What is elder leadership?

Our Lord, Christ Jesus is the head of His Church. He alone is the true source of all the Church is and does, and His glory is the objective of every act, function, and motivation of the body–individually and corporately (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). 

 

As followers of Jesus, church bodies must follow biblical instructions and precedents in governing themselves. Elder leadership, as set forth in the New Testament, is the foundational form of overseeing and governance that most closely follows biblical principles (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Acts 20:17-32; Philippians 1:1).

 

The ultimate responsibility and authority of church elders is to observe, examine, and discern that Christ’s church remains on a true biblical course. The elders also must uphold God’s Word and ensure that church members are being biblically shepherded, accurately instructed through precise Bible teaching, and that the church is being well-managed. The foundational roles of elders are to protect the church, instruct the church through proper biblical teaching, preserve the truth of the Word of God and refute those who contradict biblical truth, preserve unity, lead the church, and care for each church member.

Elders:

  1. shepherd and equip the flock (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 5:1-3);

  2. lead by example (1 Peter 5:3); 

  3. teach skillfully (1 Timothy 3:2);

  4. preserve the truth of the Word of God and refute those who contradict biblical truth (Acts 20:29-31; Titus 1:9);

  5. manage the affairs and resources of the church (1 Timothy 3:5-7; Titus 1:7);

  6. humbly serve the church (Matthew 20:25-28; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:3);

  7. pray for the church and the sick (Acts 6:4; James 5:14); and 

  8. preserve unity in the church (Psalm 133:1; John 17:21-23; Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 1:27; 2:2).

What are the qualifications of an elder?

An elder must be:  above reproach; faithful to his wife (not required to be married); able to teach and give instruction, defend the faith, and guard against false doctrine; a lover of good, upright, gentle, holy, hospitable, disciplined, sober-minded, and self-controlled; respectable and well thought of by those outside the church; able to manage his household and care for God’s church; able to keep his children under his authority submissive, subordinate, and faithful; not a recent convert; not a lover of money or greedy for gain, a drunkard, violent, arrogant, quick-tempered, quarrelsome, or self-willed (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-8).

What are the responsibilities and authority of elders?

Northern Heights Baptist Church is Christ-ruled and elder-led.  Each elder is accountable to God, the Elder Team, and the church body.  All activities and affairs of the church shall be led by and under the authority of the elder team who is responsible for shepherding, equipping, and overseeing the church unless otherwise specified in the church’s governing documents.  The elder team may delegate authority to teams, committees, and individuals as they see fit.  Decisions of the elder team require unanimity.

What are the responsibilities and authority of the congregation?

It is the mission of each member of the body to Glorify God, evangelize the unbeliever, and strengthen the believer.  Members of the congregation are responsible to focus on obedience to God, doing His eternal and timeless will in contemporary and timely ways. The Congregation is to: 1) worship Christ with all of our hearts, making him the center of our lives; 2) strive to become more like Him in every way; 3) use our spiritual gifts, heart, talents, abilities, personality, and experience to serve others in His name; 4) unite with His family, the church, by pouring our lives out for one another; 5) communicate His Gospel and His interaction in our lives to the world so they may come to know Him and His love; 6) pray for one another, the church, and the lost; and 7) joyfully give tithes, offerings, and gifts. 

 

Believers are instructed to acknowledge and respect those who are in authority over them in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).  They are also instructed to remember their leaders, consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith, as well as obey and submit to them with joy and without groaning (Hebrews 13:7, 17).  Also, the congregation should examine the Scriptures daily to see if the teaching they are receiving is true (Acts 17:11).  If a gospel is being preached contrary to the true gospel, it must be rejected (Galatians 1:8-9).  They are to test the spirits to discern whether they are from God as many false prophets have gone into the world (1 John 4:1), and test everything, holding fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

 

Good-standing members of the congregation aged 16 years and over shall be eligible to vote in meetings on all matters brought before the congregation for consideration.  Each member is entitled to one vote and must be present at the duly called meeting; voting by absentee or by proxy is prohibited.  Unless otherwise stated, a majority vote of a quorum of the membership at any ministry meeting is required for the following matters:

 

  • Affirmation of the appointment or dismissal of the Lead Pastor (66% of members present at a legally held ministry meeting);

  • Affirmation of the appointment or dismissal of elders (66% of members present at a legally held ministry meeting);

  • Affirmation of the appointment of associate and assistant pastors (66% of members present at a legally held ministry meeting);

  • Affirmation of the appointment or dismissal of deacons; 

  • Affirmation of the ministry budget and any necessary amendments to the budget during the fiscal year;

  • Affirmation of the acquisition, transfer, or sale of real property and any related indebtedness;

  • Affirmation of any other type of debt on behalf of the church in excess of 5% of the previous year’s ministry budget;

  • Amendments of the church’s Constitution or Bylaws;

  • Any other decision delegated by the elder team.

