Position of the Providence Church Elders:
At Providence Church we affirm that Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the church. Furthermore, we affirm that He governs His church through office bearers whom He appoints and who are endowed by His Spirit with the gifts and graces needed to accomplish their work. Because Christ appoints church officers, they have authority, but Christ limits their authority in the Scriptures.
We believe that there are but two kinds of church officers: elders and deacons. Elders are also called “bishops” (meaning “overseers”) because they are charged with the oversight of the assembly. These men are also the “pastors and teachers” given to the church “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Elders only function (according to the will of Christ) as an extension of the heart and hand of Christ, overseeing His flock committed to their charge. Deacons are servant leaders who function under the oversight of the elders. The deacons exist to protect the elders from being distracted from prayer, the ministry of the Word of God, and the oversight of the flock of Christ by giving themselves over to ministry within the body. While the elders are a ruling body of men, the deacons are not (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12; Colossians 1:18; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:2-4).
The eldership, as a body, (Acts 20:17 35; 1 Peter 5:1 2), is authorized and responsible to give comprehensive oversight to the church, including: preaching and teaching the whole counsel and gospel of God (Acts 20:20 21, 27; Titus 1:9); watching out for the welfare of the soul of every member of the church (Ephesians 4:11 16; Colossians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; Hebrews 13:17); and directing the church in all its tasks by setting general policy and by making specific decisions (1 Timothy 3:4 5; 1 Peter 5:1 2). Nonetheless, the elders must always exercise this authority without lording their authority over the flock (1 Timothy 3:4 5; 1 Peter 5:3-4) and should remain in the posture of servants and examples to the congregation (Matthew 20:25 28; 1 Peter 5:3). Therefore, the elders should seek the advice and support of the congregation respecting any large project or expenditure and should give any concern the congregation may have great weight in any decision-making.
Furthermore, the Lord has ordained that congregational approval is mandatory in two important matters: the recognition of church officers (Acts 6:1ff; 14:21 23) and the exercise of public discipline (1 Corinthians 5:4 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
Although in new or small congregations only one man may have the gifts necessary for serving as an elder, the Scriptures indicate that normally there should be a plurality of elders in the local church. The church should endeavor, therefore, to discover, and then formally recognize, all the men whom the Holy Spirit has endowed with the required gifts and graces, but only such men. (Acts 20:17; Philippians 1:1)
The elders are all equal in office and authority but diverse in gift and function. While every elder should be “apt to teach,” some will be more engaged in formal and public teaching, while others will be more engaged in shepherding (that is, private teaching and admonishing) and governing. Elders are usually referred to as pastors, for they all share the pastoral responsibility. Since the responsibilities of this office are numerous and weighty, it is highly desirable that at least one elder should, whenever possible, devote himself, to the full time work of the ministry and the oversight of the church. When this is not possible a bi-vocational elder and the other elders should divide the labors so that vital areas of ministry are not neglected.
The general qualifications of elder are spelled out in the following passages: 1 Timothy 3:1 7 and Titus 1:5 9. While all believers should live exceptional lives before God and the world, the lives of elders are especially to be an example to their flock.
Elders are required to be blameless, that is, to have a life not marred by sin that would constitute an obvious character defect. Those in the church need to know that an elder will not lead them into sin. Blamelessness is the qualification upon which all other qualifications hang. Elders must also meet these other qualifications:
- The husband of one wife. An elder will be, literally, “a one woman man.” This qualification is not specifically dealing with the marital status of the elder; rather, his life should be marked by sexual purity and devotion to his wife. If single, he should be pure and blameless in his relationship with women.
- Temperate and sober-minded. An elder should be able to think clearly and should be disciplined and dedicated in matters of faith
- Of good behavior. He should be able to order his life and fulfill all of his God-given responsibilities.
- Hospitable. He must be given to the care of others, especially strangers employed in the gospel.
- Able to teach. An elder must be able to expound the word of God formally as well as privately for edification, correction, and reproof.
- Not given to wine. Literally “one who does not sit at wine.” An elder should not be a drunkard.
- Not violent. He should be gentle and self-controlled. He reacts neither with physical violence nor verbal abuse, but bears reproach gladly for the cause of Christ.
