The word “elder” is the same in working definition as “bishop.” Oversight is the job description. Expertise and experience are the qualities of the person given oversight.
The eldering leader may have another identifying ministry, leadership role, and kingdom function, but he called as one of the five kingdom leadership dynamics that Paul says Jesus bestowed upon the kingdom.
- The job description of all elders and the job description the fivefold are the same. The tasking appointed and the outcomes expected and anticipated are not different — no “other than” is available. If an elder does not do what the fivefold do, he has nothing to do at all. Simon Peter says, “To the elders among you, I exhort. I am an elder as well.” (1 Peter 5:1)
- No other leadership roles have the capacity to produce what these five aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus produce. There is no “other than” available. When the overlays of what an elder does and is rest upon a display of any of the kingdom leadership dynamics are and do, they match in the assignment, leadership role, and kingdom authority. Paul is clear that elders
proistemithe Ecclesia, that they stand above to have oversight, direct, and leadership because they have a track record and are creating a broader track record. Some of them strain to preach and teach. (1 Timothy 5:17)
- An elder has expertise and experience. The word certainly means “someone older” in its primary definition. When applied to leadership, it speaks of these two qualifiers. An elder is not a novice. An elder has experiences gained walking with an eldering leader. An elder has expertise developed by applying his disposition, calling, gift capacities, and the Providential pathway that leads to his positioning. These descriptors exactly describe the calling and preparation of the fivefold. We learn this idea form the definition of the word and
proistemiby which they function.
- Holy Spirit ordains, sets, and authorizes elders just as He does the five aspects of Jesus’ leadership and ministry. We find no “other than” for what elders are and do than what these kingdom leaders are and do. Paul and Barnabas “stretched out the hand to validate the selection of elders” for every Ecclesia.” (See Acts 14:23.) These elders would continue to answer to Paul. Paul would send his representatives for reports and to set order. We see the same process for setting into order and function that was applied to Paul and Barnabas. Existing leaders validate them. Since Paul was the existing leaders certifying new leaders, he stretched his hand to validate. Holy Spirit chooses them. Paul left Titus to represent him in this process of authorizing elders in regional Ecclesiae to set this apostolic order. That order was not functional when Paul departed, so Titus was capable of setting it in order. (See Titus 1:5.)
- When Paul gathers the Ephesian elders, he puts upon their shoulders a fuller expression of what they are already doing, and what they must do as kingdom leaders in his absence – he is going to die. Paul has continued in leadership with them both in Ephesus and from a distance. He is an apostle. Among the elders, to do what he did, some apostles operate in the blueprinting capacities of an apostolic leader. By this, I mean that Paul’s presuppositions in the statements recorded by Luke point back to the leadership mix of the fivefold. What is unique about Paul’s discussion with them is the revelation that Paul’s leadership is now over because he is going to die.
- When Paul applies the metaphor of sheep, shepherd, and wolf to his charge to these elders, he assumes they are all fivefold leaders in the same way he is a fivefold leader. Paul is a fivefold leader. The elders are fivefold leaders. “I am not going to be involved anymore, and as this becomes increasing apparent, wolves are going to try to isolate sheep off to themselves and split the kingdom into many parts under many leaders instead of you. Stop them! I have stopped them. I did that. Now, you must do that.” Keep in mind that Paul is not turning Ecclesiae over to elders. He is setting an apostolic order. We see the same thing in Simon and John, in their discourse with elders leaders, sending their representatives to maintain and mature that order in the formative years. Apostles do not plant churches and
run off. Territorial apostles maintain oversight with regional apostles.
- Each instance in which elders become essential in the kingdom’s regional Ecclesiae contains an assumption about what kind of leader would be to fit the criteria and leadership role to produce the outcome that Paul describes as “kingdom normal” in Ephesians 4. The fact that we have Paul’s address to the elder of Ephesus and Paul’ job description analysis in the letter that bears their name may point to this presupposition. These are the only leaders in the kingdom. Deacons do not lead. They serve. Elders make decisions and solve problems. (Acts 6 is not about deacons.)
- The fivefold have oversight. In each particular way fivefold leaders function, oversight is the descriptor of their authorization, operation, and measure of success. Each leader has a role with responsibilities that assumes oversight function. The oversight role of each one of the five is different, and they are not equal in capacity or authorization.
- Elders are not equal in authorization, tasking, function, or relational dynamics. They cannot be equal in authorization because the job description is uniquely varied, presenting apostles and prophets as foundational, and teacher with them more governmental by role and relationships that evangels and shepherds. The equalization of elders in authority is a myth. The unification of elders in function requires the same clarification of leadership protocol as the fivefold.
- The five aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus have specific to their leadership the assignment and alignment of individual kingdom citizens, maturing them personally while maturing them in function collectively to produce the stature of Jesus. They are charged to allow no immaturity in the Ecclesia, so the role they have in oversight is personal preparation and positioning and overall or “kingdom regional” integrity within the regional Ecclesia. Elders are regional in function as well as the fivefold. Apostles and prophets may be territorial and national because they are foundational, and this points back to how elders with oversight become an operating system that blending regional with national and national with international.
The Reformation protest continues today in the design of modern church-anity. The protestants expressed the fear of having a pope as a fear of having apostles at all. That logic is fundamentally flawed and unbiblical, a manmade course of action to prevent something from happening. Having a lousy leader becomes a justification for having no leader.
Apostles are not popes. We all know that, and no one can function as a pope universally even if he tried. We all that, and no one can operate as a pope regionally if we had the regional Ecclesia in proper order and function. The pope is a Saul-like leader the people want so they can be like the other pagans.
But, fear of a pope cannot justify rebellion against the Bible and the King of the kingdom. Enough!
I have personally experience the challenge of leaders assuming that elders are equal in authority when the idea is both unbiblical in its extra-biblical assumptions and unworkable when the elders fulfill the functions of kingdom leaders. No shepherd does what an apostle does. No evangel does what a prophet does. Apply any of these leadership dynamics between, among, and upon one another, and the end product always remains the same. They are different in role and responsibilities, so they are different in authority and scope of leadership.
No apostle can be apostolic if he ignores his assignment and metron of kanon. (See 2 Corinthians 10.) That metron and kanon of an apostle even though the apostle is an elder too. They do not answer equally to other eldering leaders, but they do operate in tandem with prophets. They govern along with prophets and teachers while implementing through the leadership roles of shepherds and evangels. Asking a shepherd to make regional or territorial decisions reveals that 1) the person is not a shepherd, or 2) the person asking them to lead at this level does not know what a shepherd does.
Finally, the fact that the kingdom culture and Ecclesia are not functioning regionally is the main reason all this seems so foreign to moderns. Once you contextualize the elders regionally, in the Ecclesiae, you see the roles in a different light from subcultural “local church-anity.”