Who Selects Leaders in the Church? #2

do leaders select leaders or do leaders appoint leaders who have been selected by the group?

When it’s time to select elders or deacons, who makes the selection? Selecting and ordaining are two different actions. Who selects? Who ordains? Please read my previous post for the beginning of this discussion: Who Selects Leaders in the Church? #1.

The principle of the group selecting leaders, not leaders selecting leaders, isn't a modern idea. Click To Tweet

It’s found in Deuteronomy 1. The apostles and church in Acts 6 practiced it. Notice these quotes from J. W. McGarvey in his book, The Eldership, printed in 1870:

We have only one example on record, in which we are distinctly told what part was taken by the congregation, and what by the ordaining officers. This is the case of the seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem. The Apostles called together “the multitude of the disciples,” and said, “Look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Acts vi: 2, 3. The selection, then, was made by the multitude, and the appointment by the apostles. The distinction made between these two terms should not be overlooked. The term appoint is sometimes understood as including the selection, but in the style of the apostles it means merely induction into office, and is distinguished from the selection which precedes it.

Now, in the case of the Elders in the churches of Lycaonia and Pisidia, it is said that Paul and Barnabas “ordained them”; or, to express it more accurately, “appointed them.” Acts xiv: 23. The word here rendered appoint (cheirotoneo) is not the one so rendered in Acts vi: 3; but in such a connection its current meaning is about the same. The part performed by the apostles in this case being the same as in the case of the deacons, it is fair to presume that the part performed by the people was also the same, and that Luke fails to mention it because, having previously stated the process of selecting one class of church officers, he could presume that his readers would understand that the same process was observed in the present instance. Indeed, the nature of the case is such that we would of necessity so understand it, unless expressly informed that the process was different (pages 71, 72).

I’ve seen this process implemented several times. It’s encouraging to see a congregation taught and trusted to understand the Bible and apply the principles in it with wisdom given from God to make wise selections according to teaching and examples in scripture. Here are procedures some congregations have used in this process: Elder Selection Procedures.

Some principles in this process:

  • Men have to have several nominations to be considered. In the example, the number is ten. This prevents many frivolous or unfounded suggestions.
  • There are questions for the ones considered and being considered to ponder to evaluate themselves. The answers will be available for members of the congregation to see and question if they have concerns.
  • The wife also provides information and evaluation of her husband. I suggest an interview of the wife without her husband. Some women don’t want to be the wife of an elder. If they don’t get to talk it out before he’s appointed they may act it out after he’s appointed. It’s better to learn this before an unwilling wife’s husband is appointed as an elder.
  • When someone has a question or objection to a nominee, the concern is addressed first to the person—not the selection committee. Some churches have “legalized gossip” for two weeks during the appointment process: “If anyone has a scriptural objection, write it, sign your name, and hand it to one of the elders. We will not reveal the person who had the objection.” That isn’t Biblical (Matthew 18:15). Pagans have better rules than that. Festus said in Acts 25:16:

“To them I answered, ‘It is not the custom of the Romans to deliver any man to destruction before the accused meets the accusers face to face, and has opportunity to answer for himself concerning the charge against him.’ ”

Some churches have “legalized gossip” for two weeks during the appointment of elders and deacons. Click To Tweet
  • Elders participate in this process just as other members of the congregation. He can submit suggestions of men to serve. If an elder has an objection or question about a nominee being selected, he talks directly to the man—just as any other Christian. If there’s no resolution in this conversation, he takes with him one or two more—usually members of the selection committee. The elders don’t call the man in question in and say, “We’ve considered and prayed about this. The elders don’t believe at this time you are ready to serve at this time— maybe in the future.” The church selects. The leaders ordain.
  • There’s an affirmation procedure. Not only did we not find anything wrong with this man, but we see in him godly characteristics to declare we want him to be a shepherd and a leader. The nominees and the search committee decide on a percentage of people affirming for the man to serve.

If you have questions, comments, or criticisms, please contact me.

What are some things you’ve seen that did or did not work well in the selection of leaders?

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3 thoughts on “Who Selects Leaders in the Church? #2

  1. Back in the 1960s I had occasion to study this in an urgent manner. The only places in the NT where the qualifications for elders is found in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1. Those qualifications were given to preachers, Timothy and Titus. Add to that the selection process given by the apostles in Acts and you have the congregation putting people forward and the apostles “ordaining” them. Seems to me that preachers have that responsibility in this day and time. Often they are pushed away from that task by elders or, maybe, some members.

    It has always given me great joy to have newly selected men to stand before the congregation and promise to serve the Lord as overseers of the congregation scripturally. Then have the congregation stand and promise to follow and support these elders faithfully as the Word teaches.

    In every case egos must be set aside and the Cause of Christ be embraced by all concerned.

  2. What if a man carries the office of elder and people find things wrong with him later? Would it be wrong to affirm the elders on a yearly or 5 year term?

    • Beverly,

      If an elder sins, Paul tells us how to handle that in 1 Timothy 5:19, 20.

      However, because of a number of issues, an elder may lose his leadership ability, his interest in serving as a shepherd, or he may have never manifested the expectations and descriptions of his work as people anticipated when he was appointed. I know of several elders who want to know from time to time if they still have the trust of the congregation.

      Someone said, “If you want to know if you are a leader, look behind you. If people are following, you’re a leader. If they aren’t, you are merely taking a walk.

      I like to know by regular evaluations from the elders if I still have their confidence. When at least one new elder is appointed, I resign, and ask for the opportunity to serve as the preacher for that congregation anew. This is my way of asking for reconfirmation. Read more about this: http://www.newshepherdsorientation.com/if-you-appoint-a-new-elder-ill-quit/