In our sermon titled “The Work of an Elder,” Pastor Matthew Sheffer addresses the vital role of elders in the church, addressing misconceptions about church governance and emphasizing the biblical model established by Jesus Christ.
Understanding Organized Religion: The sermon begins by addressing the common sentiment of skepticism towards ‘organized religion.’ The critique often implies a preference for a more personal, subjective approach to faith. However, the structure and organization within the church are not human inventions but divinely instituted for the healthy functioning and growth of the church body.
Biblical Basis for Church Governance: The New Testament reveals that Jesus Christ established specific roles within the church, including apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists. These roles were not arbitrary but purposeful, ensuring that the church operates effectively and grows spiritually.
The Plurality of Elders: One key aspect of church governance is the concept of a plurality of elders. This structure goes against many modern church governance models but is rooted in scripture. Elders, pastors, or overseers are essentially the same office, with the plurality ensuring accountability, support, and wisdom among the leadership.
Elders as Servant Leaders: Elders are not just administrators; they are servant leaders who provide spiritual oversight. Their role includes teaching, guiding, and shepherding the congregation, offering counsel, and being accountable to one another and the church body.
Guarding Against Abuse: While acknowledging that church leadership can be abused, the sermon emphasized that the alternative—spiritual individualism or doing what is right in one’s own eyes—is not the biblical model. God’s design for church governance includes checks and balances to prevent such abuses and promote collective spiritual growth.
The Qualifications of an Elder: Acts 20 and other passages describe the qualifications for eldership. These criteria are not just for those in leadership but reflect the character God desires for all believers. As such, they serve as a guide for personal growth and spiritual maturity for the entire church.
God’s Plan for Our Sanctification: The establishment of elders is part of God’s plan for the sanctification of His people. Through their leadership, the church is guided in truth, grows in grace, wisdom, and understanding, and is equipped to fulfill its mission in the world.
In conclusion, the role of elders in the church is a divine ordinance meant to foster a healthy, growing, and accountable church body. It’s a system established by God for our collective and individual sanctification, guiding us in our journey of faith and ensuring the church remains faithful to its calling. As we understand and appreciate this biblical model, we grow in our commitment to God’s design for His church and our lives.