Each year our community comes together to appoint new elders that will serve BridgeWay. Elders are men who safeguard the vision and people in a particular local church. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the biblical teachings that help us understand what qualifies one to serve in this very important role.
As an initial observation, the New Testament has a lot to say about elders. In fact, the sheer number of texts is an indication of the weightiness of the responsibility of shepherding God’s people. Here are some of the key texts: Acts 14:23, Acts 20:28-32, Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-3. We will look at some of these passages in more detail over the next few weeks.
To begin, let’s start by deepening our understanding of what an elder is. The New Testament uses three different Greek words for an elder (or shepherd). The Greek words and their translations in different versions of the Bible are (1) presbuteros = elder or presbyter, (2) episkopos = bishop or overseer, and (3) poimen = shepherd or pastor. As these names imply, the job of an elder is to provide spiritual care, structure, and accountability to local churches.
In a modern church context, there can be some confusion about the difference between an elder (which can also be called an overseer, shepherd, or pastor) and someone that works at a church as their vocation (often called pastors or ministers).
At BridgeWay, we generally refer to the first category of leaders as elders. Their job is to safeguard the vision and overall health of our church. Our elders gather at least monthly to speak into important theological issues, ensure financial oversight, and most importantly, look after the spiritual wellbeing of our people. At BridgeWay, each of our Connect Groups has a designated elder that provides support and care to those in the group.
Since the job of being an elder requires a lot of time and commitment, we ask elders to serve for three-year terms. After a mandatory one-year sabbatical, an elder is eligible to serve again if they are nominated and choose to do so.
Under the leadership of the elders, we have a ministerial staff team (sometimes called pastors) which I have the honor of leading. The job of these vocational ministers is to lead specific areas of the church that require time and additional expertise.
We are incredibly blessed to have such an incredible group of elders at BridgeWay! I ask that as we move into this season of nominating new elders to serve that you pray for this process. The Church needs strong and courageous leadership now more than ever!
Click here to see our current elders.