Elders

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NBC Elder Transition Proposal
As our church family prayerfully works to change our leadership structure to an Elder-led model, we want to provide opportunity for our members to ask the questions that arise. Click below to fill out our anonymous Q&A form. You can also scroll down to see some questions that are asked more frequently, look at the proposed changes to our church documents, and find resources for further study.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an "Elder"?

An Elder is a term that the Bible uses to describe the leaders of a local church. (Acts 20:17-38; 1st Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 3:6-9; 1st Peter 5:1-12) They carry a spiritual authority and are responsible for Overseeing, Teaching, Discipline, and Shepherding Care


How is an Elder different from a Pastor?

While the term of Pastor sometimes caries a different meaning in our culture, such as a vocational minister (Or Clergy), from a biblical perspective they are the same thing. Pastors/Elders may or may not work vocationally for a church as a part of a church's staff, but Elders are pastors, who do the work of overseeing the shepherding care of a congregation through teaching and discipline.


How many Elders should a church have?

The Bible always speaks of Elders in the plural sense. That leads us to believe that God has designed such a position to be better served by multiple men sharing both wisdom and the burden of leadership. The Bible does not however, set a specific number for how many Elders there should be in a local congregation. This means that churches are free to use wisdom in determining how many men should serve based on the current needs of the congregation. At the moment, it seems wise that NBC should have between 4-10 men serve.


Is the position of Elder limited to men?

Yes. The qualifications of an Elder are found in 1st Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9. These texts, coupled with the logical needs of Elders as the teachers and spiritual authority of a church (1st Timothy 2:12) necessitate that the role of an Elder be filled only by a man.


Should Elders be paid?

The shortest answer is that the Bible does not say. The earliest churches in the New Testament did not think in terms of church staff and vocational ministers. That being said, the Bible does speak of showing "double honor to those who rule well." (1st Timothy 5:17-19). Many have taken double honor to mean providing for their needs. Paying Elders is ultimately a wisdom issue. If a church is in a position to be able to pay someone so that that man can dedicate their time to preaching and leading well instead of working another job, then a church is free to do so. But even in cases where a church is able to honor their Elders in that way, we think that it's best to also have men on the Elder Team that bring a "Non-Staff" perspective to the table.


What happens to our current "Pastors" if NBC makes these proposed changes?

Not much. We already recognize Stephen and JB as "Pastors". Calling them Elders does not change that reality. What the change would do is raise up a small number of other spiritually mature men around them to help them lead well.


Our Deacons have served some pseudo-Elder roles in the past, what happens to them?

Their responsibilities shift a little bit towards what we believe is a more biblical job description: Physical care of church members and ministries, all in an effort to protect church unity. Our Deacons have served faithfully over the years and our Deacon Team is full of spiritually mature men who have a desire to serve and see our church flourish. Elevating Elders does not change that reality but it does mean that we no longer ask them to handle those pseudo-Elder tasks like discipline and teaching. Under the new system, Deacons will continue to look for needs across the church, set up and serve things like the Lord's Supper, and continue to check in on their church families.


What would the process of nominating and electing Elders look like?

For Staff Elders, the process would be similar to the way that we hire pastoral positions today. A search committee would be put together including specific current leaders of the church and a few members selected from among the congregation. Interviews, background checks, and a candidate preview would all ultimately lead to a church vote to decide if that man will be hired. In the case of Non-Staff Elders, the process will be similar to the way that we currently nominate and elect Deacons. Each year, men can be nominated from among the church membership and will go through an assessment process to ensure that their lives line up with the biblical qualifications. After that, candidates will be brought before the church so that others have an opportunity to let us know if there is an inconsistency that we are not aware of. After that, the church will vote to approve a candidate.


How long will Elders serve for?

Staff Elders will serve for the entirety of their employment. Non-Staff Elders will serve for a term of 3 years before taking a year of Sabbatical. After that they may serve again with approval by the church.


Other than the biblical qualifications, will there be any additional requirements for an Elder at NBC ?

