the weblog of Alan Knox

Do elders manage or care for the church?

Posted by on Jul 1, 2013 in elders, scripture | 35 comments

When Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, he either left a letter with him or sent a letter to him in order to help his young apostolic coworker. (1 Timothy) In part of that letter, Paul wrote to help his friend understand who should be recognized (or appointed) as elders among the church. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

In this section, Paul describes what kind of person should be an elder. There are many different descriptions within this short passage. But, for this post, I want to focus on one sentence (in two verses):

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5 ESV)

This passage is often presented as an indication that elders are “managers” over the church. However, the verbs used indicate something different.

To begin with, there are two important verbs used in this passage: “manage” (in vs. 4 & 5) and “care for” (in vs. 5).

First, the verb translated “manage” comes from the Greek verb προΐστημι (prohistemi). This verb has a wide range of meanings, including “be over,” “superintend,” and “managed” and also “aid,” “care for,” and “give attention to.” So, as the ESV translates it above, this verb can definitely mean “manage.”

In the passage above, the verb προΐστημι (prohistemi – “manage”) demonstrates the relationship between the elders and their families, especially their children. Again, in that context, “manage” would work.

Next, the verb translated “care for” comes from the Greek verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai). Unlike the verb above, this verb has a much more narrow range of meaning: “to take care of a person or thing.” This verb cannot mean “manage.”

The verb ἐπιμελέομαι (epimeleomai – “take care of”) is only used in one other passage in the New Testament – in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan:

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” (Luke 10:34-35 ESV)

It’s clear from the context above what “take care of” means. It means “to render aid” or “offer support”… it does not mean “manage.”

Now, remember, Paul is making a comparison. He’s comparing a person’s relationship to their family and suggesting that the familiar relationship will be an indication of their relationship with the church. Paul describes the familial relationship with a verb that could mean either “manage” or “care for.” But, he describes the church relationship with a verb that could only mean “care for.”

Regardless of what Paul is saying about the elders’ relationship with their family, he is definitely not saying that the elders are to “manage” the church. Instead, he is saying that elders are to “care for” the church, much like the “good samaritan” took care of the wounded traveler.

By the way, there is another Greek verb that falls within the same semantic domain (meaning) as the verb “care for” (ἐπιμελέομαιepimeleomai). Which verb is that? The verb that is usually translated “shepherd,” which is also often used to describe elders.

[I wrote a similar post about 3 1/2 years ago called “Manage his own household?” However, the Greek fonts became corrupted during a database upgrade, so I decided to rewrite the post here.]


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-1-2013

    I take a different view… the construct of the sentence you quote indicates that Paul is drawing a comparison, not in contrast but in similarity… a comparison of families.

    The prospective elder of a local assembly is to learn how to “manage” in his own family first, and the principles learned there can (and are) effectively be used in the care of the assembly. The point Paul is making is, if a person hasn’t “learned” how to manage his own family, as demonstrated by the unsubmissiveness/disobedience of his own children, he is disqualified in acting as an elder in the local assembly. It’s all about authority, or lack of. If his children do not respond to their father with some semblance of respect of his position in the family, then he will not be able to generate the same kind of respect from those he is supposed to take care of in the local assembly.

    It doesn’t matter if different verbs are used, the object of the whole exercise is finding someone who has demonstrated the ability to look after a family. This would include “managing” with authority.

    “The pitcher picked up the ball and threw it to home base.” Two different verbs are used, but the object of the exercise is getting the ball to home base. This includes not only throwing the ball, but having to pick it up first.

    The “taking care of” would also indicate the ‘desire’ (the aspiration) to do the work, as Paul says in the first verse of chapter three in his first letter to Timothy, and as the Good Samaritan narrative demonstrates.

  2. 7-1-2013


    I almost put this example of how these two verbs work together:

    “If a person cannot travel across the state, then how can that person drive across the country?”

    This is a very similar construct to 1 Timothy 3:4-5. The first verb (travel) has a wide range of meanings, but the second verb (drive) has a more narrow range of meanings.

