Question:

Curious what you would have to comment on related to this topic of elderships and having consent of the Lord's body to serve as Elders. Flavil Yeakley in his book Church Leadership and Organization makes this assertion:

"One thing that has confused some people about the authoritarian style of leadership is that Acts 20:28 says that the Holy Spirit makes men bishops. Some have assumed from this that there is s direct delegation of divine authority from the Holy Spirit to the bishops. That has led some to believe that these overseers do not need the consent of the congregation. Such an assumption is not warranted. Elders do not receive a direct delegation of divine authority when they are ordained. The delegation of authority is indirect. A congregation that does not yet have elders has the authority it needs to do everything that God ever told His church to do. No new authority is created whan a congregation selects elders. What happens, therefore, is that the authority of the congregation as a whole is delegated to those men the congregation selects to serve as elders. The delegation of authority is from the Holy Spirit to the congregation and then from the congregation to the elders. It is absolutely essential that we understand two important principles concerning the nature of delegation. First, you cannot delegate accountability; all you can delegate is decision-making authority. Second, any authorization that is delegated can be withdrawn by those who delegated it in the first place. ... Members of of the congregation cannot stand before God in judgement and say, "Don't blame us for failing to reach the lost. We delegated our authority to the elders and they did not get the job done. They are the one's to blame". That will not do either. If elders are not doing the work God intended them to do, the congregation that put them in the eldership should remove them from the eldership. Any time a majority of the members of the congregation no longer consent for a man to serve as as one of their elders he is not longer an elder! Elders cannot serve without the consent of the congregation. To do so is to Lord it over the church and violation of Matt 20:25-28 and I Peter 5:1-4."

Do you agree that the eldership must have consent of the congregation in order to serve in this God-ordained office?


Answer:

"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble"" (I Peter 5:1-5).

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

The type of rule elders have is not one of a dictator or authoritarian. Peter's statement forbids such: "nor as being lords over those entrusted to you." The phrase "lording over" means "to domineer, to exercise complete control" [A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Reineker]. "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).

The "rule" mentioned in Hebrews 13:17 is the Greek word for a leader or guide. Elders serve the congregation by leading the members in the way they ought to go. It is not a rule of force, but where those being lead willingly follow, which is why we read so many times that the congregation is to submit.

We do this in many of our relationships. I go to my doctor for checkups and when something is wrong. He tells me what I ought to do to improve my help. Now I could choose to ignore him, but I don't because I know that has my best interests in mind. I allow him to direct certain aspects of my life, yet he is not forcing me to comply with his wishes.

Elders are in a similar position. They are there to make sure concerning the spiritual health of a congregation. They direct and guide, but they cannot force following. Members willingly follow because they know the elders have their best interests in mind. An man trying to be an elder where no one consents to follow him is unable to function as an elder.

Men don't make themselves elders. They are appointed to the task. "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you" (Titus 1:5). This is why I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 contain a list of qualifications that must be found in men before they are appointed to the duties of an elder. Since that list came to us through the apostles via the Holy Spirit, these are not some man-made rules, but guidelines established by the Holy Spirit. And the qualities set forth by the Spirit demonstrate men who are living lives of Christ-likeness taught by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25). Thus when Paul stated to the Ephesians that the Spirit made them overseers in Acts 20:28 he is stating that Spirit changed their lives when they followed the Bible such that they arrived to this point in time when they were charged with watching over the Lord's people.

Men don't become elders because of some vague claim of being appointed directly by the Spirit. Nor do other men make men elders by giving up their authority to whomever they choose. The Spirit laid out the qualities a man must strive for in his life in order to be an elder. The congregation recognizes that men in their midst have those qualities and ask them to take on the burden of leading them. Preachers then appoint them to the office and they begin serving. It is a cooperation between all who are involved.