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Appointing Elders

April 30, 2023

Appointing Elders

Passage: Titus 1:5-11, 1 Timothy 3:1-6
Service Type:


TITUS 1:5-2:1


Well good morning, and welcome to River City. Today is a special day for us at River City. If you’re here for the first time today, we’ve been going verse by verse chapter by chapter through the book of Luke, but today we’re stepping out of that for one Sunday and doing something unique today that will be familiar to some of you  and a little out of the box for others of you. 


Today we are appointing Nate King and Steve Hall as official elders/pastors here at River City.  I know that in the 150+ people who are here today, we’ve not all come from churches that practice this kind of leadership, so I want to take a walk through what biblical eldership looks like, just so we can have a fairly united vision around how we believe God has established leadership in the church. 


But here are the questions I’m going to address today: 


  1. What is an elder?
  2. Who can be an elder? 
  3. What does an elder do? 
  4. Why do we need more than one pastor? 




First of all, what is an elder? 


  1. Old Testament Elders: were generally the oldest people in the community, and looked to as the "wise men" of the people, and as a result were sought out for guidance in important decisions, helping to judge lawsuits, and oversee legal transactions like selling property.


  1. New Testament Elders: A man God has qualified by his Holy Spirit, and called to lead the local church. 
    1. Titus 1:4-16 - [4] To Titus, my true son in our common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. 
    2. I don’t have time to go into all of the history here, but the Apostle Paul is writing to a man he discipled named Titus, who was assigned to bring order to the network of house churches on an island in the Mediterranean Sea called Crete. And the starting point for bringing order was for Titus to find, train, and appoint qualified men to lead these churches. 


So, my approach to this message today is trying to answer the questions that Titus could have had as he looked to appoint elders.  

.   Who can be an elder?   .


Before he can be a leader in the church, v6… [6] An elder must be blameless, or maybe your translation says “above reproach”. It doesn’t mean that an elder is perfect or sinless, but it means there is nothing about their lives that would cause people to think badly of the church, the gospel, or of the Lord himself. 


An elder must be…the husband of one wife, This is where we learn that being an elder is a role that God intends to be men only. It’s the only position in the entire church with such a limitation. That in no way implies that men are generally better qualified than women to be an elder, in fact, it’s sometimes the opposite. There are several women I’ve known throughout the years, even here in this room, who would make fantastic elders if the role was based on their wisdom, their skills, their heart for the church, their doctrinal knowledge and ability to lead. 

But Paul instructed Titus, and Timothy to look for men, and these men must be sexually self-controlled whether or not he is married, and be devoted solely to his wife if he is. The way the culture was on the island of Crete, this would have narrowed things down quite a bit. So it was important to Paul that the leaders of the church were men who didn’t ride the tide of cultural sexuality.  


An elder also must have … faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. This means, an elder is the leader of a well-ordered household. If he has children, they are submissive. They are not expected to be perfect, of course, but they are well-disciplined so they don’t blatantly and regularly disrespect or refuse to obey their parents.


1 Timothy 3, one of the other scriptures that outlines qualifications for elders, says he must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity.  With all dignity… that means when he is angry, his wife and kids aren’t afraid of him. He does not use his authority to manipulate certain behaviors or instill fear, but uses authority gently and graciously. He is a loving and responsible spiritual leader in the home (Taylor). 


If you put together all of the scriptures that speak about elder qualifications, and narrow it down to the top 3… managing his household well is at the top of the list, and is the most important measurement for whether or not a man is qualified for the office of church elder.


He might be able to argue doctrine with the best of them, preach like the building is on fire, he might be able to organize and grow the church with unbelievable skill, administration and creativity, he might be able to cast a vision better than anyone – but if his wife or children would describe him as domineering, distant, or demanding, then Titus should just move on to the next guy on the list.


Verse 7 adds a few more qualifications for holding the office: [7] As an overseer of God's household, he must be blameless: not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 


So Titus would be looking for guys who can handle success – they don’t get cocky and arrogant right away, and guys who can handle failures and things not going their way without blowing a gasket every time something goes wrong.  


When it comes to his appetites, whether it’s alcohol or money or power, he is self-controlled and can walk away from any of it. He’s free to have a drink, but can just as easily pass one up; he’s not a bully who forces his way in meetings or conversations… he can be outvoted and be okay with it; he doesn’t need power or things going his way to make him feel significant… he can celebrate the victories of others, even when those victories are in his lane. 


