We see them whenever we gather for worship. They may drop by to see you at home or in the hospital. They are the ones who have been charged with watching over us and caring for our well-being.1 God’s Word directs us to obey them in order that their work will be a joy to them.2
We call them elders, shepherds (pastors) or overseers.3 These descriptive titles identify their relational function which the Lord himself created for the growth and good of the church.4
Because overseers are to understand the path which we all ought to be following, they are able to guide us in healthy doctrine and refute those ideas which would mislead us.5
Although none of us are perfect by our own right, the elders are to be living examples of Christian maturity.6 As such, on the one hand they cannot be recent converts, while on the other hand they must be blameless. This means they cannot be living hypocritical lives as those who profess Christ in our assembly but possess active skeletons in their closets. Because they do not live a double life, they will have a good reputation even with those outside of Christ.
We call them shepherds because they are to possess the pastoral qualities of a gentle and temperate spiritual shepherd who understands the way we are to go and is under self-control. These are not to be overbearing men with short fuses from whom people flee in fear. Rather, just as sheep enjoy the presence of their shepherd who takes care of them, these men are to be approachable when we find ourselves struggling with our own spiritual issues.
Elders are to be family men with a proven track record. Men who have one wife and who manage their own children well.5
God’s people need good elders, that is, we need shepherds who care and actively serve the flock. Whoever desires to serve as an overseer is not only focusing upon serving in a noble manner, but when the Chief Shepherd returns this willing servant of God will receive an unfading crown of glory!6
Are you too young and inexperienced to become an elder? It has been said that the whole of life is simply the unfolding of the decisions we make as a young person. Decide now to live for God, allowing His word to shape your decisions, thoughts, values and actions, in order that one day you might exhibit the qualities of someone who will be able to step up to serve God’s people through this important function.
1 I Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17
2 Hebrews 13:17
3 1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17, 28
4 Ephesians 4:11-13
5 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9
6 1 Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9
7 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Peter 5:4