    Although “travel” could mean “take the bus,” or “take a plane,” or “ride a bicycle,” we would never think that “drive” means any of those things.

    In the same way, the frist verb in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 could mean “manage” or “care for,” but the second verb (related to the church) could only mean “care for.”


  3. 7-1-2013

    How would 1 Timothy 5:17 relate to this discussion?

    “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

    Again the verb is προΐστημι, and BDAG gives two definitions, one of which is rule, direct, exercise headship. Doesn’t the context of 1 Tim 5 favor the idea of directing more than caring for, or giving aid?

  4. 7-1-2013

    Alan, here’s another example that came to mind: (

    “Years ago, patients admitted to the hospital would be greeted and cared for by their primary care physicians.

    Today, a doctor known as a hospitalist is the person primarily responsible for managing the care of those patients while in the hospital.”

    In my opinion, you are drawing a distinction where none exists. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul links the two concepts in the same sentence for a reason… they are related and should not be separated. It’s actually two aspects of the same thought. An elder needs to be respected as an authority figure by those in the local assembly. The elder needs to show care for those in the local assembly.

    Not exactly sure what you are proving with your argument except that “authority” is not in view. When I read these same verses, Paul is very clear in stating it actually is part and parcel of the position of an aspiring elder in the local assembly. Authority (manage) + care.

  5. 7-1-2013


    Even if 1 Timothy 3:4-5 do not refer to elders as “managing” the church, there certainly could be other passages that do. However, when we take them all together – including warnings about “exercising authority” given by Jesus generally and by Peter specifically to elders – then I think there would be a better way to translate prohistemi in 1 Timothy 5:17 (and other passages) than “manage” or “rule” (as some older translations preferred).


    My point in this post is that 1 Timothy 3:4-5 cannot be used to support the idea that elders “manage” the church, since Paul specifically (via the Holy Spirit) chose a verb that cannot mean “manage” when referring to the relationship between elders and the church. As I said to Clint above, it’s possible that other passages could be used to support the idea that elders “manage” the church. But, again like I told Clint above, we also have to take into account Jesus’ and Peter’s warnings AGAINST exercising authority over others among the church.

    In general, my point in posts like this one – though not my specific point in this post – is that prohistemi and similar verbs (when related to leaders such as elders and the church) do not necessarily mean “rule” or “manage,” but instead work consistently with other meanings. Of course, if this is correct, then it presents a different understanding of leaders among the church than has traditionally been presented.


  6. 7-1-2013


    Given the context, how would you view Hebrews 13:17?

    “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

    You would not view that as analogous to Romans 13:ff, 1 Peter 2 regarding government officials would you?

  7. 7-1-2013


    No, I don’t see Hebrews 13:17 as being analogous to Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2. I see it is being analogous to Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 (probably the most parallel passage). By the way, the Greek term for “authority” is not found in Hebrews 13:17, in spite of the translation that you quoted. In the context of Hebrews 13, I think Hebrews 13:7 is a good indication of why we should submit to leaders: because of the example of their manner of life, which is quite different from some kind of positional authority.


  8. 7-1-2013

    The ole ‘rule’ and ‘authority’ issue….! Yay. The police and government get to do the rule and authority thing with me because they have the ‘force or power’. Practically speaking however, remember how the people marveled at Jesus’ teachings because he ‘spoke with authority’? It wasn’t because of His position, rather, it was His manner, stature and wisdom that caused folks to trust Him.

    If I were seeking advice or counsel on something, I’d go to a friend I knew and trusted and had a relationship with. His advice would have ‘authority’ and be taken far more seriously than it would be if it came from someone who didn’t know me, wasn’t trustworthy or reliable and I ‘had’ to ask him to get my information. When I manage my household or business well, it gives me ‘authority’ to speak knowledgeably, wisely and reliably on such subjects. It does not give me the power to enforce my knowledge or opinion. Paul is quite rightly pointing this out and reminding us that it’s our lives, experience and track records that impute our authority to speak or in this case, ‘care for’ fellow members of the flock. He’s telling us that poor track records should be a warning sign that such folks aren’t to be taken seriously.