They are [8] … hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 1 Timothy 3 adds a few things to that list: he should have a good reputation with non-Christians - this goes back to being above reproach. Nothing about their lives would make a non-Christian refuse Jesus, he should have some years of following Jesus under his belt as opposed to recently coming to faith in Christ, he should be able to teach, and he should want to be an elder or at least be willing. 


So that’s who Titus is to start looking for in the Cretian church.  


.   What does an elder do?   .


There are a couple things the New Testament would mentions: 

  1. V7 says he oversees the family of God
    1. He assumes responsibility for what happens under his watch. 
    2. The fact that Paul is instructing Timothy and Titus to appoint elders to oversee the church means an elder helps bring order to the local gathering by using his gifts to build up the body of Christ. There are a whole host of spiritual gifts that can be helpful in this role: Administration, Service, Hospitality, Leadership, Word of Knowledge, Wisdom, Prophecy, Mercy, even though you don’t have to be an elder to have any of those gifts.
    3. An elder stewards the resources, the gifts, the vision, the mission of the church, and Hebrews 13:17 says they will give an account to God for how they took care of their local church.
  2. V9 says a primary role of an elder is teaching
    1. He must [9] [hold] to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. So not only does he have to have a good grasp of biblical doctrine and the faithful message of the gospel, he must be able to communicate it well on two sides of the same coin:
      1. Encouraging believers with sound teaching, or simply explaining scripture. This may work itself out in the pulpit like it does for me, or it might show up in other places, like counseling situations, or KidCity, or some other setting. But the point is – he knows the gospel well enough that he can bring encouragement and hope and healing through his teaching. The Bible is not a weapon, or a tool of manipulation… It is a tool of grace and encouragement. 
      2. And on the other side of the coin, he should be theologically adept enough that he can spot something that just doesn't quite sound right, and be able to lovingly and patiently explain from scripture why that belief is wrong and harmful to the rest of the church. This doesn’t mean he has to have a doctorate in theology. He may have to say… hang on, something about that doesn’t seem right… I’m going to have to think about that one for a minute – and then go home and do the research. But part of an elder’s job is to be on guard against anything that would undermine the truth of the gospel. 
    2. [2:15] … encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


  1. That brings us to the next point. Elders lead with authority. Back to Hebrews 13:17, which instructs the church to obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
    1. This authority isn’t meant to look like “I’m the boss and you all need to fall in line.” If you flip through the rest of Titus and Timothy, you’ll see the words “command”, “proclaim”, “insist”, “rebuke sharply.” The opposite of an elder leading with authority would be a wishy-washy, never take a stance or make a hard call, defer to someone else for major issues or decisions, never pick a direction, just sort of exist. To lead w/ authority is to call sin what it is, to call out lies and false gospels, and command obedience to the word of God, to know God’s vision for the church and lead toward that.
    2. But I don’t want to go further without acknowledging that probably every one of us can point to a church we used to attend, or one we’ve read about, where authority was abused in a church setting. Maybe a pastor or leader used their authority to bully you into giving more money, showing up more, serving more, dressing differently. Maybe they used their authority to belittle you or shame you or control you. If you have had some painful wounds from something like that, and would like some healing in those areas, we would love to pray for you after the gathering here today, because 


  1. praying for people is also one of the roles of an elder. The early church in Acts set the example here, where the elders appointed other people in the church who were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom to take care of the logistics of gathering so that they could focus on prayer and the word. 
    1. Obviously the whole church is expected to pray, not just the leaders. But elders make prayer a priority for themselves and the church.  
    2. James 5:14 is one of those hidden verses in scripture that gets overlooked a lot, especially here in our culture. That verse says if anyone of you is sick, he should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and in the next verse, James writes that the prayer of faith will save the sick person and the Lord will raise him up and forgive his sins. I know we live in a day of over-the-counter medicine, and God can and does and will certainly use those things to bring healing. But I don’t think he intended this verse to only mean “call your elders if there is no medication nearby.” This verse gives me confidence that God still would like to heal people through prayer, as well. So, I’ve got some oil along today… If you are sick and are inspired to faith because of that verse, come find one of us afterwards.
  2. Let me finish up here with this…1 Peter 5 begins like this: “I exhort the elders among you…Shepherd (pastor) God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”
    1. Lead people for the right reasons. Not doing it for the money or the power, but to lead “as God would have you,” with willingness and a desire to do it well.
    2. And, Set an example to the flock. Obey the word yourself! Do what you want everyone else to do. 


