|Volume 24 Number 8 August 2022
T. Pierce Brown
Much has been written about God’s ordained plan for qualifications and duties of the shepherds of God’s flock (although that has not seemed to have had much effect in many quarters), but we have not noticed very much about what procedure might be used in the actual appointment. We suppose this is because God has not legislated about a specific procedure, and most of us who think of ourselves as conservative feel that most of our writing should be exegetical in nature, and not merely an exposition of our opinions about matters not revealed. However, there is a place for setting forth what we have discovered by observation and practiced as an appropriate or an effective manner of expediting a particular command of God.
This article deals with one method that we would recommend for consideration in the mechanics of appointing additional elders. First, a series of sermons should be preached on the qualifications, responsibilities and duties of elders to the congregation, and the relationship of the congregation to the elders. Second, a form should be prepared with something like the following reminders in it: No one has a right to be considered as a shepherd of God’s flock who does not meet God’s standards. “We must have elders” is no excuse for placing unqualified men in positions of leadership.
Although there are no specific procedures set forth in the Scriptures for the appointment of elders, the following words and ideas are suggestive of some principles that should be applied. (1) Acts 6:3 says, “Therefore, brethren, seek out [episkepsasthe] from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (NKJV). The word translated “look out” (ASV) is translated “visit” 10 times and has the basic meaning of watching over the needs. So, there is first the idea of a congregation recognizing it has a need for elders and deacons as well as “looking out” for those who are qualified.
(2) In Acts 14:23, the word cheirotoneo is used, translated by such terms as “chosen,” “ordained” or “appointed.” It means, “to select by stretching forth the hand.” It suggests that when a person has been “looked out,” then he should be “pointed out.” (3) The third word, used in Titus 1:5, is kathistemi. It means “to place” or “set down.” It suggests that after a person is “looked out” and “pointed out,” he is “set in” the office or appointed to the work of an elder. (4) The word diatasso, meaning “to arrange throughout,” is translated by such words as “ordain,” “rule” and could adequately describe the whole process, which is not to be haphazard or accidental but orderly and arranged. There are several other Greek words that are translated “ordain” or “appoint,” but these are the most significant ones that deal with the appointment of elders or deacons, showing that there is an appropriate and orderly method of “looking out,” “pointing out” and “setting in.”
Along with the above reminders, I would suggest that a listing of the combined qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 be given in a column so that each name that might come to a person’s mind could be quickly checked against God’s requirements. Then the following instructions might be given: “Since you have been exposed to a study of these qualifications, both in sermons and in your own private study, and since you should know the duties and obligations that the elders have to the congregation, and your duties to them, we submit this form for you to use in the following way. First, consider every man in the congregation who has all the qualifications listed above to the degree that would make you confident and glad to serve under him as an elder. Second, go to each person you have in mind and ask him, “Would you be willing to serve as one of the bishops of this congregation if you were selected?” Third, having looked out every man who, in your judgment, has all the qualifications to an acceptable degree and whom you would like to see as an elder, and having ascertained personally if he desires the work and responsibility, list below in order of your preference all those whom you think to be qualified, and who have agreed if asked by the other elders to do so. (We are assuming in this article that the congregation already has some elders, but the same process would work if they did not.) Fourth, sign your name at the bottom and turn in this form at the specified time. Make any additional comments you care to make at the bottom of this form. Then give space for a list of names, signature and comments.
When the elders have received the names from the congregation, they should choose those who have been designated by the majority of the congregation as being most worthy or acknowledged by the congregation with the highest degree of acceptance. When they have listed those, they should question among themselves their own evaluation of those names in terms of their scriptural qualifications and their ability to work effectively with the present elders. The final choice of those who would be put before the congregation for final evaluation or scriptural objection should be left to the elders. Elders are not to be elected by popular vote! They can neither be put in or out simply by that process. However, since an elder cannot lead a flock that has no confidence in his leadership, there should be input from the congregation with regard to this matter.
In our judgment, based upon years of experience and observation, something like this procedure gives the present elders a feel of the desires of the congregation and prevents a ‘lording it over’ the flock by giving them a voice. Yet, this procedure negates any idea that the church is a democracy to be operated by popular vote.
The same basic principles should be observed when the situation involves the initial appointment of an eldership, with some slight changes in the mechanics of choosing who is set before the congregation for final approval. When they are finally approved, it is our judgment that they should be set in office with a solemn ceremony to impress upon the congregation that, having followed God’s ordained plan, these are His choices. The Holy Spirit makes them overseers if they have been chosen according to His direction, Acts 20:28. Thus, to rebel against such scripturally qualified and appointed men is to rebel against God.