How FFC is Governed
Most Churches are governed in one of two basic ways: congregationally or representatively. First Family Church uses the representative form of government by entrusting the spiritual leadership of the church to godly men called Elders. We feel this is most biblical and adheres to the scriptural mandate of plurality with accountability.
What is the meaning of the term ‘elder?’
The word elder is of Old Testament Jewish origin (Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 27:1). It refers to a category of men who were set apart for leadership (Deuteronomy 1:9-18). Their function was decision making – applying wisdom to the lives of the people in resolving conflicts, giving direction, and generally overseeing the details of an orderly society (1 Samuel 11:3; 16:4; 30:26).
The Hebrews word sab is also used for elders. In the book of Ezra sab refers to the Jewish leaders in charge of rebuilding the temple after the Exile. The Greek word for elder, presbuteros, is used some seventy times in the New Testament. It has reference to mature age, much like the Jewish words for elders (Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 5:5).
In Jesus’ day, presbuteros referred to a group of ex officio spiritual leaders of Israel (Matthew 27:3; 27:41; Luke 22:52; Acts 4:8). In the 28 times presbuteros is used in the New Testament for spiritual leaders, in each usage it refers to recognized spiritual leaders in Israel who aren’t defined as priests of any kind.
How is the term ‘elder’ used in reference to the church?
The New Testament church was initially Jewish, so it would be natural that the concept of Elder rule was adopted for use in the early church. Presbuteros is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the Epistles in reference to a unique group of leaders in the church. From the earliest days of the church it was clear that a group of mature spiritual leaders were identified to have responsibility for the church. The church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul to the Elders at Jerusalem with a gift to be distributed to the needy brethren in Judea (Acts 11:29-30). That demonstrates that Elders existed in the church at that very early date, and that the believers at Antioch recognized their authority.
In Acts 14 we see that one of the key steps in establishing a new church was to identify and appoint Elders for church leadership (Acts 14:23). Nearly every church in the New Testament is specifically said to have had Elders (Acts 20:17; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
How is ‘elder’ related to bishop and pastor?
Bishops and Pastors are not distinct from Elders. The terms are different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for Bishop, listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an Elder, in Titus 1:6-9, are almost identical. In 1 Peter 5:1-2 all three are mentioned:
“Therefore, I exhort the elders (presbuteros) among you, as your fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (poimaino=pastor) the flock of God among you, exercising oversight (episkopeo=bishop) not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.”
The word for bishops, episkopos, means “overseer” or “guardian.” The New Testament Bishop, or Overseer, is specifically responsible for teaching (1 Timothy 3:2), feeding, protecting, and generally nurturing the flock (Acts 20:28). Biblically, there is no difference in the role of Elder and that of a Bishop. Episkopos emphasizes the function, and the presbuteros, emphasizes the character of the same group of leaders.
Poimen, the word for Pastor, or Shepherd, is used several times in the New Testament, but Ephesians 4:11 is the only place in the King James Version where it is translated “pastor”. Every other time it appears in the Greek text, it is translated “shepherd” in the English version.
Poimen emphasizes the pastoral role of caring and feeding. The focus of the term is on the man’s attitude. To be qualified as a pastor, a man must have a shepherd’s caring heart.
So the term of elder emphasizes who the man is. Bishop speaks of what he does. Pastor deals with how he feels about the work.
What is the role of an elder?
In the New Testament the elders were charged with the care, spiritual guidance, oversight of affairs, and the teaching and preaching in the local church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The elders are to be a source for those seeking partnership in prayer (James 5:14).
What are the qualifications of an elder?
Biblical qualifications for spiritual leaders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. They are as follows:
- Above reproach – Cannot be accused of anything sinful (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- Husband of one wife – A man who is utterly single-minded in his devotion to his wife. If he is not married, he is not to be flirtatious (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6).
- Temperate – A balanced, moderate perspective on life (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Prudent – Wise (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Respectable – Has the dignity and respect of his peers (1 Timothy 3:2).
- Hospitable – Ministers to other members of the body of Christ as well as and especially to non-Christians (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).
- Able to teach – Able to communicate the Word of God to others in a non-argumentative manner (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9).
- Not addicted to wine – To have no addiction to anything that is controlling one’s life (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Not pugnacious – Does not pick fights or physically abuse (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Gentle – Mild-mannered (1 Timothy 3:3).
- Uncontentious – Does not take the opposite point of view to stir up arguments and destroy the unity in a group (1 Timothy 3:3).
- Free from the love of money – Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7).
- Ruling his household well – A demonstration of all the other qualities first in his own house (1 Timothy 3:4).
- Having children under control with dignity – Leading in a godly way the lives of his children (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6).
- Not a new convert – One who is in the process of continual growth in disciplined Christian living (1 Timothy 3:6).
- Of good reputation with those outside the church – Having the respect of unbelievers even if they disagree with your point of view (1 Timothy 3:7).
- Not self-willed – Practicing submission (Titus 1:7).
- Not quick-tempered – Practicing patience (Titus 1:7).
- Loving what is good- Desiring to associate oneself with truth, honor and integrity (Titus 1:8).
- Just – Able to make objective decisions and be honest in relationships (Titus 1:8).
- Devout – Devoted to God (Titus 1:8).
In addition, an Elder must demonstrate skill in handling the Word of God, so that he can both “exhort in sound doctrine” and “refute those who contradict” it.
What about women as elders?
No provision is made in Scripture for women to serve as Elders (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Corinthians 14:33-40). For a more complete answer to this question, see our position paper on “Women Teaching as Elders.”
Specifically at First Family Church
- Oversee all Lighthouses personally
- Shepherd the church spiritually
- Direct the church structurally