Biblical Requirements And Responsibilities Of Local Church Elders

Audio version of the following article.

Ever since I started these long-form articles, I’ve had some challenging situations and questions that have come up. I’ve been working on these articles for a while now, but the situations have so percolated that I just had to make an actual post about it. This one is on elders. You can read my other long one on deacons.

Today, people sometimes confuse the office of deacon and elder. At other times, they make a distinction between the pastor from the elders. In the early church, after the apostles’ time, elders were church officers second to bishops. During the apostles’ time, elders were crucial. Paul made the elders’ appointment a core aspect of his team’s work after the gospel had born fruit and resulted in a local assembly.

We need to dig deep but mind you, I can’t cover it all. Books exist that do a much better and thorough job. This is just me, working through some things and assuming some things (some of which I’ve already covered in other posts) to see where I land.


Local Leaders in Community

I have my tri-fold assumptions in place: (1) the church is made up of people; (2) that the church could only come into being after certain historical requirements were in place; and (3) that the church’s leadership is divine—God is the church’s true leader. The goal of the church is found in glorifying God via glorifying Christ by the use of a specific work which is tied to the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, I made a point of setting up markers that define what a local manifestation of the church looks like while eventually showing that even if all those markers are not in place, the local assembly of believers is still an expression of the universal Church.

Now one of the markers that I didn’t address, which is a combination of Marker-4 (discipline of the assembly) and Marker-6 (purity in moral practices), is the Eight Marker: leadership in community with other leaders. A past guest blogger mentioned the oversight and I wanted to address that.

church series

The Once And Future Church

Churches (and what I mean by this is the local manifestation of the Universal Church but I’ll refer to them for now on as assemblies) have lost focus of the Gospel.No, I don’t mean that they don’t know what it is or that they’re preaching it or that they even support it: but it has become (to all these assemblies) the entrance into Salvation and that’s it. It becomes a talking point on how one assembly is Closer To It than the other or a banner which is waved: but it has been receded from being the very grounds on which the entire Church stands.

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Is Campus Crusade A Local Church?

“The way you’re sitting: you’re still not so sure about what I’m saying….”

“Well yes. I mean at first it sounded like you were making a very narrow distinction about what a local church is. Then you basically say all churches are crippled–.”

“Well most anyway. I can’t really prove all.”

“Fine, so most. But I think you’re ignoring some things like Christ says where two or three are gathered in my name that’s a church. So even if they’re messed up, the church is made up of people. That would mean any group of Christians is still a church. Even Campus Crusades.”

“Christ is talking about the matter of discipline and yes he’s there in the matter of bringing a charge against a sinning brother or sister but eventually he also says to bring the matter before the church—which, you’re right: is people. The local manifestation of the Universal Church, I’ll use the term Assembly, is defined by the goals and work (as I said before) but the boundary markers are seen by those seven points. Of course, assemblies might be weak on one or more of the markers but that doesn’t negate the legitimacy of their gathering. So yes, I’m both narrowing the definition and broadening it”

“Whatever Yoda…but you haven’t addressed my main concern. Is campus crusade a local church? Should they have a membership roster? Collect for the poor? Discipline each other?”

church study

Examples of The Crippled Church

I wanted to illustrate the main point from my last post: that any gathering of Christians might still be an ekklesia albeit horribly crippled. Up front I wanted to make my point clearer—I think we’ve restricted the meaning of the Local Church to center around a building or a specific service but have ignored the goal and work of the church as well as the boundary markers that define of what the church looks like. In so doing, I think we’ve effectively divorced the markers of the ekklesia and have made them stand on their own apart from it

So when we look at Revelation1:20 we see that Christ is examining the lamp stands of seven churches. How much light are they giving? Where are they falling short in performing their task? At what point do these gathering of Christians stop being churches?