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#52724 Wed Nov 23, 2016 1:57 PM
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I think in most churches elders are nominated by a member of the congregation and then approved by the pastor or session/board. Is this practice scriptural? I'm not opposed to it, just wondering.

I know that Paul instructed Titus to "appoint" elders, but this is the only passage that I can find where the selection process is described. There are other passages that give the qualifications of an elder/overseer, but none that define how an elder becomes and elder.

What are your thoughts?

Relztrah #52725 Wed Nov 23, 2016 2:29 PM
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Good question! grin

The process of appointing elders varies among denominations and individual churches. I have witnessed a couple of ways this is done:

1. Consistory recommends candidates to the congregation who then vote for the man/men of their choice. The consistory then approves (typically) and ordains the winner(s).

2. Congregation recommends candidates to the session which initially examines them. Then the candidate(s) are examined/vetted by a special committee of the Presbytery. If the Prebytery approves, then the candidate(s) is ordained by the Presbytery.

Personally, I lean toward #1 since those who desire the Eldership are best known by those among whom the man associates with, worships with, etc. The #2 process removes much of the personal element of the local church which I believe is most important.

Of course, there is another case, #3 where a man is sent to a local church by a Presbytery who allegedly has examined/vetted the man and then the congregation expresses their like or dislike of that man to the Presbytery, etc. I've known of far too many cases where a local church suffers serious problems with men preaching heresy and recourse to have him removed/fired/challenged is very difficult.

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Relztrah #52726 Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:46 PM
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The two churches I've served in does it this way.

1. A congregation member recommends an Elder candidate. (criteria being in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1)

2. The candidates will complete an officer training class.

3. The Session will examine the candidates.

4. Candidates approved by the Session will be voted on by the congregation.

4. If candidates receive a majority of the votes, then they will be ordained and installed as an elder.

In general, the problem I see in church officer elections is that the criteria is often based on the person's likability, or success in business and professional instead of their spiritual walk.



John Chaney

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John_C #52728 Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:28 AM
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Originally Posted by John_C
In general, the problem I see in church officer elections is that the criteria is often based on the person's likability, or success in business and professional instead of their spiritual walk.
Methinks that is true in many cases.

Sooooo, at the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll take this opportunity to criticize the practice of the majority of churches, whether of Presbyterian or Independent persuasion in church polity. There is an undeniable and indefensible practice of dividing the ONE office of elder into two. And consequently elevating the elder(s) who teach/preach over those who are said to "rule".

1. In Presbyterian-type governed churches, which would include all the Dutch Reformed churches, the requirements for the "teaching/preaching" elder are far different than the requirements for "ruling" elders. The former are most always required to have completed seminary with a M.Div degree. The latter are generally not required to have any biblical training. [Linked Image] as John rightly pointed out there are two passages in Scripture which speak directly to the requirements for the ONE office of Elder and the ONE office of deacon. ALL Elders are to be 'apt to teach' and to 'rule'. ALL elders have the same authority in the church. I am not suggesting that all elders must have a M.Div degree!! nope But ALL elders must have a firm grip on Scripture and be able to articulate the doctrines of the faith well so as to refute those who oppose it. Far too many men who have the esteemed seminary degrees are guilty of introducing heresy into the church, which is woefully evident throughout church history, where those set apart for office were to be exposed and removed, even during the days of the apostles.

2. In Independent churches, many do not practice the policy of having a 'plurality of elders' but rather have only one Elder and then a plurality of Deacons. The one Elder is then elevated and addressed as the esteemed Pastor, who as in #1 above is given more authority than the other office bearers. This is often strongly denied by both types but in practice it is easily observed.

And lastly, please take note of how Scripture also includes the following important information concerning the Eldership: "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." Men are to SEEK the office of Elder (Bishop), which is rarely even mentioned in churches today. Most elders are to come from WITHIN the local church and not from WITHOUT the church, which is the common practice for the unbiblical "Teaching Elder" position. An elder MUST be a man of BOTH godly character AND one who is biblically knowledgeable and able to preach/teach. There is no requirement that a man be a successful businessman nor any other such worldly 'virtue'.


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Pilgrim #52729 Thu Nov 24, 2016 10:00 AM
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Good words.

I have a question on how strict you interpret 'apt to teach'. I guess my question goes to effectiveness or giftedness in preaching from the pulpit. I know of men who are knowledgeable and trustworthy in their understanding of the Bible and doctrine, but are not gifted orators. They can lead/teach a Bible study or small group well, but not say teaching to a large group. Maybe I should use the word communicators than orators. I other words, they know their Bible and doctrine, but weak as communicators. Whereas others who may not know as much Bible and especially doctrine, but are gifted as communicators. They will be more appreciated by the congregation when they fill in for the pastor.