    As humans, we too often view things the world’s way–i.e we break things down to rule and control and power. The Kingdom of Heaven does not work this same way, thus, within the Church, I suspect it wasn’t designed to work the world’s way either!

  9. 7-1-2013

    Folks, it may be important to note here both the ROLE and the QUALIFICATION for Elder, and that “manage” and “care for” are really considerations only secondary to Function and Fitness.

    From Acts 2, the Apostles were responsible to “oversee” both the establishment of and the commitment to four central characteristics:
    a) Word b) Fellowship c) Communion d) Prayer (v.42).
    The Apostles were the prototype for all overseers who would lead in the church, and who are likewise to “oversee” these 4 fundamentals (Heb. 13:17; Titus 1:9). Foundational to such a healthy body is the energizing initiative of the Word, from which spring and flourish the other three responses – Fellowship, Communion and Prayer — God initiates (Word), we respond (fellowship, communion, prayer). This is why the Bible uniquely requires an elder be “able to teach.” God’s Word carefully and accurately taught informs, directs and imparts Jesus’ life to the Body.

    Regarding the “qualification” of an elder, it seems only one is given — that he be “above reproach” (1 Tim.3:2; Titus 1:6). All the other characteristics which follow simply expand on this one qualification. An elder who is “above reproach” won’t have a hollow ministry due to (a) a family to which he is inattentive, (b) a body that observes inconsistency or immaturity, or (c) a community that disdains his hypocrisy. (Each of these 3 areas is addressed within the more detailed specifics that follow that one qualification).

    However he exercises leadership within the church (manage / care for), his authority comes first from the Word, and then from a consistent life warranting trust.

    Cheers, Don

  10. 7-1-2013


    You said: “As humans, we too often view things the world’s way–i.e we break things down to rule and control and power. The Kingdom of Heaven does not work this same way…” Jesus said something similar: “It shall not be so among you…”


    At what point in Acts 2:42ff does Luke write that the apostles were responsible to oversee those four functions? Also, does any author in Scripture write that apostles are the prototype of all overseers?

    I would say that real authority rests in God alone among the church. Whoever says or does something according to God’s will, is speaking or acting in God’s authority – whether that person is an elder/overseer or apostle or not. Whoever says or does something that is contrary to God’s will, is not speaking or acting in God’s authority – even if that person is an overseer/elder or apostle.


  11. 7-1-2013

    Yes, Alan, I recognize that exousia (I do not know how to use Greek font on WordPress) is not present in Heb 13:17, and neither is “to them” (NASB). We both know that the grammatical structure implies, and the dual command to peitho (obey) and hypeiko (submit) to hegeomai (leaders/governors) explicitly states what and to whom is in view here.

    I agree 1000% percent that biblical leadership is qualified leadership. It is servant leadership. It is accountable leadership. We all know of abuses of authority, and 1 Tim 5 gives remedy for that…. public rebuke, impartial discipline.

    I applaud the discussion about what genuine biblical leadership looks like, and when faux positional authority should be vacated. That is a good discussion to have. But shouldn’t we be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, especially when multiple texts seem to make a prima facia case for qualified, accountable servant leadership from the plain meaning of those texts? (In my years as a counselor and pastor, I have come across many abusive parents, but the remedy is not to throw out parenting, but teach what biblical parenting is, commend those who do it faithfully, and hold accountable those who do not.)

    After all, in Paul’s preclusion from women serving as elders in 1 Timothy 2:12, it is “teaching and exercising authority” over a man that is in view, and in Titus 2:15, his direct address to Titus as elder is to exhort and rebuke with “all authority.”

  12. 7-2-2013

    Heb13:7 – 17 is it seems so often pulled out of the context I see it in, which seems to be about teaching and learning.

    The passage is certainly to do with “authority”, what I term “teaching authority”, it is about those leaders who are teaching. What is the outcome of their lives and faith, is it worth imitating? Check too, and guard, whether they are trying to lead you away by ‘diverse and strange teaching’. ie Don’t blindly follow whatever is being taught.

