Do you have to submit to an unqualified elder?


Should members of the church be submissive to the elders even though the elders do not meet the qualifications? There are five elders and four of them are not qualified due to the following: widower, children not faithful, etc.


When someone says they don't want to be submissive, the implication is that they plan to be rebellious. I see the lack of qualification as a separate issue because Paul said, "submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:21) without limiting to whom we are to submit within the church. Along with that we must consider:

  • "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Romans 12:10).
  • "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself" (Philippians 2:3).

Now this does not mean that we follow people into error or that we can't take a stand against error, but just because a person isn't qualified to be an elder, it doesn't mean we can reject or ignore what he states or asks of us.

As I said, the lack of qualification for an elder is a separate issue. While I believe that a widower is no longer qualified to be an elder, that isn't the only view taken among the brethren. And an unfaithful child brings up questions of when the child became unfaithful and whether it was because of the elder or despite his efforts. The questions you have ought to be asked of the elders and the congregation. Depending on their answers you might have to decide whether you can continue to work with the congregation or not.

One concern I have is that I've seen far too many cases where one person decides he can determine whether a man is qualified or not to be an elder. That puts the authority in the individual and not in the church. In these cases, the problem isn't really whether a man is qualified or not. Somehow people can always find reasons not to accept an elder because they think the position demands absolute perfection. I'm not saying this is the case with you, but do be careful that you are mistaking your own willfulness as being the standard of truth.