A year-long series of weekly essays re-imagining the Reforming Church commemorating the Reformation’s 500 years of service to the Gospel.
The Elder is the fourth office of the Reforming Church. The Elders together serve as the governing body of the local congregation. Like the other offices, they too are elected by those they serve. The governing body may be called Session, Consistory, or Council. It’s jurisdiction, naturally, is ecclesiastical. The power of the Elders is persuasive. The nature of their service both individually and together is to encourage the Followers of the Way to love and good works (Hebrews 10:25, 25)
In deliberation, the Elders serve to seek the mind of God and, in humility, to represent God’s will to the Followers of the Way. Their resolve is always with humility, as they accept that no one can really know the mind of God. For this reason, the decisions of the Elders are always provisional, meaning that the way forward is always filled with expectancy, as corrections are discovered in the serendipities of execution. While the decisions of the Elders are determined in a democratic, “majority rules” process, the minority commit themselves to abiding by the decisions of the majority faithfully. Having said that, those in the minority, individually, have a special responsibility to adhering to his or her conscience. This practice is granted by an expectant majority – anticipating serendipitous corrections to its decisions.
Elders serve to confirm the call to service those who are elected by the Followers of the Way as Deacons, Teachers, Evangelists, and Elders. The Elders provide the necessary preparation for the officers and ascertain when they are ready to be sent into service. In this regard, the Elders exercise exceptional care to ensure that those who are sent to serve live by the Spirit and are guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:24), embracing in their lives the character of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). When the Elders have determined when those called to serve in the various offices of the Reforming Church are ready, they provide for their ordination and installation into service.
The Elders serve to provide for the frequent worship of God. In this role, they provide celebrants (worship leaders), and the resources as they may need, including securing space as necessary for occasions of worship that the Followers of the Way offer God. In this capacity, the Elders provide for the sacraments of the church. In the Reforming Church, those sacraments are Baptism and the Eucharist. In the Reforming Church, the Lord’s Supper may be celebrated as often as determined by the Elders.
The Elders are responsible for initiating and fostering ecclesiastical, ecumenical, and interfaith relationships in the community.
The Elders also serve to call Followers of the Way to service, equipping them as the mission field requires, and sending them to serve in the way of Jesus. In this capacity, the Elders will have the special responsibility of teaching the Followers of the Way in the prophetic vision of Jesus (Luke 4:17-21).
When the congregation owns property, personal and/or real, the Elders shall provide for its collection and an open process of accounting and management. Similarly, when the congregation has any employees, the Elders serve to encourage them and to facilitate their service. Having said this, as I have said before, it is not necessary for congregations to either own property or have employees, ministerial or administrative.