What are elders supposed to do for a local church?
A common answer to this question is that elders are expected to lead, pray, and teach. Below, we expand this answer, by providing biblical requirements which may help prayer for, discipling of, and mutual spiritual accountability between elders.
According to the Bible, elders are expected to:
- watch their own walk before God and their teaching (Ac 20:28, 1 Tim 4:16);
- watch occasions of reproaches against them (1 Tim 3:2);
- watch any habits, relationships and sexual temptations adversely affecting his love of and marriage to a single woman (1 Tim 3:2);
- watch their sobriety with respect to alcohol consumption (1 Tim 3:2,3);
- watch their self-control in various areas of life (e.g. eating, working, entertainment, sports, studying, serving others) (1 Tim 3:2);
- watch their gentleness of words, attitudes and actions (1 Tim 3:2);
- watch their time, attitude and effort spent handling, making, saving, and planning for family or personal money (1 Tim 3:3);
- manage their own household well (1 Ti 3:4);
- read the scriptures (1 Tim 4:13);
- exercise hospitality (1 Tim 3:2);
- set a godly example for believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1 Tim 4:12, Heb 13:7, 1 Pet 5:3);
- focus on the ministry of the word (Ac 6:2,4);
- shepherd the flock entrusted to them (1 Pet 5:2);
- exhort people (1 Tim 4:13);
- encourage old and young (1 Tim 5:1);
- watch over the flock untrusted to them by God (Ac 20:28,31, 1 Tim 3:1-2, Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 5:2);
- pray and lay hands on disciples of Christ commissioned for a task (Ac 6:4,6, 1 Tim 4:14, 5:22);
- pray for the sick and anoint them with oil (Jas 5:14);
- preach and teach what the Bible says (Ac 20:27, 1 Tim 3:2, 4:11, 4:13, 5:17);
- interpret the Bible, with authority, when diverging opinions arise on the Bible (Ac 15:6,7,15,19-23);
- teach disciples to observe what Jesus has commanded (Mat 28:20);
command disciples to obey the Bible (1 Tim 4:11, 5:7, 5:17, 5:21, Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 5:5);
- provide practical guidelines on how to care for people (Ac 6:2-4);
- prepare themselves to give an account to God for souls under their care (Heb 13:17).
Because ordinances (baptisms and the Lord's supper) provide wonderful opportunities to teach the church on aspects of the Gospel, officiating ordinances is often fitting for elders. For the same reason, officiating weddings and funerals can be fitting for elders.
In order to fulfill their duties, elders must forsake many other things. What an honor it is to bring glory to God by serving as under-shepherd in Christ's church!