DEFINING AN ELDER
Too many of our churches approach the "work" of an elder as though it were a political office with bureaucratic powers – something like a member of a board of directors in the business world. Let it be clear, that there are no such positions in the body of Christ. Jesus made this apparent when instructing the leading individuals in His church, the apostles. "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). From this point of view, there is equality among the members of Christ's body. No one is essentially better than the other, and none possess personal authority over another. The only authority recognized in the body of Christ is that which proceeds from the Word of God. That is why it is written, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (Heb. 13:7). The NIV reads this way, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."
The world operates on a principle of authority that differs from that of the body of Christ. "And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve" (Luke 22:25-26)
Remember, the dominating principle in all of the gifts provided to the church is not position, but contribution. The purpose of every work is to solidify the people of God--to make them strong in the faith. This cannot be accomplished by dictatorial powers. Neither can it be achieved by administrative skill or financial expertise. While these things may appear vital to the life of a congregation, they are not the "good work" of the elder. He is called to a higher office and a more noble work. His activities have to do with eternal consequences, not temporary advantage. The church of the Living God really does not need a boss – it already has one Head.
What the elder does is not accomplished by authority. The Holy Spirit has not raised up men to "call the shots," so to speak. He HAS raised up men to feed the flock of God, and assist them in growing up into Christ in all things. It is quite true, there may be times where some one has to take charge, or make a decision about certain matters. Whatever may be said of that situation, it has nothing whatsoever to do with being an elder.