In the land of Israel in old testament times we read many times about the elders sitting at the gate of the city. It was these men who were looked to for wisdom and understanding and sometimes the need for a public action. Remember Boaz went before the city elders to publically obtain his relative Ruth as his wife.
It is my belief that today’s church eldership is intended to fulfil this role once an area becomes Christian enough to obtain political control. Much of the justification for this is found in Corinthians.
My main intent though is to discuss what we currently find in churches today. Usually instead of a group of mature men leading and shepherding the body of Christ we find a hired man who dictates and controls the congregation. I am still trying to find the position of hired preacher or a single pastor in the scripture. The vast majority of churches today run on this non-scriptural model.
Even still we hold to the Catholic model partly due to the misuse of terms. The office of bishop is found in both the scripture and the Catholic church, but they are not the same. We often hear terms and suppose that the user holds the same understanding we hold. This is not the case more often that one might know. Even the true scriptural definition for many words has been modified by poor choices in the English translation. Sometimes Strong’s Concordance does not show the full or true meaning as well. Always check the Greek. Even checking with Strong’s can help, but look for other sources. I understand one that is respected is Liddell and Scott.
So what is an overseer? He is a man who has experience in dealing with family matters because of his age and actions over his life time. He is a man who’s opinion and guidance are welcome by those of whom he has oversight. He is a man who is irreproachable in his character. He is married and has children who are in subjection to him because of his love for God. He is vigilant for the church with sobriety. He is discreet with those he counsels and is hospitable. He is orderly and a teacher of the truth regardless of church doctrine. He is not a drunkard, a brawler or contentious, but reasonable and a reasoner. He is not a lover of money. He is a teacher.
One item in the list of qualifications is that an elder be inclined or apt to teach. This one qualification seems to be disregarded or down played many times. I will not suggest any one item being more important, but I do feel like it is one of the more important qualifications and very few elders teach.
I hope that I have not overstated or understated the guidelines for an elder, but shown that an elder is one because others look to him for leadership because of his faith and love for God.
Why bring this up? I have seen far too many congregations where the main focus of the eldership was to decide when to fix the roof, mow the lawn or support the preacher in his usurped leadership of the local congregation. I would rather that the church have no formal meeting place if their main concerns are custodial. That is perhaps the job of the deacons. Many congregations might consider selling the building, getting out of debt, and just renting one or several meeting locations. Those are not hard to find right now.