HOW ARE WE GOVERNED & BY WHOM
Fellowship is governed through the Biblical practice of “Elder rule." The Scriptures teach that Elders (or overseers or shepherds) are responsible for the health and direction of the church. Elders are nominated by the body and selected by the existing Elder Board. The spiritual qualifications for Elder are found in I Timothy 3:1-16 and Titus 1:5-9. According to the apostle Paul, the local church assembly was to recognize those who were spiritually qualified for church leadership. These individuals were then to minister to the church by godly service and rule. Our Elder Board provides directional decisions to be carried out by our staff and core leadership.
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF AN ELDER
The Scripture is not silent concerning the specified functions that characterize the nature of the office of Elder. Note that the following functions are shared responsibilities of our Board of Elders.
1. To oversee or rule well (I Thess. 5:12; I Tim. 3:1; I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17)
2. To shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2)A major function of elders is to shepherd the church. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care ...” (I Peter 5:2a NIV). The imagery of shepherding suggests tender care, protection and feeding. These principles lie at the heart of the shepherd-minister who would serve as an elder. They form a Biblical framework for effective ministry.
3. To be an example (I Pet. 5:3-5; Heb. 13:7)In emphasizing this point, the writer of Hebrews noted the function in this way. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7 NIV). Elders cannot lead further into spiritual things than they have personally gone. Each elder within God’s church must have the attitude of the Apostle Paul. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1).
4. To guard right doctrine (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9)A critical ingredient to effective overseeing is the elder’s command of Scripture. He is to be one who is “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). Doctrinal purity is a prerequisite to spiritual health and vitality. Elders are charged with the task of maintaining the church on solid, Biblical ground.
5. To confront and initiate discipline when necessary (Matt. 18:15-20; Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; see also I Thess. 5:12)If the tasks of careful oversight and doctrinal purity are taken seriously, then a proper administration of church discipline will naturally follow. Spiritual discipline is never easy but it is commanded. The elders must assume their responsibility for the care of the church. No wonder, then, that the local body of believers is encouraged in the following way. “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
6. To minister to the sick (or weak) and needy (Jas. 5:14-15: I Tim. 5:3-16; compare also God’s concern for the needy in Ps. 12:5; 69:33; et al.; see also “hospitable” in I Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:8).A part of the elders’ responsibility is to shepherd those in need. While there is debate as to whether the “sick” of James 5 are physically sick or spiritually weak, one definite principle is sure. The elders are to evidence their concern for those who are in need by faithful prayer. For certain, an elder’s ministry reaches out to those in need.
7. To appoint and commission leadership (I Tim. 5:22; I Tim. 4:14; compare with Eph. 4:11-12ff).As elders oversee and shepherd the church, they will, of necessity, be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Not only do elders care for the administrative organization of the church, but they are responsible for the raising up of new leadership as well. Such an ongoing task requires the utmost spiritual discernment and care.
Thus, we have seen that the office of church leadership at Fellowship is that of elder. Although the New Testament is flexible and uses interchangeably elder, overseer and shepherd, the best description of the office of elder. Therefore, Fellowship has a Board of Elders.
Additionally, we have noted the necessity for a plurality of elders. Our Biblical conviction is that the Bible supports mutuality of ministry and plurality of leadership. Seven specific ministry functions were also suggested. Each was stated and briefly defined. These Biblical functions instruct the elder as to the type of ministry he is to have.