TEXT: Textual; 1 Timothy 3:1-7
INTRO: In Eph. 5:23 and Colossians 1:18, we are told that “Christ is the head of the body, the church.” Practically that means the church must diligently seek the mind of Christ to determine the practices of the church. Who are the under-shepherds who serve the Lord as leaders in the body? “ELDERS/OVERSEERS.”
I. WHAT IS A CHURCH ELDER?
A.Three (3) offices of the church mentioned in the N.T.
1.) Elder: Greek term = “presbuterio” or presbyter. a.)Originally the term referred to “older” people.
2.) In Num. 11:16, “Bring Me 70 men from Israel known to you as elders and officers of the people. . . .I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people.” Romans had “senators,” from the Latin “Senex,” which means “elder.”
3.) In the early church “elders” were no longer chosen by age, but by Christian experience and they worked in the administration of the church’s affairs. See Acts 11:30 and 21:13
Acts 20:17, Paul “called for the elders of the church” and gave his farewell speech.
1Pet. 5:1, Peter refers to himself, “as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah.”
B. Elders may also be called Overseers: The Greek term is “episkopos”(to watch over) = Bishop.
1 Timothy 3:1 says, “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” Titus 1:7, “For an overseer, [is] God’s administrator.” Acts 20:28, “…the Holy Spirit has appointed you [as] overseers, to shepherd the church of God.” The overseer/bishop is seen as the primary administrator and care-giver over the well-being of the church.
II. HOW DO SOUTHERN BAPTISTS PRACTICE ELDER LEADERSHIP?
A The Baptist Faith and Message: [The church’s] Scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.
Term most often used for “elders/overseers: “pastor.” Thus, it is common to hear church members refer to their church administrator as “Pastor John” or “Pastor Smith.”
They use the term “overseer,” but primarily as a descriptive term rather than a title. There is no higher administrative position among autonomous, or self-governing, local churches than a pastor. “Pastor,” = Greek term “poimen” = “shepherd.”
The Pastor, in the role of “overseer,” watches over and guides the local autonomous church that calls them as a congregation.
B. In summary, Southern Baptists believe the three terms: overseer, elder, and shepherd or pastor, refer to one office.
Acts 20:17, Paul “sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church,” [then he spoke to them saying,] in vs. 28, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God.” 1 Pet. 5:1-2, “Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the suffering of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely. Several men, one job, three terms. The elder is the overseer and the shepherd / pastor of the church.
This is why the Baptists hold that their ministerial staff are the “elders” of the church. However, the concept of elders who may not be vocational staff is currently evolving among SBC churches.
III. HOW DOES A PERSON BECOME A CHURCH OVERSEER? (1TIMOTHY 3:1-7)
A. 1 Tim. 3:1-7, one can “aspire to be an overseer.” “a noble work,” never to be taken lightly, but entered into with the intent of keeping the office with dignity, diligence, and a sense of Divine calling.
Titus 1:5, “appoint elders in every town.” Every church needs elders who come from common members but are recognized by godly authority.
B. Are pastors/overseers “called by God” for their positions?
Yes: 5 reasons:
1.) Gen. 6, Noah; Gen. 12 Abraham; Ex. 3, Moses; Judges, 1 Sam. 3, Samuel, 16,David
The prophets were called throughout the Old Testament.
New Testament, God called John the Baptist and Jesus called His disciples.
Acts 9, Paul was called and used to call others.
Eph. 4:11-12, “And [Jesus] personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor-teachers for the training of the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”
Common testimony of vocational ministers throughout church history: a sense of Divine calling.
Baptists do not believe in “apostolic succession,”
Elders have no any special ability to convey grace as a sacrament, unlike any other church member. We don’t believe there is any special “power” given to pastors other than the spiritual gifts of God, the teaching of Scripture, and the spirit-led calling of a pastor to a church as God’s steward, administrator and spiritual mentor.
C, A pastor has authority. In 1 Tim. 4:11, “Command and teach these things.” It requires authority.
1 Tim. 5:17, “The elders who are good leaders should be considered worthy of all honor, especially those who work hard at teaching and preaching.”
Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
Ephesians 4:11- 13, “And [God] personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the training of the saints in the work of ministry to build up the body of Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son growing into a mature [person] with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”