HOW ELDERS RELATE TO THE BODY OF CHRIST
They come from within the body
Elders are not imported from a strange environment; they come from within the body. Paul never did send an elder from one city to another to correct a disorder or direct into spiritual maturity. Elders are chosen from the flock – from the local flock. The reason for this procedure is plain; such individuals are more apt to have a heart for the people, seeing they know them and regularly fellowship with them. Remember, that Jesus could not save us until He dwelt among us (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). Likewise, an effective elder must dwell with the people he influences for God.
They are themselves members of the body
Elders are not THE body, they are members of the body. Our movement has consistently contended for the priesthood of all believers. We have rejected the clergy-laity concept as invalid and out of harmony with the "mind of Christ." In this, we have been correct. However, we have not been consistent in this matter. Many of our congregations entertain a concept of the eldership that is much like the clergy-laity system. They have a body of men that "call the shots," while the people faithfully follow their manifestos. Such procedures are not found in Scripture. The members of the body of Christ are to be "subject to one another" (1 Pet. 5:5). No person is excluded from this requirement.
The work of an elder is an aspect of body-life. It does have to do with leadership; but that leadership is toward God. The elder, like his Master, is leading the flock where he himself has gone; onward and upward. If, from God's perspective, he has gone nowhere himself, he will not be able to lead the people anywhere – except into the ditch.
Theirs is one of the body functions/ministries
The work of an elder is not the whole work of the body; that would make the body an "eye" (1 Cor. 12:15-17). Other work is performed that requires the submission of the rest of the body. Paul told believers at Rome to assist Phoebe in whatever she required (Rom. 16:1ff). Phoebe was certainly not an elder, but she was a member of the body that was performing a valid ministry. If you are an elder, there are people in your congregation, as well as other congregations, whom you will be required to assist, and to whom you must be subject.