How Church Elders are often Misunderstood. (Church of Christ)

Published on by Joseph Foray jnr.

How Elders Are Often Misunderstood:


1.There are many misunderstanding concerning elders in the church.

2. These misunderstandings have caused a lot of confusion among brethren in the church.

3. In this Lesson, we are going to discuss some of these misunderstandings and how best we can overcome them based on the Bible.

Misunderstanding #1

That the six names for elders (Elders, Presbyters, Bishops, Overseers, Pastors, Shepherds) refer to different officers in the church.

  1. This may not be True.
  2. Rather the six names all refer to the same (church officer).
  3. In denominational churches,


1.There are elders who are different from pastors.

2. Then Bishops are different officers also.

       D. The six names for elders we have already studied are really three groups of two names each.

            1.“Elders” and “presbyters” are two words meaning “older persons.”

            2. “Overseers” and “bishops” are two words meaning “Superintendents.”

            3. “Shepherds” and “Pastors” are two words meaning “those who tend sheep.”

      E. These three sets of words are all joined together to speak of the same men. 

           1. In Acts 20:17 the officers from Ephesus are called “elders”.

           2. Acts 20:28 calls these men “Overseers” and says that they are over the “flock.”

            3. These make them shepherds or pastors.

            4. Therefore the elders (presbyters) were also called overseers (bishops) and Shepherds (pastors)

            5. These are not different offices but only different terms for the same office.

        F. Another message which shows that the six names for elders refer to the same men in 1Peter 5.

            1. 1Peter 5:1 speaks to the “elders.”

            2. 1 Peter 5:2 says that these elders should “feed the flock of God”. These makes them shepherds.

            3. 1Peter 5:2 also tells them to take the “Oversight” of the flock. This makes them overseers. 

         G.  Elders. Presbyters, Overseers, bishops, shepherds and pastors are not different officers. These are merely six names for the same office in the government of the Lord’s church.



That one “Pastor” or “Bishop” can be over a church.

  1. According to the Bible, this is not correct. Rather, There Are Always More Than One Elder in Each Church.
  2. In the New Testament congregations, there were always more than one pastor or elder in each church.
  1. There is nowhere in the Bible where it is stated that one pastor was in charge of a church.
  2. Instead, the Bible says that elders were ordained in every church (Acts 14:23)
  3. Also according to Titus 1:5, elders were ordained in every city.
  4. Paul called the ‘elders” or “overseers” from Ephesus (ACTS 20:17,28).
  5. He also wrote to the “bishops” at Philippi (Phil1:1)
  1. This is Christ’s plan for the government of the church, and there is great wisdom in the plan
  1. If a single man ruled each congregation, he might easily think of himself as “the chief” of the church.
  2. May be tempted to seek prominence (pre-eminence) for himself in the church.
  3. He may not consider other people in his judgements.
  4. He would be sole rule.
  1. Christ’s plan does not allow a leader to make himself “the big man” in the church.
  1. The Bible’s plan is for a group of elders to rule each congregation.
  2. Unless there can be found at least two qualified men in a church, that church must wait to have elders. It would be unscriptural to have only one.
  3. If one of the two elders in a congregation dies, or is disqualified, the remaining elder must resign as an elder until another man becomes qualified.
  4. There must always be more than one elder in each church.


That One Elder in The Congregation considers Himself Above The others.

  1. This is another serious mistake made by denominational churches.
  2. In the Lord’s church all elders have equal authority.
  3. The idea of one elder considering himself to have more authority than the others was one of the first departures in early Church government.

This later led to the Roman Catholic idea of a “bishop” over several churches.

  1. 1 Peter 5:4 speaks of Christ as “the chief Shepherd.”
  1. The Bible calls no ordinary elder ‘the chief elder.”
  2. Since Christ is called “the Chief Shepherd”, we are led to believe that He is the only Chief Shepherd.
  3. 1 Peter 2:25 calls Christ “the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Never do we read of any man as “the bishop” of a church or of a group of churches.  Each congregation has “overseers,” not an “overseer” or a “pastor”.
  4. Elders who may have served many years do not have greater power than one who has not.
  5. Elders in a large congregation do not have greater power than those in a smaller one.
  1. The apostle Peter called himself a fellow elder in speaking to other elders (1 Peter 5:1)
  2. Elders are warned against being lifted up with pride and falling into condemnation of the devil. (1 Tim 3:6). The devil rejoices in making an elder proud. Human pride easily corrupts any leader. All elders in a congregation have equal authority.

Prepared by Joseph J. Foray Snr. (Elder/Minister. Church of Christ, Oforikrom Assembly, Kumasi, Ghana)






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