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Who Keeps Track of the Elders and Keeps Them Accountable?

July 25, 2007

The answer to this question is in five parts with a summary at the end.

FIRST: If the biblical requirements for the office of elder are applied by the church to prospective elders, and the men in that office meet those requirements, then there is no need for congregational oversight of the elders. This means someone must go through 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and ask the prospective elder, his family, other church members, friends, co-workers and neighbors if he meets these requirements. Few have the courage to do this.

It is vital that the local church implement and follow God’s direction in this matter.  The importance of this cannot be overstated. A man who meets these character qualifications will not harm the church, but instead do his duty of teaching, leading and protecting it. The character of the elders submitted to the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit is the safeguard for the church.

The ‘key’ to elder leadership is the character of the men in the office. No church needs to be concerned about a man with the character qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

SECOND: Acts 20:29-30 is very clear, savage wolves will come in and men will arise who will abuse the flock. Paul was speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus and even from among them – men whom Paul had discipled for three years – even from among them there would be those who abused the flock.

No organizational structure or document will control sin. This is why character qualifications are the issue for those who would be elders.

Leaders in every form of church government have harmed the church. The primary problem is that they do not meet the character qualifications, were not examined closely, and have not been called by God to the ministry of oversight. The important question is, “Which form of church government is the biblical model?” not “Which form of government will keep the church from being ripped off?” No form of church government is a safeguard for the church.  Elder rule is the biblical model, but it is only as good, efficient and God-honoring as the character of the men who serve as elders. The Great Shepherd, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and His undershepherds are the protection for the flock, not a document, a type of organization nor the flock itself.

THIRD: There is a system of oversight of the elders already in place. First, elders are examined by God and will give a personal account to Him for their ministry, as every believer will, but elders will be judged more strictly for their oversight ministry.  This future examination by God is a good motivator for elders to watch their doctrine and conduct closely. Second, the elders exercise oversight of one another. They are to closely examine their conduct and doctrine and are to be on guard for any evil that might arise among themselves. There is no biblical example or instruction for the congregation or any other group to oversee the elders. Each individual elder can be admonished by any believer according to Matthew 18, but the action to be taken in Matthew 18 is a result of sin and has nothing to do with watching over the elders in the discharge of their ministry.

FOURTH: The church is the Body of Christ. This is the nature of our relationship with one another and how we are to interact with one another. Christ is the Head of the body and individual believers make up its various parts. Each member of the body has been placed there by God and has been given a particular function and ministry in the body and is to serve the other members according to their unique place and giftedness and necessary function.

Part of God’s equipping of the body has been to provide for the ministry of leading and overseeing the church. Certain members of the body have been gifted in leadership and have been given the ministry of leading the church. This is their place, role and function in the body and this is how they are to serve the church. This ministry of leading the church has not been given to each member of the church at large.

When one member or group in the body ceases to minister according to their giftedness and seeks to exercise authority where they have none, the body suffers and does not function the way God intended and the result will be weakness and division.

Congregational rule limits the ministry of those God has specially called and equipped to lead and oversee the body of Christ, thus that ministry suffers. It also places all church members in the position of functioning in a ministry that was not given to them nor intended for them, thus the whole body suffers. The ministry of oversight in the body of Christ is given to individuals who are called to the office of overseer. They are to exercise this oversight amongst themselves and the rest of the congregation.

FIFTH: The nature of an equal plural leadership is itself one safeguard for the elders and the church. Though no outward form will prevent a man from sinning, a plurality of equal leaders is able to quickly confront and check any evil that might arise. There is greater genuine accountability among the leadership with a plurality of equal elders. Human leaders are sinners and they only accomplish the will of God imperfectly. Multiple leaders serve as a check and balance on each other and serve as a safeguard against the human tendency to seek after power. Shared leadership provides close accountability, genuine partnership and peer relationships.


1)      Men with the character qualities God requires of elders will not abuse the flock nor need to be watched.

2)      No outward structure or document will ever prevent a person from sinning, and that is not to be a goal of church government.

3)      God has already provided for the oversight of the elders through their accountability to God and each other.

4)      The whole church suffers when the ministry of oversight and leadership is taken away from the elders.

5)      There is safety and greater accountability among a group of overseers who are equal in office and function.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. sprocket23 permalink
    July 25, 2007 8:07 pm

    This is great. We are beginning a class on biblical eldership using Lynn Anderson’s “They Smell Like Sheep” and Strauch’s “Biblical Eldership”. The more we study the more we realize that our board form of government (with the board made up of elders and deacons) is not biblical… I sent this post on to the current leadership.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. July 26, 2007 11:21 am

    Thanks, I am so glad all my hard work is being put to good use.

    At my former church we went from congregational to elder rule. It took 4 years. I went “low and slow.” We had meetings on the subject every month. People brought their questions and I researched and answered all of them. This was one of those questions. We also had special meetings of the leadership where we discussed all the issues in depth.

    For the whole of the fourth year, after 3 years of reading through the same books you are using and after questions and answers, I taught through all the relevant biblical passages on Sunday nights and in Sunday school.

    At the end of 4 years I finished with 4 sermons on Sunday morning.

    When we had the big meeting to go to elder leadership I told everyone, and I quote, “Remember, you are voting now to never vote again.”

    The two people in the church who were the most against elder rule when we started were the very ones who made the motion to go to elder rule.

    The vote was unanimous!

    The whole process was bloodless.

    So, I know – exactly – what you are dealing with. Praise God we did it at our old church. I learned a lot through he whole process. I think I might post some of the other questions we dealt with.

  3. Ralph permalink
    August 8, 2007 1:14 am

    Can anyone give some examples of what your elders do. Who preaches? Do all get paid? Do all elders need to be overseeing a ministry?


  4. Lee permalink
    July 25, 2008 10:39 pm


    Well, in many churches, NOBODY !

    For some, “eldership rule” means to become the head and leader of every home in “their church.”

    See: where this evil is exposed thoroughly;


    There are dozens of other related articles, essays, and testimonies as well.


  5. March 10, 2010 6:43 am

    This is the reason I read Stunning posts.

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