|Vol. 12 No. 11 November 2010||
Re-Evaluation of Elders
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Humble Request …can you please send me material that either you have written (or audio, video, etc.), or please explain to me what you hold to be true (or not true) in regard to the doctrine of re-evaluation and reaffirmation of qualified elders … since I realize now that brethren are divided about this issue, I wish to study and come to a sound conclusion. In my studies, I just ask for the knowledge and instruction from those who may know about this. There are some brethren who have drawn lines of fellowship with other brethren on these issues, brethren whom I’ve always believed to be sound. In any case, I wish to remain calm and just study the issue honestly. Can you help? Thank you.
Rather than using emotionally charged terminology such “re-evaluation and reaffirmation” of elders, students of the Bible would do better to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11), that is, use Bible words. In addition, though I do not doubt the sincerity of the one posing the question above to me, the question is not couched in neutral phraseology: “re-evaluation and reaffirmation of qualified elders.” Qualified elders are qualified elders! As posed, the question is prejudicial since the phrase “qualified elders” immediately makes unnecessary any review of the elders under consideration.
The qualifications for the appointment of and continued service by elders appear in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Specifically, the biblical prescription for public, critical evaluation of elders is 1 Timothy 5:19. There is biblical precedent in Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 5:19 for congregational participation in the selection of and removal of congregational leaders.
However, the New Testament says nothing about the procedure for the process leading to the selection and appointment of men who meet the scriptural qualifications to be elders. In addition, the New Testament says nothing about the so-called “re-evaluation or reaffirmation” of elders other than 1 Timothy 5:19, which requires a minimum of “two or three witnesses” to substantiate accusations against an elder. Ideally, when an elder is no longer biblically qualified to be an elder, he will remove himself from the eldership (2 Corinthians 13:5), but “witnesses” may need to request an elder’s resignation if he does not voluntarily resign when he needs to do so.
Obviously, sin for which an elder will not repent disqualifies him from remaining as an elder (1 Timothy 3:2, “blameless”). On the other hand, he may demonstrate defective attitudes toward Scripture (Romans 1:18), have a brash demeanor (1 Timothy 3:2, not “temperate”), have a tarnished reputation (1 Timothy 3:7, not a “good report”) or have a diminished mental capacity (1 Timothy 3:2, not “sober”).
In truth, evaluation of elders, deacons, teachers and preachers is a daily, ongoing, often involuntary activity, rather than occurring on a specific, announced date. Furthermore, evaluation is commanded in Scripture of those who teach the Word of God (which according to the qualifications of elders includes them). Consider 1 John 4:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:29.
Finally, the qualifications of elders include being of “good report” (1 Timothy 3:7). This is a perceived view of someone, i.e., his reputation. While certainly one’s reputation is built upon, in part, evil versus good, reputation includes recognition of one’s characteristics or abilities. A Christian’s perception of the aptitude of a man to serve well as an elder in the congregation of which he is a member is a factor in the selection of elders. For instance, a man must recognize that he can serve as an elder (1 Timothy 3:1), and the congregation must recognize that a brother can serve well as an elder.
Lines of fellowship between brethren are drawn, as they ought to be, between those who are no longer in fellowship with God and those who remain in fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 5:11). Often, though, lines of fellowship are drawn between brethren based on human interjections. Especially Christians need to be as charitable toward each other as possible (2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 4:8) and consider others more highly than themselves (Philippians 2:3-8), while endeavoring to rely on Word of God (Colossians 3:17). When possible, brethren deserve the benefit of the doubt (Philippians 2:14).
It is safe to say: The qualifications for the appointment of and continued service by elders appear in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Specifically, the biblical prescription for public, critical evaluation of elders is 1 Timothy 5:19. There is biblical precedent in Acts 6:3 and 1 Timothy 5:19 for congregational participation in the selection of and removal of congregational leaders.
Let us remember that qualified elders are just that – qualified! “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).