PASTORS AND ELDERS
Harvest Fellowship is led by a plurality of leaders, called Elders, according to New Testament instruction. The qualifications to serve as an Elder are clearly outlined in I Timothy 3:1-7 and affirmed in Titus 1:5-9. In addition, their role as a leadership body is outlined in numerous passages throughout the New Testament as seen in the compilation below.
Qualifications for an Elder
(1 Timothy 3:1-7)
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
The Role of the Elders
(Acts 20:17-38, 1 Peter 5:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, Titus 1:5-9)
The Elders hold the highest level of authority in the church. They exist to provide over-arching leadership for the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, instructing him to “appoint elders in every city.” In New Testament times, churches grew up in cities and so we are led to believe, per Paul’s instruction to Titus, that each city had its own elder body, providing over-arching leadership for their local church.
In the Book of Acts, Paul instructs the elders from Ephesus “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (20:28). He warns of “savage wolves” that would come, “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them;” so he admonishes these elders to “be on the alert” (20:29-31). A shepherd’s primary role was to protect his sheep from all danger, and this is the role Paul has in mind when addressing these elders. This is the exact same imagery that the Apostle Peter uses in I Peter 5:1-2, where he “exhort(s) the elders…. to shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight….” One of the primary ways in which elders provide leadership to the body is by protecting them.
4 Dimensions of Ministry
There are 4 primary ways in which we see the Elders being called to fulfill their role as “protectors.” By fulfilling this calling, they provide over-arching leadership for the church.
- Elders are to protect the body of Christ from false teachers and the doctrines they espouse (Acts 20:28-30; Titus 1:9). They are to provide for the teaching of sound doctrine. They are to lead through the teaching of God’s Word.
- Elders are charged with protecting the Body from sin and the consequences it inevitably brings. Stated positively, unity and purity in the church is of utmost importance to God. The Elders are called to guard the unity and purity of the church. (Acts 5:1-11). Leading the body, such that unity and purity are valued and experienced is a primary role of the elders.
- Elders offer protection to members of the Body who are experiencing times of difficulty or trial through the ministry of prayer (James 5:14-16). While it is not always practically possible for the Elders to meet every individual need for prayer, it is their responsibility to make sure that the ministry of prayer is active and available.
- Elders are to protect the work of the church. The church is the Body of Christ and should function in keeping with this picture (I Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:1-16 and Romans 12). Furthermore, the Elders are charged with helping the church fulfill it’s calling to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) with the Spirit of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39). It is here where the “directing” nature of the elders becomes most evident (I Timothy 5:17). The elders are to lead in such a way that the church is actively seeking to accomplish its mission while functioning as the body of Christ.
Through these 4 dimensions of ministry (Word, Prayer, Spirit, Body) the Elders serve as God’s representatives before the church. This perspective comes in sharp contrast to the common cultural understanding that leaders serve as representatives of the people. Just as Moses sought God’s direction for the people of Israel, and then worked to lead the people into obedience to that direction, the Elders of Harvest are called to discern God’s leading for the church and to then lead the church in that direction.
Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.