Elders: The Spiritual Shepherds of the Church

(Leadership Structure of the New Testament church) Bible Lesson. Teen Bible Lesson.

Leadership is important. Without good leadership, important goals are not accomplished. Godly leaders are vital to us as Christians. God knew that His church would need leadership in order to fulfill its commission (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Jesus trained the apostles to begin this work. But as Christianity spread throughout the world, the apostles could not possibly meet the specific needs of the many Christians in the various parts of the world. We learn from the Bible that God raised up other forms of leadership – elders and deacons – to serve in each church.

Keep in mind that this lesson is a very general overview of the roles and qualifications of an elder.

What Does the New Testament Teach About Elders?

Directions: Fill in the blanks (or answer the questions) below. You can read the Scripture references by clicking on them. A new window will open for your convenience.

Acts 20:17, 28 – 32

1 Timothy 3:1 – 7

Titus 1:5 – 9

1 Peter 5:1 – 4

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1. An elder must have vigilant eyes, so he is spoken of as an ____________ (1 Timothy 3:1).

2. Before one can be given the task or work of an elder, he must first ____________ it (1 Timothy 3:1).

3. Because they watch for the welfare of their flock, elders are spoken of as ____________ (1 Peter 5:2).

4. Elders have God and ____________ to feed the church and to protect the church (Acts 20:32).

5. An overseer or elder must be above ____________ (1 Timothy 3:2).

6. The church leaders from Ephesus (who met the apostle Paul in Miletus) are called by three different titles (Acts 20:17, 18 – 32). List them here:

  • ____________
  • ____________
  • ____________

7. An elder must also have a ____________ reputation with non-Christians (1 Timothy 3:7).

8. Why is Paul’s list of eldership qualifications focused mostly on “being” and not on “doing” (Titus 1:5 – 9)?

9. An elder must not be a lover ____________ (1 Timothy 3:3).

10. Because there is a need to know God’s truth and because there are so many false teachers, an elder must be able to ____________ (1 Timothy 3:2).

11. Some people view the office of elder as a way of gaining power and wealth (1 Peter 5:1 – 4). How does the apostle Paul oppose this idea in Acts 20:28 – 35?

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Concluding Remarks:

There are only three qualifications for elders and deacons that do not apply to every Christian: he must be man, he must be the husband of one wife and he must have children (1 Timothy 3:1 – 13; Titus 1:5 – 11; 1 John 1:9).

The point being that elders and deacons are just normal people who use their God-given abilities to serve others. They are not superhuman and (in most cases) they are not even extraordinary people. Much of what God expects of them, He expects of us (members of the church; His children).

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A Message of Encouragement For New Converts (Youth)

Congratulations and welcome to the family of God!

Each of you is precious in the sight of God and each of you have hopes and dreams. As you journey through life, you will realize (as I have) one simple fact becomes clearer: the only thing that really matters is your relationship with the Lord and your obedience to Him. Use the natural abilities God has given you to glorify and honor Him. Seek to bless others. Search for brothers and sisters in Christ who will help you and encourage you. Ask questions.

In the coming years, there will be new opportunities for freedom; but with freedom comes responsibility. There are also very real dangers and harsh realities, but the Lord Jesus has overcome this world. Don’t be like the people who the apostle Paul talks about in Philippians 2 – people who look out for their own interests but not the interests of Jesus Christ. He warns us in Galatians 5 that we are called to be free (not free to do what is wrong or to indulge in sin or the flesh) but free to serve one another in love. “Be clear minded and self-controlled” (I Peter 4:7). Who you will be 10 and 20 years from now will depend on your attitude and the choices you have made and are making right now.

You will face opposition and persecution as a Christian.

But it is God’s will that by living a life of purity and resisting the pressures of the world, you can silence the ignorance of foolish people (I Peter 2:9 – 17). You and I know that many people will not like us, will not like who and what we stand for and will not like what we do. Even the people you least expect will be in your face or behind your back trying to tear you down, make fun of you, discourage you, grumble, gossip, lie and complain about your efforts when you are trying to do the best you can. They will try to sabotage your best efforts and wreck your faith.

As Paul told Timothy in I Timothy 4, we as young Christians can “prove ourselves” to those older than us and “be taken seriously” by leading spiritually disciplined lives and by displaying maturity that cannot be judged by our ages alone. “Let no one despise your youth.” Don’t let anyone look down on you or think little of you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

Notice verse 15: “be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress.” Keep a close watch on all you do and think. Stay true to what is right and God will bless you and use you to help others.

