Monday, August 03, 2015

Calling All Theoblogians #13

It's elders' election time at my church. Each time, we are encouraged to reflect on the Bible passages that outline the requirements of an elder. I'm grateful to be part of a church that takes Scripture seriously:

Here is a trustworthy saying:
If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach , the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?). He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil.  He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.
1 Timothy 3:1-7

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  Since an overseer is trusted with God's work, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Titus 1:6-9

The questions I have are:
  • Does an elder have to be married?  I've been part of churches where single and engaged men have been elders or nominated to be elders. Christians seem to interpret 'husband of but one wife' differently. Some see it as saying that IF an elder is married, he should only have one wife and not be a bigamist. Others see it as that an elder must be a married man with just one wife.
  • Is Scripture saying that an elder's children must all be believers? I've seen instances where an elder has adult children, some who are believers and some who are not. Or is it only concerning children who still live at home? What about elders who have babies or toddlers who aren't old enough to understand the gospel yet? Can a childless man be an elder? I know some Christians who think that a man with only child should be excluded from being considered for eldership because the passage says 'children'.
Any thoughts?


Meredith said...

Hi there!

I keep meaning to come back to this one because we were just talking about it recently ourselves - the second question, that is.

#1 Does an elder have to be married? I take it to mean that if an elder IS married then it should be to one spouse. (Of the opposite sex, just for the record.) So they don't necessarily need to be married. That said, wisdom would suggest that if there is more than one elder then some of them should be married to have the breadth and depth of life experience.

#2 Your second question...We have come to the conclusion here that adult children don't come under this category. While they are children living under your roof and under your training then yes. But once they become an adult then they must be responsible for their own conduct (which includes honouring their father and mother) but it falls to them to be responsible for their conduct and not their parents.

It all gets a bit grey in terms of when do you become an adult? And what about adults living at home? I guess you can apply conventional wisdom to find some answers there. But again (I am thinking on the run here) looking at how that household runs (even with adult children in tow) gives a good indication of relationships and quality of leadership. (It's a bit grey isn't it?)

And if the children are still babies and toddlers and they don't understand the gospel yet... you'd still be wanting to look for all the other qualities and also looking at the household of those toddlers. There is a wide variety of households with babies and toddlers. Is the one who wants to be elder reading the Bible and praying with and for the children and their spouse and showing all the hallmarks of starting in the way they intend to go? That would give you a good sign.

A few rambling thoughts. What are your thoughts?

Sarah said...

They are very good rambling thoughts, Meredith. :)

I've always leaned towards the notion that single men CAN be elders, and that the verse is saying that IF the elder is married, he should only have one wife. But yes, I agree that ideally there should be some married elders in the mix too to create that breadth of life experience - depending on the men available in the church. At CCC all of the elders were under 40 because of the demographic of the church.

I agree with your thoughts about adult children who have left home and are not Christian. But it does get kind of cloudy when there are Christian parents with adult children living at home who are allowed to have their boyfriend/girlfriend stay over or live with them in the house. I know of Christian parents who do this, but it's not something I would do. If Rory is an adult and wants his girlfriend to move in with us one day, I'd tell him he should get his own place or marry her.

Meredith said...

You can only do what the demographic allows, hey. But God is the Good Provicer and gives us what we need.

I think even with the cloudy issue of adult children living at home, as I think about it more, that how the parents lead over the household still provides a reflection. We can't be responsible for their adult choices but if we have led and loved well as parents then the adult children should still be respectful of their parents' leadership in the home. I completely agree with what you're saying.
Hope the vote for elders went well.