Local Churches Need Godly Elders
That a local church can exist for a time without elders is seen by the fact that churches established by Paul and Barnabas did exist for a time without such (Acts 14:21-23). But from this same context it is clear that it was God’s will that in due time each church should appoint elders. It is easy for us to understand why each local church needs a plurality of men to serve as its spiritual leaders, yet such is truly lacking among many churches of Christ today. It seems amazing to us that the churches established by Paul and Barnabas did not exist very long before they had men who qualified as elders. Obviously, something is lacking in our teaching when we fail to measure up to the pattern of elders in every church (Tit. 1:5).
It is certain that we can’t appoint men to this office who are not truly qualified in accordance with 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. To appoint unqualified men to serve in this office would be more disastrous than to continue for a while without elders. But we must not be content to allow this condition to continue without special efforts to correct it. It takes time for men to prepare themselves for this office, and it seems that very few are willing to truly prepare themselves for it. It is amazing how the early churches were able to appoint elders so soon after their establishment. Apparently there must have been Jewish converts from the various synagogues who already had a good knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, for it is not likely that Gentile converts had much knowledge of the Scriptures. But it is certain that the apostles would not have appointed men who did not truly qualify.
It is a sad condition that, in our day when the Scriptures are so readily available and our educational standards are a top priority in our society, so few men have a basic knowledge of the Scriptures. Even a generation ago such knowledge of the Scriptures was better than it is now. Obviously, there must be reasons for this unjustified condition among us. Let us here list what this writer considers to be some of the reasons for this condition among us:
• Failure on the part of preachers to teach men the need to prepare themselves for this office by obtaining a good knowledge of the Scriptures.
• Preachers who don’t like to work under qualified elders and thus neglect to encourage men to qualify themselves for this office.
• Preachers who feel they know the Scriptures better than most elders and thus would like to change God’s divine arrangement of a plurality of qualified shepherds over the flock.
• There are so many events going on in the way of sports and entertainment that many men are unwilling to put these secular matters in their proper place, thus fail to set aside time to study the Scriptures as they should in preparing themselves for this divine office.
• Some men feel they really do not have to meet the qualifications given in the Scriptures, and thus make no serious effort to qualify themselves for this spiritual office.
• Some who are very successful in business leadership seem to feel they should be appointed on this basis without the need of the scriptural qualifications, and therefore make no genuine effort to qualify themselves for this spiritual office.
• Some desire the office thinking this gives them recognition within the congregation as its rulers rather than providing the needed spiritual leadership that God intended they should provide. Having scriptural qualifications doesn’t seem to have entered their mind.
Yes, each local church needs elders, but it needs the kind of men that God’s word calls for. Nothing will enhance the growth of a local church more than godly elders. However, nothing can hurt the cause of Christ more than appointing men to the office who have neither the qualifications, nor the proper concept of what this office places on their shoulders as spiritual leaders. Until men who desire this office clearly understand the spiritual function of this office, and the need to have a good foundation knowledge of the Scriptures, they have no business being appointed to this divinely ordained office of work.