Constantly and honestly examine yourself:

  • What are your motivations?
  • What are your priorities?
  • Are you genuinely interested in the lives, well-being and soul salvation of others?
  • Is your life (your unique representation of who Christ is) progressing and maturing to where it needs to be?
  • Routinely labor in God’s Word.
  • Pray, talk and work with spiritually mature and faithful Christians who are willing to guide, advise and help you.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to observe, learn and labor in the work of the Lord.

Remember and trust that Jesus knows.

Jesus cares about you and loves you deeply.

He is the only and ultimate answer (John 4:13, 14; 6:35).

I will continue to believe in all of you and pray for all of you because I know the Father has prepared a unique, purpose-driven and fulfilling life for each of you in Jesus.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Refresh My Heart In Christ (Part 3 of 3)

In Part 1, we learned about how spiritual renewal and salvation are found only in Christ. In Part 2, we are looked at 3 instances where the apostle Paul talks about being refreshed in the Lord. In this final part, let’s consider 2 more ways we can encourage or refresh each other.

Note: Keep in mind that the apostle Paul is directing his remarks about Christians to other Christians.

Our 4th example is Philemon.

Notice Philemon verses 1 – 7. . .

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (English Standard Version)

#4: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Actively Loving Each Other and Actively Sharing Our Faith.

This love and faith in action was not only evident in Philemon’s life but also in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians. The faith and love of these mission-minded Christians was well-known; their zeal was contagious. See if you can pick up on these qualities in the tone and content of Paul’s writing. . .

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia —your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:2 – 10; New International Version)

Chapter 2 verse 6 – 8. . .

We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (NIV)

Verses 11, 12. . .

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (NIV)

Chapter 3:5 – 13. . .

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (NIV)

The point is they expressed their love and their faith through their lifestyle. They intentionally shared their love, their lives, their faith and the Gospel with others.

To further illustrate, let me ask this question:

“Do you like to provoke others?”

Of course I am not talking about teasing others or trying to pick a fight. But provoking in a good sense: stirring up positive and productive activity; working out the will of God; going beyond lip service and living the life.

Take a few moments to consider these Scriptures. . .

Hebrews 10:23, 24

II Corinthians 9:1, 2

II Timothy 1:6

James 2:14 – 17

I John 3:18

After studying these, did you notice all the stimulation, incitation, stirring up, provocation, zeal, enthusiasm and action that should characterize the Christian’s life?

#5: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Encouraging Reconciliation and Forgiveness.

While everything about Jesus illustrates the perfect example of forgiveness and reconciliation, the apostle Paul’s relationship with Onesimus and Philemon gives us another great example we can learn from. Notice the real life predicaments each of these Christian brothers faced. . .

Onesimus:

He was the runaway slave who was converted to Christ by Paul in Rome. As a fugitive he could have kept dodging soldiers and bounty hunters. As a Christian, he needed to make amends with his owner. As he returned to his master with this letter in hand, he knew Philemon had the legal power to sentence him to immediate execution. His life hung in the balance as Paul used his full influence on Philemon.

Philemon:

As a wealthy Christian known for his love, hospitality and faith, Paul appeals to his friendship, his status as a Christian leader, his sense of love and compassion. He doesn’t use his apostolic authority to command Philemon to receive Onesimus as an equal Christian brother but notice the subtle tact and pressure of verses 2, 14, 19 and 22.

Paul:

The aged apostle is in prison for the sake of the Gospel. “Philemon” is the only personal letter of his preserved in the New Testament. Obviously he had a personal relationship with both the slave and slave owner. Paul’s objective: to reconcile these two men.

Take the time to deliberately read (study) this short letter:  Philemon. Feel, visualize, and imagine the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in the lives of these men and in the early church.

Paul was humble.

He was courteous.

He used tact and diplomacy.

He was a little stern but it was wrapped up in gentleness.

The point is he was neither self-righteous nor dogmatic. It was obvious he cared deeply about his two friends; his two brothers in Christ. He understood that Philemon was the victim and that Onesimus was guilty as charged. And yet Paul was sympathetic to their strained relationship and he acted with compassion. Christian love was his motivation.

And when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, the blood of Christ can make, should make and does make a difference.