Hope Family Fellowship has been blessed with a strong vision, an excellent foundation, and a wonderful group of committed people. Our current leadership model consists of pastors, elders, and men serving as advisors. The role of an advisor is defined at the end of the document.
Qualification of Elders:
The qualifications of elders are outlined in two main passages of Scripture; 1 Tim. 3:1-7 & Titus 1:5-9. Many books have been written to define these qualifications and we will not attempt to rewrite one here. The main point of the qualifications is to have a mature man who is in the growing process and is able to lead others, especially his family. “Mature” is not necessarily limited to age for we all know young men who are mature and older men who are not. The maturity we are looking for is spiritual maturity, which is often associated with age. Someone who is able to help others by reason of experience and understanding of the ways of God. Someone who is well versed in the Bible and can impart this to others, through teaching, small groups, or one on one.
All of the qualifications point to being an example and role model. Someone that others would want to imitate. Some qualifications are obvious – not being a drunkard, or greedy; not quarrelsome, or arrogant; gentle and able to instruct others, etc. Other qualifications are not as clear, i.e. above reproach, good reputation, husband of one wife, family in subjection, etc. Is anyone really above reproach other than the Lord Jesus? Is there any person that everyone speaks well of at all times? Does having one wife refer to never divorced, or bigamy? Does having one’s family under subjection mean that there are never problems or only that you handle the problems that do arise? These are very hard questions and many churches split over the answers. We do not desire to split or break fellowship with anyone over our answer. This is our opinion and we are willing to give a lot of room to others to be free to disagree.
We believe the Bible teaches that as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men – Rom.12:18. There are times in each one’s life when he will not be at peace with everyone, or not everyone will speak well of him. This does not necessarily disqualify him from being an elder. Each situation must be looked at to see if everything has been done to be above reproach. Every leader who has ever lived has had those who have spoken against him. How the leader responds is the key. The issue is the leader’s integrity, not just the opinion of those who are critical.
The marital condition of the man has been a huge controversy for centuries. Many scholars are on all sides of this issue. What does the Bible mean when it says “the husband of one wife?” We believe it is referring to the issue of immorality of the day, and not divorce. The Holy Spirit could have used the word divorce and settled the whole issue. He chose not to perhaps to allow us to grow in grace and tolerance for each other. We believe a man should not be penalized for a sin he committed before salvation. There are consequences to all sin, but when we are forgiven, we are cleansed and pronounced clean by God. A pattern of divorce or any other continual sin is a different matter altogether. Each candidate should be looked at individually and evaluated in light of his life, not excluded on a dogmatic interpretation of a single, controversial verse in Scripture.
One qualification that is often overlooked, but is very important, is the matter of ruling one’s family well. We do not believe a man is disqualified if he is single or does not have any children. The Apostle Paul and Jesus would have to be disqualified according to some interpretations! If a man does have a family, then how he deals with them is an excellent indicator of how he will deal with the Church. For the Scripture asks “how can a man rule the church if he can not rule his own family?” Christianity must work in the home or it does not work at all. If a man’s religion does not have any impact on those who are closest to him, how will it affect those who know him only slightly? Much can be seen of a man’s life and priorities by how his family is doing. Are his children in rebellion? Is his wife a gossip, or oppressed? Often it is a reflection of the man’s leadership that is the reason behind these problems. What a man produces in his home is what will be produced in the church. Does this mean a man never has any problems between himself and his wife or children? Does this mean that a man must have a perfect home? That would be unreasonable to even suggest. All of us have difficulties at some time or another. Almost every leader in Scripture had some problems. How a man handles his problems is the key. Does he ignore them and hope they go away? Is he kind and patient, or harsh and irritable? Again, how a man handles the stresses of his home will be an excellent indicator of how he will handle the stress of the church.
The qualifications of leadership are important and every believer should be growing in Christ and striving to excel in these areas. An elder is someone who can say “follow me as I follow Christ.”
Functions or Duties of Elders:
1 Peter 5:1-4 instructs the elders to shepherd the people of God. The terms pastor, elder, overseer, shepherd, and bishop are often used interchangeably. All of these terms imply responsibility and accountability for others. Elders are to provide a covering for the flock through prayer. They are to instruct the flock through example and teaching. They must give an account to God, and the people, for their actions with the Word of God, their time, the monies given to the church, and the words of their mouths. Oversight involves authority and responsibility. Elders must be willing to get involved in the day-to-day lives of those under their care. Eldership is not a title but a function. Elders must be servant leaders who are not afraid of hard work both physically and spiritually. While God gives different giftings to each of us, (Teaching, administration, analytical skills, etc.) the goal is the same – elders must be willing to fulfill the job description of a pastor, regardless of whether they are in full-time ministry. This job description includes being devoted to prayer, being a student of the Word, and equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. Having wisdom and being able to give Godly counsel flows from man’s relationship with God. An elder should be a man who spends time with God, and can adequately communicate what God is saying back to the people under his care.
