What do all businesses, schools, non-profits, and churches have in common? They all have leaders. Leaders are important. They are the ones who determine the vision and set the direction for the future. As well they are the ones who make sure everyone is equipped to play their part in the organization. Without leaders, organizations flail. They meander around until they disappear. So leaders, especially good leaders are important.
This is especially true in the church. The last thing God wants is for a church just to meander around until it dies off. He wants His church to accomplish His mission. And He provides leaders to do that.
But God doesn’t just provide any old leader. He provides men who meet certain qualifications and desire certain things. What are those desires? What are those qualifications? What does it take to be a leader in the church?
A Leader in the Church Must See Themselves as an Overseer
Overseer is not just a term I am manufacturing. It’s a term Paul uses in verse 1 when he says,
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Ti 3:1)
One of my friends from seminary contacted me no too long ago. He is not only a pastor but he is also a financial advisor. That’s what he contacted me about. He wanted to see if I would be interested in using his services.
As a financial advisor, it is his job to serve families by watching over and caring for their finances. Since I know him well and trust him, we have allowed him to do just that — oversee our financial future. In a similar way, that is what a pastor does. Except he is watching over souls instead of money.
See Themselves as an Overseer
Anyone who wants to be a leader in the church must see themselves as an overseer because that is exactly what they are going to be doing. They are going to be overseeing the people God has placed under their care.
In that role, an overseer, a pastor, an elder, whatever you want to call them, all those names are interchangeable, is responsible for watching over the church’s doctrine, practice, people, and vision. They do that by teaching, training, equipping, discipling, protecting, leading, and comforting those in the church. That is the general job of an overseer.
If you think about it, that’s a lot for one person to do. And really, should one person do all of that?
Should a church just have one overseer?
I believe when you look at Scripture, it’s clear that it’s God’s intention for a church to have multiple men functioning as overseers. Now, that doesn’t mean that everyone who serves as an overseer is paid. Usually, there are a few who are paid. In most churches, that is typically the Lead Pastor, Music Minister, and Youth pastor. While those are usually the ones who are paid, a church should still have other men serving as overseers or elders. They would be considered non-vocational elders.
I believe there should be a plurality of elders for a couple of reasons.
(1) First, when the term elder is used in Scripture, it is often used in its plural form.
I don’t want to belabor this point too long, but I do want to prove my assertion from Scripture, let me list a few scriptures so you can see what I mean.
In Acts 14:23 we read,
“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (Ac 14:23)
Moving a little further in the book of Acts to Acts 20:17 Luke writes,
“Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” (Ac 20:17)
Paul in Titus 1:5 instructs Titus to follow his example and appoint elders in every town. He writes,
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—” (Tt 1:5)
In James 5:14, we are told that if anyone is sick they are to…
“…call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (Jas 5:14)
Furthermore, we find Timothy’s name included in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul writes,
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:” (Php 1:1)
Again, I don’t want to belabor the point too much so I will stop there. But as you can see, in each instance, a plurality of elders is mentioned, which I believe tells us that in God’s wisdom, He wants His church to consist of a plurality of elders.
(2) Second, a plurality of elders benefits the church.
It benefits the church because it spreads out the responsibility and it accounts for different gifts and individual deficiencies. Let’s face it, no one man can do everything well, but a team of men who compliment each other can. So for those reasons, I believe a plurality of elders should exist in the church.
Sum it Up
So to sum up this section, if a man wants to be a leader in the church, and a church should have multiple leaders, which should give opportunity for multiple people to function in that role, then that man must see themselves as an overseer — someone who oversees the doctrine, practice, vision, and people of the church.
Question for Reflection
- Do you believe a leader in the church must see themselves as an overseer?
- Do you believe a plurality of elders is biblical and necessary?
Post adapted from my sermon: What does it take to be a leader in the church?