    As I understand it in v 17 the Gk ‘peithesthe’, often translated ‘obey’, has rather, the sense ‘Let yourself be persuaded or convinced’.
    ‘your leaders’ has the meaning of lead or guide. (A shepherding act?)(Jesus relates the same Gk word for leader, to serving – not an authority figure of being over – Lk22.26)
    ‘submit’ is not to ‘give in’, but to ‘be disposed to yielding’.

    v17 In my mind, it could read: ‘ In your relationship with those who are your leaders and guides to godliness, be sure you maintain a yielding disposition and remain open to their persuasion’

  13. 7-2-2013


    Concerning Hebrews 13:17, as you know, peitho does not typically mean “trust.” In fact, the same form of the verb is used in the very next sentence and is usually translated “sure” or “have confidence.” In the same way, “hegeomai” has a wide range of meanings, from guide/leader to ruler/leader. Again, from Jesus’ and Peter’s warnings AGAINST exercising authority over others among the church, I think “guide/leader” would be the better translation. Finally, if “submission” automatically means “authority,” then we’re going to have a problem with Paul’s instruction to “submit to one another.” “Submission” is not automatically about authority.

    The question that I think we must answer (but is rarely considered, from what I can tell) is this: How do elders/overseers/leaders among the church “lead” without “exercising authority”? I think there’s a very good answer to that question which aligns with all of the passages that we read about the work of leaders as part of the general work of the church.


    That’s very close to the way that I normally translate Hebrews 13:17 –

    “Trust those who lead you and submit to them…”


  14. 7-3-2013

    Alan –
    Here is the quote from the ESV text – Acts 2: 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to PETER AND THE REST OF THE APOSTLES, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
    38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
    40 And WITH MANY OTHER WORDS he bore witness and CONTINUED TOO EXHORT them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
    41 So THOSE WHO RECEIVED HIS WORD were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
    42 And they DEVOTED themselves TO THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING and the FELLOWSHIP, to the BREAKING of BREAD and the PRAYERS.
    43 And AWE came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done THROUGH THE APOSTLES..

    So, the Apostles held a leadership role, clearly from the text. Which is no surprise to any of us. And in that leadership role they taught the truth of God’s Word to the assembly. And the people hung on every word … “devoted…” Again, no surprise to us. The fun is that this teaching and leadership role led to such culture-shaping life- and kingdom-outcome, amid the church itself, and magnetically into the community: “…added about three thousand…and awe…and wonders…through the apostles.”

    The Word of God INITIATED life in the body of believers – THROUGH THE TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES – and the people then responded with Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayer – ALL under the leadership of the Apostles – whose role in that assembly is identical to what they later described and instructed for other elders. The teaching, together with those three outcomes/responses which followed all still make up the core of our gatherings to this day – teaching, fellowship, communion, prayer. Wonderfully obvious, confirming for us of the core of the true elder leadership ROLE – being able to teach…to convey truth to others in a way that affects their lives for Christ, who respond to God’s initiative through their elders with the evidence of a newness of the life of Christ in their midst and in their souls, and affecting their community. Wow!

    As for the Scriptural basis for Apostles being the “first elders,” we simply see that they taught and instructed other elders according to what The Lord was doing through them – Timothy being the prime example. What we know of being an elder is FROM these Apostles. They are the human source of our understanding, our instructors whose words you and others are parsing above – for just this reason – and thereby the model for all who would be elders. What other human model does The Lord give us?

    Your statement that the “real authority in the church rests in God alone…” is also a no-brainer. No surprise – right you are. Which is why the elders “care for” more than “manage” – since only The Lord HAS the ultimate “management” authority. But The Lord put in place Elders who indeed HAVE authority, spelled out and supported by The Lord of His church through Scriptures. Certainly true, or we all would not be so carefully reviewing their excercise of their office above.

