Recommendations In Selection and Appointment of Elders in the Lord's Church
The church of the Lord is the grandest and most glorious institution on the earth, but many times its name is dragged through the mud and mire of the world because of the ungodly and un-Christian actions of brethren. A great measure of this problem could be solved if the people who call themselves Christians and boast of being "Christians only'' would practice the Scriptures in all things instead of in only a few. One of the things, which I believe to be of utmost importance, is the selection and appointment of elders of the church. The church has suffered through the years for the cause of unqualified men failing to uphold the whole truth, and falling to support and sustain the faithful evangelist who would uphold the whole truth. But what is the answer to this vital problem? It would be hard to say that we should wipe the slate clean and start all over, but at least we can start where we are. Below are given some suggestions for vour careful consideration and study, which are the conclusion of years of thought and study on this great and important subject. They are not presented with the idea of being an infallible judgment, but that thev may be weighed and considered. Your criticism and comments are invited and will be appreciated whether favorable or adverse.
How can we start the project of selection of Elders? The Scripture says: "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." (I Tim. 3:1.) The office of a bishop is something to be desired, and my beloved, desire does not (in this case) mean merely want, but it means that one should desire it to the exent that he will be willing to sacrifice and work, that he may prepare himself for the work. This is seen by the fact that the verses following give the qualifications for the office of a bishop, and they are given again in Titus 1:5-9. To stir up within men this desire the following test was handed to the men of the church in Joliet, Illinois some time ago. You will be able to see that every statement in quotations on this sheet is from the Bible. When elders are appointed in Joliet, if I be the one to do the appointing after the brethren have made proper selection, these shall be the basis of such appointment. (I am grateful to Brother Otto Foster for some of the comments made on these passages.)
Study this test and examine yourself as to whether or not you qualify, according to God's Word, to be an elder in the Lord's church. In the place provided place a check mark in the items wherein you feel qualified. If you are lacking in certain things concentrate upon qualifying in those things. The scripture teaches that it is good to desire the office of a bishop, but certainly no one should desire the office when he is unqualified.
"I believe that I am qualified in the following ways to be an elder in the Lord's church:
1. I am a Christian, having been baptized into Christ for the remission of my sins. ( )
2. I am without reproach or blameless. ( )
3. I am the husband of one wife. ( )
4. I am temperate (exercising self-control). ( )
5. I am sober-minded (of sound mind and mature judgment, not childish, flighty or flippant but rather serious). ( )
6. I am orderly (well-mannered and behaved in dress and habit, kind and considerate.) ( )
7. I am "given to hospitality" (See Heb. 13:2. Willing to aid the weak, poor and distressed both by kindness and in a material way.) ( )
8. I am "apt to teach" (capable and ready to teach). ( )
9. I am "no brawler" (not a wrangler or overly controversial). ( )
10. I am "no striker" (not a revenge seeker, ungoverned in temper, quarrelsome, ready to fight or strike).
11. I am "gentle" (patient, meek and considerate, not harsh, bitter or unkind in manner). ( )
12. I am "not contentious" (will not contend for my own opinion to the stirring up of strife). ( )
13. 1 am "not a lover of money, not greedy of filthy luere." (not a covetous, stingy, selfish one, but rather one who loves Christ and His kingdom above all else. ( )
14. I rule well my house, having children, believing and faithful, who are "not accused of riot or unruly." ( )
15. I am not a novice (not a new convert, unexperienced in the faith.) ( )
16. I have 'good testimony from without" (am respected as honest and truthful, paying debts, pure in character by those not in the church. ( )
17. I am not "self-willed" (not determined to have my own way or else, not stubborn.) ( )
18. I am a "lover of good" (men and things). ( )
19. I am "just" (fair and reasonable). ( )
20. I am "holy" (devoted to God, set apart to His service. I Pet. 1:15, 16). ( )
21. I am "sound in the faith" (not a hobby-rider, but one who will uphold the truth of Jesus Christ upon any and every subject). ( )
22. I am "'not soon angry" (not quick tempered or hasty to "fly off the handle"). ( )
When I become an elder I will willingly, in co-operation with my fellow-elders:
1. "Tend the flock."
2. "Feed the flock."
3. Oversee the church.
4. "Rule well."
5. "Watch in behalf of souls."
6. "Be an example to all the flock."
7. Not "lord it over the charge alloted to me."
The overseers of the church must see that all the teachers teach the truth, that the flock is well fed with the Word of God. As there are in the church both evangelists and teachers in addition to elders, it does not mean that the elders must do all the teaching, but the elders are responsible for all the teaching done. Any divergence from the truth on part of preacher or teacher should be called to their attention and be dealt with by them immediately. Likewise upon the elders falls the responsibility of discipline of erring members. (For the basis in scripture for all of these things, read the following: I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 5:1-3.)
After this sheet has been in the hands of the men of the church for a period time, and some men are willing to seek the office of bishop, it is time for the church to select some men for trial. This may seem a peculiar statement to some, but it is not without Scriptural foundation. Concerning the deacons, it is written, "And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless." (I Tim. 3:10.) Since this passage follows the one about the elders or bishops the "also" refers back to the trial, test, or proving of the bishops. There should be a probationary period, before (not after) men are appointed to the eldership. If there are qualities which the brethren lack, this trial period should he one of intensive effort to overcome the lack. If they overcome and prove themselves, they should be appointed. If they fail to overcome, they should not be appointed. This should also be a period of intensive study and consideration of the proper work in which they shall be engaged when they are appointed to the office. The evangelist can serve wonderfully well here in instruction and counseling if he be qualified to so instruct. The work of the evangelist is not to Lord over and rule the church but to preach and instruct, to reprove, rebuke and exhort. (See 2 Timothy 4:1-5.) After the selections have been made, if there are objections by other members, these should he considered. Especially is it true, that if the evangelist, since it is his obligation to appoint, has objection, he should explain in private his objection, both to the selected and to the one making the selection.
We must remember that in this, all the while, brotherly love and love for the Lord's church and truth shall be the motivating factors.
Such an important thing as selecting and appointing men to rule the Lord's church in any given locality (I Tim. 5:17-19), to feed the church of the Lord (Acts 20:28), to oversee the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2), and to tend the flock of God (I Pet. 5:2) should not be entered into with looseness and indifference. A solemn assembly of the church should be called, the qualifications and duties of the bishops read afresh, the men under consideration asked of their willingness to accept the responsibilities (believing in their fitness) ; then hands should be laid upon them or they be appointed to the work. I do not believe, in this matter, that a literal laying on of hands is necessary, the fact that the men are charged with the office of a bishop fulfills the requirement of Scripture in this regard, although there is nothing to cause objection to a literal laying on of the hands of the evangelist doing the appointing.
As stated in the beginning, these things are presented for your careful consideration. It is believed from the heart that there is Scriptural basis for every recommendation made herein. If this be of use to you in the Lord's service, use it and God speed your way. It is believed that a consistent following of this principle would solve many of the problems of the church in the days ahead. May the Lord use this to His glory.
Truth Magazine II:9, pp. 20-21, 24