Terms of Service:
The Bible is not clear on what is the appropriate length of service for an elder. Some churches have a rotation system after three years. Others have elders who serve for life. While we see good points in both ideas, we believe the ideal is for a man to be called by God and have the desire to serve as an elder. If he has both of these, then the time of service becomes secondary. Rather than assign an arbitrary time, we believe there should be a review process. Every two years the pastor and elders should evaluate the relationships and effectiveness of the ministry. Do any changes need to be made? Does a man believe his time is finished and it would be in the church’s best interest for him to take a sabbatical for a season? In all of these issues, the key is to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. God is the one who said He would build His Church, not us. If a man has a tender heart and is listening to the Spirit, he will know when he is out of step with Him. Humility is always the key. In the final analysis, the character of the men involved will be the main issue.
In Scripture, the appointment of leaders/elders was accomplished by congregation vote, appointment by the current leadership, and Holy Spirit selecting, all within the book of Acts alone! Again, it seems, the Holy Spirit leaves as much unsaid, as said. In our selection of elders, we want as much input as possible. The ideal is that everyone would be in agreement with the men put forth. Men should be recognized by the congregation as already serving as elders long before they are ever ordained. As the church recognizes their ministry, it should simply be a matter of putting forth the names and asking for confirmation of these men, either through a secret ballot, or contact with any advisor or the pastor. If someone has a problem with any of the men, the leadership would meet with the person and talk about it. If it is a sin issue, that would be dealt with according to Matthew 18. If not, the best possible solution would try to be obtained. While the final decision will not be made by congregational vote, we do want as much input and unity as possible. The decision would be made by the advisors and the pastor after a reasonable time period has elapsed to allow for additional prayer and input.
Relationship of Elders:
Are elders and the senior pastor equal? Does the pastor come under the authority of the elders or do the elders come under the authority of the pastor? Is one of the primary functions of the elders to protect the people from the pastor? Is the pastor a hireling of the elders? How are decisions made? By unanimous vote, majority vote, casting of lots? These, and other important questions, must be answered. The answers or lack thereof, have shipwrecked many thriving churches.
The following is our understanding; we believe God calls a man and gives him a vision and the gifting necessary to birth that vision. After the calling, God adds others with giftings to come alongside and assist this man with the vision. Those who come alongside are there to help the pastor walk out this God-given vision. The senior pastor is the leader of the church under the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The elders and advisors are called alongside to assist the pastor in the completion of the vision. The Scripture is not clear on specific lines of authority, other than we are all to submit to one another in Christ – Ephesians 5:21.
If men are walking in humility and are men of character, then who submits to who becomes a moot point. We all should be submitting to the will of God and trying over very best to discern it! There is no place in the Kingdom of God for arrogance and selfish ambition. Men must be willing to submit to other Godly men. If the pastor feels he knows God’s will, and the other men do not agree, the pastor must be willing to wait until God moves in the other men’s hearts. Character, integrity, and spiritual maturity will be the key, not some system of rules. The church is supposed to be a Theocracy -under God’s rule, which means the only vote that counts is Gods! The issue is always God’s will and His purposes, not man’s.
God will often provide leadership through the pastor that must be tempered through the men around him. Relationship and integrity are the keys to a working eldership, not lines of authority. Prayer and mutual submission are the tools the Holy Spirit will use to build the Church. If there is disunity and unrest, it would be far better to wait on the Lord, rather than to vote through some program or idea. God is able to bring peace to troubled spirits if we give Him time.
Elders and the pastor are a team to walk out the vision for the church. God will raise up the right men to complete His work in our midst if we will seek Him and not grow weary in well doing. God will establish His purpose in our midst if we will yield to Him in every area of our lives. Amen!!
While not a Biblical office, the concept behind the term is throughout the Scriptures. Leaders must be willing to listen to advice and there is a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned in an abundance of counselors. Advisors will come alongside the Pastor and elders and offer counsel and prayer support. While not serving in an official calling of an elder, these men basically function as an elder, and most elders will probably be recognized out of this group of men. They are expected to come forward and pray as needed during our services, actively serve the Body at Hope Family Fellowship, be a regular giver, attend leadership meetings, and prayerfully offer counsel and advice on the topics brought up in the leadership meetings or via email communication.
Each man selected to serve as an Advisor should be a spiritually mature man. These men should be completely committed to the vision of Hope Family Fellowship and be growing in their walk in the Lord. The same basic spiritual qualifications of an elder should apply to a man serving as an advisor. Potential advisors will be nominated by the current leadership team. After reaching an agreement, the pastor will speak to each candidate and explain the duties of an advisor and ask the man to prayerfully consider it. If the man believes he should serve Hope Family Fellowship in this fashion, the man’s name will be submitted to the church for general approval. If there are not any major objections, then the man will be invited to join the leadership team.
The term of service will be three years after which the term can be renewed upon agreement by all involved.