Who are Elders and what are their responsibilities?
The Elders are chosen from among the male members of the congregation they are to serve. They are not called from outside. The ministry to which the Elders are called is an important one. Its two parts – Bishop and Pastor – overlap so that it is not always easy to distinguish clearly between them, but the following gives the purpose of each:
- As Bishops, the Elders are overseers of the local congregation. In this capacity their responsibilities are:
- To preside over the gatherings of the local church. They are responsible to see that order is maintained in the meetings of the church and that all is done in accordance with Scripture.
- They act as the leaders of the congregation, taking the initiative where necessary in that which concerns its corporate life.
- They act in representation of the congregation in pronouncing its decisions.
- As the ones who preside they must not allow a weak member to engage in disputing and criticising. They must not allow wrong doctrine to be taught.
- They must see that there is full liberty for the exercise of all the gifts of the Spirit by all who possess them, but also that no-one ministers in a particular way who obviously does not have a gift of the Spirit to do so.
- They must see that the Scriptural procedure is followed in the case of any who may fall into sin.
- At times they may have to act as judges and arbiters.
- As Pastors, the Elders are responsible for the shepherding of the flock. This means a continual watchfulness over the spiritual needs of the congregation and covers every phase of its life and activity. The principal aspects of their ministry as Pastors are:
- They must see that new converts are properly cared for, visited, instructed, baptised, and that they take the places apportioned to them in the congregation by the Lord.
- They should see that all phases of the ministry are taken care of: instruction of the children, preaching of the Word to saved and unsaved, teaching of the Scriptures, visitation of those who are sick, care of those who are weak in the faith, and ministry of prayer.
- The responsibility for the actual preaching and teaching of the Word does not fall upon them more than upon any other member of the congregation. Their particular duty is to exercise a watchful care over the spiritual state of the congregation. The ministry of the Word is the responsibility of all the members and the Elders take part in it on an equality with the others.
- They give instruction to any who require it.
- They exercise a continual prayer ministry and, when called, pray for the sick
The Elders are to be obeyed and held in honour. However, an Elder’s power is entirely spiritual, derived from the Holy Spirit Who enables him to carry out the ministry to which he is called, and his authority is solely that of the Word of God. The Elders are to be obeyed only when they do and teach that which is right.