[OUR LEADERSHIP] We are governed by an Elder Board.New Testament Movement practices “elder rule” in how we govern ourselves.The Scriptures teach that elders (or overseers or shepherds) are responsible for the health and direction of the church. Our movement is not run by any one individual, a select few staff people, or by the proxy of the whole.We are led by our Elder Board.Elders are nominated by the body and selected by the existing Elder Board.The spiritual qualifications for elder are found in I Timothy 3:1-16 andTitus 1:5-9.The church is to recognize those who are spiritually qualified for church leadership. These individuals are then to minister to the church by godly service and rule. Our staff and community group leaders perform the function of carrying out the directional decisions of the Elder Board. What is the task of an elder? Fortunately, the Scripture is not silent concerning the specified functions that characterize the nature of the office of Elder.
1) To oversee or rule well (I Thess. 5:12; I Tim. 3:1; I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17)
The first function of an elder is to direct the affairs of the church (cf. I Tim. 5:17). In a mutual-ministry approach, the shared responsibility of elder rule will minimize individual weaknesses and maximize strengths. Therefore, the proper administration of the church rests with the elders. The Board may choose to delegate their responsibilities to the church staff, but the authority for the leadership of the church lies with the overseers.
2) To shepherd the flock of God (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:2)
A major function of elders is to shepherd the church.“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care ...” (I Peter 5:2a ).The imagery of shepherding suggests tender care, protection and feeding. These principles lie at the heart of the shepherd-minister who would serve as an elder. They form a Biblical framework for effective ministry.
3) To be an example (I Pet. 5:3-5; Heb. 13:7)
In emphasizing this point, the writer of Hebrews noted the function in this way: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith"(Heb. 13:7). Elders cannot lead further into spiritual things than they have personally gone. Each elder within God’s church must have the attitude of the Apostle Paul. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ"(I Cor. 11:1).
4) To guard right doctrine (I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9)
A critical ingredient to effective overseeing is the elder’s command of Scripture. He is to be one who is"holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict"(Titus 1:9).Doctrinal purity is a prerequisite to spiritual health and vitality. Elders are charged with the task of maintaining the church on solid, biblical ground.
5) To confront and initiate discipline when necessary (Matt. 18:15-20; Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; see also I Thess. 5:12)
If the tasks of careful oversight and doctrinal purity are taken seriously, then a proper administration of church discipline will naturally follow. Spiritual discipline is never easy but it is commanded. The elders must assume their responsibility for the care of the church. No wonder, then, that the local body of believers is encouraged in the following way: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
6) To minister to the sick (or weak) and needy
(James 5:14-15; I Tim. 5:3-16; compare also God’s concern for the needy in Ps. 12:5; 69:33...; see also “hospitable” in I Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:8)
A part of the elders’ responsibility is to shepherd those in need. While there is debate as to whether the “sick” of James 5 are physically sick or spiritually weak (perhaps both), one definite principle is sure. The elders are to evidence their concern for those who are in need by faithful prayer. For certain, an elder’s ministry reaches out to those in need.
7) To appoint and commission leadership (I Tim. 5:22; I Tim. 4:14; compare with Eph. 4:11-12ff)
As elders oversee and shepherd the church, they will, of necessity, be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Not only do elders care for the administrative organization of the church, but they are responsible for the raising up of new leadership as well. Such an ongoing task requires the utmost spiritual discernment and care.
We are directed by our staff. NEW TESTAMENT MOVEMENT has embraced the concept of team staffing. We use teams to teach, lead worship, do student ministry, children’s ministry and just about any other ministry we have engaged. The staff team, under the leadership of the Elder Board, exists to serve the greater team of our lay leaders. The staff team is here to equip and enable them to do ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). We want to produce and release spiritual leaders. The staff team concept also keeps the movement from becoming a personality-driven movement. This is Christ’s church and we are here to serve him. We often say around the movement, “we want our name nowhere and our influence everywhere.” This is not only true of our movement, but also of our staff. Our staff ministers are to be humble servants.