So, an elder is a qualified man who leads the church like a shepherd leading the flock of sheep under his care. 


And that leads to our last question: 


.   Why do we need more than one pastor?   .


First of all, the best reason is that scripture teaches church leadership is led by elders (Plural) and not by a single lead pastor. The books of Acts, Ephesians, Philippians, Timothy, and Peter all speak about multiple overseers and/or elders. Since these mentions are plural, we refer to this kind of church leadership as a plurality. 


Here are a few reasons why this could be a good idea: 

    1. Diversity - Plurality means it’s not only the loudest or most gifted communicators who are called to be leaders. Plurality invites even quiet or timid leaders to carry the weight of leadership. 
    2. Acknowledges limitations. 1 Cor 12:21 says one part of the body can’t get it all done. The eye can’t help us walk. The elbow can’t sing or taste food. In the same way, no one person has all the gifts God has given to lead the church. I ended up on 6 months of anxiety medication 4 years ago when I thought I had to be all things to all people. 
    3. Forces unity - Colossians 3:14 says to put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. God has called the entire church to loving unity in the faith, being patient with each other, the strong helping the weak, considering others more important than yourselves… and then in God’s wisdom (and his sense of humor), he appoints multiple leaders with different gifts, personalities, and preferences, and says “show ‘em how it’s done.” If it doesn’t happen at the elder level, it will not happen at the church level. That’s part of setting an example for the flock.
    4. Protection - 1 Timothy 4:16 tells leaders to “pay close attention to your life and your teaching.” 
      1. Nate and Steve and I are reading a book together that reminds us that even in leadership, we are still sheep under the great shepherd. While the word “pastor” means “to shepherd” in scripture, it does not make me the shepherd. Elders shepherd, but they are still sheep who need to be shepherded themselves. 
  • Recognizing these men as elders today appoints them as my official accountability. It’s one of the ways I pay close attention to my life and my teaching. I will still be the lead pastor at River City, I’m still the only pastor on salary, but I will be under Nate and Steve’s authority, and the authority of others we will appoint in the future. They can call me out if my home life or leadership or teaching is out of whack. They can force me to take a break, ask hard questions of me, and they have the power to fire me if I stop preaching a gospel of grace. So, a plurality is for your protection.
  • Care - These men will now also be your pastors who care for you, who can pray for you and anoint you for healing, check on how you’re doing, and maintain relationships with you. 


That said, pluralities aren’t easy. There is one HUGE, glowing challenge with pluralities. It also happens to be the same huge glowing challenge that a solo leader would have too, but it shows up even more in a plurality, and that is that the seats are all occupied by humans.  Every pastor on the planet faces the same challenge that the early priests faced in the temple – the whole time they were helping other people deal with their sin, the priests had their own sins to deal with. Being a pastor and being a priest are very, very different roles, but they are the same in that they both have their own sin to take to the cross before they can command repentance of sin from others. 


Jesus is the only one who can make the claim: John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” 


The death Jesus is about to face in Luke 23 is 100% because the good and sinless shepherd is laying down his life for the sheep. On purpose. He’s the good shepherd who faces the wolves head on, and lays down his life for the sheep, dying not just for the sins of the people who attend church, but the sins of the people who lead them. He’s the true high priest, who does not have his own sins to worry about. He’s the Great Shepherd, the true pastor of the church. 


But the church wouldn’t be the church if Jesus stayed dead, even if he did die for our sins. God the Father raised Jesus back to life on that third day, then received him again into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to breathe life and power and holiness and gifts into all the people of the church, not just pastors, so that everyone is strengthened and equipped and built up. And since any large group of people needs to have some organization, God calls and qualifies certain men to be elders of those gatherings… not to try to be the shepherd, but to feed the sheep, protect the sheep, and lead the sheep, and follow Christ’s example of laying down their lives for the sheep. 


