New Testament Elders are drawn from the most spiritually mature people in the church (thus the term presbuteros, or older one). We take this to mean older spiritually or more mature. We do not believe that the physically older are necessarily suited to eldership.
Elders need to also be suited to oversee the ministry of the church. The term episcopos means overseer, and this describes the work of elders. They manage the operation of ministries in Dwell, the flow of funds, and our doctrinal position. Elders organize and direct the church’s structures.
One way to identify quality overseers is by focusing on those who have fruitful ministries already. Senior sphere leaders with flourishing spheres are demonstrating competence and the Holy Spirit’s empowering. Also, leaders of large numbers of our members should be a part of the developing vision and views in the elders’ meeting so they can spread that to their spheres.
Non-sphere leaders can also be elders if they have a needed contribution to give. They also need to demonstrate effective home church leadership, disciple-making, and church planting. Non-sphere leader elders are likely to rotate, allowing more leaders to experience eldership. For more details on elder selection in our church, read about How Dwell Selects Elders.
- The elder must exhibit character qualities as detailed in the appendix below.
- Attendance and participation at elders’ meetings and retreats (planning, budget, and spring).
- Elders must move quickly to resolve any conflict with another elder or staffer.
- Elders should exhibit mature, friendly, and reasonable demeanor in elders’ meetings.
- Elders must be satisfied with getting their say but not always getting their way. Pouting or punishing behavior when not getting one’s way is unacceptable.
- Elders have to do some outside reading of proposals and policy papers in preparation for the meeting, and this reading should be done on time.
- Elders are occasionally given outside jobs to carry out, and these should also be completed in a timely way.
- Elders should enjoy ongoing victory in ministry. If an elder’s personal ministry is declining significantly, he or she might be called on to withdraw from eldership and correct the situation.
- Elders are approved for three year terms of office. Before each term is renewed, elders are reviewed on their performance during the previous term. Senior elders write the initial review, make recommendations to the elder board. The board will revise as needed and then vote to re-nominate the elder.
- To set a good example for the church, Dwell elders have agreed to give at least 10% of their household annual income to the Dwell general fund.
- Scripture expressly forbids those who are lovers of money to be elders (1 Timothy 3:3 Titus 1:7). In an effort to discourage such money lovers from being elders, Dwell elders have agreed to limit their household income. The limit is generous—125% of the highest paid employee in the church, adjusted for any advantage some employees might enjoy from tax exempt parsonages. Any excess in household income is to be given to the elders’ charity of choice.
This policy can, in principle, be applied to inherited estates. At the least, elders agree to disclose any significant inheritance to the other elders, and either follow their instructions or withdraw from eldership. Elders are usually more flexible with inheritances, and may decide to exempt some or all of an inheritance from the income limit, especially with smaller ones.
Appendix - Character Qualifications for Elders
Above Reproach - 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6,7
Anepilempton (1 Timothy 3:2) means un-accusable. Anegkleton (Titus 1:6) is similar—un-reprovable. In other words, elders are not to be guilty of any flagrant sin that people could use against them.
Husband of One Wife - 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6
Mais gunaikos andros literally means a “one-woman man” (in Greek, the words for “man” and “woman” were the same as “husband” and “wife,” so context determines which is intended). This expression probably isn’t referring to polygamy (which was not common in the Roman empire), but rather to the idea that sexual morality is an established lifestyle. The idea is that the prospective elder is involved with no more than one woman now. Some wrongly think this expression means that the person has never been involved with more than one woman. That means divorcees or those who ran around earlier are out. But all of the character requirements refer to the person’s present life, not to earlier sin. Peter flagrantly denied Christ and Paul murdered, but both were qualified to serve as elders. Instead, this requirement prohibits flirting, pornography habits, inappropriate “counseling” of the opposite sex, or other signs that the elder lacks sexual self-control.
Must Exercise Self-Control - 1 Timothy 3:2
Nephalion means “restrained” and can refer to being self-controlled in a number of areas, including the use of alcohol (hence, some translations read “sober”). But heavy drinking is addressed later, so this probably means “restrained” in the sense of not lunging, being a blabbermouth, jumping to unwarranted conclusions, or other careless behaviors.
Must Live Wisely - 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8 NLT
The word sophrona can mean “thoughtful” or “sane.” It suggests the person is mentally healthy (Mark 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:13), has an honest evaluation of himself that is neither arrogant nor insecure (Romans 12:3), and has the ability to be reasonable, sensible, and able to keep one’s head under stress (Titus 2:6; 1 Peter 4:7).
Must Be Respectable - 1 Timothy 3:2
The word kosmion means “well-ordered.” It suggests orderliness and stability (see 1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:4). People who are falling apart or slovenly in their life habits would be disqualified.
Hospitable - 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8
The word philoxenos can mean “hospitable,” but that may be a weak translation. The word literally means “loving strangers,” which goes well beyond merely hosting people in your home. This word suggests elders should be outreaching to those outside the church, including having a heart for evangelism.
