Pastors and Elders III: What Paul taught the Elders


I said in the first post in this series ( that we would find out what Paul taught the elders at Miletus.  And I give you my word that before this series is over we will look at Acts 20.  But due to emails and questions that have arisen from the first post, I am going to answer some more questions first, laying a foundation to what we will say later.  In Acts 14.23, it says that Paul ordained elders in the churches.  Part of being a healthy New Testament church is having elders ordained by a pastor or apostle.  In fact I would go as far as to say that if you do not have ordained elders, then you are not going to a church.  Certainly the apostle Paul did not know a church without pastorally ordained elders!  So elders are vital to any discussion of church health and leadership.

Today, I want to answer the question what is an elder.  Great question – glad you asked, and glad the answer is in the Bible!  Every church should have several elders.  In James 5.14, sick people are told to call the elders (more than one – notice the “s” at the end) of the church (just one church, notice the lack of “es” at the end!).  So a church should have some elders, and everyone in the church should know who they are.  Eldership should not be a secret! Titus was told to ordain elders in the church as well.  If you read Acts 15.1-2 you find out that the early church had apostles and elders.  There was a plurality of elders in Jerusalem and they worked with the apostles.  They had a discussion on the role of the law in the church – and Peter was the spokesman for all the apostles (see v. 7) but James (see v. 13) was the spokesman for the elders.  Apostles – along with prophets, teachers and evangelists – are travelling ministries.  Elders – along with pastors – are local ministries.  James, functioning as the chief elder, was the pastor of the Jerusalem church.  Later in history, you find James takes the title of pastor of the church of Jerusalem.  And we can see that role developing here in Acts 15, and in Acts 21.18 when Paul visits Jerusalem with the phrase “James and all the elders”.  That’s how a church should be run with “Pastor, and all the elders”.  To meet Paul, James brought all the elders.  They were all elders, but James was in a different role and office: James was the pastor – ruling over and shepherding the elders.  Pastors are appointed by Jesus (Ephesians 4.11) but elders are appointed by pastors or apostles.  Elders are to help the pastor oversee the church and love and disciple people.

The Bible tells us: Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (Hebrews 13.7).  The elders are supposed to rule over the people – not in an arrogant hard-hitting way, but in the way of leading them to the Word, helping them be disciples, inspiring them to dream and challenging them to life the dream.  They are supposed to teach in their house groups and they are supposed to both teach the Word, based on the apostle’s or pastor’s teaching, and then set an example for the faith.  That is the role of an elder in one verse:

  • Rule – through love and grace, make disciples. 
  • Teach the Word of God to people, based on what the apostles and pastors are teaching
  • Set an example of faith for people to follow

That is what a Biblical elder should look like.  They are not necessarily preaching – that is the role of the pastor and the 5-fold – they are not necessarily running the show, but they are looking after people in their house on a regular basis, showing love, setting an example, ruling in love and teaching the Word.  

Next week: what are the requirements of being an elder

Be A Voice, Not an Echo!

I recently read an article on pastoral leadership, and as I was reading it, it just seemed inauthentic, and at the same time a little bit familiar.  So after a little time with Google, I found out this article was actually two other articles, both penned by experienced pastors, both of which I had already read – but they had been joined together by this guy as part of his blog.

Sometimes people come to our church because someone else told them we are an Andrew Wommack-church, or a Kenneth Copeland-church, or a Dave Duell-church.  They are soon shocked because I am not Andrew Wommack, Kenneth Copeland or Dave Duell.  I am Ben Conway, and I am very different from those three people, even though I love and honour all of them.  

A lady who was coming to our church on Sundays was starting her own church on Fridays, around the corner, trying to use our church as a base for inviting people to her church.  She used to take the teachings I wrote for my elders to teach and pass them off as her own teachings, even passing off my testimonies as her testimonies!

All three of these things have a similar link: and that is that church leaders can often be much more of an echo than a voice.  People find something that is popular and instantly try and emulate it, copy it, or in the worst cases – just simply rip it off.  It’s lazy, it’s inauthentic and it ultimately does not work.

Now, there is nothing wrong (IMHO) if you have been studying let’s say healing for the last year or two, to take one of T L Osborn’s sermons on healing and preach it.  It’s a great outline – it works, and it will be authentic because you are in the Word and know the Scriptures well, and understand the message for yourself.  Kenneth Copeland started off preaching Kenneth Hagin messages – and most people know that, but they forget that he soon stopped doing that and started preaching his own messages, and his ministry has gone a very different direction to Rhema because Copeland is not a rip-off of Hagin, he is a prophet and teacher in his own right.  Imagine how many great revelations and sermons would be lost to the body of Christ if Copeland was still teaching Hagin’s material.

There comes a day when you have to stop being an echo and be a voice.  People coming to the Tree looking for an Andrew Wommack church are often disappointed in me.  Some because they don’t know Andrew except as a voice on the TV, and are looking for a church that is nothing more than a voice on the TV where you watch and sometimes buy a DVD and are shocked when we speak about church things like culture, and serving, and punctuality, and dreaming and planning.  They are looking for a TV show and got upset when they found a church.

Other people are upset the first time they find out I don’t agree 100% with Andrew’s opinions on EVERY SINGLE VERSE!  Sorry, cloning hasn’t been invented yet – I am my own man with my own verse.  They are looking for an echo, but they found a voice.  But the truth is that I have a unique voice, and I have helped people in ways that other people could not – if I was still being an echo, the body of Christ would be diminished.

You have to find your voice.  If your blog is just other people’s posts and your Facebook is just what you share, how will people ever know what you give a damn about, what you love, what you hate, what matters to you.  Your voice needs to be heard.  John the Baptist was a voice, he knew what God had called him to do and was doing it.  That’s how you become a voice – you find out what God has called you to do and do it.  

Echos fade away, they are easily misunderstood, you can’t stop an echo and clarify.  If you are teaching sermons you could not answer questions on, you are an echo.  If you are always having to use other people’s testimonies to back up your point, you are an echo.  If you have to cut and paste other people’s blog posts and change the words slightly to appear wise, you are an echo.  

If that’s you, go and lock yourself in a cupboard somewhere with a Bible, get on your face before God and ask Him: What is my message?  Why am I in the body of Christ?  What have you called me to do?  It’s time to find out – we need voices in the body of Christ, and we need them now.