I’ll close with this before I have the guys come forward. After all of the study you can do on what makes a biblical elder, you also won’t find a disclaimer at the front or the end of this list that says only men who want to be elders need to be self-controlled, hospitable, or able to explain the gospel, and so if you have no interest in leading a church, you get a pass. Our entire Men’s Ministry is built on the idea that we want to put every man at River City in a position where they can aspire to and grow in these qualifications. That doesn’t mean every man in the church will become an elder some day. Some of you will be called to pastor this church, or a church plant, or you’ll move and join another gathering and be an elder there. Others of you are called to run businesses, work in government, manage farms, work in hospitals or on construction sites, and those are equally as important in God’s eyes. 


Notice nowhere in the qualifications does it say “mesmerizing communicator, brilliantly creative, prophetically visionary, bold as a lion, or entrepreneurial.” When we think about church leaders, we tend to look at skill sets and getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. Titus might have had the temptation to look for a solid skill set when he was appointing elders, but 1 Samuel shows us God looks at a man's character, and then calls him to a position he doesn’t always have the skills for, so that it deepens his dependance on the God who raises the dead.


So, with that in mind, I’d love for Nate and Steve and their wives to come up here at this time. None of these are new faces around River City, in fact, one of my favorite comments that some of you gave to Nate and Steve over the past month is that you assumed they were already elders. And that is probably a result of my terrible communication skills, but at the same time, it is an incredibly high compliment to both of them, because it means both of these men have already been acting like elders. They’ve already been caring for you. They’ve already done some teaching. They’ve already served the body well with their gifts.


Appointing them as elders is not a holy sacrament or ceremony. There are no special words I have to say to make this stick or vows they have to take. Appointing them as elders doesn’t give them a special kind of grace or empowerment that you should now think more highly of them than you did before, or that gives them a special seat in the kingdom of heaven. When we put our hands on them here in a minute, we are blessing them and agreeing together that the pastoral care of River City Church now extends beyond myself to these men, and that you commit to pray for them, to submit to their care and leadership when necessary, and to honor them with the same honor you’ve shown to me. 


Their wives are here today because they are fully supportive of their husbands taking up this calling. They filled out an extensive form recently that asked some hard questions about how their husband leads the home, how he responds when things don’t go well, how he cares for them… and this calling on their husbands will affect their lives as well. 

So, guys, I’d love for you to share just for a few quick minutes, how God has led you to this point where you are confident he has called you to this; and maybe something God has put on your heart for this moment. 


zAs I invited you to ask them questions over the past several weeks, some of you asked “how do their wives feel about this?” And I think it’s important that you know, that while the official office of pastor is to be filled by men only, if either Janene or Kiff was not in favor of these men becoming pastors, that would be a deal breaker. Their wives and mine filled out a fairly extensive report two weeks ago that put the power in their hands as to whether or not they believe their husband is qualified, especially in those verses about leadership in the home. 


  • So, Nate and Steve’s wives have given their approval. 
  • You all as the congregation had the opportunity over the past month to present evidence that would disqualify them, and there was none presented. 
  • I believe that these men meet the qualifications to be an elder


So here’s the question for you guys: 


Are you now willing to take personal responsibility in the life of this congregation as elders to oversee the ministry and resources of the church, and to devote yourselves to prayer, the ministry of the Word, and the shepherding of God’s flock, relying upon the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit, in such a way that River City Church and the entire Church of Jesus Christ will be blessed? 


I am, with the help of God.


Here’s the question for the rest of us:


Do you, River City Church, acknowledge and publicly receive Steve Hall and Nate King as elders as a gift of God to this church to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ? If so, say we do. 




At this time, I would love to have you guys and your wives stand here in front and invite you as a church to gather around them, put your hands on them, and let’s pray together asking God to fill them and anoint them and strengthen them. 


Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth – you are a God of creativity and order, and in your eternal wisdom, you have chosen to allow your gathered church, the people you have set aside for your own possession, to be led and overseen and shepherded by imperfect men. Lord this morning, we commission and appoint Nate and Steve to the work of pastoring this particular expression of the body of Christ. We ask for you to fill them with your Holy Spirit in a way that brings clarity and power and wisdom to their daily lives, in the name of Jesus. We pray for them to know your presence in an intimate way. 


We know that you have been working in their lives, qualifying them for this moment for many years, and we entrust ourselves to the work that you have started in them. Lord Jesus, River City is your church made up of your people that you bought with the price of your life. I pray that Nate and Steve would serve with humility and grace and wisdom, leading us by following you. 

24 Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. 



Justin Taylor, What Are The Requirements To Be An Elder?  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/what-are-the-requirements-to-be-an-elder/ (June 21, 2019)