Jesus is the King and Head of the church. By his Spirit working through the people of the church, he appoints men to special office for the purpose of exercising spiritual leadership (elders) and serving through works of mercy (deacons).
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CONSIDERATIONS FOR READINESS
“At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1” (BCO 24-1).
Here are some questions to help you reflect on the candidate’s readiness in light of the biblical qualifications. The office of elder is often seen as a job of decision-making and practical leadership, not unlike a board of directors. The biblical view of elder is more like a shepherd. Elders are to spend most of their time comforting the broken-hearted, hosting the stranger, praying with people, and teaching. As you ponder the candidate’s readiness, consider a shepherd more than an executive. The biblical view of deacon is primarily focused on mercy ministry – ministering to people's felt needs. They also are entrusted with the care of our facility and treasury.
Please ponder each question recognizing you are not evaluating a person’s long-term prospect of holding office, but rather noting your sense of the candidate’s readiness at this time.
1. Does the Candidate Desire to Be an Officer?
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Pet. 5:2). Has the Holy Spirit placed a godly yearning on this man’s heart for this task? As far as you know, would he be able and willing to affirm the ordination vows and serve in this role?
2. Does the Candidate Exemplify Godly Character?
The Bible puts far more emphasis on character than ability. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 outline the importance of Christlike character, with virtues such as:
Above reproach. This doesn’t mean he is sinless, but it does mean that he displays an exemplary degree of Christlikeness and is free from conspicuous sin.
Self-controlled. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. How does this man handle alcohol, money, and sexual temptation? Does he lose control with anger, spending, or gossip?
Gentle. Is this man gentle or heavy-handed? Is he a peacemaker or a fire-starter? Does he listen well or tend to talk over others to express his opinions? Does he ask good questions and follow up on them? Is he humble, not conceited, and able to hear correction?
Not greedy. Does the love of money consume him, or is he generous with his time and resources?
3. Does the Candidate Lead His Family Well?
While our culture cares a great deal about a man’s business ability, in the kingdom of God it’s a man’s home life that is the true proving ground for church leadership.
A one-woman man. This conveys the idea of a faithful husband who honors the sacred covenant of marriage. Does this man have a healthy relationship with his wife? Does he show respect, and kindness to her? Does he pursue her in love, or does his heart wander?
An effective father. “Both parenting and eldering are about guiding people toward maturity within a community context. Learn to shepherd God’s family by shepherding yours first” (Jeremie Rinne, Church Elders). Does his household show evidence of regular prayer and Bible reading? If applicable, are his children at home well-behaved or out of control? Are they exasperated by his excessive harshness or lack of engagement (Eph. 6:4)? Is the atmosphere of his home nurturing or toxic? If he doesn’t have children at home, is he otherwise engaged in effectively shepherding others?
Hospitable. Hospitality can reveal compassion and concern for the least, the last, and the lost. Is he aware of outsiders and strangers? Is he sensitive to people being left out and ignored? Does this man know his neighbors? Does he regularly have others over to his home? Would guests in his home want to return?
4. Is the Candidate an Established Believer?
Scripture says he must not be a new believer. Instead, he should have wisdom and experience that have been tried and tested by the church. He should be deeply rooted in Christ, fully and continually aware of his own need of the gospel of grace found in Christ alone.
5. If Being Considered for Elder, Is He Able to Teach the Bible?
An 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.” (Titus 1:9). Teaching the Bible (whether formally, as in a classroom, or informally, as in smaller groups or one-on-one) is central to the elder’s shepherding work. Has he instructed others from God’s Word with notable effect? Is he knowledgeable as well as teachable? Is he a continual learner, eager to grow in his knowledge of the Bible? Does he use his biblical knowledge to lovingly shepherd others rather than lording over them? Is he driven by a desire to nurture and edify the body of Christ more than a desire to prove a point, grind a theological axe, or carry authority? Can he use Scripture to counsel someone who is hurting, struggling, or sinning? Does he have a reputation for wise engagement with people’s struggles?
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