Elders as Pastors

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Puritan Board Freshman
I was brought up in a Baptistic (This may not be a real word, but will be useful for this time) environment where elders served for like 20 years. I do not have a problem with this, but what happens when elders just see themselves as elders who may teach or handle problems in the church the sentiment may be that they are just a body to be there rather than being a shepherd. I am a member in a PCA church and love it! I see the same problem can happen in my own denomination. Should pastors be training elders to be future pastors who will be qualified and gifted to be missionaries, associate pastors of current churches, and/or church planters?


Puritan Board Freshman
You grew up in a Baptistic environment where there were elders besides the pastor? Pretty rare!

Yes there was. But in reflection, I think there is a problem with elders who serve for over 10 years and yet do not have the capacities to be sent out if called.


Puritan Board Senior
You grew up in a Baptistic environment where there were elders besides the pastor? Pretty rare!

Yes there was. But in reflection, I think there is a problem with elders who serve for over 10 years and yet do not have the capacities to be sent out if called.

It sounds more like there were elders who were not scripturally qualified. Although, that said, we must not assume ever that an Elder should as a matter of course develop into a great preacher, or to be one 'worthy of double honour'. Some are, some aren't, and that is the scriptural way of things (as you know, I'm sure).


Puritanboard Commissioner
Should pastors be training elders to be future pastors who will be qualified and gifted to be missionaries, associate pastors of current churches, and/or church planters?

No. The call to be a ruling elder does not necessarily encompass a call to be an associate pastor. The PCA is a two office church (elders are elders, whether teaching or ruling) but there is a difference in the roles. The OPC, on the other hand, is a 3 office church, as I recall, and draws a greater distinction between teaching and ruling elders.
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
The problem comes when elders are, as you put it, "just a body to be there" and fail to truly shepherd the flock alongside the main pastor. Elders should act as spiritual shepherds of the congregation. However, this shepherding can take a numbers of forms. Not all are called to be primarily preachers or evangelists. In fact, it can be helpful for a church to have elders with a variety of shepherding/teaching/leading gifts... some better as counsellors, others as classroom-type teachers, others as theologians, and many who're powerful in prayer. It's also helps to have some whose interests lie in moving the church outward while others are committed to shepherding long-term within a congregation.

I actually think one weakness of the most common Baptist setup these days is that it has only one model for elder, that of a do-everything pastor.


Puritan Board Professor
All elders are pastors and shepherds.

I mean if you are a RE, how can you be one without shepherding the flock? That would be a louzy elder.

1 Ti. 5:17 - "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching."

1 Peter 5 - "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."


Puritanboard Commissioner
All elders are pastors and shepherds.

Yes, in a broad sense. But not all are "missionaries, associate pastors of current churches, and/or church planters?"

But you have pointed out an ambiguity in my initial response, which I will repair. I'll also refer to the chart in the position paper which put pastor under 'teaching elder' subset of elder, exclusive of ruling elder, rather than elders in general. PCA Position Papers: Report of the Ad-Interim Committee on Number of Offices (1979)


Puritan Board Professor
Here's the OPC's equivalent, from our Form of Government. The twist to the OPC's view of the Pastor is that there's three sub-offices for lack of a better word, Pastor, Evangelist and Teacher. Book of Church Order

As your question was about Ruling Elders, here goes:

1. Christ who has instituted government in his church has furnished some men, beside the ministers of the Word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereto. Such officers, chosen by the people from among their number, are to join with the ministers in the government of the church, and are properly called ruling elders.

2. Those who fill this office should be sound in the faith and of exemplary Christian life, men of wisdom and discretion, worthy of the esteem of the congregation as spiritual fathers.

3. Ruling elders, individually and jointly with the pastor in the session, are to lead the church in the service of Christ. They are to watch diligently over the people committed to their charge to prevent corruption of doctrine or morals. Evils which they cannot correct by private admonition they should bring to the notice of the session. They should visit the people, especially the sick, instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourning, and nourish and guard the children of the covenant. They should pray with and for the people. They should have particular concern for the doctrine and conduct of the minister of the Word and help him in his labors.

The United Reformed Churches have the following: (https://www.urcna.org/sysfiles/member/custom_public/custom.cfm?memberid=303&customid=2520)

Article 14

The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

For the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, you'd want to look at Chapter 3. As they are a two-office denomination, their practice seems to be closer to what you grew up with in terms of elders. Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America - Our Constitution.

The Reformed Church in the US: 1.3 Offices

II. The Office of Elder

ARTICLE 43. An elder is a member of the Church chosen by a congregation and ordained to his office by prayer and the laying on of hands to assist and support the pastor in the spiritual affairs of the Church.

ARTICLE 44. Elders shall take heed to themselves that they be an example unto others, shall watch faithfully over the spiritual interests of the congregation, shall maintain order in the house of God, shall aid in visiting the sick and in family visitation, and shall contribute according to their ability to the edification and consolation of all members. They shall provide the elements for the Lord's Supper and aid in their distribution, when requested by the pastor or by the Spiritual Council.

