From Craig Swanson…
So what are the responsibilities of an elder? The word elder, shepherd, overseer, and pastor are all used to speak of the same office in the church. The word elder speaks of their maturity. The word overseer speaks of their leadership. The words shepherd and pastor, speak of their responsibility to feed the flock.
(1 Peter 5:1-3) gives us the three primary responsibilities of an elder. “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”
Shepherd the flock of God – The primary duty of a shepherd is to feed and protect the flock. That’s why the only skill set required of an elder is “able to teach”. (1 Tim, 3:2) Speaking of elders in (Titus 1:9), Paul says, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” An elder is to exhort in sound doctrine – to lead the flock into truth while protecting them from those who contradict sound doctrine. (False teachers) The primary responsibility of an elder is to lead the flock to maturity. (Eph. 4:11-13) “and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the [e]knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” I believe this is the chief responsibility of a shepherd of the flock of God, for which they will be held accountable.
Exercising oversight – the oversight referred to here is the oversight of the flock – to people, not an organization. It is the saints who do the work of the ministry. It is the body of Christ that is to serve and teach and lead and give and encourage and show mercy and evangelize. The elder’s job is oversight – making sure the body is equipped and motivated to do what God has gifted them to do. Quite frankly, it is an overwhelming task. Especially so in a busy and distracted society.
Examples to the flock – the flock should be able to look at how the elder lives and loves and ministers to others as an example to follow. Not that an elder does everything perfect or without mistakes and flaws, but that the course of his life is one to exemplify.
As I stated in the last blog, the qualifications of an elder are not for the “super – Christians”. It is what is to characterize all believers. But the elders have the responsibility before God of shepherding, exercising oversight and being an example to God’s flock. And because of that, they will be judged more harshly. (It is with fear and trembling that I write this.)
Pray for your elders.