God asks the church to be a community of
people sharing a common purpose and fellowship, continually growing in
faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Paul describes the church
as “. . . his body, the fullness of him who filleth every thing in
every way” (Ephesians 1:22).
God calls us into His body for
the purpose of establishing a saving relationship with Him and
community with one another. The Holy Spirit convicts our minds, leads
us to repentance, and plants us within the church.
of water baptism marks our entrance into the body of Christ and also
marks the baptism of the Holy Spirit experienced by a new disciple. “I
tell you the truth, unless a man is born of the water and the Spirit,
He cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The Holy Spirit is the
vital life force of the church. When you come to Christ, you are
prepared by the Holy Spirit, who has already led you to repentance, for
When a church serves the world it is an expression
of the love of Christ to the world. It is the body of Christ serving
the world’s needs and being used by the Spirit as an agency of
salvation. Thus, the church is a servant body. It was created for
service. It serves the Lord in praise, serves one another in love, and
serves the world in humility. “For we are his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we
should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
God calls every member
of the church into ministry. The church is a kingdom of priests set
free to minister for Christ. Our priesthood is to each other within the
church and to the world. An elder, like any other church officer, is a
ministering servant of God. Every Christian believer is called to
ministry, gifted by the Holy Spirit, and in baptism ordained for
ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).
It was during the middle ages
that the clergy became distinct from other members as a superior
element in the church. The biblical concept of laity includes all
believers as ministers in the body. In actuality, the church today
still has a great distance to go before effectively applying this
concept. You should view the work of an elder as a ministry to which
God calls people; it is His will operating in their lives.
Duties of the Elder
The ministry to which a person is called when he or she becomes an elder can best be described in the following ways:
1. Visitation. Nurture
develops on a horizontal level in the church, with members offering
encouragement and spiritual counsel to one another. In such a caring
community, even the pastor is nurtured through the membership of the
church. An elder can be a vital element in this kind of caring church.
The elder can actively visit members in their homes, encourage others
to do so, and assist in the training of prospective members.
2. Commitment. It
is especially important for the local elder to be committed to the
outreach of the church. The congregation needs to know that its leaders
have a clear vision of the mission of the church. It has been said that
church growth is “caught” rather than taught. When an elder
enthusiastically models a commitment of his or her time to outreach
ministry, others catch the same spirit and commit themselves to the
mission of the church. An elder should schedule time for ministering to
3. Worship leadership. The
involvement and leadership of an elder can make a tremendous difference
in the weekly worship celebration service of the church. Quality
leadership and participation can transform a dull, lifeless worship
service into meaningful celebration and praise. Skills in worship
leadership, such as the reading of scripture, offering public prayers,
planning the order of service, and in smaller churches at least,
delivering the sermon, should be developed.
4. A spiritual mentor. The
spiritual life of an elder should constantly lead members of the church
to seek a deeper spiritual experience for themselves. I Timothy,
chapter 3, describes the Christian life of an elder in these words: “.
. . above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent,
respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or
pugnacious, but gentle. . .” An elder should model, by his or her
devotional life, Christian personality and spiritual interest, a higher
ideal for each member to reach. The elder should reflect the fruits of
the Spirit in his or her relationship with others: love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
5. Church administration. An
elder should always attempt to make a positive contribution to the
organization and progress of the church. While doing this, he or she
should not try to dominate or control but rather enable others to
participate in decision-making in the church and ministry. An elder
often serves in an advisory capacity to various departments,
committees, and projects. In doing this, the elder provides unity among
the various programs of the church, communicates progress to the church
board and encourages a unified mission.
Responsibilities in the Local Church, by the Church Resources Consortium, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventist Church. Copyright © 1997, Revised 2002.