Unscriptural Elders

Many churches believe their governing structure is biblical because they have a group of elders who govern, but their problem is that their concept of who elders are is incorrect. Their elders are regularly elected and rotated from within the congregation. They are often referred to as “The Board of Elders.” But such people are not elders by biblical definition. If we simply examine the requirements that Paul enumerated for a man to be an elder, this becomes quite clear. Paul wrote that an elder occupies a fulltime, and thus paid, teaching/preaching and governing position in the church (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5; 5:17-18; Tit. 1:9). Very few, if any, of the people who sit on church “elder boards” fit those qualifications. They are not paid; they do not preach or teach; they do not work fulltime for the church; and they rarely know how to manage a church.

Unscriptural church government could very well be the cause of more problems in local churches than any other thing. When the wrong people are ruling a church, there is trouble coming. It can open the door for strife, compromise and the total demise of a church. An unscriptural church governing structure is like a welcome mat for the devil.

I realize that I’m writing to pastors of institutional churches as well as house churches. Some institutional church pastors may be pastoring churches that already have unscriptural governing structures in place where elders are elected from the congregation. These unscriptural governing structures usually cannot be altered without strife developing.

My advice to any such pastors is to do his best with God’s help to alter the governing structure of the church and endure the possible inevitable temporary conflict, as future regular conflict is inevitable if he doesn’t do anything. If he succeeds by enduring some temporary strife, he will have avoided all that future strife. If he fails, he can always start a new church and do it scripturally from the start.

Though painful, in the long run he will probably bear more fruit for God’s kingdom. If those who are currently governing his church are true disciples of Christ, he does has a chance of successfully convincing them to change the structure if he can respectfully convince them from Scripture to make the needed changes.