I recently preached on the role of elders to our congregation. You can find that sermon here. I mentioned the qualifications of an elder from 1 Timothy 3:1-7. We also looked at a few passages that showed the plurality of elders from Scripture such as Acts 14:23, Acts 20:17, and Philippians 1:1 just to name a few. But I spent a majority of our time together looking at Acts 20:28 and focusing on how elders are called to care for the church of God. Below I will define an elder and mention 5 ways that elders are called to care for the flock.
An elder or pastor is a man that aspires to the office in the local church that will teach sound doctrine, pray for the church, leading through church discipline, being an example to follow, and training other men to serve as well.
The first aspect in which the elders care for the church of God is by preaching and teaching.
Qualified men who serve in the office of elder or aspire to the office of elder are to preach the Word. We see in Scripture that this office of elder will result in elders or those that aspire to be preaching. There are some that want to make an argument that separates the office of elders/pastors and the responsibilities of elders to allow women to preach. While God has gifted women in a variety of ways, the Scriptures call for qualified men that are doctrinally devoted to preach the Word. God has given us this order for our good and His glory.
In James 3:1, Scripture says that, “not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” There is a weight to what is taught. I will be held accountable for what I teach and preach. All pastors will be held accountable for what they teach.
1 Timothy 3:2 ends with saying that an elder must “be able to teach”. And continuing on in 1 Timothy 4:13-16, Scripture says “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Elders are to spend time in preparation. Devoting themselves to God’s Word. When the people of God gather, the Scriptures are opened and the Word is preached. The people of God are encouraged and equipped by the preaching of the Word. The Spirit convicts the hearts of men and women.
Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 is to “preach the Word! To be ready in season and out of season.”
Paul does not say preach a bunch of stories. He doesn’t say ramble on about the news and politics of the day. He says to preach the Word! He writes to Titus in Titus 1:9, that the elder, “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.”
Pastors must guard the sheep and hold fast to the Scriptures. Pastors must stand against unsound doctrine in their areas. There should be a desire to guard against and prepare the flock from the attacks of wolves.
Another way that elders can continue to teach their congregation is by what they sing and confess together. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” If you have elders who select doctrinally sound, biblically rich songs for corporate worship, be thankful for them. Songs that are sung during corporate worship, should be songs that we would want to sing on our deathbed. We sing with thankfulness to God because we have been redeemed.
The second thing elders do to care for the church of God is to pray.
Elders should pray together and your local church should be one that is marked by prayer. Christian’s rely upon our Triune God and we go to Him in the communion of prayer knowing that He answers according to the counsel of His will. Because God is sovereign, we pray.
James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Pastors/Elders should be praying for the flock. They should be praying for the congregation to hold fast to the Gospel, praying for other missions efforts, and other churches to remain faithful. If you don’t pray for your elders/pastors, you should pray for them to remain faithful.
A third way in which elders care for the flock of God is that they are to lead in biblical church discipline.
Following Matthew 18, if a brother sins against a brother, they should go speak. If one does not listen, one or two others are to go speak. If there is still refusal, it is to be brought before the church. This is what elders/pastors should strive to follow as they think about leading in biblical church discipline.
The fourth way elders care for the flock are that they should be examples to follow. Yet, elders are not perfect, they continue to grow in Christ and reform.
Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
1 Peter 5:2-3 says, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
Pastors are entrusted to care for their local congregations. They are not pastors of facebook or twitter. They are not overseeing other congregations. Elders/Pastors are called to oversee the flock that God has entrusted to their care. Should Christians meet with other believers and encourage them? Yes! But again, elders are entrusted to care for the flock that God has called them to oversee.
A fifth and final way elders are to care for the church of God is by investing in other men that may serve in the church offices.
*Elders/pastors should invest in all lives of the local church.
But in Scripture, we see an example of how Paul cared for Timothy and Timothy was trained under Paul to serve the church. In 1 Timothy 1:2, Paul addresses Timothy as, “my true child of the faith”. Paul says the same about Titus in Titus 1:4.
In church history, John Calvin started a formal training called the Company of Pastors. In Geneva, during the time of the Reformation, all catholic priests in the city left. So Calvin saw the need to train men up and the pulpits of the churches be filled. Pastors were also sent out to the nations. During this 70 year period of the company of pastors, there were 130 men that were trained from within or came to Geneva that were then sent out to churches in Geneva and other nations. For more reading on this, check out Scott Manetsch’s book Calvin’s Company of Pastors.
Pastors are to invest in those who may aspire to the office of elder and train them up. It would be a shame if they don’t. It is not about us. We are not trying to build our own kingdoms. We are passing a baton of the Gospel. I want elders who come after me to run better than I have run.
Friends, we only get one life and it will soon pass. Only what is done for Christ will last!