The Thing About Elders

I once heard D. A. Carson, a New Testament scholar and professor, say in a video something to the effect that the list of qualifications for overseers and deacons in the church is not describing some kind of super Christians.  Rather, these qualifications are quite “unremarkable.”  These qualifications of elders and deacons are required, in other places in the New Testament, of all Christians with the possible exception of one or two.  I think that the most overlooked qualification of the elder is the very first one:

Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. – 1 Timothy 3:1 (NIV)

The elder has to want to be a leader in Christ’s church.  He cannot be wishy-washy about wanting to serve the Lord in this way.  It is not a matter of prideful arrogance, for the elder should be humble.  He has to aspire to the position or desire it.  Those who serve well, as Paul says later in 1 Timothy, are worthy of double honor.  They have a lot of pressure weighing on them.  The decisions that an elder makes can have far-reaching and eternal consequences for the sheep in the flock.
The best thing that we can do as Christians with regard to our leaders is to respect them and obey their authority.  They have God-granted authority to lead in the church and they should be respected.  It is up to the elders to be mindful of the fact that they are servants of God and shepherds of the flock.  They need to remember that they are to follow Jesus’ example of servant leadership.  They are not to lord their position over the flock, but to gently lead, protect and, at times, correct the sheep in their care.  It is up to the sheep to follow their human shepherds as they follow Christ.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NIV)
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

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