The Holy Scriptures present to us, within the context of the New Testament Church, two specific offices. Of those two offices, one is the office of Deacon, and the other is the office of Elder. The office of Elder is complicated in the sense that the New Testament writers utilize a few different words.
The highest office in the local church, as we see in Scripture, is the office of Elder. In relation to this office, the reader will find the Greek word(s) translated into the English words: elder, pastor, bishop/overseer, and shepherd. The remaining words of this particular statement will seek to flesh out the usage of those terms at Restoration Church.
By no means, do the leaders of Restoration Church believe that we have everything figured out. The reality is that there are good churches and good leaders who disagree often on numerous subjects; this one included. However, we believe that we have the responsibility to lead by conviction in the way the Lord leads us.
With this said, our belief is that the terms elder, pastor, bishop/overseer, and shepherd are all used interchangeably within the Scriptures to describe the same office. However, we want to give some more clarity to this. We see two categories with these words. One category is that of title (noun) with the words elder and bishop/overseer. The second category is that of function (verb) with the words pastor and shepherd.
Therefore, at Restoration Church, we will refer to a team of Elders who have the responsibility to pastor and shepherd the flock (people) that the Lord has entrusted to us. Each elder will be held to the same character qualifications that are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-11. While we do not believe that we should add to these biblical qualifications, we do find it wise to consider other markers (i.e., age, availability, disciple-making, previous training/education, etc.).
There are occasions where we would use “pastor” as a title in reference to a staff position (i.e., Lead Pastor). However, this is to communicate function responsibility but does not equate to an increase of authority. In relation to the Lead Pastor position, he serves as a member of the Elder Team and has the responsibility to lead in certain settings but does NOT carry extra authority when making decisions.
In understanding this, maybe it would be helpful to hear from one of our Elders, Brad Mortensen. Brad joined the Elder team in December and has been a great asset to our team. We asked him a few questions to get to know him a little bit better.
How do you understand the role of Elder in the church?
The status of Elder is one that is called by God, and not sought after by man. This makes that status of great importance.
Elders are to protect the church, God’s people, from outsiders who would do harm to the church, whether intentional or unintentional. False teachers, slanderers, antagonists etc. will come after God, and that means His people are under the same attack. An elder’s role is to protect God’s people from these things. Being in tune with God’s plan and with the Holy Spirit through scriptural immersion, prayer and quiet time, and being in a community of fellow believers allows an elder the best shot to succeed at protecting God’s people.
An elder is called to certain functions that may vary depending on the specific body, the church. Serving the church is serving God. Especially within a “baby church” an elder may serve by “filling in the cracks.” An elder may set up chairs, wire sound systems, fill communion cups, run sound boards, greet incoming congregants, form relationships with people, and much more.
An elder leads. As a good parent leads and teaches a child, so an elder does for God’s people. This may look like teaching and preaching. The role of teaching may look like teaching from the pulpit, preaching, leading small groups in living rooms, or mentoring/discipling a friend one on one. Leading occurs through example. Living an upright lifestyle leads by example. Biblical qualifications include statutes for an elder to live in the world for God.
Why do you feel called to the role of Elder?
I feel called to be an elder from God. It’s NOT a case of being special or different. It comes from responsibility. As I continued to meet and got to know the people of Restoration, and continued to see the inner workings of the week-to-week functions of the church, I kept feeling as though I could do more for the people and the church. As I prayed and contemplated over this notion, I felt that it was God-inspired, and felt a responsibility to God’s people. The hard moments where I didn’t necessarily want to be an elder but felt called at the same time, those were some of the moments I knew I had to be obedient.
What are your responsibilities as an Elder?
I get the honor to meet with the teaching team to pour through the scripture and form the construct of how we’ll be bringing the word to God’s people from the pulpit. I share my thoughts as well as listening to other insights, and how the Holy Spirit has been influencing us to bring the word to the people. I also get the opportunity to meet with our deacons for an intentional time of prayer over God’s people, people in the community, and people we’ve yet to meet. We pray over our hard situations and give praise for answers to prayers. We pray for opportunities to spread God’s word to his people. The elder team also meets each week to discuss the roles previously mentioned, and how it applies to us specifically within Restoration Church and how to implement it.
What was the process of becoming an Elder?
Progressing through the eldership pipeline, we had prolonged conversations based around scripture and a few books. A questionnaire addressing such items as theology and views of the church was given and discussed with Eric and the elder team. We talked about the role of an elder in general, but also how my calling intertwines with that. We worked through responsibilities and characteristics that would serve Restoration Church but may not necessarily be explicitly included in scripture. (Qualifications from scripture were not added to but other functional aspects were discussed). Following these processes, a three-week period of public examination occurred which invited people to get to know me and ask me about the process of being an elder.
Describe your quiet time with the Lord.
I spend a lot of my quiet time with worship music playing. I’m an outgoing person who talks…a lot, and taking in worship music allows an opportunity for me to be quiet and hear from the Lord. I don’t sit and read well. But when I do, I love pursuing how the Bible is interconnected with itself, Old Testament to New Testament. I use footnotes to tell how authors in the New Testament are quoting or referencing Old Testament passages, while examining the context of the time and how they were given and received by God’s people.
What does spiritual warfare look like in your life and how do you battle against it?
While spiritual warfare is very real, I think it presents itself in different ways to different people. To me I feel attacked when I allow myself to take on too much of too many things. I like getting things done efficiently. Too many times, I see my way being the most efficient and because of this I do things by myself.
Spiritual warfare runs deeper than the temptation of actions or behavior. Spiritual warfare is the replacement of God’s influence by that of the devil. Fighting warfare starts with its identification from the action or behavior change. It ends with getting to the root of what’s causing those changes from your heart’s perspective.
In what ways do you care for the people in your congregation?
I pray for them. I engage in creating community with them. At times, I set up on Sunday’s when I’m not scheduled. When I’m in the word, I try and keep perspective of how I can use that time to bring others closer to God, as well as myself.