace Church Family,
As we informed you last year, we believe God has led us to pursue a much larger and diverse elder body as the leadership team at Springs of Grace. We would like your input as we move forward.
I want to give you some brief information about what we believe the Bible teaches about elders and then ask you to help us by answering two questions. You can return the answers to us by filling out this form:
You can also place them in a box that will be on the back table or hand them to one of the elders (Jared McCoy or Joe Blankenship).
Job Description and Expectations for non-paid Elders
I. What is an elder?
The Bible uses three terms interchangeably for an elder. The Greek words are: 1) “presbuteros” from which we get the word Presbyterian. It is most often translated “elder”. 2) The Greek word “episkipos” often translated “overseer” from which we get Episcopalian; (it is made up of two words “epi” which means “over” – like your dermis and your epidermis – and the word “skope” which means “to look or see” – so it is literally “oversee”). 3)And the Greek word “poimeno” that is translated “shepherd” and “to care for” or “pastor”.
Our Lord’s favorite metaphor for the spiritual leader in the church was the one He used most often to describe Himself and that was shepherd…one who tends God’s flock. Every church leader is a shepherd. That really does sum up what we do…feeding, leading, nurturing, caring, comforting, protecting, correcting…like a shepherd does his sheep.
In most cultures, shepherds belong to the low rungs of social ladders and that’s fitting because the Lord Himself said, “Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as the servant,” Luke 22:26. We are committed to servant leadership and are pursuing a humility that shows up in our leadership that sincerely acknowledges others as more important than ourselves.
II. Four Primary Duties
Here are four duties that are central to the elder’s job description. While this list is not exhaustive, we believe if non-paid (lay) elders devoted themselves to these four things, they would excel as shepherds.
As we read the qualifications and responsibilities of elders, it seems to us that elders are Christians lifted up to a position so that they can model what every Christian is to pursue. Elders continue to relate to the church body most significantly as a brother and as such lead by example. Elders are called to shepherd the church “not [by] lording it over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3). The New Testament lists of elder qualifications focus predominantly on character and are illustrative of the qualities that every Christian should pursue (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). An elder’s most basic job is to say, “Imitate me as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
An elder is to model in his own life the reality of love for the Lord and a love for neighbor. Model being a worshipper. Model being a lover, speaker and promoter of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Model leveraging your influence as a husband or father or occupation or friendships to help those who can’t give back to you and to advance the kingdom where Jesus reigns as Lord. Model fighting against sin and loving the truth and loving Christ’s church. Invite people into your life, into your home and into your ministry to give them firsthand experiences with what it means to be a Christian. Model forgiveness and model repentance with the humble acknowledgement that we have not yet attained but are pressing after that for which we have been obtained (Philippians 3).
An elder should be committed to praying for the church body and for the other elders. In a sense we are following the apostolic example set out in Acts 6:4: “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to Word of God.” Prayer is the acknowledgment that we are totally incapable of accomplishing anything that matters apart from God. We can’t mature the flock into the fullness of Christ. We can’t maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We can’t cause our church to love one another, our neighborhood and the nations. Only the Holy Spirit can do that through God’s Word and God’s power. We are dependent upon God and prayer in our daily routine and in our efforts as an elder board and in our interactions with church members. Prayer should be an essential rhythm that we work into everything we do.
An elder must be “an able teacher” (1 Tim. 3:2; see 5:17). He must hold “to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and refute those who contradict it” (Tit. 1:9). Jesus’ under-shepherds feed Jesus’ sheep with Jesus’ word.
This does not mean that every elder must be a formal teacher or preacher of God’s Word. Elders need to be able to rightly use God’s Word to help God’s people. That may be mainly in personal conversation or counseling. It may be in small, informal group settings and it may be in formal teaching times. It may well include preaching and teaching bible studies, but it is not exclusively that. This “teaching” also includes training others to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
Just as shepherds lead their flocks, so elders lead local congregations. The term translated “overseers,” seems to particularly emphasize the role of elders as leaders. We see this in Acts 20:28 and well as 1 Timothy 3:1 and Titus 1:5,7. Hebrews instructs Christians to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17).
Elders are to lead the church through difficulties by modeling dependence on the Lord in prayer and confidence in His gospel and courage and faith to keep trusting His promises.
Courageous leadership might involve reaching out to a frustrated member who’s stopped attending or confronting an unrepentant member through church discipline. Or it may mean working through budget challenges, or important policies that help maintain the purity and simplicity of our devotion to Jesus as a church.
We lead to help our people become who God intends them to be in His kingdom. We aren’t after a fully efficient organization or a financially profitable business. We are leading our church body to love Jesus more and love people more as we seek to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
We are striving to bring the flock to green pastures and still waters as we help each member of the body become built up in every way into the fullness of Christ as we increasingly reflect His glory together to one another and the world around us.
Please pray for Jared McCoy and Joe Blankenship as we seek God’s leadership for our next elders.
Before we select any elders, we will bring them before the church body our recommendations as Elder(s) Elect and the church body will have 6-10 weeks to speak with them, question them, pray with them, get to know them better; as well as share with us any thoughts you might have. We hope to be at this stage sometime this spring.