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Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Sunday, January 22, 2006

New Elder Part II

In a recent post, I suggested a quiz that I thought would be beneficial for evaluating the Biblical knowledge and wisdom of a possible Elder nomination. I also alluded to some of the pillar texts that come up when discussing the issue. The Bible gives us clear cut qualifications for what an elder should look like. This, however, leaves us asking how to practically apply this. I happen to think PersonA is a great option to be an Elder. Does this make him so? Does the current elder board choose? Ought we to have a nominating committeee? Does the Congregation vote?

To answer some of these questions I'll quote some of the advice given by Mark Dever (9marks.com) at this link. Some answers are simply personal opinion, but for all of the advice looks solid and Mark's wisdom clearly shows through.

What's wrong with the Nominating Committee?
-The most serious practical deficiency of most nominating committees is that the primary criteria for placement on the nominating committee is demographic data, not spiritual maturity or biblical knowledge.?
---It is often objected that demographic representation and spiritual maturity need not be mutually exclusive attributes of a nominating committee.? This is a formally true proposition.?
---But the reality of most nominating committees is that few of the people around the table understand the qualifications for eldership, know the questions to ask in order to discern their presence or absence, or have the courage to nominate someone who meets the biblical requirements but may not be outwardly successful in other popular but peripheral areas.
-The most serious biblical deficiency of the nominating committee concept is that nominating future leaders is a function of spiritual oversight - a responsibility that belongs to the current elders themselves.? Sheep don't choose their shepherds.
---The result of error here is often that a successful businessman is nominated and appointed as an elder or deacon, yet with serious sin beneath the surface that biblically disqualifies him from serving.

We believe elders are in the best position to nominate future elders because of their spiritual maturity, biblical knowledge, and shepherd's knowledge of the lives of the candidates.
First, recognize those in the congregation who are already bearing fruit in performing elder functions among the congregation. Who meets the character qualifications of 1Tim 3 and Titus 1?? Who shows a shepherding care for the spiritual growth of others?? Who shows aptitude and delight in teaching sound doctrine??
Secondly, invite the candidate to participate in an elders' meeting.? Observe how they contribute.? What questions do they ask?? Are their answers wise and mature, or shallow and immature?? Can they disagree without becoming combative?? Are their contributions helpful and stimulating, or do they stifle the discussion?
Thirdly, examine the candidate.? Is his character above reproach?? Will his work schedule accommodate the demands of eldership?
Fourthly, achieve unanimity among the elders regarding whether or not to nominate the candidate. Unanimity here is important because each elder needs to be able to work well with the candidate and respect his character if unity among the elders is to be maintained after the addition of the new member to the group.

Fifthly, recommend the candidate to the congregation as a nominee for eldership.? Let this nomination rest with the congregation for a period of time (e.g., two months), during which time members intending to vote "no" can share their concerns with the elders and the elders can, if necessary, withdraw the nomination based on new information.?
Sixthly, if no concerns are raised, achieve a 75% majority affirmation of the call from the congregation at the next business meeting.? This supermajority is necessary because it is important that the congregation have confidence in the new elder, and that the elder be assured of that confidence by the congregational vote.? Otherwise mutual mistrust ensues.
Finally, it is wise to allow elders to serve a three year term, to be reaffirmed by the congregation for another three years, then to give them a one year break, after which the other current elders could re-nominate them if they are still qualified.? This system provides healthy accountability for elders that a lifetime eldership system seems to lack.

Staff and Non-Staff.? It is wise to keep the congregation minimally dependant on paid staff.? Therefore, non-staff elders should outnumber staff elders.? Ideally then, the minimum number of elders in any local church would be three - one paid pastor and two lay elders.?
It is also wise to keep the elder body small enough so that an executive, decision-making committee within the elder group is not necessary.? Avoiding executive committees within elder groups simplifies the authority structure of the church and prevents unnecessary divisions.

In Christ alone,


Blogger Daniel said...

Interesting thoughts. Our church has recently re-written our by-laws to change from a deacon-rule government to an elder-rule government. It's been a challenge to work through the by-laws.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

change from a deacon-rule government to an elder-rule government.

Great! I think Deacon is just recently been more properly defined. I read an article by John Piper (and the elders there) about their changing the Church's position on Deacons. The reason was that they had been defining Deacon too closely to Elder. I think it is a mistake many churches have made.

I'm generally not a fan of all of the by-laws that come with Church Polity because I generally do not like making rules that are foreign to Scripture (the 3 year reelection thing might be an example). However, I can see where policices like Mark Dever's could be beneficial.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Dave Norris said...

Elder's need to be a student of the word. In a class I taught at a Bible church on the sin of Sodom, one elder asked me what Sodom was.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

Elder's need to be a student of the word.

Indeed. My other post about Eldership has a quiz that would demonstrate the biblical knowledge of an Elder. That is why I think it would be of benefit.

In Christ alone,

12:15 PM  

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