How will elders be appointed?

Active elders lead the appointment of new elders.  The Elder Team or a committee of the Team, along with any congregational members they choose to assist, is responsible for selecting, examining, and bringing qualified candidates forward to the congregation for affirmation as elders.

 

Members of the congregation may recommend elder candidates through a process determined by the Elder Team.  The Elder Team will make the final decision as to which men are selected for examination.

 

The Elder Team will undertake a careful and thorough examination of each candidate’s moral, spiritual, and character qualifications and abilities as defined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 as well as their Spirit-given motivation to be an elder as described in 1 Timothy 3:1 and 1 Peter 5:2.  The Team, with prayer and fasting (Acts 14:24), will unanimously select elder candidates to be presented to the church membership for affirmation.  

 

Examined and selected candidates will be made public to the church at least four weeks in advance of congregational affirmation at a regular or specially-called Ministry Meeting.  The church is encouraged to enter into a time of prayer and fasting in regard to the candidates (Acts 14:24).  Members may privately bring questions or concerns about a candidate to an existing elder for discussion.  The individual may be directed to follow the biblically prescribed process in Matthew 18:15-17 or remain silent, OR the elder may take the matter back to the full elder team for further investigation.  Only after any issues are fully resolved by the Elder Team will the candidate be brought forward for affirmation.  

 

Candidate affirmation will take place in a regular or specially called Ministry Meeting.  The final presentation of elder candidates must be announced to the congregation at least two weeks prior to the meeting.  The church must affirm candidates before ordaining them as elders at Northern Heights Baptist Church.

Will the elders have terms?

The Lead Pastor is a permanent member of the Elder Team.  Other pastoral or paid staff may serve as elders only if the Elder Team brings them forward for affirmation by the congregation.  

 

The appointment of an elder shall be indefinite until terminated by the elder, the Elder Team, or the congregation.  Each elder, upon appointment, shall be asked to serve a three-year term.  Elders may elect to continue for one additional three-year term subject to reaffirmation by the existing elders and the congregation.  After the completion of two consecutive terms, an elder must take a one-year sabbatical from the Elder Team.  Upon completion of the sabbatical, the elder is eligible to rejoin the Elder Team, subject to reaffirmation by the existing elders and the congregation.

How many elders will there be?

The elder team will consist of those who have been raised up by the Holy Spirit, possess a Spirit-given motivation to be an elder as described in 1 Timothy 3:1 and 1 Peter 5:2, and have been recognized by the church as possessing the qualifications as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  No certain number of elders is to be maintained.

If an elder needs to be removed, how will that happen?

Charges shall not be admitted against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses, and shall be done without prejudging or bias.  Elders who persist in sin shall be rebuked in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear (1 Timothy 5:19-21).  Any elder may be removed from office if:

 

  1. He no longer fully affirms the doctrines of the Christian faith as embodied in the Old and New Testaments and outlined in the church’s Articles of Faith stated in Article IV of the Northern Heights Baptist Church Constitution.

  2. He no longer meets the qualifications of an elder stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

  3. He persists in sin (1 Timothy 5:20).

  4. He is no longer able to perform the role of an elder as detailed in the General Overview of an Elder.

 

Removal requires the unanimous vote of the remaining elders and an affirmation of the dismissal by 66% of church members present at a legally held ministry meeting.  An elder may voluntarily withdraw from his position at any time by written notice to the Elder Team.

What resources can I access to learn more about elder leadership?

The place to begin is in your Bible.  The Scripture references listed above are the best place to start.  Two other excellent resources include:

  1. a video titled Biblical Eldership Overview, and 

  2. an abridged 49 page version of the book, Biblical Eldership: Restoring the Eldership to its Rightful Place in the Church, is available as a free download at https://biblicaleldership.com/files/pdfs/BE_booklet.pdf.  This resource will be used to guide the study of eldership in Community Groups this fall.

  3. Community groups will be studying elder leadership starting on September 18.  You can join a community group by contacting Gene Walter or signing up online at https://northernheightsbc.churchcenter.com/groups/community-groups.

How can I ask a question?

The church is developing a Frequently Asked Questions document and will add a link on this page once it is ready.  Questions can be submitted by clicking on this link and submitting them to the team developing the transition plan to elder leadership.