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Power and Authority

Of Elders


  1. How much power do elders have?

  2. Can they override the desire of the majority of a congregation?

  3. Many congregational problems center on the authority of elders and the congregation being willing to follow their leadership


Problems with elder authority


  1. Too much control

    1. They seek to control the personal choices of members

    2. Stick their nose into each families personal life

    3. They may try to write the rules for others to follow

  2. One man rule

    1. One man assumes he is the “head elder”

    2. On may claim seniority or demand their way

    3. Sometimes by default – others always defer to one man

  3. Preacher = Pastor

    1. If the elders do not exercise their authority, it goes to the preacher by default

    2. Some preacher’s take control – grab power

  4. Personal preferences

    1. Elders must take into account the feelings of the membership

    2. They cannot just do what suits them and let everyone else adjust

  5. Delay decisions

    1. Some things must be thought about and discussed

    2. A common complaint from members is that they take too long to decide

    3. Thorny issues are often delayed in hopes they will just go away – they only get worse

  6. Elders doing work of deacons

    1. Elders do the deacons work – preacher does elders work

    2. Deacons sit around and look at each other

  7. Failure to inform

    1. The elders discuss something for several meetings, decide and think that it is “old business”

    2. The congregation wants to know – what is going on, how money is being spent, what is being planned, etc.

    3. Elders must not violate matters of confidentiality


Six Principles


  1. God has all authority

    1. When God commands – elders can not override or veto

    2. God, Jesus, Bible, Apostles (writing by inspiration) are the higher authority

    3. When the Bible commands, elders have no right, power or authority to change, substitute, alter, delete, or add to God’s command.


  2. Every command has options that must be decided

    1. Baptism – baptistery, heated, dressing rooms, hair dryer, towels, baptismal garments

    2. Worship – build, rent, buy property, put a sign out front, metal or shingle roof

    3. Sing – Who should lead, what songbook to buy, use projector system

    4. Communion – Glass or disposable cups, how many trays, process of serving, if or how to serve on Sunday PM

    5. Mission work – Who to support, how to support them, focus on one area or spread support to many areas of world, send something to every request that comes along


  3. Because the church is comprised of humans, there are problems to solve.

    1. Counseling Issues - Financial, family, marriage

    2. Sin Issues – Personal, moral, behavior

    3. Doctrinal Issues – False teaching, some misunderstand, real differences on matters that don’t matter

    4. Personality Clashes – Sometimes there are people that are hard to get along with, work with. “Give me another job, in another area of work where I don’t have to put up with them.”

  1. Every group needs leadership

    1. Harry Truman – “The Buck Stops Here”

    2. Without someone to offer leadership – we wander, become discouraged and lose focus

    3. Every jury needs a foreman; every flock of sheep needs a shepherd

    4. Every local congregation needs some leadership to provide direction.


  2. Autonomy

    1. Each congregation is independent and autonomous

    2. Elders are limited to the “flock of God among you.” (1 Peter 5:2)

    3. Philippi has its own bishops (elders) and deacons. (Philippians 1:1)

    4. Each congregation was to have it own elders. (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23)

  1. The church is a “theocracy” NOT a “democracy.”

    1. Democracy = majority rule – no one person or group has greater power

    2. Theocracy = God is the ruler

    3. Some church problems begin when some think that the church is a democracy where the majority rule (where a majority of weak members can over rule the elders).

    4. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18)

Specific Authority of Elders


  1. Self-discipline Acts 20:28
    Take heed to thyself – 1 Timothy 4:16
    Examine yourselves – 2 Corinthians 13:5


  2. Watch and care over the congregation Acts 20:28
    Lead, Feed, Protect, Heal, Keep them together
    Think of shepherd = Kind, gentle, compassion
    Sheep = Smelly, stubborn, blind, dumb, unaware


  3. Give an account of souls Hebrews 13:17
    Luke 15 – Where are they? How did one become lost?


  4. Teach the Word of God 1 Timothy 3:2
    Must know the Word; Able to teach it to others
    Privately – Publicly


  5. Exhort and convince (convict) the gainsayers Titus 1:9-10
    Gainsayers are objectors, tear down, speak against
    Control the unruly, vain talkers, deceivers


  6. Take the oversight 1 Peter 5:2
    Not by force – dictator; Not Lord over them
    Not by constraint – against their will or desire; Must be willing


  7. Watch for wolves Acts 20:29-31
    Wolves = False teachers; False doctrine; Those who destroy from within
    Wolves in sheep clothing Matthew 7:15

  8. Support the weak Acts 20:35
    Spiritually weak – Encourage, teach, admonish, rebuke
    Physically weak – Sick, Dying, Lonely


  9. Admonish the church 1 Thessalonians 5:12
    To warn, reprove gently, to put in mind of something forgotten
    Admonish is a weaker term than Reprove, rebuke


  10. Decide on church matters Acts 15:6
    Settle differences; give wise directions
    Not run by majority – BUT with all considered


  11. Example to the flock 1 Peter 5:3
    A pattern of life to be imitated – Hebrews 13:7
    Follow their life as it follows Christ – 1 Corinthians 11:1


  12. Feed the flock of God. Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2
    Oversight does not mean they must teach all the classes, preach sermons.
    They must see that the flock is fed a proper diet.


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