    So your “whoever says or does according to God’s will…” comment seems a bit confusing. Are you saying the office of Overseer/Shepherd/Elder is immaterial, so long as SOMEONE is “saying or doing according to God’s will”? I’m sure you are not saying that. But not sure what the distinction is you are making here.

    As I said initially, the real issue is that an elder be conversant in the Scriptures … “able to teach” in such a way as to affect by the Spirit through him the lives of the sheep. And that he be “above reproach” that his ministry be unhindered.
    Whether you can allow the Apostles as elder “prototypes” or not is relatively unimportant. Still, I expect you recognize the elder role and qualification as I have suggested. ‘Preciate your comments! Cheers, Don

  15. 7-3-2013


    Yes, Luke makes it clear that the apostles (and others) were extremely involved in the early church. However, the passage that you quoted does not indicate that “the Apostles were responsible to ‘oversee’ both the establishment of and the commitment to four central characteristics.” Were the apostles involved? Absolutely. Were they important? Unquestionably. Were they responsible to oversee the establishment and commitment? I don’t see that.

    I don’t see overseer/shepherd/edler as being an “office” among the church. They are the mature believers who have been recognized by the church because of their manner of life. As such, their example is extremely important. Since they are mature, they are also doing things that all believers should be doing, i.e., teaching, encouraging, warning, admonishing, etc. I think 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 is a good indication of how leaders work among the church – not as an office above the church – doing the same work that the whole church (each believer) is responsible for.


  16. 7-3-2013

    Alan – I see your perspective, and it seems you do NOT see elder as special in any way within the life of the local assemblies.
    We’re ALL to ‘aspire’ to the role of elder. Yes.
    Which is to be people ‘above reproach.’
    But surely Paul was preparing Timothy for more than just ‘standing out in the crowd’?
    And when you RIGHTLY say they are ‘recognized’ by the church, does that carry any responsibility withIN the church? Or are they simply … what? … incidental reminders that cause us lesser mature to say “oops – gotta do better!”?
    Do they have ANY role in your view of teaching, instructing, directing, overseeing, shepherding – albeit under the ultimate authority of The Lord and His Word?
    If what you are indicating is true — help me here if I am misrepresenting you ~ it’s a puzzlement — then why be concerned at all with whether the word is “manage” or “care for”? They carry no actual clout – just recommendation? Hmmm.
    Thanks, Don

  17. 7-3-2013


    It depends on what you mean by “special.” Obviously, I see elders as being special to the church in a different way than you see elders as being special to the church. As we can see in Scripture, elders are not necessary for the church. However, they are important for the church. All believers have the roles of teaching, instructing, shepherding, etc. Even “overseeing” is mentioned in Hebrews 12:15 as the responsibility of all believers. Elders, however, are those who are recognized by the church as being ones who do these things consistently and in a mature manner. Their “clout” is in their recognition as mature followers of Jesus Christ who can be trusted and whose way of life is worthy of imitating (i.e., as an example). Among the church “leading” is through serving others, not through managing or making decisions for others.


  18. 7-3-2013

    If they are not special, and not necessary, then why Paul’s instruction to Titus to complete what was left undone in planting the church by “appointing elders”?

  19. 7-3-2013


    To me, a better question is this: If elders are necessary, then why did Luke call the churches of Galatia “churches” before elders were recognized/appointed in Acts 14:26, and why did Paul call the churches of Crete “churches” before elders were recognized/appointed? Elders are very important, but not necessary for a group to be a church. In fact, if we take Paul’s description (or “qualifications”) in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to heart, then we recognize that the people are doing and living as “elders” before being recognized/appointed as elders. Why? Because it’s simply the way that all believers are supposed to live. Elders, then, are those who actually do what all followers of Jesus should do.


  20. 7-3-2013

    Alan, I agree there is nothing in the qualifications for elders that should not be normal for all mature believers.

    As a church planter, I know there are many stages to planting a church from scratch.

    The scenario in Crete seems to be that Paul and his team planted the infant church and moved on, but he left Titus to oversee the infant church’s formation, and part of that was to “set in order what remains,” namely to “appoint elders in every city.”

