ELDERSHIP AT RENEW COMMUNITIES
Leadership is a very important aspect to any group, mission or organization. Who leads and how they lead shape and direct the mission, vision and values both formally and informally. Because leadership is of such great importance Renew Communities has carefully developed a description and process for eldership in Renew Communities. What follows is our best understanding of what the Bible has to say about Eldership applied to our context.
WHAT IS AN ELDER?
An elder is one to whom spiritual nurturing and teaching of a community has been entrusted. We deeply believe that as a community, we are all called to care for and teach one another, but in the context of that mutual care, elders have been entrusted with the responsibility to assure that care and learning is happening and that teaching is within the framework of historical, orthodox Christianity.
Like all leadership that follows in the way of Jesus, eldership exists to serve and equip the local church for the ministry that God has called them to. In no way is any leadership position within the Body of Christ to be used or abused for one’s own personal gain.
THE ROLE OF THE ELDER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In Acts 14 we see that one of the key steps in establishing a new church was to identify and appoint Elders for church leadership (Acts 14:23). Nearly every church in the New Testament is specifically said to have had Elders (Acts 20:17; I Peter 5:1-2).
To the elders (presbuteros in Greek) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds (poimaino=pastor) of God’s flock(D) that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. [1 Peter 5.1-4]
Several words are used in the bible to describe the same person- one who cares for and feeds God’s people. The word episkopos, means “overseer” or “guardian.” The New Testament bishop, or overseer, is specifically responsible for teaching (I Timothy 3:2), feeding, protecting, and generally nurturing the community (Acts 20:28). Biblically, we see there is no difference in the role of elder and that of a bishop and that of a pastor.
WHAT IS AN ELDER AT RENEW?
We really believe that the role of an elder within Renew Communities is one that oversees or cares for those connected to our church. Some of that will mean making decisions with staff in regards to vision and strategy but most of that will manifest itself in teaching, care, encouragement, discipleship and servant leadership within the various expressions of Renew Communities (Central Gathering, Huddles & Missional Communities).
Each person is uniquely gifted and has personal experiences and passions that will shape their leadership and involvement within Renew Communities. While there is no one way this role will be filled you can expect elders within Renew Communities to protect and advance the vision God’s given to us by equipping and sending the people they intersect with throughout Renew Communities.
WHO CAN BE AN ELDER?
- Biblical qualifications for spiritual leaders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. They are as follows:
- Above reproach—An elder must display solid character and cannot be accused of any unrepentant sin (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- Husband of one wife—If an elder is married; he/she must be a person who is utterly single-minded in devotion, and faithful to his/her spouse. (Titus 1:6)
- Self Controlled– (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Wise– (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Respectable– Has the respect of others (1 Timothy 3:2).
- Hospitable—regularly opens their home to others (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Able to teach—teaches others through example, discipleship, and/or public speaking (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9).
- Not a heavy drinker— not addicted to alcohol or drugs (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Gentle—careful and considerate with others (1 Timothy 3:3), does not pick fights or physically abuse others (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Not contentious—not argumentative or divisive; protects the unity of the community. (1 Timothy 3:3).
- Free from the love of money—Not driven by materialism (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Manage his/her household well– demonstrates all of the other qualities first in his/her own family/household (1 Timothy 3:4).
- Having children who respect and obey—if an elder has children, parenting in a godly way such that the evidence is visible within their family life (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6).
- Not a new Christian–One who has committed to following Christ and is in the process of continual growth in disciplined Christian living (1 Timothy 3:6).
- Of good reputation with those outside the church–Having the respect of those who are not Christians (1 Timothy 3:7).
- Not arrogant– (Titus 1:7).
- Not quick-tempered–Practicing patience (Titus 1:7).
- Loving what is good–Desiring to associate oneself with truth, honor and integrity (Titus 1:8).
- Fair–Able to make objective decisions and be honest in relationships (Titus 1:8).
- Devout–Devoted to God, disciplined in his/her relationship with God. (Titus 1:8).
A WORD ON WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP WITHIN RENEW COMMUNITIES
The position of Renew Communities’ leadership is that throughout Scripture, God led women (Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Phoebe, etc) into positions of leadership and into teaching both men and women. Not wanting to prevent God doing the same in our community, we are open to women who meet all the qualifications of elder filling the role. For information on how we came to this position or our understanding of passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 see our separate document dealing specifically with this issue. If you have further questions, please speak to one of our elders.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME AN ELDER?
As we grow, the elders will continue to watch our community closely for those who are already exhibiting the characteristics of an elder and fulfilling the role of caring for and teaching others. When someone who meets these qualifications comes to our attention, we may ask that person to consider the role of elder. If they agree, they will then complete a self-evaluation based on the above qualifications, followed by an informal interview with the elders to process the result. The elders may choose to question the candidate on life issues, doctrinal issues, relational issues and may also choose to speak with the candidate’s spouse (if applicable) and friends.
Should no red flags be raised, and if the elders and candidate are willing to proceed, the last step will be to bring that person’s name before the entire community and ask for private feedback as to whether anyone knows of any reason the candidate should not become an elder. After an appropriate time (2-3 weeks), if no irresolvable issues surface, that person will be confirmed as an elder.