Not Addicted to Wine - 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7, NASB
Me paroinon means “not a drunk.” Elders are allowed to drink in moderation, but must not have a drinking problem. The same would go for drug dependency.
Not Self-Willed - Titus 1:7 NASB
Me autheda can mean “arrogant” or “overbearing, as a result of stubbornness or self-will.” Peter links this negative trait with rebelliousness in 2 Peter 2:10 (see also Titus 1:6). Paul uses it to refer to usurping rightful authority in 1 Timothy 2:12. Elders should demonstrate the ability to defer to others at times. Those who always have to have their way or they will punish those around them are not mature enough to be elders. Deferring to others means actively getting behind the others’ way and helping it to succeed. Elders should be able to apologize when they are in the wrong.
Not Quick-Tempered - Titus 1:7
Me orgilon means “not inclined to anger” or “not hot-tempered.” Elders have their patience tried often and anyone who has not gained control of his temper will discredit himself. When leaders misrepresent God by making him seem more angry than he really is, it’s a serious matter as Moses learned (Num. 20; James 1:19-20; 3:1). Elders may get angry, but they should be slow to anger rather than having a short fuse. They should be under control, avoiding violent outbursts.
Not Violent - Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:3
Me plektes means “not a striker.” Elders should not be prone to physical or verbal abuse (i.e. slander, put-downs, etc.). They shouldn’t enjoy fighting.
Gentle - 1 Timothy 3:3
This word epieike means “gracious,” or “forbearing.” Elders should not be dismissive hard-liners who are unduly rigorous or legalistic in their treatment of people. They should be kind, empathetic and patient with all. People can be fragile. Elders need to consider how their words and actions will affect others. See 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:7; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:3; Colossians 3:12,13; 1 Timothy 6:11; Galatians 5:22,23; James 3:17.
Not Quarrelsome - 1 Timothy 3:3
Amachon means peaceable and not contentious. This means not looking for ways to disagree or oppose, not loving to fight or quarrel. Elders should have a positive and constructive point of view.
Free From the Love of Money - 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7
Aphilagruron literally means not a lover of silver. Elders cannot be greedy or materialistic. They have to value spiritual things more than money. The NLT translation of Titus 1:7, “not dishonest with money,” is doubtful. Although the term could mean dishonest gain, it literally means evil gain, and should probably be translated as in the NASB: “not fond of sordid gain” (Titus 1:7). Paul’s point in both passages is not that elders should avoid dishonest gain, but that they should not live for money. The church needs models who know what is important in life, and the devotion needed to become wealthy is incompatible with real spirituality. Elders should be content with what they have materially (1 Timothy 6:8). They should not be motivated by financial considerations in ministry decisions (see Acts 20:33). They realize that true love for Christ and his work can be eclipsed by greed (see Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:6-11,17-19). Our day is replete with scandals involving money-loving in the church. Mature elders should give generously to others, and should live a simple lifestyle in order to curb temptation.
Not a New Convert - 1 Timothy 3:6
Me neophuton means “not newly planted.” Elders should have been walking Christians long enough to be tested by God (see 1 Timothy 3:10). Elders should have experienced success without becoming conceited.
Having a Good Reputation with Those Outside - 1 Timothy 3:7
This expression means, “having a good testimony with those outside,” meaning with non-Christians. Those we recognize as elders should be viewed as good people by non-Christians in their neighborhoods and workplaces. These people are spiritually authentic and not two-faced. They should be sensitive to what leads to good evangelism.
Loving What is Good - Titus 1:8
This straightforward term implies that elders’ lifestyles should demonstrate that they enjoy God’s ways (see Romans 12:2).
Just - Titus 1:8
To be just, elders should be fair and impartial in their dealings with people (1 Timothy 5:21). People need to feel confident that their elders don’t play favorites, including with their family members or friends.
Devout - Titus 1:8
Hosios is one of the words sometimes translated “holy.” It means to be committed to and serious about spiritual matters. Elders should be zealous for God’s will. Elders’ single-mindedness for God and His work provide good models for the church.
He must manage his own family well, with obedient children - 1 Timothy 3:6
Having children who believe - Titus 1:6
This expression actually means “leading his family well” rather than managing. The fact that the children are following as well as his wife, is an indication that the elder is able to lead. Arguably, the term for children here refers to younger children, as opposed to adult children. Should elders be responsible for the behavior of their adult children? This would have been more plausible in the ancient world, where parents had more control. It’s not clear that such would be the case. But today, as then, a person’s family knows them like no one else, so Paul’s call to watch the family is wise. Who can resist his logic when he says, “but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Strong Christian leaders develop strong families.
Able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict - Titus 1:9
Able to teach - 1 Timothy 3:2
The translation “able to teach” is probably weak for didastikos, which really means “skilled at teaching.” A skilled teacher is one who can cause others to learn. And learning for Christians means learning to do what the word teaches, not just to know it. In Titus, Paul adds the extra condition that elders must know the word well enough to refute those who contradict. In both passages, teaching is associated with eldership. An elder need not be gifted at teaching, but should be able to do a good job when needed. Elders are to lead based on biblical teaching, not their own opinions.