The 7 Roles Of Church Elders: Bishop Pride Sibiya

Greetings Church. This article is dedicated to all church elders in the world and all those who feel the call to be elders in the church. 

Elders are a blessing to the pastor and the church. I have written another article on the character of an elder. The article comes from a school of elders and deacons and our Glory Ministries' Elders Conference that I host.

Written By Bishop Pride Sibiya

One of the greatest offices of both responsibility and accountability in the church is the office of the elder. In the New Testament, the title elder was given to anyone who was in this office. Overseer and bishop were also sometimes used synonymously with the title, elder.

With the growth of the church and the need for ecclesiastical structures, all of this changed as history happened. There became a need for clear-cut differentiation of these in a hierarchical form in order to help govern the church. Different leadership styles and structures give different focuses on eldership. in this article, I will look at what I happen to believe about correct eldership and their roles in today's world and church.

What is an elder? 

He/she is a leader in the church, set apart as a shepherd of the flock under the guidance of an ordained pastor. These are men and women who have matured in the Lord, His Word and their own church or ministry. Although they do not know all, they have enough knowledge and character to demonstrate a godly life and also teach the saints on how to do so.

The pastor, therefore, in a way, is the most senior of the elders in a local assembly. He becomes the parental figure, responsible for feeding the flock.

For starters elders are to be greatly respected by the church: "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses."(1 Timothy 5:17-19 ESV).

Roles Of Elders:

1. Accountability to God and the earthly leader of the church: The elder must know their job involves being responsible to God for the souls under them. It is them, also that should have a DIRECT relationship and access to the apostolic covering, Bishop or board of pastors so as to be accountable about the pastor and church.

This is because in many places pastors come and go but elders are permanent residents of the place, therefore, they become the most important guide in this regard. When a pastor does well, they should report to the office for consideration of the pastor for their appraisals. the same way when the pastor is abusive of his office or flock the elder should also report to the higher office.

There are checks and balances.
The 7 Roles Of Church Elders: Bishop Pride Sibiya
"Yield to those leading you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:20)

"And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders." (Acts 11:30)

2. Pastoral duties/Care Giving: Elders are in a way, un-ordained pastors and even when they are working under a pastor at a local assembly they must be part of the pastoral team, though not operating as the official pastor. They give counsel to the pastor and are open to being sent by their pastor at ANY TIME, ANYWHERE! They also accompany their pastor on his errands protecting him from malice: "

"And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present." (Acts 21:18)

The elder is called upon to visit, encourage, teach and strengthen the flock. When authorized and delegated they can also lead sacraments like baptism, Holy Communion, (but not Holy Matrimonial rites). They can also counsel people, anoint and heal the sick and bury the dead: "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;" (James 5:14).

"I exhort the elders who are among you, I being also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4).

When a pastor is unable, for whatsoever reason, to attend to something, elders rightfully represent them as a faithful representing their father/mother. For every duty they perform, they should update the pastor on how they fared. On platforms that need the pastor to be recognized, the elder spearheads this and is responsible for introducing his/her senior by their profile.

3. Form The Judiciary Council Of The Church: While the pastor should not be involved in enforcing the law and punishing law-breakers (since those who feel either treated unfairly by the system or those who feel broken will need the same pastor, outside that system, to either appeal to or get counselling and pastoral healing from) elders will do this. In this case, the pastor becomes a buffer between the elders and the church.

To start with they are the custodians of the vision, constitution, doctrines, philosophies, policies, mission and mission statements, core values and protocols of the church. They should teach the flock to follow these and when broken take necessary action based on the policies they have: "If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector" (Matthew 18:17).

It is the duty of elders, with the counsel of higher offices, to, also, settle differences in the flock and settle doctrinal issues in a satisfactory manner:  "And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue." (Acts 15:2).

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."Titus 1:9 ESV

All must be done in love and having an exemplary lifestyle not by "bossing" over the church: "Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:3 ESV)

4. Buffer Between Pastoral Leaders And Church: An elder is both a congregant and a member of the pastoral oversight. This means they understand both, the leaders' world and that of the saints. It is, therefore, their duty to stand in-between and act as a buffer between the two and encouraging greater communication and flow of the organizations' vision between the parties.

For example, elders can be free to talk to their pastor, privately, about how the way he keeps ranting at people from the pulpit is discouraging the flock. The elders also can talk to the church about how they should respect their leader and follow his lead. in this duty, the motive is not to win over the congregation to themselves, rather help the congregation align itself to the leader and pastor and the vision he/she has.

They help the pastor campaign for financial resources by leading by example and also by speaking and endorsing these issues.

In short, elders see to it that the leadership is not abusing the flock and also that the flock does not abuse the pastoral oversight. They are the shock-absorbers of the church!

5. Pastor's Welfare: It is very hard for the local pastor to speak on his behalf concerning his/her welfare. There is, therefore, a need for wise elders who stand up for the cause of their pastors. Such elders, for example, visit their pastors every week to check up on them, their pantries, transportation, clothes, security, befriend and pastor the Pastor's family and kids, accompany their leader on all official journies after planning the journies themselves. Whilst a welfare committee is responsible for the welfare of the pastor, elders must be a push and an oversight to what is happening and give them ideas on how to go about it, what to do for the pastor etc. Remember the pastor and the elder are in the same office. However, for the annual appreciation or major appreciation of the pastor.

The policies dictate what a pastor should get from the church. It is the responsibility of the elder to campaign or lead the same in order to make sure their pastor gets what he/she should and even more. They try by all means to release the pastor to only two things in his life: prayer and ministry. When a pastor is supported the church is blessed and also a pastor who is supported is fully committed to the work.

The church will grow. Read this: "And the Twelve called near the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.

Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to PRAYER and to the MINISTRY of the word” (Acts 6:2-4). Remember pastors deserve to be cared for, " Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned about? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever ploughs and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? (1 Corinthians 9:7-11).

Most times, elders have to take from their own resources to cover up for a church that is failing.

A pastor with a wise pastor will always be well fed and catered for!

6. Property Overseers: Since the elders leave in the area, they know more about the place and even the laws of the place. It is, therefore, their prerogative to spearhead the acquisition and management of both moveable and immovable assets and financial resources of their assembly, district or province. The pastor may be re-assigned to another place or country and they remain at the place. It is therefore wise that all properties and accounts are put in the name of the ministry and more of the elders become signatories. HOWEVER, it should be known that though, the pastor does not handle or keep church funds, he has the highest and final say on how the funds are to be channelled. This does not mean they do not receive counsel from the elders.

"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." Acts 20:28 ESV

7. Administrative Oversight: The work of an elder is more spiritual than anything. however, as the highest level of leaders apart from the pastors, they can also be part of the Administrative Board in churches that have that need, are too small to have many leaders or in bigger churches, they just become an oversight where other boards report to and are accountable to. 

Even when outside the administration they must constantly ask if we are paying rents, paying salaries, or improving our assets for example. The big projects at a church also need the elders. Projects like building need elders. 

"When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them." (Acts 15:4).

In conclusion, elders are a great blessing and the eldership may be the missing link to the growth of your church. Let every church have its own elders (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). May elders take up their responsibilities and take the Body of Christ where it is supposed to be. May the church also embrace and support them as they do their God-ordained duties. Elders are not our enemies, they are a blessing from God working with the Apostles and prophets to catapult the church to the next level.

Receive Jesus Christ today and go to church for spiritual fellowship.

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