    Doesn’t the prima facia plain reading indicate structure? And what does the verb “appoint” indicate?

    Again, I agree 1000% that leadership must be qualified, Christ-like servant leadership. That positional leadership is void of any real authority. That authentic leadership is caring for people, serving them, loving them.

    There are definitely those who seek and abuse positional leadership. Again, there are many texts that prohibit that, and in fact, require that those in position of leadership must exercise that role in integrity, humility, and love.

  21. 7-3-2013


    While we use terms like “infant church,” the authors of Scripture did not. They were churches, even without elders. Like you, I think it’s important for church to recognize the mature believers among them by appointing them as elders. However, while I think this is a healthy step, I do think it is a necessary step for the group to be a church.

    I typically don’t use the term “servant leadership” because it usually just becomes another name for directive leadership (i.e., making decisions for a group). But, I do like the way you described and defined it.


  22. 7-25-2013

    I have such a different take on most of this.

    Institutions have CEOs and Presidents and Directors and they get to boss people around – and Jesus rebuked that behaviour in the church.

    Matthew 20:25-26; Mark 10:42-43; Luke 22:25-26 is no doubt talking about institutional authority – the same kind exercised across this nation in 501c3’s everywhere. (I’m not against 501c3’s – but I don’t think institutional authority has any place in scripture to be over any saint anywhere).

    “Elder” means “old” by definition. “Elder” means “been there, done that” by definition. The “Elder” in your family is grandpa and grandma – or if you’re really lucky – “Great grandpa or great grandma”. I have one precious saint in one of our groups that has 9 great-great grandchildren.

    Grandpa does have positional authority – but it’s not institutional authority. Institutions tend to replace experience with education – and relationship with corporate position. Relationship and experience are vital to being an elder – without them – you’re just someone pretending to be something that you’re not. Grandma doesn’t boss the kids around -she doesn’t see that as her place – but you better believe she has a whole lot of influence (authority). Grandma doesn’t demand a tithe from the kids to support her wonderful wisdom – in fact she paid for a year of college for each of our kids.

    Corporate authority is as ugly as Jesus said it was – but true Eldership is a blessed thing and a church is really fortunate if they ever get to that place where they have true (as opposed to institutional) elders.

  23. 7-25-2013

    Except young Timothy, left by Paul to lead among the elders of Ephesus and was told to not let anyone despise him because he was young, seem to be contraindicative to that point.

  24. 7-25-2013


    It sounds like we have very similar views.


    Actually, I think the example of Timothy perfectly illustrates this principle. The people were expecting older (mature) believers to help them understand the things of God, and this is a good expectation – assuming the people are both spiritually mature as well as mature in age. However, in the kingdom of God, discipleship comes through the Spirit working through any of his children – including younger men like Timothy. And, of course, Timothy was not an “elder” in any sense of the word. So, Paul was reminding Timothy that even though he was not older (in age) and not an elder (a recognition of his spiritual maturity), God could still work through him – and he can and does work through his children of any age and spiritual maturity.


  25. 7-25-2013

    It seems strange to not consider Timothy an elder among the elders at Ephesus, given that in the first letter Paul left him to instruct against false teachings, and he gives Timothy the qualifications for elders and basic church governance. Also, given the tenor and tone of the second letter, and the instructions to Timothy in dealing with divisions, false teachers and the Ephesian Heresy, it seems odd to me to not see him as the apostle’s representative and an elder among the elders of Ephesus.

  26. 7-25-2013

    And if you recall, Timothy was recognized by church, as Paul laid his hands on him in the presence of many witnesses, to which Paul called Timothy to remember and stir up the gift inside of him.

  27. 7-25-2013

    1 Tim 4:11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

    That sounds an awful lot like an elder to me 🙂

  28. 7-25-2013


    Timothy is referred to as an apostle in Scripture, but never an elder. (Elders, in fact, always seem to be associated with the church in only one location, while apostles move from place to place.) Paul/Barnabas were also recognized by the church and had others lay hands on them (Acts 13), but that was because they were being sent by the church in Antioch as apostles, not because they were being recognized as elders. (“Laying on of hands” was done for many different reasons in the NT.) As per the 1 Tim 4:11-14 passage, there doesn’t seem to be anything there specifically related to being an elder (only) in Scripture, unless we assume so going in. I would say that’s a good charge for any believer, especially one like Timothy who was to stay in a certain area (Ephesus) to help the church there for a time.


