Ever Met a “She Elder”?

By Robert Wayne La Coste

Those of us who have preached the precious gospel of Our Lord and Savior for any length of time have met many individuals we surely could have done without meeting. One of these is a “she elder.” So what is a “she elder”? Certainly the term, and/or office is not with scriptural foundation. That, we may first assert without hesitancy. What she is, is an individual that is:


The adjective “self” as used with the term appointed is surely the main problem. Certainly the Lord did not appoint her. She is a self-promoting and self-appointed individual.

In God’s qualifications for elders, we often think that at the top of the list of those qualifications, is the need for that one to “desire” the office (1 Tim. 3:1). Wrong. The first qualification is: If a man . . . . ” The second prerequisite is then desire. God has always had the man in the dominant role, both in the home and the church. No man made it that way. God made it that way. God has his place and role for women. That role does not include leading or making decisions in the local church! The virtuous woman who fears the Lord, respects this (Prov. 31:30). She knows that she becomes like a fish out of water when she tries to exist outside that sphere. Many a godly woman has won her husband and others to the way of truth, by respecting God’s arrangement. The apostle Peter wrote, “Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands . . . whose adorning let it not be outward . . . but let it be the hidden man of the heart … the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time, the holy women also who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection” (1 Pet. 3:1,3-5). The godly woman is under authority, she does not try to exercise any authority. This is also the main reason why women cannot be gospel preachers. Paul told Titus, “These things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority” (Tit. 3:6). How could a woman rebuke “with all authority” and at the same time “be in subjection to authority” (1 Tim. 2:12)? Any woman who does not respect God’s arrangement, brings to herself swift destruction spiritually. Worse however, many a marriage and indeed many a congregation of the Lord has suffered greatly due to the “self-appointed, she-elder.” Her motto is: “Rule or Ruin.” When she tries to rule, there is always ruin.

Usually An Elder’s Wife

In 25 years of full-time work with the Lord’s people, the Lord has been so gracious. Most all my brethren have been kind, loving and considerate, not only to me, but to the church in general. I have worked with some of the finest of God’s elders, both in local and meeting work. I respect God’s arrangement and plan for elders in the local church. All of this “hoop-la” from false teachers about “elders and their evils,” doesn’t change the Lord’s will. Charles Holt and others scream long and loud about abuses of elders, as though this would negate God’s commands concerning such. It is true, there have been some evil elders, just like there have been evil preachers. If abuse merits consideration of cancellation of the office, then we are compelled to ask, “What office is there that would exist?” Every office that man has ever been put in has been abused in some way. No, abuse is not the issue. When an elder abuses the office of an elder, you get rid of the man, not the office!

The “bad elder” like the “she-elder,” have been in my life at least, the exception and not the rule. I have met and had to contend with only two she elders. Fortunately they were many years apart! I have known many times over, so many more godly women who are elder’s wives. Behind every good and godly elder is a wife that helps him meet God’s qualifications (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1). She is a wife that wants to serve, not be self serving. I wish I could print the names of those women whom I love so very much who are elder’s wives that know their place, know how important it is that they keep a “low profile” and know what can happen if and when they try to “rule” either at home or in the church. They are women who do themselves honor, because they honor God and their husband. Their husbands “praise her in the gates” (Prov. 31:31). But see? That’s the problem. The “she-elder” rules her husband at home, and they think they can get away with it when it comes to the church! Yes, I know what you are thinking: How did this man become an elder having such a wife in the first place? It happens, because evil is so good in disguising itself. The apostle Paul wrote often about the deceptiveness and subtlety of sin! (2 Cor. 11:1-3) This has always been the case. Mother Eve could tell us a lot about that. (Gen. 3:6) Being the kind of Jezebel the “she elder” often is, she cunningly devises ways to get her husband in the office, so she can either rule through him or find another way to rule. She manipulates, schemes and plans her approach, all under the mirage of doing good. It may take a while to find out who she is and what she’s up to, but it is even as Jesus taught concerning all: “By their fruits, ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:16).

Dead While She Liveth

Such a woman appears to becoming more prevalent in the church. One of the reasons has to be the pressure in our society for women to assert “their rights.” Some of these women are not married to elders. They are the young ambitious type that if their talents and resources were channeled in the God-appointed direction, they would be such an asset to both themselves and the body of Christ. However, when self gets in the way and the mentality exists to have “one’s rights” safeguarded and exercised, regardless, surely there is confusion and every evil work prevalent. Such women in our society and sometimes in the Lord’s church promise much, but can deliver nothing. At least nothing good. The reason is: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19). Such women are the slaves of their own self-will and they seek to make others slaves of that same will. Such women, who are God’s daughters, are as Paul told Timothy, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5:6). Her “pleasure” has become her desire to rule, be dominant, exercise her rights and control and manipulate people and circumstances.

Brethren, we are encouraged to watch out for the false teacher, the troublemaker and any and every “high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor.10:5). It is sad such things must be written, but worse yet that such people must exist among God’s people. When such people are evident, they must be marked and reproved if they will not repent (Rom. 16:17; Eph. 5:11). Israel of old had its Jezebel’s, the early church had its Sapphira’s and we too will have women who know not, neither care not about their proper place in the Lord’s kingdom. God give us more Phoebe’s, Tabitha’s and Lydia’s and may he deliver us from the self-appointed “she-elder.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, pp. 547-548
September 17, 1992