Role of an Elder

What is the Role of an Elder?

Paul, as he addressed the elders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20: 28 summarized the responsibilities of elders. He wrote, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” This passage is what we would consider to be our scriptural charter as elders and in light of the final phrase in that scripture [“he bought with his own blood“], we consider our leadership to be a significant responsibility, an exciting challenge and an awesome blessing.

The following is a passage from the constitution of Whitewater Crossing Christian Church:

“In accordance with the New Testament, a group of congregationally affirmed Elders will lead and oversee the life and work of the congregation, both spiritually and organizationally, as leaders, overseers, and supervisory shepherds.”

With these directives in mind, the elders here at WCCC are ultimately responsible for the spiritual and operational health and well-being of the church. We believe that in order to meet these responsibilities, the elders are called to lead the congregation in four essential areas. These areas define our purpose and function as elders. They are the practical application of these scriptural and constitutional directives. We call them the “4 P’s”. They are…

1. Prayer
2. Pastoring
3. Protecting
4. Policy

Although each one of these roles has its own unique purpose, function and challenges, they are all inter-related as well. For example, when working on matters of policy, we will cover our efforts with prayer. And in many cases, protection of the flock is facilitated by developing and implementing biblically sound policy. Let’s briefly review each one of these functions.

PRAYER – We, as elders, believe in the need for and the awesome power of prayer, both in our personal lives and as leaders of this body. We firmly believe that God’s work in any local church must be bathed in prayer. We realize that nothing we do in His church can be done successfully without Him. So we will always ask Him [in prayer] for His wisdom, protection, presence, provision and blessing in all that we do. Our Elders meetings always begin in prayer regardless of who is there, where we are meeting and what we are meeting about. Not only do we pray for our agendas, the business at hand and the ministry efforts of WCCC; but we also include prayers for individuals and families. The elders engage in praying with and for believers at WCCC as they have personal needs that we are made aware of. We will also conduct occasional prayer and anointing sessions as people request them in accordance with James 5:14.

PASTORING – The elders are actively engaged in pastoring or shepherding the members of WCCC. The primary aspects of this function are defining our purpose or mission and defining and promoting a vision for the church or “leading the way” so to speak. We take the mission,

“to help people find a hope in Jesus Christ and a home in His local church” and define what that will look like here at WCCC by promoting a vision to the body. For instance, the “Whitewater Seven” is a great picture of what a member of our body will be doing as they work toward accomplishing the mission and the goals of the church. These same “7” are also a clear picture [the vision if you will] of what the body as a whole will look like as it strives to “become a fully functioning biblical community”. A second aspect of pastoring includes encouraging, mentoring, discipling and correcting individuals as necessary to help them grow up in Christ. This is the personal, one-on-one leadership or discipleship component of our role in the body.

PROTECTION – In Acts 20, Paul urges the Elders of the church at Ephesus to “protect the flock from wolves without and within”. The implication and the truth of this scripture is that the church and her beliefs are under constant attack from both internal and external forces. Paul told Titus that an elder “must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” The Elders at WCCC protect the flock in many ways but the most significant include assurance that accurate biblical teaching is present in the ministry areas of the church, and working to help correct any unhealthy behaviors that may be destructive to individuals or the church at large. As for correction, we strive to apply the principles of Matthew 18 in this aspect of our job.

POLICY – The elders delegate authority to church staff and other ministry leaders to operate the church on a day-to-day basis in accordance with policies that are developed and implemented. These policies can be developed and published by either the elders, or by the staff or ministry leaders with the approval of the elders. These policies are not developed to control but to establish guidelines that ensure healthy operations of church – they set boundaries so that ministries can operate effectively within practical and scriptural parameters. It is important to know that as we work in this area we always consult the scriptures, however, if the scriptures are silent on an issue, the elders will rely on the collective wisdom available to them through the Holy Spirit to determine a policy that is God-honoring and beneficial to the body. Contrary to many popular beliefs we are not the primary decision-makers in the church. Instead, the policies and guidelines we develop provide the framework or boundaries for the church and its ministries to work within.

To summarize these functional areas and our roles:

– Pastoring is leading through defining and promoting what we are and do.
– Policy is leading through defining and monitoring how we are to do it.
– Protection is leading through keeping the church body within the boundaries of scripture and God’s will as we discern it.
– Prayer is leading by submitting to and asking for God’s will, His presence, provision, protection and blessing in all we do in His Church.

In addition to these four areas, the elders are actively involved in the growth of the church through evangelism and outreach.

For additional information on the role of Elders and other leaders in the church, please refer to the Whitewater Crossing Christian Church Ministry Model and the Constitution and Bylaws.

Approved by the elders 6.5.10