Article 22 of the Canadian and American Reformed Church Canadian and American Reformed Churches | Home | Article 22. The Office of Elder

The specific duties of the office of elder are, together with the ministers of the Word, to have supervision over Christ's church, that every member may conduct himself properly in doctrine and life according to the gospel; and faithfully to visit the members of the congregation in their homes to comfort, instruct, and admonish them with the Word of God, reproving those who behave improperly. They shall exercise Christian discipline according to the command of Christ against those who show themselves unbelieving and ungodly and refuse to repent and shall watch that the sacraments are not profaned. Being stewards of the house of God, they are further to take care that in the congregation all things are done decently and in good order, and to tend the flock of Christ which is in their charge. Finally, it is the duty of elders to assist the ministers of the Word with good counsel and advice and to supervise their doctrine and conduct.

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church: http://www.arpsynod.org/downloads/Form of Government.pdf - Chapter VIII

The Free Reformed Churches of North America: http://www.frcna.org/resources/church-order/52-frc-church-order-2010/download.html

Article 16: The Task of the Ministers of the Word
The office of the ministers of the Word is to continue in prayer and in the ministry of the Word, to administer the Sacraments, to watch over their brethren, the elders and deacons, as well as the congregation, and finally, with the elders to exercise church discipline and to see to it that everything is done decently and in good order.

Article 23: Duties of Elders
The office of the elders, besides what was stated in Article l6 is to take heed that the ministers, together with their fellow elders and deacons, faithfully discharge their office, and as much as possible visit the families of the 2congregation in order to comfort and instruct the members, and also to exhort others in respect to the Christian Religion.

The Free Church of Scotland lists the duties of its elders on pages 15-16: http://www.freechurch.org/images/uploads/kirksession.pdf


The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales:


8.1 General

8.1.1 Ruling Elders must be members in full communion with the congregation in which they are appointed. They must be men qualified in accordance with 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. They must be chosen by popular vote and submitted to Presbytery in accordance with FOG 11.3.

8.1.2 In a congregation not having two Ruling Elders, the Presbytery shall, at the request of the congregation, appoint one or more of the Elders under its jurisdiction to that congregation as Assessor or Borrowed Elders for an interim period.

8.1.3 At his ordination and/or installation a Ruling Elder must answer the following questions:

Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
Do you believe the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as accepted by this Church, to be founded on and agreeable to the Word of God, and as such, do you subscribe them as the confession of your faith?
Do you believe the Form of Government of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales to be founded on and agreeable to the Word of God, and do you promise to adhere to and support it, and to yield submission in the Lord to the Courts of this Church?
Are you resolved through divine grace firmly and constantly to adhere to the doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as accepted by this Church, and to teach the same and defend it to the utmost of your power against all error so long as you remain an Elder of this Church?
So far as you know your own heart, have you been induced to undertake the work of the Eldership in this place from love to God and from a sincere desire to promote His glory and to win souls to Christ?
Do you promise through divine grace to make full demonstration of your ministry among this congregation by: visiting the people, instructing the young, visiting the sick, aiding in the government of the Church and discharging all other duties incumbent upon you as an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ?
8.1.4 Ruling Elders are elected for life in the congregation appointing them. An Elder may not of himself demit the duties of his office; but he may ask Session to relieve him of them and his request, if sustained by satisfactory reasons and approved by Presbytery, shall be granted. The granting of such relief shall automatically extend to the duties of Assessor or Borrowed Elder and other Presbytery appointments.

8.2 Responsibilities

The Ruling Elders shall join with the Minister(s) in the government, nurture and discipline of the congregation. Upon them, equally with the Minister(s), devolves the responsibility of caring for the spiritual welfare of the people and the superintendence of all meetings and organisations within the congregation. It is the responsibility of Ruling Elders to pray with, and for the congregation and to seek fruit among them. They are to visit the people, paying special attention to the sick, and to irregular attendees, and also to instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, warn the careless and nourish and guard the children of the Church.
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Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
I would like to add that the Belgic confession makes a clear distinction of three separate offices:

Article 31: Of the Ministers, Elders, and Deacons.
We believe, that the ministers of God's Word, and the elders and deacons, ought to be chosen to their respective offices by a lawful election by the Church, with calling upon the name of the Lord, and in that order which the Word of God teacheth. Therefore every one must take heed, not to intrude himself by indecent means, but is bound to wait till it shall please God to call him; that he may have testimony of his calling, and be certain and assured that it is of the Lord. As for the ministers of God's Word, they have equally the same power and authority wheresoever they are, as they are all ministers of Christ, the only universal Bishop, and the only Head of the Church. Moreover, that this holy ordinance of God may not be violated or slighted, we say that every one ought to esteem the ministers of God's Word, and the elders of the Church, very highly for their work's sake, and be at peace with them without murmuring, strife or contention, as much as possible.
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