A question was posed on the role of Elders

14 Feb

I received the following email:

We are doing a series in leadership at church currently – I have one question for you-

you seem to say in your papers that Elders are overseers and responsible for teaching / and Deacons are responsible for administrative etc tasks.

Can you exegete 1 Tim 5:17 where it seems to give some room for Elders whose work is not preaching and teaching.

any thoughts?

I am not sure I actually say all Elders are responsible for teaching. However, I am sure I say that Elders are responsible for the teaching and the spiritual leadership/direction of the church.

The question is can there elders who do not teach? Or can a man be an elder and not be in a formal teaching position in the church?

According to 1 Timothy 5:17 yes.

This verse, or course, is addressing the function of the elders. It indicates that some elders will be laboring in “word” and “doctrine” or simply working hard at preaching and teaching.

However, function is different than qualification. My previous papers on eldership were focused on those passages outlining the qualifications of the position of elder. According to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 any man who is to fill the position of elder must be “able to teach.”

He may not fill the formal role of teaching, but he must be able to teach even if his primary function does not put him into a formal, public role of teaching.

I believe 1 Timothy 5:17 is not indicating that some elders are teaching and some are doing no teaching at all.

All believers are to serve in their local church. Some believers are to be set aside to serve in specific service ministries – deacons (their qualifications are listed in 1 Timothy 3). Some believers are to be set aside to serve in specific leadership ministries – Elders (their qualifications are given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). {See my posts Able to Teach #1, #2, #3, #4}

Since one of the stated qualifications of an elder is that he be able to teach, this must be true before he is set aside to fill the role.

By the very nature of their leadership role in setting the direction of the church, particularly overseeing the spiritual direction of members and the ministry as a whole, all elders will be called upon to teach in some capacity. Much of that will be in private, for some all of their “teaching” may be in private – one-on-one ministry.

For some there will be a specific public teaching ministry, due to their giftedness and God’s blessing of effectiveness.

I believe that is the difference 1 Timothy 5:17 is addressing. Those elders who have been set aside for a public teaching role and are laboring in that and those who have not be set aside for such a role, although even these by the very nature of the position/role and their meeting the qualifications will still be teaching at least privately.


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