  29. 7-25-2013

    Yes, but in understanding the plain meaning of the text, context is key. With that in mind, what do you think Paul was referring to when warning Timothy against laying on of hands hastily in 1 Tim 5:22 given the context of the previous verses?

    17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

  30. 7-25-2013


    The passage you quoted earlier about Timothy and “laying on of hands” was not in 1 Tim 5:17-22 (about elders), but in 1 Tim 4:11-14. In that context, the “laying on of hands” is specifically related to a “gift” – a term usually referring to “spiritual gifts” (such as the laying of hands for apostles in Acts 13) or salvation (several times in Acts). You can see something very similar in 2 Tim 1:6, which is clearly not related to elders in the context. On the other hand, “gift” is never used to refer to elders in Scripture.


  31. 7-25-2013

    I’ve seen 10 year olds break meetings wide open with words directly from God – but that doesn’t make them elders. Josiah was 8 years old when he become king – but that didn’t make him an elder. The joke is “Who’s going to change the king’s diaper today?”.

    Anyway – elder’s qualifications wasn’t about gifting – it was about relationships and character. There are so many gifted ministries that have zero relationships and very little character and a church would be way better off not having one of those as an elder.

    Timothy was no doubt a very gifted young apostle who needed to be encouraged to step out in his ministry – but that doesn’t make him an elder.

  32. 7-25-2013

    Alan, one of the ascension gifts of Christ to men were pastors in Ephesians 4, given to equip the saints for ministry and maturity so they would no longer be infants, tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and reach unity in Christ, the head.

    Both Paul and Peter use the term pastor (shepherd) synonymously with elder and overseer.

  33. 7-25-2013


    Yes, I’ve seen the same thing happen among the church very often. Younger brothers and sisters are often used by God to instruct or serve or encourage or whatever (even “pastor/shepherd”) older brothers and sisters – even elders.


    Yes, both Peter and Paul say that elders should “shepherd/pastor” (verb form) people. In the same way, Paul says that elders should “teach,” and he calls for honoring those who “lead” well. But, that does not mean that the spiritual gifts of “pastor/shepherd,” “teaching,” or “leader” are synonymous with “elder.” There can be people gifted as pastors/shepherds who are not elders, and there can be elders who are not gifted as pastors/shepherds (but who shepherd nonetheless – since service is not relegated only to those so gifted).

    Ephesians 4:11 does not indicate that those gifted as pastors/shepherds are necessarily elders.


  34. 7-29-2013

    After the events of the weekend and thinking about this a whole lot. I understand that “pastor” is a catch all phrase that we use to identify the top spiritual person in most congregations (I am most definetly inferring hierarchy here). Most of the time (not always), that person is the most gifted orator (public speaker) of the group.

    A true pastor/elder on the other hand – is someone who cares deeply and genuinely about the people in the group. That person may not be a good orator at all. That person may be a woman or a man. That person is the first one there when there’s a disaster – the first one there to remind you that God is somehow in all of this mess – and the one that’s right there by your side when everyone else has gone home. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these in your life you should count yourself as very blessed.

    Very many times in your life – you don’t need a whole bunch of words – you need someone who will take you in their arms and cry with you. I’d trade a million guys with the gift of gab for someone like that any day.

    Goods sermons are a couple of mouse clicks away anytime you want one. But someone who really cares???? No that’s a whole different matter.

    When you pick elders – don’t go for the flash in the pan – go for the person that I just described. You’ll be glad you did.

  35. 7-31-2013


    Personally, I would not combine pastor/elder, although I often do when I write because many people do. It seems that “pastor” is a spiritual gift, while “elder” is a recognition by the church. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with the importance and distinction that you point out!