Biblical, Spiritual Elders
“Doing” church these days can be kind of confusing. Trying to understand terminologies, such as bishop, deacon, head deacon, minister, pastor, elder, and so on can really be overwhelming. Discussing such a topic as Kingdom Leadership can be as challenging as discussing the Holy Spirit’s ministry in a cross-denominational discussion forum. Wide variety of opinions, interpretation of scripture, and personal feelings sometimes find their way into the discussion.
Understanding that dynamic, let me say up front that, though I hold my opinions expressed in this article to be true, I do not, for a minute, believe I have full and complete revelation on the matter. I simply want to share truth as I see it, submit it to other Kingdom Leaders for review and dialog, and continue to grow in Kingdom Leadership effectiveness. And I wouldn’t be surprised to have people write and tell me I need to get a life, or something.
I do not want to “split hairs” with this subject. The Kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power. It’s not what we call ourselves that really matters. Yet we need to understand how Kingdom leadership works, how we submit to it and function in it.
Biblical, spiritual elders. Paul said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:27 -28 NKJV) Overseers – elders. The term, Elder, is not just a New Testament term. It was used a lot in the Old Testament when referring to the leaders under Moses, those Joshua appointed, as well as other men and women of God.
Basically, a biblical, spiritual elder is someone ordained and anointed by God, and recognized by other leaders, to help equip, exhort, and encourage the Church. Theirs may not be a widely known ministry , or, they MAY be well known throughout the Body of Christ. They link with others, either on a local scale, such as a local fellowship of believers, or on a much broader scale, such as city-wide, regional, national or even global scale. Point is, they link together for the purpose of governing and directing the Church to enable it to fulfill its divine destiny. Whether their ministry is “small” or “large”, it is indispensible.
An elder can operate as an Apostle, Prophet, or any of the “5-fold” ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. However, in my opinion, they don’t have to be defined or confined by one of the 5 mentioned, to be an elder. They may preach, prophesy, pray, teach or lead worship. Or, they may not be used of God for any of those specific purposes. Or, the opposite may be true. True Apostles, Prophets, etc. are elders, but not all elders are apostles. Peter made a statement in 1 Peter 5:1, “now a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder…as a fellow elder I appeal to you.” (NLT)
It was explained to me, when I asked someone why the word “pastor” isn’t used much in the New Testament, that when the church was first formed the Apostles went around to different fellowships and appointed “elders” – those older, more experienced with life and how to deal with it, to help the younger ones. All were young in the faith. So, it was told me, God had a plan to help the Church grow until more people could be trained to lead.I believe most of that line of reasoning. What I’m not sure about is why the Church has, by and large, dropped “elder” from its lexicon. Now there are people in churches who wear the title of “Elder”, but that’s not what I’m referring to. An old mule could be called a kangaroo, but watch it long enough and you’ll know it’s not a kangaroo.
Biblical, spiritual elders, were established by God as far back as Adam. He was to rule, govern, under the authority of God Almighty. Things got messed up, but that didn’t take away Adam’s calling under God. God helped restore him and, I believe, poured into Adam truth that would affect generations to come. Study it out and you’ll find Adam living long enough to pour truth into many generations! When Adam died, though, people fell further and further from the Truth. Noah, Abraham and sons, Moses. These were all biblical, spiritual elders. They would help govern God’s people, and defend God’s righteous cause. They were people others could go to for counsel and support. People anointed and trusted to uphold truth in the spirit of love. The ones God anointed as judges, they also functioned as elders. The children of Israel did well as long as the judges were around, but when they died, each one did what was right in their own sight.
Reheboam, Solomon’s son, was asked a question pertaining to his new role of leader. He consulted his elders for advice. They told him to loosen the fist of leadership from around the people and they would follow him forever. That’s what the elders said. But he didn’t follow their advice. He followed the advice of his peers, his drinking buddies, who told him to tighten his fist around Israel. That advice split the Kingdom.
It’s good to have peers, partners, people who will agree with your every decision. But God has established elders in the Church. They are to help keep the Church from splitting and falling by the wayside. Even the great man of God, Moses, couldn’t fulfill his calling without the help of elders. Think about this. God used someone not “in the church” to help Moses see that truth!
The church has had elders for a long time. So why are there so many issues and divisions in the church today? Could it be that 1) the church hasn’t paid any attention to elders, not knowing those who labor among them, and 2) the church has paid TOO MUCH attention to them, idolizing them to the point of unsure footing? Unsure footing? Standing on man-made “truth” mixed with God’s Word. Shaky ground.
Use a concordance and look at the references for “Elder”. You’ll discover these truths about biblical, spiritual elders:
1. Elders have authority and responsibility to shepherd the church (see Isaiah 40:11)
2. Elders can carry on kingdom work even if the leader is absent
3. Elders are aware of “the times” and act appropriately.
4. Elders will follow the lead of spiritual authority, obey the placement (around the tabernacle), and receive the same spirit as their leader.
5. Elders witness transactions / deals made. They sit at the gate to rule, judge, and determine who enters, who trades and peddles, and see to it that justice and mercy work hand in hand.
6. Elders’ experience, as well as their spiritual insight, help them govern.
7. Elders have a direct bearing on the spiritual condition in the land.
8. Elders identify with the spiritual condition left them by previous generations and seek to rectify or build on the condition.
Whichever term you decide to use when referring to God given, God anointed, spiritual leadership, don’t forget their place in the Body of Christ. Remember James, “anyone sick…let him call for the ELDERS of the church…”? Elders. Might be a pastor, might be a prophet. Might be…but should be an elder.
I believe the Lord is saying He is “raising up people who will function in the Church, and in the world (Moses “communicating” with Pharaoh) as biblical, spiritual elders. Unknown by many, not wearing a particular title or badge, but walking in heaven’s authority. They will function as elder’s of old. Fire will fall from heaven as they speak heaven’s word. Miracles will multiply and Jesus will be magnified. Man’s “High Places” of idol worship will be distinguished between My place of True Worship. ”
“The end is close. The work is great. The Anointing of Jesus more than adequate! Be who you were made to be – recognize your place and others in the Body of Christ – and understand the Body functions as ONE.”
Elders. Not just a name.