God has always demanded that his people find their place, get in it and stay in it! One reason Gideon defeated the Midianites was because, "And they stood every man in his place around about the camp . . ." (Judges 7:21).
One of the problems facing the church today is that of elders not getting and staying in their place. It is not the place of elders to do many things elders often do. Let's take a Bible look to learn when elders are out of place and then see just what their place is.
When Elders are out of Place
1) It is not the place of elders to meddle in the affairs of other congregations. Some elders are not content to just be elders in the local church but want to be brotherhood elders Peter said to elders, "Feed the flock of God which is among you..." (I Pet. 5:2). If elders took care of the responsibility God placed on them in regard to the local church, they would not have time to be meddling in the affairs of other congregations. The authority of elders begins and ends with the local congregation where they have been appointed elders.
2) Elders are out Of place when they spend their time looking after material things. The work of elders is of a spiritual nature. ".... to feed the church .... "(Acts 20:28). The elders must look after spiritual matters and leave the work of looking after material things to others who are not qualified to be elders. Elders have no business cleaning the meeting house, picking up paper around the building, mowing the grass and the like --anyone can do these jobs! Let elders assign the material things to the deacons and let elders be elders!
3). Elders must not be lord's over God's heritage. Peter's instructions to elders is that "Neither as being lords over God's heritage but being ensamples to the flock" (I Pet. 5:3), needs to be heeded. Elders must not be self-willed (Tit. 1:7). Some elders are determined to have their way or else. A wise eldership will consult with the congregation from time to time on various matters and will keep the congregation informed as to plans and finances,
4.) Elders are not a law-making body7 There is just one lawgiver and this is Christ. Jas. 4:12). The New Testament is the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The word of God is "settled forever in heaven" (Psa. 119:89), and the apostles were told to bind on earth the things which had been bound in heaven (Matt. 16:19). Since God's laws are already made and settled, elders are out of place when they make laws and attempt to bind them on God's people.
The Place of Elders
We need to know the place of elders. The way we can know is to read the scriptures and let them speak.
1) Elders are flock-feeders. Peter said, "Feed the flock of God which is among you. ..." (I Pet. 5:2). The flock is to "live by the word of God (Matt. 4:4). Elders are to see that members are fed properly. When elders are not present at all services, it is difficult to see how they can do much feeding!
2) Elders are overseers. Peter said elders were to take the "over-sight" (I Pet. 5:2). Paul said that the Holy Spirit made elders "overseers" of the church (Acts 20: 28). It is the place of elders to oversee the local church.
3) Elders are soul-watchers. The Hebrew writer said that elders "watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17). The elders are responsible for looking after every soul in the congregation where they are elders and will give account for such.
4) Elders are sheep-tenders. Elders are to "take heed to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers ...." (Acts 20:28) Elders must watch over the flock as a shepherd does his sheep. Elders must excise the same care for the sheep as the man in the parable Jesus told in Luke 15:3-7.
5) Elders are to be example-setters. Peter said elders were to be "examples to the flock ...."(I Pet. 5:3). Elders must set right and good examples before the flock they oversee. If elders do not attend Bible study, come in late for the services, live ungodly lives -- they are not setting the proper example and ought not to be allowed to be elders!
If the church is to be as God would have it, elders must realize their place, get in it and stay in.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV: 13, pp. 8-9
February 5, 1970