Who chooses an elder─God or the congregation? Could it be that an appointed elder is not gifted by the Holy Spirit for that function? Is the function of elders less spiritual than that of pastors? I believe that elders are called by God as spiritual leaders. Pastors and elders must work together harmoniously in full co-operation to fulfil the spiritual needs of the congregation.
Today some people tend to take a secularist view of every office in the church. They believe many decision and appointment within the church are the result of political maneuvering. These people have lost their spiritual sensitivity and are unable to see the supernatural dimension of the church of Christ. As a result the church for them is merely a social club. The spiritual dimension of church leadership is denied.
In Ephesians 5:23-27 Paul presents the church as the body of Christ and as such partaking of His very nature. Paul makes it clear in Acts 20:28 that being an elder is a spiritual office and not a mere administrative function. He reminds the Ephesian elders to carry out their responsibility of caring for God's blood-bought flock. This responsibility for God's flock is not achieved by winning a vote, but through an assignment coming from the Holy Spirit and recognized by the local church.
Lawrence Eyres asserts: "In Ephesians 4:11, Paul is speaking of gifted men: 'And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.' The evangelists and teacherspastors are perpetually given by Christ to the church on earth as his full supplying of the church's needs, flowing forth from his complete victory over Satan, sin and death. At the outworking of the given Spirit, the Lord gives men gifts to the church for the perfecting of the saints. These men of gifts and only these are to be the elders of the church."'1
Paul speaking to the Ephesians mentions pastor as a gift and not just a specific office. Therefore is it not the responsibility of an elder to "pastor" the flock? Can we not say that in the church, "ministers" and elders share the same responsibility to the congregation?
The Church Manual observes: "The local elder must be one recognized by the church as a strong religious and spiritual leader, and must have a good reputation 'with them that are without.' In the absence of a pastor, the elder is the religious leader of the church and by precept and example must continually seek to lead the church into a deeper and fuller Christian experience. . . . the elder should not be chosen primarily because of social position, or because of speaking ability, but rather because of a consecrated life and leadership ability." 2
An elder is gifted by the Holy Spirit and charged with caring for God's flock "The elder should, in counsel with the minister, carry much of the pastoral responsibility, visiting the church members, ministering to the sick, and encouraging those who are disheartened" 3
An elder may have many gifts or just a few. Without any question, the giftedness is part of an effective ministry (1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Cor. 12:4-6), and the Holy Spirit is the only source of the spiritual qualification and power for a fruitful and strong leadership in caring for God's people.
1 Eyres, Lawrence R. The Elders of the Church. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing House, 1975), p. 6.
2 The Church Manual, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, (Silver Spring, Md.: 1990), p. 57.
3 Ibid., p. 58.