“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.” —1 Peter 5:2
Children love playing “follow-the-leader.” Like the game’s name suggests, you play by copying whatever the leader does, but without consideration—if you think too much, your copying gets messy. In the church, Christ calls us to follow our leaders closely and imitate their lives, but He emphasizes that who our leaders are and how they lead means everything. Here at Grace Church, we believe that Christ intended the local church to be led by a plurality of biblically qualified elders. And He outlines the structure and responsibilities of leadership as anything but arbitrary.
The words elder, overseer, and pastor all refer to the same office (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1–2). In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same men. The Bible is crystal clear on who these men are to be in their character and in their practice of doctrine (Titus 1:6–9). The single, overarching qualification is that an elder is to be “above reproach”—the other qualifications work to expound on and support this broad requirement. A biblically qualified elder is to be a godly man, maintaining a reputation of blamelessness in the community and within the church. In other words, he is to be blameless in his marital life, his social life, his professional life, and his spiritual life. In this way, elders are to be models of godliness so they can legitimately call the congregation to follow their example (Philippians 3:17). All the other qualifications amplify that idea (1 Timothy 3:2–7).
The different terms these passages use indicate various features of service, not varying levels of authority or separate offices. It could be said that the primary responsibility of the elders of the church is to be spiritual overseers of the sheep—they serve to guard and care for the spiritual well-being of the flock (1 Timothy 3:5). To accomplish this, the elders of Grace Church spend much of their time in prayer, and they study diligently in order to teach God’s Word rightly. They also serve our church family by providing spiritual care in fellowship groups and many other ministries of our church.
If you’re a member of our church family but have never attended one of our monthly elders meetings, or if it’s been awhile since you’ve attended, come see first-hand how our elders care for our church.
For more information about membership at Grace Church, stop by the Membership/Baptism Center after any Sunday service or visit gracechurch.org/membership.