The Ruling Elder: What to Look for

What are some things that demonstrate an ability to articulate and desire to live out the Gospel on the part of potential elders?

Being able to rightly teach God’s word presupposes that they themselves have been taught by God’s word; that they are men who are controlled by and in submission to God’s word. In what follows, I want to lay out three ways this evidences itself. I want to do so precisely because judging a man on his “ability to teach” alone can be deceptive and even detrimental. Even Paul himself warns us that there “are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

 

In God’s wisdom, ministry in a local church is to be led by faithful men, a plurality of godly elders who through the ministry of the word lead every member to partake in and do the work of ministry. It has frequently been noted that the requirements for elders are requirements common to all believers, the only exception really being that they are capable of rightly handling and teaching God’s word. Of course this is because their ability to rightly teach the word is how they will rightly enable and build-up every other member to rightly do the work of ministry. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Being able to rightly teach God’s word presupposes that they themselves have been taught by God’s word; that they are men who are controlled by and in submission to God’s word. In what follows, I want to lay out three ways this evidences itself. I want to do so precisely because judging a man on his “ability to teach” alone can be deceptive and even detrimental. Even Paul himself warns us that there “are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). So, what are some things that demonstrate an ability to articulate and desire to live out the Gospel on the part of potential elders?

Firstly, are they men of prayer? Prayer tells you a lot. The Apostles picked seven deacons who could help with the work of the ministry so that they could devote themselves to prayer and ministry of the word. Godly elders will put a priority on the ministry of prayer. These should be men who are known not only for their public prayers but as men who give themselves to communing with God in private. If you were to ask their wives about their prayer lives what would they say? Do they lead their families in prayer? When they pray publicly is it clear that they spend much time upon their knees at home?

Prayer is evidence of a disciplined and faithful heart, which takes seriously the need for God’s grace in ministry. A man’s prayer shows his reliance upon God and not his own ingenuity and strength. An elder who places a premium on praying for the church will not be a man who easily falls for pragmatic gimmicks and business models in order to grow his church. That’s the kind of man that is grounded in the Gospel; an elder who will be able to equip the congregation to similarly live prayerful, Gospel-dependent lives.

Read More