- Not greedy or covetous. He does not enter the ministry for illicit gain. He does not horde his money but willingly spends it on those who have need: first his family, then the church, and finally the poor.
- Not quarrelsome. He is not litigious or eager for a fight.
- Ruling his house well. He should be the overseer and spiritual leader of his family. His wife and children should not be unruly, causing a distraction to his ministry or blight upon the church.
- Faithful children. His children should be brought up in the faith, and in the principles, doctrines, and ways of Christianity. His children’s lives should show that they have been raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord while under his care, and the workings of grace should be evident in their lives when departing from home.
- Not young in the faith. He should not be a recent convert.
- Doctrinally sound. He should hold fast to the mystery of the faith, not wavering from the essentials of the Gospel.
- Good testimony in the world. His reputation should be above reproach outside the church as well.
No man being considered for the office of elder will meet these qualifications perfectly. Each man must be examined in the light of these qualifications using careful study of Scripture and sound reason. Our desire is to ensure that the church of God is led and fed by shepherds who are called and equipped for the task.
The elders of Providence Community Church are united in their belief that a divorced man may serve as an elder under certain conditions and if he meets the qualifications listed above. If a man’s family life is marked by disharmony and unruliness brought about by previous sin and family break-up, he is disqualified. However, if he had a divorce or was divorced and remarried prior to his conversion, and has since proved himself to be a “one woman man” and to “rule his own house well” as described in 1 Timothy and Titus, he may well be qualified to serve. Also, if he, as a believer, had a biblically allowable divorce or had a biblically allowable divorce and remarried in the Lord and has since proved himself to be a “one woman man” and to “rule his own house well,” he may well be qualified to serve. Sin being what it is, other situations may arise that call for additional prayer and study before elders rule on the fitness of a candidate for office.
Selection of Elders
Elder elections will be held from time to time as circumstances warrant. A man may be considered as a potential elder in several ways. He may aspire to the office himself (1 Timothy 3:1), the elders may approach him, or the people of the church may suggest his name to the elders. Once he becomes a candidate, the elders will examine the candidate with regard to his doctrine and manner of life. If the candidate has any disagreement or mental reservation about any portion of the church’s Confession of Faith or Constitution, then he must inform the elders of it. All candidates must meet the qualifications for the office set down in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:2-4) and noted above. A man may not be placed on the ballot without the unanimous consent of the current elders. Once on the ballot, the Representative Members of the church have the option of voting either “yes” or “no.” If the candidate receives the unanimous support of the church as represented, the elders will ordain the new elder to the ministry of eldership through the laying on of hands and prayer. The requirement for unanimity may be set aside only through the unanimous consent of the elders, and that only after the elders have carefully considered any objections in the light of Scripture. The elders will set aside such objections if it is clear the objections are unscriptural or unwarranted. However, refusal to overturn these objections does not constitute agreement with the objections on the part of the elders. If the objections are overturned, then one of the elders will meet with those who objected to discuss the elders’ decision. If a candidate for office is not elected, then one of the elders will meet with him within one week to discuss the election and answer any questions the candidate might have. Duties and Responsibilities of Elders Elders bear a number of extremely important duties and responsibilities both to the Lord and to His flock. They are outlined, in general terms, above in the third paragraph of this article. Elders are bound to do the following:
- Ruling/shepherding (1 Peter 5:1-2)
- Equipping (Ephesians 4:11-12).
- Prayer/fasting (Acts 6:4; 13:1-3).
- Teaching/preaching (1 Timothy 5:17).
- Administering baptism and the Lord’s Table (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- Administering church discipline and restoration (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
- Prayer for the healing of the sick (James 5:14-15).
- Delegating responsibilities to the deacons, hiring and firing church staff, defining the responsibilities of church staff, and delegating responsibilities to the staff of subordinate ministries. The elders will approve the annual budget.
- Commissioning or licensing ministerial students, and overseeing the course of their training for the eldership. Under the guidance and oversight of the elders, such commissioned individuals will have the opportunity to perform all the various ministerial functions of elders, participation in the rule of the church being the only exception.
- Appointing a church treasurer, church clerk, church historian, and other officers as deemed necessary.
Many of these duties are carried out through close loving relationships with the congregation. To help foster these relationships and provide care for the souls under their watch the elders are committed to regular visits in the homes of our families.