So does 'apt to teach' preclude those who are not strong communicators. I can see it both ways, but insisting them as being strong communicators is in a way adopting to worldy standards.

I think churches and men who are even Elders struggle with this.


John Chaney

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John_C #52730 Thu Nov 24, 2016 11:45 AM
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I take the phrase "apt to teach" literally, i.e., ALL elders must be gifted to some degree to instruct others and be able to do apologetics to defend the faith. What is certainly true is that within the eldership some will be more gifted in the exposition of the Word. Thus among themselves some will be chosen to publicly expound the Scriptures, aka: preach.

Now, my contention is that most of the Reformed denominations/churches have taken the difference between these men who serve as elders to make an unwarranted bifurcation of the ONE office of elder thus making, in practice and even in title, TWO offices; one who is designated as a "minister/pastor" (teaching elder) and one who is designated as simply "elder" (ruling elder). Scripture does say this on this subject: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching." (1Tim 5:17), i.e., to especially esteem those who labor in the Word but again, no special authority is said to belong to those who are given to preaching. We might call this the 'balance of power" so that no one man rules the church. This is one of the most basic reasons for having a plurality of elders in the church.

Happy Thanksgiving, John. grin

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Relztrah #52732 Sat Nov 26, 2016 7:11 AM
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I have seen "term limits" on Elders in one church, and in another there were no "term limits." There are no term limits prescribed in Scripture, but I think it's good for a congregation to reaffirm it's officers regularly. Even the best elders may stray, get mired up in sin or false teaching, or otherwise disqualify themselves. Re-affirming elders on a regular basis is far better than appointing them for life.

"First among equals" is a phrase often used to justify the unbiblical distinction between "ruling elders" and "teaching elders" in PCA churches, but it is poorly defined and all too obviously misapplied.

In the Reformed Baptist church I'm a member of, the council (of elders) receives recommendations from the congregation, examines the candidates, and trains them for over a year, rather like an apprenticeship. Those who successfully complete the training are then set before the congregation as qualified candidates, and the congregation votes to approve them or not. My church has 5 elders, all equals, all teach and preach and shepherd the congregation. Two are on the payroll as those "who labor in the Word and in doctrine," and it is they who do most bot not all of the public teaching and preaching.


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The Teaching Elder and Ruling Elder distinction is not a PCA creation, but one that is Presbyterian (of all stripes) that was brought over from Scotland. And ruling elders are examined for their Christian knowledge in Bible and doctrine. They are examined by the local church which in most cases is not as strenuous as the Presbytery examining teaching elders.

On the matter of term limits, it seems as if bigger churches who have the number of qualified men use that method, but smaller churches who scrapes to find 2, 3, or 4 elders do not employ term limits due to the lack of men qualifying. In addition, those men who have rotated off the Session (through term limits) are still elders, they just do not take part in the daily, weekly, or monthly meetings.

*** I need to research whether teaching and ruling elders came over from Scotland, or an american Presbyterianism creation. I know that american Presbyterianism has its roots in Scottish Presbyterianism.

Last edited by John_C; Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:04 AM.

John Chaney

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John_C #52734 Sat Nov 26, 2016 1:07 PM
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Originally Posted by John_C
The Teaching Elder and Ruling Elder distinction is not a PCA creation, but one that is Presbyterian (of all stripes) that was brought over from Scotland. And ruling elders are examined for their Christian knowledge in Bible and doctrine. They are examined by the local church which in most cases is not as strenuous as the Presbytery examining teaching elders.
The same distinction exists in the Dutch Reformed denominations as well. My point was that there is no legitimate biblical warrant for the distinction since ALL elders are to meet the requirements for the ONE office of elder. grin


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Relztrah #52736 Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:58 AM
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Thank you for your replies and insights. Getting back to the question of the selection process, the First Timothy passage, "... if a man desire the office of a bishop..." (or "aspires" in the NIV) it sounds to me like a man has a desire, a call from God to be an elder first. Then he either nominates or recommends himself or is nominated by the congregation. The passage doesn't say this, but it seems to me to be the normal sequence of events.

But what about Paul's injunction to "appoint" elders? (Of course using scriptural standards and qualifications.) Is this the practice in any churches today?

I'm just thinking out loud here and I don't oppose the practice of nomination or recommendation of elders. In fact the reason I ask is because my pastor approached me and asked me if I would consider serving as an elder and I don't want to.



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