The Responsibilites of an Elder

The other night I was fooling around with my laptop. My wife was in the bedroom talking to some of her family. She strolled into the kitchen (where I was) and asked, “Lew, where in the Bible are the responsibilities of an elder?”

I answered, “There aren’t any”

I then said, “The qualifications of an elder can be found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus – but those are not really qualifications for an elder, but qualifications every Christian should meet.”

Later, I thought to myself, apart from the qualifications, there are actual responsibilities of an elder.

Acts 15:
1. v.2 – Help to settle disputes (this does not mean make a decision, but to guide people to the correct decision).

Acts 20:
1. v.28 – Guard yourself and the flock.
2. v.31 – Be alert.
3. v.34-35 – Work with your hands to provide for yourself (and others) (i.e. tent-making).
4. v35 – Help the weak and remember “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

1 Peter 5:
1. v.2 – Shepherd the flock.
2. v.2 – Exercise oversight; not under compulsion, but voluntarily.
3. v.3 – Be an example to the flock.
4. v.8 – Be sober minded and alert.

Looking over these “responsibilities” I do not see them as something that a person just decides he is going to do. It seems like they would flow out of being a Christian; growing closer to Christ. A Christian who is already, being an example to the flock, being sober minded and alert, exercising oversight voluntarily, helping the weak, working with this hands to support himself, etc. is one who would be considered an elder. I do not see it as a group of Christians going and looking for someone to fill these roles, but that they recognize the person or people among them who is already fulfilling them.

An important question that needs to be asked is this, “Which responsibilities does an elder have that any other Christian does not?”

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  1. Lew,

    Great post! I was concerned a little when you started off saying you were “fooling around”… but you saved yourself.

    As you know, we have been having a conversation on my blog about responsibilities and how they relate to pay. I think you’ve started at a better position. What does God require of an elder? What does Scripture say about this?

    By the way, I didn’t see weddings, funerals, hospital visits, baptisms, preaching, moderating business meetings, office hours, etc. on your list. Perhaps if these are not biblical requirements then we should not require elders/pastors to do them?


  2. Interesting post, Lew.

    I pastor an elder-led congregation. Our pastoral staff are, of course, serving in an elder role. But we also have lay-elders. We most definitely do not seek to “fill a spot” with a warm body. Instead, we seek out men of God in the church who are already living up to the qualifications/”job description” that you have recognized in the Scriptures.

    Right now we only have two lay-elders. In reality, the “pool” of candidates is shallow. We will add to that number as God raises up faithful men within the church.

  3. Geoff,

    Thank you for visiting and for commenting. It is wonderful to hear that you do not seek to “fill a spot” and that you recognize those who already possess these responsibilities.

    How do you discern the difference between someone who is pastoral staff and someone who acts as a lay-elder? What sort of things do you require from each group?


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