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What Are Elders, and What Do Elders Do?

Most of us are mature enough to know what biblical elders are. We have read and heard I Timothy 3, Titus 1, and Ephesians 4 preached and taught. We see in these passages that the scripture’s requirements for elders comprise three broad categories: (1) moral and spiritual character, (2) teaching and leading abilities, and (3) Spirit-given motivation to serve as a pastor elder. So, these passages give us important aspects of who elders are to be. Today, I want to use one short section in Acts 20 to remind you of what elders do as you continue to receive the ministry of our elders and pray for them

In context of this verse, throughout chapter 20, Paul had been traveling throughout Asia minor visiting groups of believers as he went. On his way to Jerusalem, he took a brief stop at Miletus and called for the elders from the Ephesian church to come to him. Here Paul covers two main topics, a bookended recap in defense of his life and ministry, implicitly offered as an example to follow (20:18-27, 33-35), and exhortations regarding how the elders are to rule after his departure (20:28-32). As we lay out verses 28-32, we see the heart of what elders are called to do.  

  1. They are to watch over & guard themselves. This means constantly reviewing their hearts and minds in light of his commands to make sure they are truly following Jesus and his ways. This would also include repentance and seeking to be in deeper relationship with Jesus.
  2. Next, they are to watch over & guard the flock, the people of God.

Why, because the Holy Spirit has made elders overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Now that is some pretty heavy stuff!  Next, he gives a warning.

  1. Fierce wolves will come in among the church, not sparing the people of God. One of the most frightening aspects of this is that people from within the church will arise and twist words to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. Therefore, he cautions that the elders “be alert” and mimic his prayer for the saints.
  2. Finally, he commends the elders to God and to the word of his grace, which will build up the elders and to give them the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

As you consider what this means for you, I’ll give you two thoughts to consider. First and again, pray for the elders. While this under shepherding work is good work, it is also frightening and difficult work. Also, our frail & sinful humanity often gets in the way so pray! Secondly, let the elders minister to you. One of the things we have been doing over the last year or so is touching base all within our church, asking how to pray for you. In this, be honest, be approachable, don’t be afraid. Reach out if you are in need and don’t wait until you are in crisis over your head. Let the elders minister to you and lift you up. Let them encourage you and do the work of an elder. We are all weak and frail sinners in need of God’s grace. God had designed his church to be a place where people love and come along side one another in the grace of God. Let us be the church, the people of God.