While there is nothing in addition to what the Bible expects from those in the position of Elder, our church does have the freedom to try and define what we think are wise interpretations of the biblical qualifications. Titus 1:9 says that an Elder "must hold firm to what is taught". Therefore, we believe that it is wise for men pursing the role of Elder to formally sign our church's statement of faith. (the SBC Baptist Faith & Message 2000). 1st Timothy 3:7-8 tells us that Overseers must not be new converts and that they must be well thought of by outsiders. Because of this, we also think that it is wise to require that men be active members of NBC for at least 3 years before they are considered for service. This self-imposed rule will help us not rush to judgment on men even if they excel in other areas. In the case of Staff-Elders, this 3 year rule would be set aside because those men go through a much more rigorous assessment process.


Can an Elder be removed if they are unfit for the office or disqualify themselves?

Yes! And they should be. In the case of Staff Elders/Pastors, protocols are already in place to terminate their employment under terms of spiritual disqualification and even negligent job performance. The title of Elder would be tied to their employment. In the case of Non-Staff Elders, we would do our best to address those situations in a Matthew 18:15-20 pattern. Addressing the individual in person when possible and safe, and then bringing the issue to the other current Elders should resolution not occur. If someone believes that the Elder Team has not taken a sufficient action, the individual can then bring the charge to the rest of the church body in a business meeting.


What would the Non-Staff Elders actually do?

The short answer is whatever God has made them especially good at within the scope of the Elder Team's responsibilities. The Bible does not seem to require that all of a church's Elders have a regular presence in the pulpit. But it does require that they are all able to teach. We take that to mean both public and private teaching. The purpose then, is to own the responsibility of helping the rest of the church grow. Some men who serve in the role of Elder might be good at personal discipleship. Others may be inclined towards administration and other "behind the scenes" tasks and only teach on a scattered basis. But while skillsets, spiritual gifts, and tasks assigned may vary, the spiritual responsibility and authority is always the same. Non-Staff Elders volunteer their time to help the church grow through both time and action. They bring wisdom and spiritual maturity to the table for everyone else's good. Therefore, non-staff Elders are the true heroes of our NBC family.


Does that mean that Stephen preaches less often?

Not really. Stephen is already trying to get most of those potential Elders reps anyways. If you haven't been keeping score, Stephen tries to preach 3 out of 4 Sundays each month while working to help other men in our church step in to those other weeks. We've got an incredibly deep bench of faithful men who are already serving our church well in the pulpit. Raising some of them up as Elders would help to formalize their voice and authority.


I have heard the phrase "Elder-Ruled" in other churches. Is that different than what we are proposing?

It is different. We try to be very careful to use the phrase "Elder-Led" instead. We believe that it is the congregation gathered together that ultimately "holds the keys to the Kingdom". That being said, a church should not be a direct democracy either. Our proposal would see Elders as the spiritual leaders of NBC who work and serve in order to "lead" our church to where it needs to be. In short, it's the Elder's job to teach and shepherd the people of NBC into the pathways that we believe are best for the church. This means that the Elders will bring major decisions to the church body for approval. It also means that the church needs to trust the Elders to make wise spiritual decisions on the minor things.


We seem to have done just fine for the last 50 years without having multiple Elders in our church, why is it important to make such a change at this time?

We'll admit that there are a lot of things in this world that an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy can be wisely applied to. But that simply cannot be a consistent posture for a group that describes themselves as "a people of the Word". If we see something in the Bible that our structure does not fully line up with, our structure needs to be prayerfully brought into obedience. By God's grace our church's leadership has often been filled by men of high character who were excited to work cooperatively with others. But that has not always been true. Nor is it a promise of future truth. The Biblical model of a plurality of Elders is a better way. It guards the church, it brings more wisdom to the table, and it multiplies both the spiritual gifts and the ability to serve others amongst our top-tier of leadership. We believe that God wants good for us in this. So, why wouldn't we walk through it to get there?



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Transition Q&A Videos
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Proposed Documents

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Resources For Further Study

Books


"Church Elders" by Jeramie Rinne




"Biblical Eldership" Condensed! by Alexander Strauch




"Biblical Eldership" Not Condensed! By Alexander Strauch




"Gospel Eldership" by Robert Thune